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DEAR MISS MANNERS - My husband and I are giving my stepson a small wedding reception soon, and we need your advice on receiving-line etiquette. The bride's parents and the groom's parents are divorced and each is either remarried or seriously involved with someone else.

The reception will be small, only 50 to 75 people. It will be formal, with candlelight dining. My husband is paying most of the expenses. The bride's mother is also contributing. The bride's father and the groom's mother are not contributing to the occasion.In what order should the receiving line be?

GENTLE READER - In order of the size of their financial contributions, Miss Manners supposes you expect her to say. Deadbeats need not apply.

Well, money has nothing whatever to do with it.

The custom is for either the mothers of the couple, or their mothers and fathers, to receive with the bridal couple. If you and the bridegroom's mother get along well, you might join them as hostess, but Miss Manners hopes you will not make an issue of it. There are too many extraneous people here, some of them not even related, and they will all be screaming to be treated "fairly."

However, you only asked about the order. If you really want to have a receiving line nearly as long as the guest list, Miss Manners will put her feelings aside and give you an order:

(1) The bride's mother, (2) The bridegroom's father, (3) You, (4) The bride's mother's husband, (5) The bridegroom's mother (6) The bride's father, (7) The bride's stepmother, and (8) The bridegroom's stepfather.

Note that this is not "order of importance." The traditional idea is to mix up the two families (bride's mother, bridegroom's father, bridegroom's mother, bride's father). Miss Manners has merely added the rule, when families are mixed enough already, of avoiding juxtaposing people who used to be married to each other, or to each other's spouses. It makes far too interesting a spectacle for the guests.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - I am an elderly person and not as quick or agile as I once was, but I am not too slow to be able to answer my own door when someone knocks. I have a friend, much younger, and perhaps she does mean well. When she is here and someone knocks, she says, "I'll get it," and before I can answer or leave my chair, she is opening the door.

I do not like this at all. I like to personally greet my own friends when they come, and to personally answer anyone else. How can I handle this, please, without hurting her feelings?

GENTLE READER - Undoubtedly she means well, and Miss Manners can imagine how irritating it must be. You must therefore put a stop to it with a gentle explanation, accompanied by appreciation:

"You're so sweet trying to save me getting up, but you see, it's very important to me that I act as hostess to my visitors, so I'll get the door."

Miss Manners realizes that by the time you got all this out, the visitor would be gone. Since the young lady does this habitually, you will have to tell her some time when the doorbell is not ringing.


Are you unsure about tipping? Miss Manners' pamphlet, "On Tipping," explains who should be tipped and how much. It is available for $1.50 from Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.


Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.