Dear Annie: Whenever I invite my siblings over for a family dinner, one sister waits until the very last minute and then brings another person. This isn’t some informal buffet. It’s a sit-down dinner. In order for everyone to have a seat and a place setting, I expect to have an accurate headcount in advance. But my sister does this every single time. Last night, she brought her daughter’s boyfriend.
I do not have a lot of chairs in my house, and my father had already brought extras. Since I didn’t know this boyfriend was coming, all the chairs were accounted for, along with the necessary plates and silverware. Worse, they arrived before another couple and took one of the seats intended for them. My niece didn’t even bother to apologize that she had brought an uninvited guest without informing me.
I am sick of this rude behavior. When I invite my family members, I always ask for an RSVP, whether by phone, email or text. I also always have been open to including any of the young adults bringing friends, as long as they let me know ahead of time. Even though I wanted to tell this niece that she and her boyfriend could stand, I scrambled and used a piano bench as a seat so everyone had a place.
I don’t expect my niece to change her rude behavior. What I want to know is, as the hostess, am I allowed to make specifications regarding attendance in my home? How do I handle such things? — Tired of Rude Family in Carolina
Dear Tired: As the hostess, you are obligated to make your guests comfortable, even the last-minute, uninvited ones. However, since this is also family and they come often, please speak up when you issue the next invitation. Tell your sister and her daughter directly that if they are planning to bring an extra guest, you expect them to let you know in advance. Otherwise, you cannot guarantee that there will be space at the table. It is also a nice touch to use place cards so that all of the guests have an assigned seat, and the uninvited ones get the piano bench and a paper plate (with a gracious smile).
Dear Annie: My husband passed away suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago. I have had an outpouring of compassion, cards, invitations, etc., from wonderful friends, and I am very grateful. I tried to write a short note acknowledging the thoughtfulness.
In December, I received Christmas cards from these friends, but I did not feel up to the task of sending out holiday cards. I’m still feeling a little guilty about it. Was that acceptable? — Doing the Best I Can
Dear Doing: Holiday cards are not a requirement, nor is it necessary to respond in kind to cards that do not include a personal message. Ideally, you would have acknowledged each personalized card with a written note or a phone call, and if you were not able to do that yourself, you could have enlisted the help of friends and family. But under the circumstances, we know people understand. Whenever you have the opportunity to let them know their cards were received, please do so.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Perplexed in Pennsylvania,” whose best friend always remembered her birthday belatedly.
Humor is usually a good response. That happened to me, but with family members, and there were quite a few of us. My response was to pick out nice calendars in October with a theme that would interest them. Then, at the bottom of the appropriate date, I would put the birthday person’s name, whoever it was. Problem solved, and the recipients usually appreciated the useful gift. — Andy in Ft. Myers, Fla.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.