DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter is a lesbian and she and her partner are now engaged and would like to plan a civil union ceremony. But in order to plan the reception, we need to know approximately how many guests will be attending, supplying a minimum but making sure that the maximum number of guests could be accommodated.
The problem is, most of the guests will need to drive about four hours to where the ceremony will be held. Short of calling all those that would be invited to see if they would even consider such an overnight trip, I'm not sure how to find this information. What we need to know is if they support the couple enough to go to a ceremony and would they be able to travel for a couple of days to attend. We would be covering at least a portion of the hotel costs for guests. However, there would be some expense involved.
Do you have any suggestions on how this information could be gathered without putting people in an awkward situation? We have about 18 months to plan.
GENTLE READER: Yes: Suffer like all other hosts by issuing invitations at the proper time, waiting anxiously for replies and extracting overdue answers through polite nagging. You may tell people the date now, which would enable those who want to attend to plan ahead, but realize that a binding commitment exists only when the actual invitation is accepted.
Probing people about whether they "support the couple" is a disastrous idea. You will embarrass people who just plain don't want to make the effort into thinking that they will condemned if they do not, and shake those who disapprove out of any polite silence they have mustered. There is no wedding that could survive a referendum from the prospective guests. If you could extract the thoughts of genuine well-wishers, you would find such notions floating around as, "With her looks, you would have thought she could do better" and "I suppose he is after the money" and "I give it six months."
This is why polite people do not say everything they think, and sensible people do not urge others to do so.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At one of our favorite bistros, I encountered a puzzling situation. My meal included a pasta dish with a cream sauce and shrimp; I was surprised to find that the shrimp in my dish still had their tails attached.
How was I to consume the shrimp without eating the tails as well? I had at my disposal two dinner forks, a very large steak knife and a soup spoon. I was quite sure I needed some other utensil, but I wasn't sure what it would be, nor how I would use it once it arrived. What would have been my proper course of action?
GENTLE READER: There is nothing in that random assortment of flatware that will be of help. Neither is there anyone in the kitchen who will be, Miss Manners gathers. She recommends prodding restaurants out of this nasty habit by sending the dish back, pointing out that you are not planning to pick the shrimp up by the tails, as you would at a buffet table, and shake off the cream sauce.