Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I foil a notorious place-swapper at my daughter’s wedding?

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

Q. I am arranging the seating plan for my daughter’s wedding and have a problem with one of her guests who is notorious for swapping her place to insert herself between ‘better’ people and thus disrupting the whole scheme. There will be 20 tables of eight at the dinner and I will be too busy to keep an eye on her. What do you suggest, Mary?
— Name and address withheld

A. You can outwit this disruptor by substituting a pseudonym, say Harriet Belafonte, for her own name on the grand plan at the door. Her name will not appear and so she won’t know which place name to swap. By the time she has finished touring the tables and approaches you, frantic and fearful of the humiliation of having been left out altogether, you can study the plan with furrowed brow and say, ‘Silly me — you are supposed to be between X and Y on table 12. Who on earth wrote “Harriet Belafonte” instead of your name?’ Then lead her to the correct position.


Q. What is your view on clapping in church? My daughter was confirmed in a group ceremony at her boarding school and, as the confirmands left the chapel, there was mass applause from the gathered parents and godparents. For me this jarred, but I couldn’t put my finger on why, so I joined in so as not to stand out. But I felt that it was wrong.
— M.D.D., Northampton.

A. You were right to feel this half-baked unease. These days habitual churchgoers are often outnumbered by non-habitual churchgoers who turn up only for weddings and memorial services and lead the applause because they confuse church events with rock concerts and lectures. Consider the words of Pius X (1835–1914), who disallowed applause at St Peter’s, saying: ‘It is not fitting that the servant should be applauded in his Master’s house.’ In general there is no place for clapping in church. However, clapping at a mass of ordination ‘to signify consent to the calling’ is acceptable, which suggests, by extension, that confirmands may also be applauded.

Q. I spent over an hour with an extremely helpful consultant at Paint Library London on Chelsea Green. I was recommended an exquisite pale paint for our bathroom which will lighten it up and beautify it. Having applied the sample pot and seen that it will work, I was about to order it when my husband walked in with five litres of leftover dark brown paint donated by his aunt. He insists we use it instead to ‘save money’. Neither of us is short of this. Help, Mary.
— Name and address withheld

A. Have the paint you want delivered to a collaborative neighbour who can walk in saying ‘Wasn’t it you who recommended (for example) Glass II by Paint Library London? Well, would you have any use for five litres of it? We’ve overordered. It’s free.’/>

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