Nancy R. Mitchell gives us some protocol and etiquette advice on gift giving, such as if you should bring a gift if you are invited to dinner in someone's home, and what are some appropriate gifts
Host: If I am invited to dinner in someone’s home, should I bring a gift and what are some appropriate gifts? Nancy Mitchell: It is a very kind gesture to arrive at someone’s home when you are attending a dinner with a small gift in hand, but don’t feel obligated to do so. If you are more comfortable with sending in ahead that’s perfectly alright or you can send the gift the following day with a thank you note. Some appropriate gifts are chocolates or a potted plant or guest soaps for guest bathroom. If you know the host and hostess a little better than that perhaps you can give them a CD, they like classical music, you can give them a book you know that they have talked about, you can bring them a magazine that has perhaps an article that you have been talking about with them. It doesn’t have to be a gift that you go out and purchase. You can share something with them which shows your connection with them. The one thing you do want to avoid is don’t bring something that causes a destruction. The host and hostess maybe cooking. They maybe greeting people at the door. So, don t bring cut flowers that require immediate attention where they have to be cut and placed in a vase. The hostess will feel obligated to show those flowers while you are there. So, bring it in a vase or bring a potted plant that does not require any attention. Also a bottle of wine is a lovely gift for someone, if you know they drink alcohol and the mistake a lot of people make is presenting that bottle of wine and assuming it is going to be drunk at that dinner party. That is presumptuous. They may have planned a dinner that has nothing to do with the wine that you have brought. Just give it them say here s your favorite. The next time you have steaks on the grill, try this wine you’ll love it. They know they can put it away for later they do not have to uncorked at that point, drink at that evening and it might sure their menu completely off.