DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband died at the age of 80. He was a highly esteemed professor emeritus, and I will be hosting a celebration of his life in a facility on campus. There will be two dozen speakers, followed by a reception with food and wine during two hours on a Friday afternoon.
From correspondences received after his death, it appears that there will be perhaps 200 people attending this function, many of whom will travel significant distances, even fully across the country.
My son feels that there should be an after-party for those who are from very far out of town. I, too, feel it will be awkward for people who have traveled long distances to be abandoned, but feel overwhelmed as to how this might be arranged.
GENTLE READER: There is no formula for determining when to stop once an event, any event, has grown beyond the range of the local bus routes. Brides, having presumably lost their heads once over their husbands-to-be, are oddly susceptible to losing it a second time over the celebrations. The ceremony and reception are supplemented by possibly necessary information about local accommodations, which becomes group hotel purchases, which become lists of local restaurants, which become after-parties, which become other local entertainment, which become bridal trips to the water park the day after.
But in spite of the nomenclature -- ”celebration of life,” “after-party” -- yours is not such a happy occasion. There is a mourner -- you -- whom the other mourners (note Miss Manners does not say “guests”) are there to support, not burden. State funerals are multi-day affairs, but they are also not planned by the grieving widow. It is up to you to decide how much additional entertaining you can do, and up to the attendees to respect your decision.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My in-laws frequently gift us with physically large gifts for our young children. These have ranged from extremely large toys to a nice kids’ table and chairs that we really just don’t have room for, and frankly don’t want.
I understand they are being very generous, and in the past, I’ve just said “thank you” and tried to work it in. The problem is this stuff is just so big that it’s piling up, and it’s also obvious if we’ve gotten rid of it.
Is it ever appropriate to talk about gift-giving before or after gifts have been given? Does it matter that these are my husband’s parents, whom we have a good relationship with, and also that these are gigantic presents? If we’re to say nothing, do I just act evasive when they ask where the trampoline is? And what do I tell my kids to say?
GENTLE READER: The size can be an asset instead of a liability. Identify a fixed, preferably prominent, location as the Grandparents’ Gift Corner. When next year’s gift arrives, remove and replace last year’s. Miss Manners trusts that the reverence thus given to each year’s gift -- as well as the logic behind the arrangement -- will blunt any questions about the accumulating pile in the basement.
(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.)