DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was invited to a shower by a group of the groom’s mother’s lady friends. Apparently it was close to the “small” wedding (three weeks) and the bride and groom could not be home for the shower, as they both work in a city about five hours away.

The invite said that since the couple was unable to attend, the guests would be honoring the mother of the groom by proxy.

Something old or new? Many of my friends in their 50s thought it was strange. I might add, I know only the groom’s mother, but not the couple.

I sent a gift card to a nationally known store for more than I would have spent on a shower gift, as I did not expect to be invited to the “small” wedding. That was immaterial, however, as I am more perplexed by the proxy situation.

GENTLE READER: A shower that the guests of honor claim to be too busy to attend is, indeed, new to Miss Manners.

Unfortunately, schemes to acquire goods without exerting oneself on behalf of the donors is not. Guests are often told to bring or buy their own refreshments and address letters of thanks to themselves — and that’s if they are even invited. The virtual shower, meaning a collection of presents unmarred by socializing, is another modern invention. It would seem sufficient to send one’s virtual good wishes.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a problem responding to acquaintances asking to take food home. This has happened at both board and committee meetings at my home with different people. Hunks of meat and gourmet cookies were requested.

I don’t know how to decline what I consider to be rude and a burden on my limited budget. These are NOT my friends or family who would be accommodated, as I would be by them.

Am I being rude? What can I say to discourage this?

GENTLE READER: “Please have your fill while you are here — I don’t do takeout.”

What puzzles Miss Manners is that you seem to think that it is all right for friends and relatives to request leftovers that they have not been offered. Hospitality requires providing refreshment to one’s guests, not catering their future meals.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I received a small gift and a thank-you note for a personal service I performed, I was unable to thank the individual in person for the gift and wrote a note. Subsequently I was told that thank-you notes are not required when receiving a thank-you gift. Seems to me, I received a gift and should acknowledge it. Please advise as to the correct procedure.

GENTLE READER: Your instincts are better than your advisers’. Whoever told you that has confused the thank-you present with a thank-you letter alone, which does not require a you’re-welcome letter.

Or maybe your friends are just trying to drive Miss Manners crazy with their false etiquette pronouncements. No doubt they are the same people who persuade brides to be rude with the ridiculous claim that a year is allowed them between receiving presents and giving thanks.

All presents require immediate thanks, whatever the motive or occasion that prompted them.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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