Our trusty Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer is on a mission to make the world a more civilized place to live. Here she answers some of today’s pressing social inquiries that will surely lend insight to your own life.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I’ve enlisted a dear friend to emcee a charity event. She’s well known with lots of personality, yet is not a professional emcee and isn’t working with an agent to represent her. How do I thank my emcee/host of an event— with a gift, gift certificate or gift card? And, what is an ideal amount since she’ll help the organization raise over a million dollars at the gala?

Gala Favor

Dear Gala Girl,

Your dear friend will undoubtedly research the organization and spend quite a bit of time preparing her emcee remarks for the charity event. Your instinct to thank her with a gift card is appropriate. Research the prevailing rate paid to professional emcees, approximately $750, and remember she is your chosen host for the evening.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

It’s graduation time and we’ve received many commencement invitations in the mail. What are some ways we can congratulate the graduate on his/her accomplishment with a gift they’ll love?

Onward & Upward

Dear Upward Mobility,

This is an exciting season for high school and college graduates beginning a new chapter. Your thoughtful gift will certainly be appreciated. When deciding on the ideal present, it’s important to weigh your relationship with the graduate, their parents and family. If you have genuinely connected with the graduate, express your genuine pride with a personalized gift and card. If you’re merely acquainted with the graduate and their family, send a thoughtful card with your sage advice for life after graduation.

Coming up with the perfect gift for a new graduate can be a challenge, even when you have known them for years. Is your grad finishing a PhD, nursing degree, trade school certification, or obtaining their B.S. or M.B.A? Gifts that may assist them as they take their next steps include:

  • Universal chargers for graduates on the go
  • Picture frames, mugs, and travel totes
  • Fine pen & pencil sets
  • Monogrammed luggage
  • Investor’s Business Daily online subscription
  • Briefcase / leather portfolio with school logo
  • Hallmark recommended books: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving After Graduation and Seize Your Dreams: Inspirations to Follow Your Heart Now Is the Time
  • Waterford desktop clock
  • Montblanc business card organizer
  • Electronic tablets and laptops
  • Crane monogrammed stationery/note card

For graduates leaving the nest, accepting a job offer out of town, or paying down student loans, a monetary gift may help them with this transition. According to a Hallmark study, 95% of U.S. Americans believe that money is an appropriate graduation gift for high school or college, though the amount depends on your resources, and your relationship with the graduate.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

With all the electronic tipping happening, how much do you recommend I give as gratuity when I pay my bill before the meal at fast casual restaurants where the food is brought to us, yet there’s minimal table service?

Diner Deluxe

Dear Thoughtful Diner,

In most casual restaurants where you pay at the register, dining room attendants are paid the state’s minimum wage, and receive tips in addition to their salary. If you decide to tip at the register, consider leaving 10-15% of the total cost of the meal, since this tip may be split between the cashier, cooks, and table attendants. Another option would be to wait until the end of the meal and leave a couple small bills on the table. This especially applies if you received exceptional table service— i.e. the attendant helped you with buffet trays, provided your refills or cutlery, or went above and beyond.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

With summer here, we’ll enlist the help of a house-sitter while we are gone. While we don’t live in the Taj Mahal, the surroundings will be lovely for our friend’s daughter who will keep an eye on things and enjoy our home as a retreat. How should we compensate her since she’s offering us peace of mind?

Traveling Light

Dear Timeless Traveler,

The projects you ask of her and the length of time you plan to be gone, determine how much compensation you give her. Based on the tasks involved, most professional house sitters charge between $25 to $45 a day and more if it’s in a more expensive area involving lots of acreage, outer buildings, and grounds personnel. Remember, the more tasks involved, the higher the compensation. However, a small percentage of house sitters will refuse compensation because they view it as a vacation and a break from their normal routine. Paying for the home amenities, phone bill, and providing their basic necessities will cover the compensation. If you decide to go this route, bring back a small gift as a token of gratitude for taking care of your home.