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by Abigail Van Buren

Thanksgiving Hostess Decides It's Time to Pare Her Guest List

DEAR ABBY: I know it's early, but my problem is Thanksgiving. For the past several years we have included four other families for Thanksgiving dinner in our home. Their children are married now, and including their spouses and stepchildren, the number of guests is now close to 30. I feel it is too many and would like to downsize.

One family is my son's in-laws, whom I consider to be family. Another family hosts everyone for Easter, and I would still like to include them because we're close and we spend holidays with them.

The other two families are not as close with us anymore. We have never been invited to celebrate a holiday in their homes. They could cook for their families, and I feel like I am being used. I would like to tell them, after Thanksgiving is over this year, that we plan to have a smaller gathering next year. That will allow them ample time to make other plans. My husband agrees. How do I do this without causing a rift, since two families will be included and two won't? -- THANKSGIVING QUANDARY

DEAR QUANDARY: Because you are feeling "used," why not draw the line now? If you do, the two families will still have time to make other plans.

The way to handle it would be to say: "This has been a year when everyone has had to cut back, and we are no exception. That's why we are limiting the number of guests we will be entertaining this Thanksgiving. We wanted you to know so there is enough time for you to make other arrangements. The parties have simply become too much work and too expensive to continue."

If those folks are friends, they'll grasp the economic reality and won't resent your honesty and pragmatism. And if they don't, they weren't real friends to begin with.