(Apologies for the over-edited photo of Lizzy above) I recently read an article on how to be the worst party attendee and I am going to tell you how to be the opposite and always be on the top of the invite list.
Showing up empty handed is a huge don't, unless the host insists over and over again.
if you are bringing cheese unannounced, don't bring Brie, there is always Brie at a party. Never bring pre-sliced pieces of Cheddar, Colby Jack, and Swiss. This screams a cheap, last minute, not well thought out purchase.
Chips and Salsa is over done unless you are attending a fiesta or were specifically designated this as your thing to bring.
Hummus is never appreciated if the host already has a hummus platter. No one wants to eat hummus for weeks. However, hummus is almost always expected at a party.
Charcuterie Board but be willing to spend the money. My close friend, Lizzy, always brings an extravagant board of unique cheeses (soft and hard), a fresh baguette, crackers, nuts, and dry-aged meats (think prosciutto, mortadella, Serrano ham, Genoa salami). Other add ons could be dried fruit, a jam or fig spread, and pâté. She is always the hit of the party and we know her charcuterie board is always reliable.
Wine is a safe go-to when you are short on time or the host claims to have everything needed. I highly recommend a bottle for yourself and a bottle as a present. You should never expect to drink he gifted wine.
Bread and I'm not talking about sliced sandwich bread, I'm talking about a fresh baked, warm loaf of bread. In Sweden it's customary to bring Morotbröd (Carrot Bread) to your friends house even if it's just the two of you catching up over dinner. Morotbröd is made with shredded carrots, flour, rye flour, yeast, a dash of honey, and caraway seeds. I highly recommend looking up the recipe and baking it for yourself.
Appetizers and Dips always go over well. Whether you are bringing cucumber sandwiches, caprese skewers, a fruit tray, crudités, stuffed dates, or Greek seven layer dip, these are very appreciated. It requires a small amount of effort and are things people actually want to snack on.
A [handwritten] thank you or friendship card is now considered a unique, memorable gesture. It's crazy to think so many people used to write long letters to their friends and now we have elected to do it over a quick "Thanks for Hosting. Your party was so fun" text to our friends. Another one of my closest friends, Margaux, wrote me a note to thank me for considering her dietary restrictions at my brunch. I labeled items gluten free or vegan just because I wanted her to know the items she could eat without setting aside a special meal [like an outcasted guest]for her.
Flowers. A beautiful floral arrangement is always a great accent piece to place on the table. It also lasts beyond the end of the party. I always enjoy flowers the next day at breakfast while reminiscing the party's success.
Something meaningful to the guest can really leave a lasting impression. I was days away from leaving for my Lizzy's parents's beach house and I felt stressed about a 'thanks for hosting me' gift. I thought of buying candles, a new serving platter, my favorite sparkling wine, and so much more but then it clicked that homemade cookies were the perfect sentiment. Aside from them being Lizzy's dads favorite dessert, it also showed off my baking skills and thoughtfulness.
Never show up empty handed and always check in with the host of the party to make sure they have everything need to be successful. I highly recommend finding what you're great at cooking or baking and stick to that. Be sure to always thank your friend and if you can go the extra mile then do something sentimental for the host.