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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I can certainly sympathize with "Pressured in Pennsylvania" who wanted a "no-child" wedding. All of the invitations to my daughter's wedding last month were worded in the correct way and addressed to "Mr. and Mrs." We assumed that by not including "and family," we would have no trouble. Wrong!

Friends whom we had not seen in a number of years, and would have welcomed with open arms, announced that they were coming 500 miles to the wedding and bringing their married daughter (who was invited) and her three small children (who were definitely not invited!). It fell to me to telephone long-distance and tell them that the children were not included in the invitation. They said they had never heard of such a thing, and if the children weren't welcome, they wouldn't be coming either. I stood my ground and said I was sorry, but that's the way it was. They never came.

Also, my daughter and I spent an entire weekend calling people who had failed to RSVP. A number of them told us they thought that if they were not planning to attend, they did not need to respond. (What did they think the stamp on the return envelope was for?) Several accepted but never showed up.

Abby, I think it's time to change the rules. Tacky or not, if I ever have to do this again, I will state on the invitations:

"Sorry, adults only.

"Please respond with a yes or no. A stamped envelope is included for your convenience."

And finally, the ultimate in tacky: "No-shows will be billed for the amount charged per person, by the caterer." (In our case, it was $30 per head, and we were out several hundred dollars and a lot of food went to waste because of those thoughtless people.)

Thank you for listening because I really needed to get this off my chest! If you print this, please do not use my name. -- OUTRAGED IN OREGON

DEAR OUTRAGED: My mail over the years indicates that many people do not understand what RSVP means. Perhaps the following would be preferable: "Please respond with a 'YES, we will be there' or, 'NO, we will not attend.' A stamped envelope is enclosed for your convenience."

P.S. Many people have written to say, "We thought it wasn't necessary to respond because we cannot attend." Others in equal numbers wrote to say, "We didn't respond because we will be there."

DEAR ABBY: We would like to pass along a family tradition we started some years ago. A few days after each Christmas and birthday, we go through our daughter Kristin's toys. With her help, we decide which toys she doesn't play with -- or has outgrown -- and would like to give to less fortunate children.

In addition to the obvious benefit of children getting toys they might not otherwise receive, it teaches our own child the joy of sharing.

So instead of selling those old but good-as-new toys your children have outgrown -- or boxing them up to store in the back of your closet or attic -- give them to your local charity. After all, isn't the joy of giving worth far more than a couple of bucks made from a garage sale? -- THE MC ALEENEN FAMILY, CHARLESTON AFB, S.C.

DEAR MC ALEENEN FAMILY: Hooray for you. May each successive holiday season by happier than the previous one. You deserve it.

Abby's family recipes are included in her cookbooklet. Send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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