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Miss Manners: Perplexing announcements don’t require any response

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

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I used to be comfortable about responding to invitations and announcements, but some recent ones from longtime friends have left me wondering:

“We would like to invite you to a wedding concert with some informal dancing (date, time, location). NO PRESENTS, but please bring a potluck finger food that does not need refrigeration plus a bottle of champagne to share. Please do not tell others and RSVP ASAP so we can fill your spot if you cannot come.” No mention of any wedding for this decades-long co-habiting couple.

“Please join us at our son Englebert’s graduation ceremony (date, time, location). Although he will not be able to attend, we look forward to sharing this event with you.”

“Penelope died yesterday – no services, and PLEASE, no flowers or condolences.”

“A baby shower for Lulu and Axelrod (people we have never heard of) is being given by their friends (who are not identified by names or any return address). No need to attend – just mail a gift card to the home of her parents (whose identities are also unknown to us).”

“We’ve moved! Housewarming gifts may be sent to (new address). We look forward to seeing you sometime in the next year or so!”

How should I respond to each of these?

GENTLE READER: Why would you want to?

If you share Miss Manners’ belief that not answering invitations is a high crime, she thanks you. But these are not exactly invitations. The wedding concert is a suggestion that you prepare yourself a picnic. The graduation is a ceremony that even the guest of honor has declined. The death announcement has allowed no opportunity to mourn. The shower and housewarming request contributions without attendance.

If you actually know these people, it would be kind to send congratulations or condolences, despite their not having expressed warmth or offered hospitality.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has always been my understanding that it is common courtesy and common knowledge that one should keep to the right when walking along sidewalks, stairwells, hallways and other public walkways. However, over the past several years, I’ve increasingly noticed that many people seem to walk to their left and even refuse to yield when other pedestrians are coming toward them from the opposite direction.

Were the rules changed without my knowledge?

GENTLE READER: Are you asking Miss Manners whether the Etiquette Council met, when everyone was marching smartly to the right, and ordered them all to the left (except for those who got special permission to meander)? Or whether there was a hostile takeover from the British branch?

No. You are just running into people who don’t follow the rules. Or they are running into you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it still correct to congratulate only the groom and give the bride best wishes, or has that rule changed?

GENTLE READER: That one hasn’t changed, either, but nobody knows it and violating it does no harm.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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