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Miss Manners: Burden for ailing guest of honor?

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For a “scarf party” for someone who has breast cancer and is undergoing chemo, the invitation read as essentially a bridal or baby shower: Come and bring scarves, hats, frozen meals, etc. to make life easier for her.

While this is unconventional, I was thrilled to shower the recipient with love as she faces serious medical problems.

When the party turned to opening her gifts, the hostess sat down with a pad of paper to take notes on who gave what (presumably for the recipient to write thank-you notes). I told the hostess, “Oh, don’t make her write thank-you notes!” To which she replied, “All right, I’ll write them.”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t think this is an acceptable alternative, but because of the special nature of the occasion, it doesn’t seem right to say, “Hey, let’s throw a party to make you feel loved and try to make your life a little easier!” but then, “I know you are going through a lot, and have limited energy, but you’d better write out all these notes!” Of course, if the recipient wants to write them out during her treatments, that’s another matter.

It was a lovely occasion and many tears were shed. I feel like it really gave her a boost halfway through chemo. Unfortunately, another friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will start chemo very soon. I would like to throw a similar party for this friend, but wasn’t sure how to thank everyone.

GENTLE READER: While well-intentioned, you put your hostess in the impossible position of pointing out that she is burdening the gift recipient with writing thank-you letters, and then condemning her for the suggestion that she do it herself.

If you can delicately suggest to your guest of honor that you are happy to help or have her dictate them to you, that might be a good compromise. But Miss Manners entreats you to do so in a way that does not either deprive her of expressing her gratitude (which she might find a pleasant distraction) or nag her. That would most certainly add to her burden.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation to my niece’s wedding and look forward to attending. The reply card for the reception dinner (for over 300 people) offers a preference: Check one, either “filet” or “salmon.”

For the past year, I have been a vegetarian. I don’t expect my family to remember that, nor do I wish to add another task to the arrangements. How would you suggest I reply?

GENTLE READER: With a new card. The proper response to a wedding invitation is a handwritten reply, not a checked-off menu list, even if it was solicited and provided.

Miss Manners suggests you ignore the menu question and send your response to the more important one – “are you attending?” – without the reply card. (Oh, all right – if you must, you may stuff your own stationery into the pre-addressed and stamped envelope.) If questioned later or at the wedding itself, you may say that while you are a vegetarian, you are sure that there will be plenty for you to eat.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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