Host and hostess gifts with Secretly Gifting - Home Front

Candace Ourisman and Ashley Bronczek
Nov 30, 2017

Washingtonians Ashley Bronczek and Candace Ourisman started Secretly Gifting, a gift concierge service, last March. After years of practice finding the perfect gifts for family and friends, hosting birthday parties for their kids and throwing holiday gatherings, they know the difference between a great hostess gift and a ho-hum selection. They are experts at personal, corporate and holiday gifting.

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Washingtonians Ashley Bronczek and Candace Ourisman started Secretly Gifting, a gift concierge service, last March. This month, they helped us find fabulous host and hostess gifts for under $3o for our Washington Post Magazine Luxury Issue Gift Guide.  After years of practice finding the perfect gifts for family and friends, hosting birthday parties for their kids and throwing holiday gatherings, they know the difference between a great hostess gift and a ho-hum selection. Ask them about what to get your mother in law, your dentist, your BFF or your boss. They've got ideas for you. Let's chat.


Hi there!  We are Secretly Gifting, a personal gift concierge company in Washington DC.  We are excited to chat with all of you and are eager to hear your questions.  Ask away and we will do our very best to get to as many as we can!

Hi SG Ladies, When is the deadline to contact you in order to have a gift ready for Christmas Day? Alejandro in Arlington

Hi Alejandro!  Great question!  For personalized gifts, our deadline is December 8th.  Otherwise, if we are contacted by December 22nd, we will be able to make your holiday gifting dreams come true!

Is it okay to buy 12 of the same gift and just give it to everyone whose party you attend this holiday season?

Absolutely! If the gift is great and fairly general, why not share it with everyone!?   

The city trash collectors always beep their horn and remind us that they deserve a gift. Is beer or money better? Or what else can we give them?

Some people don't love to kick back and drink a beer, so money would be best.  The holidays are an expensive time of year.  :)

Do you think sending paper invitations is nicer than using paperlesspost?

Paperless post certainly has some fabulous designs and there are times that call for an online invite.  We mostly use Paperless Post for last minute get togethers.  If you have a decent lead time, paper is always best. Who doesn't love getting an invite in the mail!?

What if you are having a party and don't want any gifts? Should you write that on the invite?

Absolutely!  You can say something cheeky like "Your presence is the only present desired."

not trying to cheap out; I could give these brand-new, unused gifts to Goodwill. But I think they might make a perfect hostess gift. should I?

Absolutely!  If the gift is something that your friends would enjoy, feel free to use them. 

Do you need to gift? A gift card ok? They don't do anything specific for me but keep the locker room clean.

How thoughtful of you to think of the gym locker attendant. If you feel inclined, a delicious food option would be great!  We included a hot-chocolate stick package by Ticket Chocolate in our gift guide for The Post.  Be sure to check that out!

Hi, I would love to give books as presents, but how to find a good one? Something not controversial, and something the other person will gladly read, and not feel like a burden to them, like another task, or worst, sit there collecting dust. Thank you! =)

Hi there!  We love giving books as gifts to our friends and family.  It is always nice to give a gift that will speak to the recipient's interests and passions.  If you keep that in mind, the books is sure to be a hit.  We also love a great coffee table book.  Assouline has a fabulous collection!  

If a good friend who only comes to your house about 4 times a year and gives you a gift, what are your thoughts on getting rid of it? I have too much stuff and if I don’t love the gift can I give it away? Do I have to keep it & put it out when my friend visits? I figure I move my things around so she would think I am just not displaying everything she gives me. I don’t dislike everything she gives me but occasionally I don’t love it or I just don’t need it.

Hi there!  Our general rule is that if you are not actually using the gift or displaying it, you should give it away.  Of course the gesture was a nice one, however you would wind up with a room full of unwanted gifts, if you held on to every one that you didn't love. 

Last month I moved from DC across the country. My real estate agent also was my friend and neighbor. She discounted her commission. Just this week I sent her a nice card and check for $500, saying that her friendship and help were invaluable and that she should do something fun for herself. Another friend told me that my gesture was tacky and he would have been offended. Did I cross a line here?

How generous of you!  We're sure that your real estate agent was touched by such a thoughtful gesture. We love that you included a note about using the check towards something special for herself.  Now just wait and see if she cashes it! ;)

My neighbor and I cat sit for each other. What's a good gift for him?

Thats adorable.  What better gift than a cat gift!?  You already know that he loves cats. We recently saw a funny DJ Cat Scratching Pad.  It's an actual cat toy.  Google it!

Can you share some of your favorite shopping destinations in the Washington area? Looking to find some more unusual gifts this year.

Absolutely! We are so lucky to have many local gems here in the DC metro area.  Some of our favorites are Blush Medspa for the beauty junky, The Cookery for the foodie and A Mano for housewares and hostess gifts. 

Hi - Should you open your hostess gifts at the end of your party while guests are still there? Do you have to send texts to everyone thanking them?

We actually talk about this on our Facebook Live with the post. Check it out below!   Our general rule is to wait until the end of the party or the next day to open since you will have many things to tend to during the actual event.  The exception to the rule is, if you are asked to open the gift by the giver, go ahead and open it!

Check out the FB live for our little chat about this:


What are some good kids gifts this year that are not techno-oriented.

It depends on the age.  We love a personalized winter hat or terry cloth bathrobe.  The parents will always appreciate something that is useful.  For older children, we love a great art gift so that they can use their creativity. 

