Dear Abby: My fiance and I devised a wedding plan that pleased both our families. He is the youngest child; I am an only child. We've always been especially close to each of our moms. We wanted to make their wedding dreams for us come true, as well as our own.

The solution? We had THREE celebrations! One for us, and one for each mom. Sound crazy? It's not.

My fiance and I eloped to Santa Fe, N.M., for a private ceremony with only my best friend and my fiance's brother in attendance. We hired a professional photographer to capture every moment for our families. It was a beautiful ceremony in a church with a minister.

Three months later, my mom arranged a 200-person sit-down wedding reception in my hometown. She asked our longtime Presbyterian minister to "bless" our marriage with a small ceremony, invited the guests, ordered the food and hired the band. In short, she gave the party she had always dreamed of for her only child.

Three months after that, my mother-in-law hosted a Catholic validation at a church in my husband's hometown. She was overjoyed to provide the Mass and party she had always hoped for her son.

All in all, we had three weddings and celebrated our marriage for a year. It was perfect. Both sets of parents attended each other's events, and everyone got to eat, drink and invite whomever they wanted. I didn't get stressed out like some brides do — I just enjoyed myself.

Abby, I highly recommend this solution to anyone who is trying to please everyone. You can have your wedding cake and eat it, too.— We Did It Our Way

Dear We Did It: Providing all the in-laws can afford it, your solution seems amicable for everyone. It's an original. My congratulations to all of you.

Dear Abby: I was disappointed in your answer to "Disappointed in Arkansas," who was hurt because her brother didn't share the full amount of money he received on a piece of property he had rented from her. You should have suggested that this family use a local mediation service.

Mediation is a process that helps people discuss issues and settle problems. Mediators give people a chance to talk about the situation — and ways to solve it — with a neutral third party (the mediator). Mediators do not take sides, tell people what to do or make decisions. All decisions and solutions come from the parties themselves.

Mediation provides people a place to talk about issues in a safe environment, conducive to working together, rather than in a courtroom (which is much more expensive and adversarial).

Many communities have mediation centers. Remember, there are at least two sides to every story, and through mediation, all sides will be heard.— Virginia Man in the Middle

Dear Man in the Middle: Thank you for an excellent letter. Mediation (dispute resolution) is a much less expensive solution than going to trial. I'm sorry I didn't think of it.

Dear Abby: Having read the column of reader reaction to the 52-year-old woman who wondered if she should marry the older man, I would like to comment. I speak from experience. I, too, am 52, and have been married to a 70-year-old man for 2 1/2 years. What happiness! He is not old . . . he is "old enough":

Old enough to appreciate and accommodate our differences, as well as our shared views and habits.

Old enough to be truly patient with my faults.

Old enough to lovingly accept my aging body.

Old enough to manage our finances wisely.

Old enough to encourage me to maintain contact with longtime friends.

Old enough to never feel threatened by the independence he gives me.

And caring enough to unselfishly prepare my meals almost daily because I must still work. (Oh, how I look forward to going home for lunch each day, and how precious to return to him after work each evening!)

Abby, marrying him was the best decision I ever made.— B.M.P. in Olathe, Kan.

Dear B.M.P.: What a beautiful tribute to your husband. I couldn't resist setting it up as the love poem that it is. May you enjoy many happy, healthy years together.

Dear Abby: During my grandson's third birthday party last weekend, he became agitated and cranky. Some of the adult guests called him "monster," "brat" and "Satan."

I have heard him called these names before under similar circumstances, but this time I lost it! I'm afraid I made a scene — partly because I feel that name-calling is verbal abuse, and it can have long-lasting effects on someone so young.

Abby, was I wrong? I should add that 99 percent of the time, my grandson is extremely well-behaved and a happy, polite and well-adjusted child.— Wisconsin Grandma

Dear Wisconsin Grandma: You were not wrong to defend your grandson. However, you were wrong to have allowed yourself to have "lost it." There is now no doubt who the little boy takes after.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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