DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are planning a wedding on a fairly tight budget. We would like to have a beer-and-wine bar but can only afford about three drinks per guest. Is it acceptable for us to provide a monetary cap and switch to a cash bar once that cap is reached? Do we need to tell guests about this plan before the reception? How can we politely inform guests once the bar is approaching the limit or has switched to a cash bar?
GENTLE READER: What you need is a good punch.
No, no, no, not that kind. Very sorry. However great the temptation, Miss Manners does not go around punching people in the nose. This is not an accepted way of offering instruction in the noble art of etiquette.
And even if it were, your question is not offensive. But your proposed solutions would be. There is no polite way to tell guests that they will be sharing the costs of refreshments.
Of course, you can simply leave instructions that the bar be closed at a certain time and hope nobody tugs at the train of your wedding dress and asks, "How does anyone get a drink around here?"
Or you can serve them ample amounts of punch, which will provide them with the amount of spirits you can afford and was once considered a hospitable and festive drink appropriate to a wedding. It might startle them, and you might station a waiter nearby to reassure them by saying cheerfully, "It's rather strong, sir." But they might get to like it.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend died recently. He was not married, nor did he have any close relatives. As executor of his will, I had to tell his friends of his death. He had been in declining health for some years, so this was not a surprise to anyone.
I chose to write a letter rather than making dozens of phone calls. Unfortunately, I am not terribly creative and am afraid I botched everything. If I am ever in such a position again, could you give me a few pointers on how to do this properly?
GENTLE READER: Creativity is the last thing that is needed in such a case. When people botch such things, it is usually because they go beyond supplying information and offering sympathy to devise what are intended to be comforting thoughts. "It is all for the best," for example, or "It must be a relief."
This strikes an unpleasant note. Death is a fresh shock, even when it is expected, and it is the occasion to express appreciation and regret for the person who was a friend, not to dwell on the curtailed life he had at the end.
Such a letter needn't be long, but should contain three ingredients: the facts of the death, praise for the person and acknowledgement of his friendship with the recipient.
For example, "I am very sorry to have to tell you that Jasper McElwood succumbed to pneumonia on November second at Mercy Hospital. He was an inspired teacher and a delightful companion, and I know he valued your friendship."