DEAR MISS MANNERS: A rather despicable married friend has been estranged from her husband for years, yet they maintain a home together. She has had several love interests in the past few years. I suspect I’ve been used as her “beard” for some of her escapades.

I don’t really wish for her to be at our wedding, but nonetheless must invite her. I despise her husband and he feels the same of me. Is it permissible to simply invite her? I know her husband will not attend, and I fear if I address the invitation to Mr. and Mrs. it will encourage her to bring a guest.

If I’ve painted a portrait of a woman who lives beyond the conventions of etiquette, I have painted well, so please don’t say she’ll have sense enough not bring a guest other than her husband. She will not, and I can’t abide the thought of a married woman bringing a date to our wedding.

GENTLE READER: Are you seriously sticking Miss Manners with the premise that this person is your friend and you must invite her?

All right, but then she also accepts your premise that your friend is beyond the conventions of etiquette. In that case, if she wants to bring a guest, she will bring one, regardless of what you put on the invitation.

So you might as well do the correct thing and invite the couple as a couple. If a couple maintains a home together, etiquette does not investigate whether they are getting along.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I are invited to the home of new friends for a meal, the first thing that happens is that we’re offered a tour of the hosts’ house, from top to bottom. Obviously we are expected to admire their views, their choice of furnishings, their craft projects and so on. What do you think of this practice?

GENTLE READER: That such people should offer their houses to be on a local house tour, such as are given as charity fundraisers in the spring. If accepted for such use, the owners will be able to garner widespread admiration and/or criticism. If not accepted, Miss Manners hopes that they may come to realize that gaping at their possessions is not all that entertaining.

We are supposed to believe that the reason for socializing is to enjoy the company of others, not to admire — really meaning to appraise — their possessions.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like to know the proper etiquette for giving mother’s rings. More specifically, is it proper to place the birthstone of a son who committed suicide in the ring? Wouldn’t it be rude not to include it? Also, it is customary to present the ring as a gift for Mother’s Day, but is that etched in stone or may it be given at any time?

I am desperate for the answer; the trials and tribulations that our family have endured this past year have produced a perfect time to honor my mother-in-law for all her strength and enthusiasm.

GENTLE READER: There is no specific rule about such rings, but there is one about recognizing a mother’s children. Miss Manners assures you that your mother-in-law has not forgotten her son who committed suicide, and however painful her memories, it would be more painful to think that you have forgotten him, or worse, that you believe that she has.

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

, by Judith Martin

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