Part of every Christmas present from my wonderful MIL is an ornament/Christmas decor item with candle/etc. They are lovely but not at all to our taste. Should we just donate them. MIL is unlike to come over and see they're not on display.

hmmmm. Why not strategically place the ornament on the back of your tree?  This way, if she mentions it, you can direct her to where it is.  If there is a wide array of these items, you can keep just a few and donate the rest.  Hopefully she wont go on a treasure hunt to find every item. 

What are some great gifts if we're focusing on quality family time together vs. more "stuff" this year?

We love a great board game that will bring the family together for some device-free time!  There are even a few companies who do personalized board games to make the gift feel more special. 

She doesn't want "stuff" anymore now that she's downsized, and I don't want to give her sweets. I saw something on the news about older drivers using aids like steering wheel grips; would that be insulting? What's a good gift, not too pricey, but not a "thing"?

How about a relaxing experience like a mani/pedi at her local salon?  Or you could do a day spent with you, doing something that you love to do together.  Creating memories may be the best gift you could give her. 

How do you tell a friend to stop giving you expensive gifts? It's totally unnecessary and I really can't afford to give what she gives, even though I might like to.

This is a great question that we get all the time.  Your friend clearly loves giving you the high ticket items, so just enjoy!  She is not expecting the same level of gift in return. A thoughtful thank you note is the way to go on this one. 

Is it better to send a gift in the mail or bring it in person?

If you are going to see the person, bring the gift along.  If the busy holiday season doesn't have you crossing paths, mailing the gift is perfectly fine.  FedEx is your friend. 

What would you recommend as a good Christmas gift for in-laws who have recently downsized? They truly don’t need any more stuff so it’s getting harder to pinpoint a meaningful gift.

A gift that they would probably cherish most would be time spent with you and your significant other.  Plan an evening at a fabulous restaurant or a day trip to a vineyard. 

I like the Malden salt gift and salt cellar from the Washington Post Magazine article you were in. What else could I give to add to those items in a gift basket?

We are so glad that you liked that gift idea! It's one of our favorites. There are some fabulous salt cookbooks.  Add one of those and that gift would be amazing!  

What is the appropriate gift for my cleaning lady? I do give her cash but want to give a gift as well.

How about a cute and functional tote bag?  If you are somewhere that is cold in the winter, a hat and scarf would be nice.  We recommend giving something that is useful. :)

I'd want theater tickets or to be treated to a meal out with my kid.

We love having special holiday experiences with our loved ones as well. :)

Would you please share some gift recommendations for me for my children's teachers? What would be a great gift for multiple teachers in the same room (they are all co-teachers, three total) and also a gift for just one teacher? All women ;)

Hi there!  Teachers have lots of notes to write throughout the year.  A great set of stationary would be a lovely gift. 

You are reciprocating I'm sure. Think about what skills you have that you give lovingly give to her. Do you give her home-cooked meals? Are you the one who picks up her child or takes her parent to the doctor? Are you a stellar researcher so you give dig into the various choices she has when buying a new fridge because ... there are are so many. My point is - people give differently in friendships - and in families. There are ways to give without a dollar tag. I know - I'm the one using airmiles for my friend to visit from the UK.

We totally agree! 

My sister-in-law. I don't think they even check their mail more than twice a week. Sometimes less than that. And it is a co-op building in NYC so they walk right past the mailbox every day. Know your audience. No reason why great aunt Ethyl, who will appreciate a written invitation can't get one while your cousin who doesn't have a land line or a stable address can't get a text.

Great point! Sometimes we will do a Paperless Post and paper invite to cover all of our bases.  Especially if it's for an event with many different ages. 

Hello! What do you get the husband who has everything? He doesn't need new clothes and isn't super into electronics (for instance, I broached the idea of getting him an Apple Watch, and he said "I don't wear watches so I feel like I wouldn't use the Apple Watch"). He seems kind of into cool idea things--I got him a cigar humidifier for our anniversary and he says he likes that (even though he never uses it). I am just at a loss. He is a lawyer and works all the time, so he doesn't want books since he wants to just chill when he gets home. He is traditional thinking about it because he is fine with never getting new things as long as the old stuff is working fine. My last thought is to get him an "experience" but what would you suggest for an experience gift (and not restaurants either! Since he does love going out but it wouldn't be a "special gift" really to just get him a gift card or to go out somewhere for dinner since we do that already).

It sounds like he would enjoy a relaxing and fun experience with you and away from his workplace. If he likes to drink, you could do a brewery or vineyard tour.  Tickets to live music or stand up comedy always provide a fun evening out!

This year my friends are getting Yeti 30oz ramblers filled with some fine untaxed VA corn liquor. From a family that has been making it for almost 400 years in the mountains of VA

That's awesome. We love Yeti products and recommend them as gifts to our clients when appropriate. Great call!

Well, now we have some more ideas for gifts. Thanks to Candace and Ashley of Secretly Gifting for their time and expertise. Next week I will have Laura Dowling, former chief floral designer at the White House, on this chat. Have a great week everyone and happy shopping.

This has been fun!  Thanks so much for all of the great questions.  Please contact us if you need any help with your holiday gifting!  

Candace & Ashley

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Candace Ourisman and Ashley Bronczek
Candace Ourisman and Ashley Bronczek of Secretly Gifting
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