DEAR READERS: I've stepped away from my column for a few days. Please enjoy these "Best Of" columns in my absence.
DEAR AMY: My friend, "Joe" and I have had a pretty uneven friendship for about 20 years; while he was one of the few friends I had, I was one of many of his. Fifteen years ago, he got married and asked me to be his best man. I appreciated the gesture, but it was more of a courtesy on his part; he didn't give me any responsibilities and even (unintentionally) ruined two bachelor parties I'd planned for him. I didn't know any of the other people in the wedding party. Over the years, we've remained polite acquaintances, but we hardly ever talk. I am about to get married and am prepared to ask my future brother-in-law to stand up for me; we've become like brothers, and it means a lot to me. However, some mutual friends of Joe's and mine are expecting me to return the favor to him. Am I slighting him after all this time if I don't ask him to be my best man?
DEAR WORRIED: You need a little injection of "Frankengroom," my friend. One thing that brides seem to have internalized -- perhaps too well -- is the idea that their wedding day should be one day that is about what they want.
The honor of being best man is not a favor to be traded. This should be about you honoring a relationship that means a lot to you now. I venture that if you merely asked "Joe" to be a guest at your wedding, he'd probably be relieved that he doesn't have to go through the motions of pretending that your friendship is more important than it is. According to you, he already did that, 15 years ago. (March, 2005)
DEAR AMY: Last night I opened my cousin's wedding invitation only to find the invitation -- no response card. When I called my mom to tell her this, she told me that for real high-class weddings you are required to handwrite your response. In my opinion it is not high class but cheap, because they did not have to pay for the response card or the stamp! Please tell me what you think about this and what I'm supposed to do. I'm not going to the wedding because it is out of town, but how do I let them know?
DEAR NO: It's called a pen; you place it on the paper and move it around, making letters and then sentences.
You should thank the couple for inviting you, then tell them you're so sorry but you won't be able to celebrate with them, thank them again and sign off affectionately.
You spring for the paper, ink, envelope, stamp and the five minutes out of your day it took to be gracious. (August, 2003)
DEAR AMY: My fiance and I are planning a wedding with about 100 guests. I am 37, and he is 43. Both of us have full households of stuff and have agreed that we do not need anything to set up our lives together. My question is, is it OK to include an insert with the invitations asking that if people are interested, they could contribute to one of our favorite charities, or one of their choosing? Is this tacky? My fiance thinks this is a good idea, but I'm not sure. I think it makes the assumption that people are going to give us a present. I've heard of people saying something like "no gifts, please" on the invitation, but I know some people will want to give something anyway. Do you have any guidance about this?
DEAR BRIDE: I like this idea. Maybe you could enclose a note saying, "In lieu of gifts, we would be honored if you would consider donating to one of our favorite charities or to a worthy cause of your choosing." Of course, you still must write a heartfelt note acknowledging the gift. (May, 2004)