DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have dinner with a small group of longtime friends who come together once or twice a year to touch base. One person in the group tends to dominate the conversation with greatly detailed storytelling of mishaps and adventures of family members and friends.
I believe I speak for the others in the group as well -- as I recognize the glaze in their eyes and the curious questions ceasing -- that we’d all like a chance to contribute and catch up. For example, I want to hear about everyone’s newest grandchild, latest hobby or how they’re coping with an aging parent, but it’s hard to get past this one long-winded person. Can you suggest a delicate way to redirect the conversation without being rude?
GENTLE READER: Even when a dinner party includes a relatively small number of guests, etiquette allows -- even expects -- many multiple, simultaneous conversations among different groupings. It is natural that at some point in the evening, attention may focus on a single speaker, but not for more than a few minutes.
When your lecturer begins, feel free to start a separate conversation with your next neighbor. If your guests follow your lead, only one or two people need be bored at a time, and this duty can be quietly rotated as you move from pre-dinner drinks, to the table, to after-dinner coffee.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son is engaged and I am over the moon. I have more friends that want to throw a party to celebrate their engagement than invitations allotted to the wedding. I have hosted parties for many of their children in the past and I know they want to do the same for me.
What should I do? Do I let them throw a party even though they will not be invited to the wedding, or do I politely decline?
GENTLE READER: How many of these offers were you planning on accepting? Miss Manners agrees that anyone hosting a party should be invited to the wedding, but she assumes that at least one of the prospective hosts is already on the invitation list. Everyone else can be thanked but told that a party is already scheduled.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our family received a save-the-date card in the mail for an upcoming bar mitzvah. Our families’ children attend school together and our family was very excited to be included.
The save-the-date card remains posted in our kitchen, but no invitation was received. The party is now only two weeks away. No calls have been received from the family or their party planner asking if we plan to attend for their final count. What to do?
GENTLE READER: Having been asked to save the date, it is only reasonable of you to assume that an invitation would be forthcoming. Miss Manners would not want you to be accused of not responding to an invitation that was mailed but not delivered, nor for your hosts to feel regret that you missed the event because of a mistake on their part -- either failing to mail an intended invitation or assuming that the “save the date” was all that was required.
You should therefore inquire directly. If the omission was not innocent -- for example, an attempt to solicit gifts without an invitation -- you will find out soon enough.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)