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DEAR ABBY: Our only daughter is being married soon. We have been planning this wedding for nearly a year. It will be a traditional wedding in our church, and a lot of time and money has gone into it to make it an exceptionally lovely occasion. In the basement of the church is a large room for such celebrations, and we are having it professionally decorated with flowers, balloons and ribbons.

The problem: The groom's niece is going to be celebrating her 10th birthday on the day of the wedding, and they (the groom's family) want to know if it would be all right to bring a birthday cake to the wedding and celebrate "Jennifer's" 10th birthday at the same time - since all the flowers and decorations will be there anyway! It was suggested, too, that the band play "Happy Birthday," and all the wedding guests could sing "Happy Birthday to Jennifer."Abby, I am not in favor of combining my daughter's wedding celebration with Jennifer's 10th birthday. It just doesn't seem fair for them to expect it. Is there a nice but firm way to say "no" to this nervy suggestion? - MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

DEAR MOTHER: Yes. You could politely say that birthdays come every year, but a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

DEAR ABBY: We need help with a problem we can't ask anyone else about, and when I tell you what it is, you will understand why.

Forty years ago, I became pregnant and I wasn't married. My boyfriend and I told our parents (and everyone else) that we were secretly married, and we have been living this lie ever since.

We subsequently had more children - and now grandchildren - but we never had any kind of marriage ceremony because we didn't want it known that we had never married.

My husband and I were both born and raised in Pennsylvania and have never lived in any other state. We know that Pennsylvania recognizes common-law marriages, but here's our question: Does the IRS feel the same way about common-law marriages as the state of Pennsylvania? We've been filing joint tax returns all these years.

Call it a mental block or whatever, but we have never really faced this problem. Can you help us? - TWO FRIGHTENED OSTRICHES

DEAR OSTRICHES: Have no fear. Since the state in which you have been living for 40 years recognizes common-law marriages, you are married for the purposes of filing a joint federal income tax return. If you are still concerned about how the IRS feels about common-law marriages, consult an attorney who is familiar with tax law.

DEAR ABBY: A so-called friend of mine talked me into doing something that I really didn't want to do.

I didn't want to do it because I knew we would get into a lot of trouble if we were caught. I wanted to tell him "no," but I just didn't have the courage to. I regret it now, because I'm in jail. I guess I just don't know how to say "no"!

Is there an easier way to say "no" than just "no"? - IN JAIL IN ARIZONA

DEAR IN JAIL: The word "no" is probably the easiest word to pronounce and the most difficult to say in any language. Fortunately, you know your limitations. Since you lack the courage to say "no," in the future, you would be wise to avoid the person who would lead you into temptation.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

1990 Universal Press Syndicate