So you’re all dressed up and ready to go to a dinner or cocktail party at someone’s home. You dutifully ask the hostess, “What shall I bring?!” to which she replies, “Oh, just yourself!” But really, what shall you bring.
Any time a hostess throws a soirée she should provide absolutely everything (unless the event is a potluck or you’ve already agreed on bringing dessert, etc); doing so is the essence of hospitality. If your hostess says that you don’t need to bring anything along with you, you really don’t need to. I think the exception to that rule is that it is always sweet to bring a little something for the hostess herself as a gesture of your thanks. No need to reinvent the wheel; a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers or a small gift is perfect.
Any item you bring is a gift for the hostess and not a contribution to the party, even if you bring along something edible (a gourmet ingredient, a bottle of Champagne, chocolates…). Simply give your gift to the hostess herself (rather than, for instance, placing a bottle of wine directly on the bar) with no strings attached. It is up to the hostess whether she’d like to serve your gift at the party. It is a faux pas to bring along something you expect the hostess to serve because she has already taken a good deal of time planning the details of the menu, the serving pieces and décor just for you. Just show your appreciation for all of her effort with a thoughtful, simple luxury she can enjoy once the candles are snuffed!