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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When did weddings cease being joyous religious and family celebrations and become media events? A clergyman recently wrote to you asking, "Can you imagine what it's like to officiate at a wedding with a baby screaming at the top of its lungs? Have you ever watched and listened to a video of a wedding with two or three babies crying while the parents make no attempt to quiet them?"

Babies are a part of the family, Abby. I have been in synagogues where babies began crying -- not in distress, but simply because babies make noise -- and I have been embarrassed. Not embarrassed by the babies, but embarrassed by their mothers, who felt it was necessary to take them out so as not to "disturb" the other worshipers. I have followed mothers out of the sanctuary of the synagogue (when I had the privilege of doing so, as a congregant rather than a rabbi) and assured them that their babies, in my opinion, enhanced the worship by their truth, their honesty and sincerity. What is a baby's cry if not a prayer?

As with regular worship services, even more is it true of weddings. Yes, I have officiated at weddings where babies were present and noisy; I have not been disturbed by them, and by acknowledging the delight of the infants, I have kept the wedding party and guests from being disturbed.

One wedding in particular comes to mind, in which a couple who had been married five years earlier in a civil ceremony asked me to preside at a religious ceremony. Their infant daughter was present, held in her grandfather's arms, and she made noise, as a baby will do. The noises of the happy baby disturbed nobody present, and she quickly quieted from the loud noises to gentle cooing when I suggested that she be transferred to her mother's arms. I acknowledged her as a part of the wedding party, and the wedding was immeasurably beautified by her presence.

Exclude babies? God forbid that I should ever do so! Peace and blessings ... RABBI ZEV-HAYYIM FEYER, ATLANTA

DEAR RABBI FEYER: As with most issues, there is more than one opinion. Thank you for stating yours.

DEAR ABBY: The Fourth of July is almost here, and I would like you to remind your readers that it is safer to watch fireworks at a professional display than to use them on their own.

Every year, thousands of Americans -- many of them children -- receive injuries serious enough to require a trip to the hospital. The typical injuries are to the head, face and hands, and many result in blindness and amputations. Even sparklers, often given to young children as toys, burn at temperatures as hot as 1,200 degrees.

Please, Abby, ask your readers to think twice this Fourth of July about needlessly exposing themselves and their children to serious injury. Instead, attend a public display put on by professionals who are trained to safely handle dangerous materials. -- GEORGE D. MILLER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION, QUINCY, MASS.

DEAR MR. MILLER: Thank you for the reminder. I couldn't have said it better myself. Readers, please take note, and have a safe Fourth of July.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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