Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In college, I lived in a townhouse with several housemates. One night, when a party we were hosting had gone on too long for my taste, I went down to the basement and turned off all the circuit breakers.

It had its intended effect; the house was cleared of guests within minutes. A few minutes after that, one of my housemates came down to the basement to see what happened. He was very amused when he shined his flashlight on my grinning face, standing next to the circuit breakers.

GENTLE READER: Please stop grinning. Yes, you got away with it. But Miss Manners begs you to stop thinking of this as cute before you turn off someone's life-saving medical device.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When salad is eaten after the main course, should the salad fork go outside or inside the table fork? I have often seen the salad served after a main course, before dessert, but I have never seen the fork moved. Assuming the salad is presented after the main (meat) course, what is the proper setting?

GENTLE READER: Maybe your hosts are just used to seeing tables set that way because restaurants can produce salad before the main course (to placate clients while their main courses are being cooked). The reverse sequence is proper for a private event, where dinner is already in the works.

But maybe your hosts are just trying to drive you crazy. People love to ridicule etiquette for the supposedly Heraclean problem of choosing which fork to use, when the answer couldn't be more simple: Start at the outside and work your way in. So the salad fork goes inside when it is to be used after the meat course.

Miss Manners cannot decide which would be more delicate -- to use the salad fork for the salad, despite its misplacement, or to use the dinner fork for salad and the salad fork for the main course to avoid pointing out that your host doesn't know how to set the table.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiance and I are in a quandary over how to make our wedding accessible to everyone, as my family lives in the southeast United States, and his family lives in southeast Australia. Health, finances and necessary travel documents make it nearly impossible for either family to make such a journey, even to what might be considered a halfway point.

We would hate to have to choose between my family or his. In this situation, is there a courteous way we could have two modest, dignified ceremonies within a few weeks of each other? Alternatively, is there some sort of "church blessing" or other ceremony we could have with the other half of our family followed by tea sandwiches, champagne and cake?

GENTLE READER: If you have two wedding ceremonies, you would still have to choose which family attended the original one, and which the rerun. The emotional impact of attending a wedding comes from witnessing people enter the state of matrimony, not from watching a married couple run through something they have done before.

If your church recognizes a religious service, in addition to a civil service, that would be a solution. Otherwise, Miss Manners recommends that the second event be a frank celebration instead of a mock wedding.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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