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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After my father died unexpectedly, I didn't know what to do when my parents' next wedding anniversary came along. I was young -- under 30 -- and was not aware of the proper procedure. Should I buy my mother a gift, as I had always done for them in the past? Would it be better not to even mention the date to my mother? As I recall, I invited my mother for dinner, no gift, and only a mention of what day it was when we finished dinner. Now I feel I did the right thing. She knew I remembered, and she was not alone for dinner.

My husband died unexpectedly last summer. Today would have been our 54th wedding anniversary. In the past we had exchanged cards with certain friends and relatives on such an occasion. Yesterday I received a lovely letter from our best man's widow, recalling pleasant times we shared in the past. That is the only indication from anyone that the anniversary of our special day was today. I appreciated the letter I received so much, but I am sad that no other close friend or relative remembered.

I would suggest that when close friends or relatives are in a similar situation, sending a "thinking of you" card would be much appreciated. I feel so alone and forgotten -- and ashamed that I have been guilty of the same neglect of others in the past. I didn't realize how much it would mean to know that others remembered, too. No name or city, please. Just sign me ... SAD WIDOW IN ILLINOIS

DEAR SAD WIDOW: Please accept my sympathy on the loss of your beloved husband. There is much to be learned from your letter about the value of reaching out to others.

DEAR ABBY: One of my family members was recently married. She kept her last name and added her husband's name to it, so that she is now Mary Smith-Jones. Her husband is, of course, Harry Jones.

This past Christmas, my parents bought them a gift and addressed the card to "The Jones Family." My relative threw a fit, complaining that she was not included on the card. My mother countered that had she addressed the card to the "Smith-Jones Family," the husband would not have been included.

The way I see it, my mother is right. If the gift were only to my relative, it would be addressed to Mary Smith-Jones, but if it's to both, it should be "The Jones Family."

What is the proper way to address the whole family? Do we have to write out Mr. Jones and Mrs. Smith-Jones? To me, that's just a waste of time when we could simply write "The Jones Family."

Please settle this controversy and tell us how it's done. -- FEUDING FAMILY

DEAR FEUDING FAMILY: According to the etiquette books, you will have to make the extra effort if you wish to properly address the entire family. As it says in "The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, Entirely Rewritten and Updated," by Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan: "When addressing an envelope to a couple when the wife has kept her maiden name (or hyphenated it with her husband's), write 'Ms. Mary Smith-Jones and Mr. Harry Jones' on the same line. If a couple's combined names are too long to fit on one line, address the envelope on two lines with the woman's name on the first, and the man's on the second, preceded by 'and.' The 'and,' when slightly indented and written out, indicates that the two are married."

CONFIDENTIAL TO "LOVES PEOPLE" IN LOUISVILLE: Mae West once said, "I only like two kinds of men: domestic and foreign." You're in good company!

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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