Dear Abby:

I am being married soon. My sister, "Alice," promised to help me with the last-minute details. However, yesterday Alice called to inform me -- with regrets -- that she'll be on vacation with her husband at the time my wedding is scheduled, so she won't be able to help me after all. I am upset to say the least. I have no bridesmaids to help me, and I was counting on her.

Alice is very sensitive, so I'm afraid to say anything to her. Am I wrong to be upset? What should I tell my friends when they ask about her? Is there anything I can say to my sister or my guests that will go over well?

Hurt in Houston

Tell your "sensitive" sister that you are disappointed that she won't be there to share your happiness (it's the truth), and that she'll be missed (it's also true because her absence will be noticed), and that you'll manage without her (because you will).

Then ask a couple of close friends to help you. If the "last-minute details" are shared, they shouldn't be too much of a burden for anyone. Should your guests inquire about your sister's whereabouts, be truthful and let them draw their own conclusions. Her failure to attend is not a reflection on you.

Dear Abby:

I was recently invited to a baby shower for an acquaintance.

As she opened her gifts, a girlfriend sitting next to her wrote down the name of the gift-giver and the item on a sheet of paper. At the same time, this friend was also penning thank-you notes to each giver! At the end of the shower, the mommy-to-be signed each note, "Love, 'X'" -- and handed them to each giver.

How should a person react to something like that? My first reaction was that this woman should receive no more of my time, since my attendance and my gift were not worth a personal thank-you note and a 37-cent stamp.

Confused in Troy, Mich.

Could the honoree be functionally illiterate? If that's the case, you should not have been offended. If she's not, however, it's clear the mommy-to-be is socially ignorant, and I'm sure you weren't the only guest who was offended.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate