DEAR MISS MANNERS: A group of our churchwomen meets in our homes, and wine is usually served. I offered to host a meeting. I served non-alcoholic punch and coffee because I do not drink.
Suddenly a wine bottle appeared when I was not looking, and everyone except me imbibed. I did not ask who brought it, and nobody spoke up to claim ownership. There was not even a polite show of the bottle’s being intended as a hostess gift.
I would like to host the group again, but how can I let them know I will not be serving alcohol and do not want it in my house?
My first thought is to put a sign outside my front door, “No alcohol allowed.” Is that too brazen?
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GENTLE READER: You needn’t worry about your guests finding out that you don’t serve alcohol – they already know. Your problem is that they find thwarting your intentions amusing.
Miss Manners is not amused at deliberate rudeness. Before you issue your next invitation, she recommends taking some members of the group aside individually and asking if serving alcohol is required. If they say yes, you may say, with wide-eyed innocence, how disappointed you are as you will then not be able to host. No matter what the answer, you will have made your point.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a recent bridal shower, I was dismayed when the bride received a duplicate of the gift that I had selected from her registry. As it turns out, she had intentionally registered for some of the exact same items from multiple stores, hoping that it would result in duplicate gifts.
Her goal is to be able to return the duplicates for store credit, which she can amass and apply to even more expensive items (presumably that she thought she might as well not bother including in her registry). Sadly, this was her mother’s idea!
I had thought that the purpose of a registry was to help gift-givers ensure that their gifts were, in fact, things that the bride wanted and to prevent duplications.
As a gift-giver, I like to think that I am giving something that will be used and perhaps even remembered as having come from me. Now, I’m left feeling that I might as well have given cash. What do you think of this manipulation of the registry system?
GENTLE READER: Oh, a new scheme for bilking friends and relations! No doubt this family is congratulating itself on how subtly it launders the money.
As you say, you might as well hand over the cash, as many such people blatantly demand.
You point out that it is a perverted use of the gift registry, but Miss Manners maintains that the gift registry itself perverts the custom of giving presents, which are supposed to be chosen, and voluntarily given, as a symbol of thoughtfulness and good wishes.
Even without the duplication scheme, this bride would have been unlikely to associate you with your present. You didn’t choose it; she did. Your only choice was which item on her shopping list to buy.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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