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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can stand another wedding-related disaster. I was married last October. My husband and I both wanted a small wedding because we couldn't afford a large one. We planned to elope and be married with only our parents and siblings as guests. The idea was to spend a fun weekend at a local inn.

My mother-in-law suggested that we include a few of our closest friends. Therefore, my husband and I each invited six friends and their dates/spouses. A total of 33 people attended the wedding, and it was exactly what we wanted.

I plan to throw a party for other relatives later this year. However, none of mine are speaking to me! They say I wrote them off by excluding them from the wedding -- that I chose friends over family, and some other hurtful comments.

When I explained that my husband's aunts, uncles and cousins weren't invited either and expressed their happiness for us, my relatives didn't care. My husband comes from a prominent family, and my side of the family is using that against me. They insist I am ashamed of them and think they're not good enough.

I thought throwing a party for everyone afterward would solve the problem. However, after what my relatives have said, I don't want to waste our money on them. I doubt they'd come anyway, since we're not speaking.

Abby, is one obligated to invite relatives to one's wedding? Is there an invitation protocol? Please advise. -- KELLY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

DEAR KELLY: Nothing is written in stone. However, in an ideal world, members of one's family are supposed to be closer than one's friends. Since it's too late to invite your family to your wedding, send them personal invitations to your party and see who shows up. (That way they won't think you have turned your back on them completely.)

DEAR ABBY: I have a hint for your readers who have a loved one in a nursing home: Carry a notebook. If there's a problem, note the day, time, the person you talked with and the condition of your loved one. Describe any problems and when they were solved.

If your loved one can make notes, give him or her a notebook, and have the person make notes of what is happening.

I shared this idea with a friend. She said it worked for her and her dad. He is getting much better care now. -- CAREGIVER IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR CAREGIVER: Thanks for the suggestion. Jotting down the details of important conversations can be helpful for many reasons. Another good idea is to drop by unexpectedly and let the management know that you are paying attention to the care your loved one is receiving. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Our visits to friends in nursing homes and convalescent hospitals would be much more pleasant if the patient's family would pin up happy pictures or awards on the walls. Most rooms have a bulletin board.

We could talk about happy experiences and honors, rather than aches and pains. -- MARGARET MILLER, CINCINNATI

DEAR MARGARET: I have a better idea. Why don't all visitors take along photos or other mementos of happy events to liven up the conversation? Funny cartoons can also lighten the atmosphere. Smiles and laughter are good medicine for all concerned.

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-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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