Q. My husband-to-be and I both work full time. We are getting married from his family HQ and his kind mother has effectively done all the planning. She’s done it all with superb taste and efficiency so I am loath to be critical about the one thing I don’t like. She has ordered laminated name badges for all the guests, to be handed to them as they arrive at the reception, and is adamant they must be worn. She says they will help the elderly guests, but these make up only a tiny percentage: most are in their twenties or thirties. Do you agree that name badges would give an unromantic corporate flavour to our wedding reception? How can we overrule her with tact?
— Name withheld, London SW10
A. Your concern is misguided. Parties go with a much greater swing when anxiety about who people are is removed. It is not only the elderly who have forgotten; the middle-aged are also grateful to be reminded. Moreover, if a number of your guests are in their twenties then some will be single. Badges will provide a useful shortcut when they want to inquire about the romantic status of someone who has taken their fancy.
Q. My son and daughter-in-law have a new puppy they are desperately trying to train. Their neighbours have dogs, too, and they all like to play together. However, the neighbours not only let the puppy into the house and on to sofas, but also feed him. My son and his wife have politely requested that the neighbours don’t let the puppy inside and don’t feed him — to which their cheery response is that they can’t understand how he got in or how he came upon an entire tin of Pedigree Chum, etc. Can you suggest how to warn the neighbours off without causing undue offence?
— J.R., Devizes, Wiltshire
A. There is only a small window when the puppy can have good habits ingrained. When rival values compete in the world of toddlers, the ‘good’ parents sidestep the difficulty by inviting the undisciplined toddler to their house on play dates. In this way they can control junk food, screen time etc, while remaining on friendly terms with the ‘bad’ child’s parents. Why not follow their lead and host all the play dates? Issue the invitations with warmth and enthusiasm to counter chippiness.
Q. I was taken aback when a family friend, a widower 40 years older, who sat next to me at dinner, confided that it would soon be ‘our time’, i.e. that he and I would get together. Fortunately someone interrupted before I could reply. How does one gently rebuff such an overture without humiliating or misleading the dear old codger?
— Name and address withheld
A. If you are sure his overture will not become physical, keep his spirits up by replying ‘Well you never know…’