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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 8/19

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents started their family about 20 years after their siblings did, so our first cousins have several years on us.

At family gatherings as a young adult, I remember my cousins calling their aunts and uncles by their first names. My sister and I were expected to address our relatives using their titles, so for us to say “Mary, would you pass the salt?” rather than “Aunt Mary” never even crossed our minds.

My family could be very outspoken if they did not approve of something, and my elders never said anything about my cousins’ not using the titles. Still, I continued to address relatives by title through my 50s (I am now 60) and when reminiscing with my first and second cousins now.

Some of my second cousins have now stopped using the “aunt” and “uncle” titles. While it does bother me a bit in reference to my own parents, it didn’t bother them, so I shake it off as my being overly sensitive.

Does there come a point at which adult children are free to drop the titles when speaking to or about their aunts and uncles?

GENTLE READER: There came a point at which many aunts and uncles asked to have these titles dropped, or parents who felt that way stopped teaching them.

Miss Manners finds those forms as charming as you do, and joins you in regretting that they are now infrequently used.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter is planning, and paying for, a lovely but expensive wedding this fall. She would like to include a note in the information packet accompanying each invitation, whose wording we seek your help with.

She wants to indicate she and her fiance are staying up to date on social distancing recommendations, and would understand if people do not wish to attend the wedding for reasons of safety. But she also wants to state, in a polite but direct way, that the RSVP is essential to their planning so that they do not pay for guests who don’t show.

Have you any suggestions as to how she can word the note for maximum effect?

GENTLE READER: Here is how people interpret any attempt to say, “We’re inviting you, but you don’t have to come”: “They don’t really want me; they only want me to send a present.”

So forget that. It is up to your prospective guests to decide on their own whether to attend the wedding. They are certainly obligated to let you know their decisions, but as you and Miss Manners sadly know, many people rudely ignore invitations, sometimes even when they do actually intend to go.

Encouraging them to attend is, however, charming. In an informal letter, sent after the invitations, your daughter can note that she will be arranging social distancing and practicing other health precautions. That is the place to add a gentle nag to scofflaws: “We are hoping you will come, but haven’t yet heard.”

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

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