Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how can I improve a friend’s appalling table manners?

18 September 2021

9:00 AM

18 September 2021

9:00 AM

Q. I recently attended a wedding which was (for me) quite ‘grand’, with a church ceremony followed by a reception. I cleared my diary for the weekend. The wedding, in Exeter, was organised by wedding planners who inundated me with pieces of paper and emails about the logistics, but on arriving at the church and speaking to some friends it became apparent that there was a separate evening party to which I had not been invited. The groom is not a close friend, and I was delighted to have been invited just to the wedding and reception, but I was in the difficult position of deflecting the question in order not to seem ungracious. Looking again at the invitation and accompanying materials, there is no hint to be found anywhere that the reception did not last into the evening. Surely no one would want to create this kind of ambiguity, not only for those like me who were partially invited, but also for those with full invitations who assumed everyone was invited to both parts of the wedding. If I had corrected them, they would have been mortified.

— Name and address withheld

A. The premier party planners Bentley’s Entertainment, famed for their diplomacy, would have ensured that an ‘end time’ for the reception was clearly written on the invitation. Should this happen again, smile broadly as you send your own ambiguous message: ‘Sadly I can’t go tonight.’ If the reception is fun, you might discreetly identify a handful of others excluded from stage three of the celebrations and make your own arrangements for dinner.


Q. I have befriended a woman in my office and my husband and I have had her to dinner with her husband. Her husband, who we like very much, has unfortunate table manners however, and halfway through the meal has food all around his mouth and chin. My colleague doesn’t seem to notice but we find the sight off-putting. Any suggestions?

— P.F., Banbury

A When you lay the table, do not place any napkins. When your friend’s husband begins to eat, leap up from the table shouting: ‘Napkins! How could I forget, this moussaka/chicken/vegan salad is impossible to eat without napkins.’ Then make a show of wiping your own mouths and chins, nodding at him in encouragement as you do so. Repeat as necessary.

Q. My husband was always absentminded, but as a CEO was accompanied everywhere by a personal assistant. She was almost too efficient, because now he has stepped down he repeatedly loses his wallet (although his brain is still firing on all cylinders). What can I do?

— B.B., London SW3

A. Buy him an Apple watch. He can pay for everything using it and can even make phone calls from it. His wallet need never leave the house.

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