There are no established rules regarding hostess gifts; just some generalizations. The longer the stay the more expensive the gift. When invited to a dinner party a small hostess gift is in order assuming you did not prepare something for the meal. But it cannot be TOO extravagant or expensive.
Hostess gifts, much like stocking stuffers often say a lot about the giver. Many of them are clearly "re-gifts," some are totally useless, some are tacky, some are tasteful, but all of them are received graciously by the hostess. The hostess is gracious even when she may be asking herself, "What WERE these people thinking?"
Cocktail napkins, votives or other candles, tea towels, gourmet coffees, baked goods, jams and jellies, wine stoppers, or wine (if you are SURE they are not Southern Baptist or alcoholics) are frequently given as hostess gifts. Except for the flavored coffee, I actually enjoy hostess gifts.
I try to select hostess gifts based on the individuals we are visiting and I pick up little gifts all year long to have on hand. Sometimes we give a gift for purely selfish reasons. One of our neighbors serves cheap wine. Not just cheap wine...but OLD cheap wine that may have been opened months ago. The first time we visited there, the neighbor asked my husband to taste the wine to see if it was still good since she couldn't remember how long it had been opened. And it was not re-sealed with a vacuum stopper...she just popped the original cork back into the bottle. Since then we have always taken a bottle of wine which (to my husband's delight) they open and serve.
Last week, our guests brought us jam and preserves from Hillside Orchard Farms in GA. I've ordered their products before and they are delicious. Our friends had no idea we knew about the orchard, but were blown away by the name of two of the jams.
T.O.E. Jam is made from tangerines, oranges, and elderberries. It has a unique taste and is wonderful on your morning toast.
FROG Jam is made from figs, raspberries, oranges and a bit of fresh ginger. Also wonderful in a variety of ways.
By far, my favorite is the peach preserves. They add pecans and it's so wonderful...almost like eating peach pie for breakfast.
This is one hostess gift I will put to good use. I'll not share with anyone. OK, I'll share with my husband, but he is not as crazy about jams, preserves, and honey as I am. So he can have his bagels with cream cheese and I'll scoop out the jam for my toast.