Dear Miss Manners: A few days ago, I stopped by the home of a close friend, who pulled out a mug from her kitchen dish drainer and handed it to me saying, "Here is your Christmas present. It had had a bow and candy inside, but my son took a liking to it and has been using it."

My immediate reaction was to feel insulted, but I mumbled a thank you.Now it sits in my kitchen and every time I see it, I feel irritated. Should I have said something right away, or refused the gift, or . . . ?

Gentle Reader: It is an insult to return a present to its donor (and yes, that includes people who do so saying, "Would you mind getting it for me in blue?" or "I don't need this, but I wish you'd exchange it for me for something I do need").

So the question becomes whether you want to make an issue of your close friend's somewhat casual rudeness, or whether - considering how insultingly the present was given - you can satisfy yourself by doing so without her quite taking it as an insult.

Finding herself just as irritated as you by the ungraciousness of it all, Miss Manners is for having a go at the latter.

So here's what you could do if the satisfaction would help you get over your annoyance: Bring the mug with you on your next visit and say, "You told me your son liked this - so I'd be delighted for him to have it."

Dear Miss Manners: My first cousin is getting married, and his mother, my aunt, keeps saying, "It is going to be a small wedding." By that, I assume she is saying I won't be invited.

I don't care about myself, but my youngest daughter, who is 10, has never been to a wedding in her life. My oldest daughter, 18, has not been to one since she was five. I want very much for them both to at least observe the wedding ceremony. I would be willing for them to pass on the reception, etc.

I am on excellent terms with my aunt, but how do I approach her on this subject? I heard that a church is a public place, so a wedding can be observed by anybody. True?

Gentle Reader: Technically, you are right. But Miss Manners promises you that should you take advantage of this, you will no longer be on excellent terms with your aunt.

Any way you or your daughters attempt to attend this wedding to which you are not invited - by making any kind of a plea, or by simply dropping by - will be interpreted as a reproach for their not having invited you. And it will create a major embarrassment for your relatives who expect to go off to whatever small celebration they are having, without you.

And by the way, Miss Manners, susceptible as she is to maternal solicitude, has failed to be touched by your argument in favor of your daughters. A wedding is not a show to be viewed simply for the experience or amusement.

Dear Miss Manners: Here is how I get my three lovely children, ages 9, 8 and 4, to write and say "thank you" to relatives who live far away and send them gifts.

Every year, a note is sent home from school telling parents how much time they should spend on homework with their children. If and when they bring papers home, they rarely take that amount of time, so I include writing thank-you notes as part of their homework time. What better way to practice spelling, punctuation and handwriting?

If they do it when they're off on Christmas break, I deduct a little time from their homework time when school starts again.

When I have my 4-year-old dictate a letter for me to write, I read it back to her. This is time well spent. It is a good language and pre-reading experience.

My goal is that after a few years, they will gradually do their homework and write thank-you notes on their own.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners' goal is that people should understand why they must write thank-you letters - to thank people who have been kind to them. If you promise her that you are not sabotaging this by making it seem to be an obligation of schooling, then she will be happy to write a thank-you letter to you for your efforts.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it true, as a friend of mine states, that the children of a couple married for 25 years are responsible for the anniversary dinner or party?

How does that work, especially with a lot of young people still in college or living out of state?

Gentle Reader: Are these the same parents whose children have always assured them that they will be responsible for giving them their dream weddings?

Charming as it would be for children to throw an anniversary party for their parents, in a style commensurate with their ability to do so, it cannot be classified as a sacred responsibility.

Dear Miss Manners: Having spent my youth as a jewelry store clerk, I appreciate the genuine article. However, I purchased a very nice tennis bracelet with "diamond-like" stones, packaged as though it were set with diamonds. My wife will naturally assume it to be a diamond bracelet.

Should I give away the secret in private and tell her that she'll be receiving a piece of jewelry that is not what it appears?

Or do I let her open it, assume it's diamonds, and then tell her the truth in front of the entire family? Or do I let her open it, wait until later in the evening, tell her in private, and let her decide whether or not to tell others? I am leaning toward the last option, but feel deceitful in waiting so long to tell her.

Gentle Reader: You are only concerned with the question of whether to deceive your relatives. Miss Manners is worried about the etiquette antics you are requiring of your wife - not just directed toward them, but toward you.

In any scenario but the first, your wife goes pale with excitement, and, when the truth is out, spends the rest of the day reassuring you that she loves the bracelet every bit as much as if it were made of diamonds. Any good wife would do this, but it is bound to be a strain.

You need only issue a private tip-off.

"Darling," you say that morning, "I hope you like my little present. It perhaps looks grander than it really is, and I don't usually go in for costume jewelry, but I couldn't resist this because I liked the workmanship, and I thought it would look so beautiful on you."

When she asks what it is, you may refuse to tell her. But at least she will be able to gauge her reaction. You really don't want her to be jumping up and down saying, "I can't believe it! It's the most magnificent thing I've ever seen!" when the proper response would be "Oh, how lovely! You have the most beautiful taste."