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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: There is a possibility, hopefully slim, that a friend's bride-to-be may not show at the wedding. If this happens, what is the proper protocol for whomever is asked to announce the postponement of the service? What does one say in such a situation? -- WANTS TO BE PREPARED, THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF.

DEAR WANTS TO BE PREPARED: If there is a possibility strong enough to write to an advice columnist that the bride will be a no-show, the wedding should be postponed NOW -- while the guests can still cancel their travel and lodging reservations, and before anyone has gathered for the ceremony.

Were I the person whose duty it was to inform the wedding guests that the wedding was canceled, I would simply say: "Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that there has been a change of plans. There will be no wedding today. However, don't let that stop you from enjoying the music and refreshments that have been provided. I'm sure you'll be hearing the details in the weeks to follow."

DEAR ABBY: For many years, I searched for a family project to give added meaning to the holidays and instill in our children the foundations of "social service." Three years ago, at Thanksgiving, I found the perfect project, one our whole family could share.

Since most people get both Thursday and Friday off from work, we decided to spend all of Thanksgiving Day cooking a complete Thanksgiving dinner and delivering it to a needy family. With three children aged 7, 3 and 1 at the time, even the youngest could "help" mash potatoes and bake cookies.

Each year it has given us an opportunity to get acquainted with wonderful people who were in difficult circumstances, experience their joy at receiving these gifts, and feel we have something worthwhile to celebrate at our own Thanksgiving, which we now celebrate on Friday.

This family project has provided us with an altruistic and uplifting focus for the holiday. We have chosen to focus our giving on immigrant families who often work at the most unpleasant and dangerous jobs, and receive the lowest pay. However, any group that has personal meaning to the individual, such as the elderly, people with AIDS and single parents -- the list goes on and on -- would appreciate some special care on Thanksgiving.

Also, before Christmas, the children and I were cleaning out closets to make room for new toys and wishing we could find a good use for the old toys. We made a few calls and located a homeless shelter that welcomed our donation. Abby, we have a limited income, and cannot always afford to contribute to new-toy drives. However, we had an abundance of used-but-still-nice toys my children had outgrown, which made the children in the shelter very happy indeed.

We found our shelter by looking in the Yellow Pages under "Housing Assistance and Shelters" and "Social Service Organizations." If at first you don't connect, keep calling!

This has become a family tradition, and I can't tell you how much it has enriched our lives. -- DARIA DOERING, SAN DIEGO

DEAR DARIA: What an inspiring way you have chosen to teach your children to share their abundance with others. Churches and synagogues can also provide names of families and older people who are in need and would welcome being included in a family celebration. Thank you for providing living proof that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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