From how to be one’s best at a debutante ball, fine dining situation, to yes, floating on a yacht, our trusty Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD, is on the scene to encourage your very best behavior possible

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Our best friend’s daughter is making her debutante bow at an international cotillion that we are invited to attend. Shall we

bring a gift to congratulate her as well?

Debuting Do’s

Dear Bow-Tied,

The debutantes, who are daughters of the international elite – including ambassadors, diplomats, and industry giants – traditionally receive flower arrangements as gifts from family and very close friends, a week or so before the ball (prior to travel).

Gift ideas also include luxury personalized or monogrammed stationery; or a donation to her favorite charity in her honor, noted in a card of congratulations. Jewelry, pearl or diamond earrings, and lockets with childhood photos are classic choices that she can also hand down to her daughter.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I like to think of myself as rather sophisticated. So, when I ask for the salt to be passed, shouldn’t the pepper also be passed simultaneously, or is that too Old World? What’s the rule nowadays and while we are on the subject isn’t it considered rude to season food before tasting it?

Seasoned Guest

Dear Man For All Seasonings,

Hopefully when you are dining with others you don’t have salt on the table to begin with because the assumption is that the chef has prepared flavorful food. Adding salt prior to tasting the food, sends the unspoken message that you anticipate the food to be unsavory and need additional seasoning.

“Please pass the salt” is always a request for both. Salt and pepper are ‘married’ and travel the global table together – this includes saltcellars, which are also passed simultaneously with the pepper.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I’m in an awful pickle. My dear friend’s daughter called off her wedding months in advance of the ceremony. Alas, I gave a pricey gift to show our love and hopes for her bright future through a local specialty gift store where she was registered. Since the wedding’s no longer happening, how is that handled? Does the bride reach out or do I deal directly with the store?

Wedding Gifter

Dear Friend Of The Bride,

Neither, and please be patient. The traditional rule that once a gift is given the recipient may do anything they wish with it does not apply in this instance. Brides and grooms are usually so traumatized by a cancelled wedding, and resulting fees associated with cancelled hotel blocks, caterers, florists, flights and honeymoon packages, that the time it takes to gather the gifts, package and return them to their invited guests may be months.

Social graces require the former bride and groom to return the engagement, shower, and wedding gifts received, including personalized or monogrammed items. Gifts that may have been used already (sheets, towels, and kitchen hardware) are not returned.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

In the spring, we will be floating in the med, on a sizeable private yacht with high-net-worth friends. What is the proper gratuity for our two-week adventure?

Tacking & Jibing To Be

Dear Tack-ful,

Prior to setting sail, these financial arrangements should be confirmed in writing to avoid uncomfortable surprise. Sophisticated sailors inquire via email months prior to departure as to their anticipated contribution toward travel on the vessel.

Expect to contribute, at a minimum, 10% of the total trip expenses, including expensive fuel costs. Inquire about an appropriate additional gratuity amount for the captain and staff, over the 10%. Once home, follow-up with a gracious handwritten thank-you note and a luxury gift for the host and hostess. When a situation presents itself like this, the utmost manners are required, so have fun and enjoy the journey as you would with any vacation.