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THANK-YOU NOTES WILL TEACH GRAD A LESSON IN GRATITUDE

Dear Miss Manners: Many teachers, doctors and coaches have directly contributed to my son's success in school and life up to this point, and I would like to thank them.

I considered sending each of them his high-school graduation announcement with a note of thanks inside, but I am afraid they might feel obligated to reciprocate with a gift.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners would also like to contribute to your son's success in life. She can think of no more effective way than to suggest that you assign him to write those letters of thanks.

That is not to say that you cannot also express gratitude to these people. But as he is the immediate beneficiary of their attentions, he should be the first to acknowledge this.

Doing so would be excellent training in graciousness, letter writing and the realization that one's duties should not always be shouldered by one's parents. These are all skills that contribute to success.

You need not enclose a graduation announcement - not because it is a request for a present, as some people mistakenly think, nor, as others fear, because it might be mistaken for a graduation invitation. It is not sent because these people already know - or will know from your son's letters - that he is being graduated.

Dear Miss Manners: I need a quick review of how the wedding procession is lined up - specifically when, in what order, and who walks the mother of the bride, mother of the groom and grandmothers of the bride and groom down the aisle. All the books include only the actual wedding party, flower girls, ring bearers and bride. Please help - I'm in a panic!

Gentle Reader: Please - get a grip on yourself. The reason that etiquette books skip this subject is because they don't much care, and they don't think you should lose any sleep over it, either.

True, it has become customary to have the mother of the bride come in just before the processional, and as that lady is the hostess, Miss Manners cannot find it unfitting for her to wait until her guests have been seated. Just to keep it more or less parallel, the parents of the bridegroom usually precede her, and the grandparents may precede them, thus filling out the family rows last.

They may be escorted by any of the ushers, but one who is also a close relative - for example, the bride's mother by the bride's brother - would be particularly appropriate.

Miss Manners just asks you not to make a ceremony of all this. Wedding guests going to their seats should not be featured as a warm-up act.

Dear Miss Manners: My sister and I have birthdays two days (and two years) apart and because they are in May, the party her adult children throw us (I am widowed with no children) celebrates Mother's Day as well.

For the last four years, there has been a sport tournament on television dominating the entire day. No amount of coaxing or planning another day is effective, so we open gifts and eat during commercials and timeout. I find this insulting and will not go this year.

Do I say why I can't make it? You'll probably say no explanation, but I feel slighted and hurt by what I perceive as sports over the fact that it is my - our - birthday.

Some year, I would like to throw myself a party in a restaurant at my own expense. Is this a social no-no? Can I invite relatives, friends and co-workers to my own party and request "no presents"?

Gentle Reader: You are right that Miss Manners does not condone saying, "Don't bother honoring me with a party that was planned for your enjoyment, not mine." Truth is not a defense of rudeness.

However, she would permit your saying, "You're very kind, but I think I'll decline. Sports events really don't interest me. Let's get together some time when it doesn't conflict with something you want to watch." Notice that this conveys the same information as the rude version.

As for giving your own party, which you, of course, recognize requires bearing all the expenses, Miss Manners does not object. But she thinks it would be even more charming to give a party for your sister, especially since her children have been your hosts - however ineptly - all these years.

The way to avoid presents is not to warn against them, which perversely sounds greedy because it gives away the fact that you were even thinking of receiving them. Also, this injunction is as frequently ignored as obeyed, thus causing intense embarrassment to empty-handed guests.

The way to do it is to avoid mention of the occasion until the guests arrive. Simply invite them to a party; then announce how grateful you are to have them all there on your birthday (and/or your sister's).