DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have hosted a Christmas morning brunch for friends and family for the last 15 years or so. It is my gift back to friends and family for all their support and friendships.
Most guests bring a small hostess gift such as a bottle of wine or a candle. This year, a longtime participant/guest left an envelope with cash, and not an insignificant amount.
I am in a quandary as to how to respond, as I feel that cash is not an appropriate hostess gift. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable.
One thought is giving the money to a charity and letting the guest know I have done so in their name. I would add that the pleasure of their company is all I require for brunch. Suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Money is so often substituted for presents these days that your guest may not realize how insulting it is to treat your hospitality as a commercial venture. Nevertheless, you should not accept this premise.
Donating the money, laudable as that may be, does not make the point; it only accepts the idea that the payment is legitimate, and that you can use it as you choose. Miss Manners advises you to return it with the explanation that you cannot accept the money, as this person was your guest.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Three years ago, I adopted a vegan lifestyle; my husband did not, but we’ve found a way to peacefully coexist. His family knows of the changes in my diet, yet they persist in sending us food gifts I cannot consume.
I’ve made sure my husband thanks them for these gifts, but I have remained mute about them. Otherwise, I’m a prodigious thank-you note writer, even when I receive something I cannot use or don’t like.
Should I be thanking the in-laws for the food I can’t eat? If so, what should I say?
GENTLE READER: Whether their motive is to taunt you, or merely to give your husband a treat they believe he would not otherwise get, Miss Manners advises you not to acknowledge the challenge. You do not even have to acknowledge the present — your husband properly does so, as it seems to be intended for him alone.
But perhaps you feel you must address their having “included” you in the gift. In that case, you would write, “Connor asked me to thank you for sending him the side of beef. We both wish you a very happy new year.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What does “Creative Formal” mean on a New Year’s Eve party invitation?
GENTLE READER: Probably what we used to mean by “trying too hard.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Suppose a person verbally expresses how much they like a gift, how they will enjoy using it, etc., but never actually says the words “thank you.” Is this considered inappropriate?
GENTLE READER: When the intent is obviously to convey the essence of gratitude, rather than the formula? No, it is not wrong. However, Miss Manners does consider it unseemly to invent technical reasons to quarrel with expressions of goodwill.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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