Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

How Not to Overstay Your Welcome

DEAR MISS MANNERS: If you are invited to someone’s home for drinks and appetizers, how do you know when it is time for you to leave?

GENTLE READER: Before dinner is served or the hosts go to bed. As Miss Manners fears that seeing such activities is an indication you have already overstayed, she recommends keeping a discreet eye on the other guests.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter, a Protestant, is engaged to be married to a Roman Catholic. One of her bridesmaids is now backing out of being an attendant because the marriage violates her conscience. The bridesmaid’s husband is also not supporting this interfaith marriage due to his strong religious beliefs.

However, in the same letter where the bridesmaid sorrowfully declined fulfilling her commitment to be a bridesmaid, they ask if they may still be permitted to attend the wedding. The harsh judgment exhibited by this lifelong friend has grieved my daughter, and she doesn’t especially want the couple to attend. How should we respond to them?

GENTLE READER: Protest is the ax of the body politic: It is sometimes necessary to fight entrenched injustice, but people who wield it should watch out for unguarded fingers and toes.

Your daughter’s bridesmaid is free to protest against the Catholic Church, but she cannot, in this particular case, do so without also implicitly questioning your daughter’s judgment in wanting to honor her fiance’s faith. As that is a serious insult, your daughter is right to drop her from the guest list.

The bridesmaid will no doubt say that that was not her intention, but Miss Manners’ patience with the frankly illogical has, of late, been under strain. Religious objections are quickly becoming a national sport.

Such objections can be made with good or bad motives, but let us not pretend that the motive is neutral. Your daughter should send her bridesmaid a written note saying how sorry she is that the bridesmaid is unable to overlook her objections to the church this once. And, that being the case, she should add that it would be best for all if the bridesmaid did not attend. This will avoid conflict with family, guests -- and at least one priest -- whose faith is deeply held.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there still a measurement that’s considered “proper” for how close a stamp is placed to the top and the right side of an envelope? I seem to remember that years ago, correct placement was considered proper etiquette.

GENTLE READER: Etiquette governs behavior among people, a fact obscured by the public’s -- though not etiquette’s -- obsession with the disposition of the silverware.

As the stamp is now more likely to interact with a machine at the post office than a clerk, it need only be in reasonable reach of that machine.

But as the recipient of the letter may see it before it lands in the trash, Miss Manners counsels that the stamp not be placed so as to draw unwanted attention on its way out. It should be far enough from the edges that it will not detach, and even enough that it does not suggest the poster was in no condition to be writing letters.

(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.)