DEAR MISS MANNERS: After a recent death in our family, one member had a "reception" after the funeral. Some of us went and some didn't. I brought food to the home, as is the custom. Are we automatically invited to the "reception," or must we wait for an invitation?
GENTLE READER: Actually, this might be considered a reception, in the sense that the family is receiving those who care to come and pay their respects, as opposed to giving a party for invited guests. Therefore, under normal circumstances, anyone who attended the funeral would be welcome, and the fact of the event may be announced by the person presiding over the funeral or mentioned around by members of the family.
Miss Manners threw in that part about "normal circumstances" to warn off anyone who cared about the deceased enough to attend the funeral, but knows that his or her presence would be painful to the family. This may or may not include ex-spouses, lovers, estranged relatives and known enemies. Miss Manners doesn't know who they are, but they do.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my son graduated from high school, his father and I (we're divorced) hosted a graduation party for family and friends on both sides, and my son insisted on a "dry" celebration -- no alcohol served. He said this was very important to him.
What I considered to be a simple matter to be decided by the hosts (as the hosts would choose to serve chicken vs. beef) became an awkward moment when my two brothers arrived separately with coolers of their favorite alcoholic beverages. I quietly informed them that my son had requested a dry celebration, and their coolers were returned to their cars.
With my son now graduating from college, we are once again planning a celebration. I need to know the correct way to handle this.
After the last party, I was told that the guests should have been informed that no alcohol would be served. I disagreed. The guests who arrived with liquor should have suggested ahead of time that they could bring some to help out, and I could have politely declined and let them know of the agreement with my son.
This was not the same as a guest presenting the hosts with a bottle of wine or liquor upon arrival as a token of congratulations or thank you. The coolers were brought to ensure that the two would have a supply of their own brand, not necessarily for sharing with the other 60 guests.
GENTLE READER: Do you mean to say that in four years, your son's uncles have not succeeded in teaching him the benefits of alcohol?
Count your blessings, and don't let them try to teach him etiquette, either. Bringing their own brand of refreshment for themselves to consume at a party would have been rude even if what they brought was a bag of pretzels.
But didn't they learn from the experience? If you feel you have to warn them not to do it again, go ahead. They're your brothers, and they are known offenders.
Otherwise, the hosts' obligation to describe the refreshments is limited to letting them know, in the invitation itself, whether there will be a meal served or whether they would be wise to take something out of the freezer for dinner.