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Dear Ann Landers: I couldn't believe your lousy advice to "Undecided," whose fiance, "Raymond," is terrified of elaborate weddings because he has seen so many of them fail. I was married twice previously, first in a church ceremony that cost my parents a fortune, and again in a simple ceremony performed by a justice of the peace. Both marriages ended in divorce. My current marriage took place in the home we now share, and was attended by a small group of family and friends. We are committed to growing old together.

"Undecided" says Raymond would be willing to be married by a justice of the peace, but he wants to keep it quiet until he is sure the marriage will last. And exactly how long will it take to "be sure"? Six months? A year? Ten years? Carrying Raymond's thinking one step further, if they decide to have a family, will he insist that his wife hide for nine months until he is certain the baby she produces is perfect?

I hope you will rethink this one, Ann. It was not one of your better responses.

-- Joan in Goshen
Dear Joan: I agree my response was a dog, and you weren't the only one who thought so. Keep reading for more:

From Denver: I hate to say this, but you blew your advice to Raymond, the guy who is willing to have a public wedding when he's certain the marriage will last. Pray tell, when will that be? This couple is already living together. Some marriages fail after several years, so should they just wait until they are in an old folks home before they tell everyone of the nuptials? If Raymond is that unsure, she should not marry him under any conditions. You should have told her so.

From Vermillion, S.D.: Let's see if I have this straight. A woman is fornicating with Raymond, who wants a justice of the peace to perform the marriage ceremony, in case he changes his mind later. They want the marriage kept secret from her mother (even though the bride is 31). And you approve of this cockeyed arrangement, Ann? I can't believe it.

From Fingers Crossed in Pa.: I am a clergywoman in Pennsylvania. I hope you will print my letter in time to prevent what will certainly be a disastrous marriage. I'm referring to the man who wanted to marry his longtime live-in girlfriend secretly, and promised her a big formal wedding once he decides whether or not the marriage will work out.

I suspect she wanted you to talk her out of it. When, if ever, will "Mr. Wonderful" give up his power over this trial marriage and reward his beloved with a real wedding? Or if he decides it is not going to work out (whatever that means), do they then pretend they were never married? Nobody who believes marriage means anything would fall for any of this double talk.

A couple that is truly committed to one another would surely compromise on the size and style of the wedding. This woman deserves better. I hope she won't settle for a man who really doesn't want to be married on the pretense that he doesn't want a "fancy" wedding.

Dear Fingers Crossed and the hundreds of others who wrote to complain about my lousy advice: Of course, you are right. I plead temporary insanity caused by work overload. If "Undecided" hasn't already married Raymond, I hope she reconsiders.

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