DEAR ABBY: Your recent letter about cutting costs of wedding receptions prompts me to tell you how the majority of residents in New Orleans, a city renowned for its hospitality, handle this.
Instead of sit-down dinners that cost "X" dollars per head, we have receptions similar to cocktail parties. This eliminates the headache of paying for the dinners of guests who don't show up, and also gives guests a chance to mingle without being restricted to conversation only with those seated near them at a table.
Receptions can be simple or very elaborate, depending on the wealth of the bride's parents. What the caterers charge depends on the number of guests invited. I have attended wedding receptions where champagne and exotic hors d'oeuvres were offered in great variety -- and others where hot dogs, chips and beer were served.
Caterers maintain their own reception rooms, or brides may choose a church hall, a community building -- or even their own homes. Music can range from the strains of an elegant harp and violin group to a lively combo for dancing, or even canned music piped over loudspeakers.
Why doesn't the rest of the country try this? -- M. HIGGINS, A LIFELONG NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT
DEAR M. HIGGINS: What a practical solution. My guess is that this practice is more widespread than you realize. After this appears in print, perhaps more people will give it a try.