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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter "Joy" is 20. Her boyfriend, "Danny," is 22. They plan to be married once they graduate from college. Danny is a wonderful young man who loves our daughter very much.

Danny's parents have an expensive home, two new cars, a boat and a vacation home. They do not help their son financially -- even with college. Danny works full time, attends school full time and pays all of his expenses. What concerns me is that he has a car payment, a school loan and is using a credit card to buy an engagement ring for Joy.

Joy and Danny would like a big, expensive wedding. Although we would like to do that for our daughter, we are reluctant about spending so much for a wedding, knowing that afterward they will have to pay off all of Danny's bills. Should we voice our concerns to our daughter or keep our mouths shut? We don't want to start out as bad in-laws. -- LOVING DAD IN UTAH

DEAR LOVING DAD: Your daughter's fiance appears to be a fine young man with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. As a caring parent, by all means express your concern to both of them. And when you do, consider offering them the alternative of scaling down the wedding and using the balance of the money to retire some of his debt. I can't imagine a more considerate and loving gift than that for them.

DEAR ABBY: Please let people know how careful they need to be when referring someone, particularly for home improvement work.

I hired a man to do some repairs in my home. Before the job was completed, I was telling others what a great deal I got and handing out his contact information to people I didn't know well.

Abby, the man turned out to be a fraud, and have I ever learned my lesson. Please warn your readers not to refer anyone until they have been thoroughly checked out, the work has been completed and enough time has gone by to ensure there were no hidden problems with the person's work. In these times when so many people are trying to save where they can, there are crooks just waiting to prey on another victim.

I am sorry now because I can't contact these people to warn them not to do business with the man, and I'm afraid I have been instrumental in their being conned. -- TRULY REGRETFUL IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR REGRETFUL: I'm sorry you were taken advantage of, but pleased to have the opportunity to remind readers they should be careful about making recommendations until they are certain they can vouch for the person's ability and integrity. Anyone investing in home improvements should insist the person has good references and is licensed and insured.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a wonderful man who is a widower. Our question is this: When a couple divorces, the two refer to each other as their "ex." But because his wife died, how should she be referred to? It doesn't seem right to call her his ex. -- CURIOUS IN PALM SPRINGS

DEAR CURIOUS: With anyone who does not already know that your friend is a widower, she should be referred to as "his late wife."

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