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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have read your column for many years, and we have learned a lot from you. Never did I think I would have to write to you for advice.

Abby, my 28-year-old son, a medical student and a very bright young man, met a young woman about a year ago. Both of our daughters like this young woman, and so do we. I mention this because of the many women our son has brought home who failed to hit it off well with our daughters.

Our son and this girl decided to get married in late March. Invitations were mailed, plans were finalized, and everything seemed to be OK. Seventy-two hours before the ceremony was supposed to take place, we were notified by our son that the wedding was canceled. Despite this cancellation, we drove to see them in the city where the marriage was to take place. Our son was distraught, as was his bride.

He wanted to get married and then get counseling. (The counseling condition was made by her.) She insisted they get counseling first and then get married, if that was still feasible. She had her reasons -- he had his.

Our problem is, the wedding gifts from her friends, and our friends, had arrived. We expected that those gifts would be returned promptly, but neither she nor our son has shown any urgency. Personally, we don't care what she does with the gifts from her side of the family. But we are from the old school and cannot condone this behavior. Both our daughters are telling us to stay out of it. As things stand, there is a possibility that they might marry later.

What do you suggest? How do we act toward our friends? Please help us clear up this mess and please don't print our name or location. -- RED-FACED PARENTS

DEAR RED-FACED: Your daughters have the right idea. Cross your fingers and pray that your son and his fiancee work out their problems in counseling.

As for your friends, if any of them should ask, tell them the truth -- the wedding has been postponed, and if there's anything further to report you'll be delighted to tell them. If they're your friends, they'll be understanding.

The proper thing for your son and his fiancee to do would be to acknowledge the gifts with a short note, explaining that due to unforeseen circumstances the wedding has been postponed. And if it is canceled, of course, the gifts should be returned.

DEAR ABBY: "Lost in North Carolina" wrote, "Please help me..." because she was left with a 3-year-old, no money and herpes when Harry moved out. She felt that no one else would ever want her.

Please reassure her that it is not true. For 10 happy years I have been married to a lady who was in the same situation as "Lost." In the very early stages of our courtship she told me, "A long time ago in a faraway place, someone gave me a gift I am not happy with but can do nothing about." It was herpes. It mattered not to me who, when or where, as I saw a wonderful person who was willing to share her life with me.

During our years of intimacy, I have avoided catching the disease by avoiding intercourse during her outbreaks, and by the grace of God. Every day I find this wonderful woman more caring, loving and exciting.

I would have missed many years of happiness had I turned away after hearing her "story"! -- CAUGHT THE BRASS RING

DEAR CAUGHT: You sound like an intelligent and discerning man who married his match. I wish you both many more years of happiness together.

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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