Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 6 April 2017

Also in Dear Mary: tipping; other people’s cabs; a most excellent canapé

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A friend of a friend hosted an engagement party in a London hotel. Invitations had gone out six weeks beforehand, and no expense was spared. They had planned it to be an ultra lavish event to please even the most critical and spoiled of their friends. However, between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the day of the party, 30 of the 100 guests who had accepted suddenly cancelled. The bride and groom are in their fifties, so surely their friends should be old enough to know better? What can an ordinary, non-super-rich person like me expect the turnout to be for my own forthcoming engagement party? I’m planning to hold it next year.

(I’m in my thirties.)

— L.D., Wokingham, Berkshire

A. Since the l950s, there has been an immutable social law that for every 100 people you invite to a party, 30 will not be able to accept. Even in the days when communities were smaller and parties fewer, it was understood that a third or so wouldn’t be able to come. The result? The host would ask 130 people. Nowadays, you must ask 160 guests to ensure 100 or so make an appearance. That’s because there will be 30 who can’t come for very good reasons, and 30 flakehead no-shows with too much money who’ll cancel at the last minute.

Q. I stayed with a cousin in Toulouse for three days and took him to local restaurants on two of those nights. Am I correct in thinking that it was therefore unnecessary for me to leave euros for his cleaning lady?

— E.D.G., Calne, Wiltshire

A. Don’t confuse a tip for a cleaner with the restaurant treats you gave your cousin. He would not benefit from the tip unless he planned to pocket it. You should have left €20 for the cleaner.

Q. What to do when departing dinner guests say they can’t work their Uber app and can I call them one on my account? This keeps happening with older friends who’ve just signed up with Uber and can’t get the hang of it. It would seem inhospitable to tell them the fare estimate and ask them to give it directly to me since it will come out of my account. But these little costs mount up.

— Name and address withheld

A. Do the right thing by calling a black cab instead of an Uber. It would be sad if trusty black cabs were driven out of business. You would be happier not to have been an accessory after the fact.

Q. May I pass on a tip to readers giving drinks parties? Waitrose sells a sheep’s milk equivalent of Philadelphia cheese. Fill prosciutto ‘horns’ with a blob of cheese and an asparagus tip to make a mouthful-sized canapé which will appeal to avoiders of dairy and wheat.

— M.W., Pewsey, Wiltshire

A. Thank you for this useful tip.