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DEAR ABBY: I could only sympathize after reading the letter from "Tired in Kentucky" (10/9), the mother of the bride who was having trouble with the RSVPs.

At my daughter's wedding we had the same problem. In the end, we had 14 no-shows out of a planned attendance of 79, which at $57 a head for dinner, drinks, champagne toast and appetizers was a lot of money spent for nothing.

I was particularly offended because some of their excuses were poor -- for example, they decided at the last minute to do something better. People apparently don't realize that you have to give a number to the caterer at least a week ahead. You then need to pay for that number of guests whether they show up or not.

I think I have found the answer, though: My next catered party, I'm going to call a week ahead, and if they don't know if they're coming or not, I'm telling them I'll take that as a no. I have learned that the minute you take something away, they want it. Maybe I can train my guests this way. If not, I'll eliminate them from future guest lists. -- MARY IN EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR MARY: That letter touched a nerve with a lot of readers. It appears that a large segment of the population either never learned good manners in the first place, or has chosen to ignore them. Your solution to the problem is a clever one. Read on for some other solutions to the RSVP problem:

DEAR ABBY: We attended a wedding where the name of each guest who had responded by the given date was put on a list. After the ceremony, there was a closed reception in an upscale ballroom. The doorman had a final list -- and the guests had to sign in before entering the room. If you weren't on the list, you didn't attend the reception.

The doorman was the person giving out the bad news. You couldn't even see the bride and groom. It was done very politely and respectfully to those who had to be turned away, but it was clear that they weren't allowed to enter because they had failed to respond by the date.

I thought it was a nice way to handle the situation. The bride and groom weren't put on the spot and weren't blindsided by an "overcount" of people showing up to eat. The doorman also added to the formality of the occasion. -- MELINDA IN GEORGIA

DEAR ABBY: Here's my solution. It serves me well and always works. I hit upon it when my kids were little, and we never knew whether to expect 10 or 30 for a party.

I send out invitations for the occasion with the date -- but not the time. For a wedding, I would give the date and time, but not the location, and add the word "only" on the invitations to those who are not encouraged to bring a guest. I also note, "We'll miss you if you cannot RSVP by ( )." To anyone too busy to call within the two weeks I give them, we extend our sincere and heartfelt regrets if they do call late.

This may seem a bit harsh, I know, but it is done with a bit of humor, and no one to date has fussed. They all know they should respond within a given time, and we have wonderful turnouts to all our parties and such.

Thanks, Abby. You and I have coffee together every morning, and I have learned so much from you and your readers! -- SHALIMAR IN SANTA ROSA, CALIF.

DEAR SHALIMAR: How sweet! So have I.

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