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THE DINNER WASN'T SPOILED, BUT WAS THE DINER?

Dear Miss Manners: At a fine restaurant, I was unable to eat my entree because I just couldn't bear the taste. While the food was not spoiled in any way, it just didn't taste good to me. My question is: Would it have been acceptable to send back the dish simply because I didn't like it?

Gentle Reader: If the food wasn't spoiled, what was wrong? The cooking? Sure, if the food is overdone and dried out, for example, any restaurant that considers itself "fine" would appreciate the chance to do better, although Miss Manners wouldn't suggesting trying this at your favorite rest stop.

But could it have been that something was wrong with the way you ordered? That you didn't remember what lapin was in English and weren't willing to ask?

True, there are restaurants that are fastidious enough to take back a dish for the sake of placating spoiled clients. But the polite person quietly absorbs a loss based on his or her own mistake or whim.

The dog as a houseguest

Dear Miss Manners: Would you please explain what rules of etiquette apply to dog-owners who wish to visit their relatives living nearby with their pets? And, if the guest receives permission to visit their relative with their pet, should they assume that they have permission to bring their pet every time they visit without asking again?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners trusts you didn't make the mistake of asking your relatives to bring "the whole family," did you? You know they're always carrying on about how Muffy the pit bull is like a child to them. Remember the paw print on your Christmas card?

In the absence of an invitation, even such an inadvertent one, nobody is invited -- not the dog, not the children, not the houseguests, not anyone, animal, vegetable or mineral, who isn't named by the hosts. In the absence of their understanding this, you might want to add, with the next invitation, "We look forward to seeing you and the children, but I'm afraid you'd better not bring Muffy this time; please tell her we'll miss her."

Ejecting a dog who has already arrived is a lot harder, because her owners are going to leave with her, and they are not going to leave happily. It is not up to the guests to voice objections, but they can voice fears.

Renewing vows

Dear Miss Manners: My niece and her husband were married nearly a year ago in a small civil ceremony with only the immediate family present. They were expecting a baby, so the couple and their parents decided that a quick and simple ceremony would be best.

My sister recently informed me that the couple is planning to renew their vows in church followed by a reception for 50 people at a banquet hall. My niece will wear a traditional wedding gown with a veil and the couple will each have three attendants. My brother-in-law will walk my niece down the aisle and will give his daughter away.

Given the fact that the couple will have been married for a year and that they have a child, does this type of ceremony seem appropriate to you?

Because of the circumstances, my husband and I were not invited to my niece's wedding, but we did send them a wedding gift at the time of their marriage. Should we give another gift to recognize the wedding-vow-renewal ceremony?.

Gentle Reader: Appropriate -- compared to what?

Miss Manners supposes that it is more appropriate to renew vows than to break them, just as it is more appropriate for people who are expecting a baby to get married than not to get married. But she hopes you don't think these are fine old social customs in which you are obliged to participate.

Your obligation was to recognize your niece's marriage, which you graciously did when she was married. Whether or not you attend this or any subsequent restagings, realize that they are parties, not ceremonies. Additional wedding presents are not necessary.

Fleeing wedding guests

Dear Miss Manners: Is it ever OK to leave a wedding reception without saying either "hello" or "goodbye" to the bride and groom? Because that is exactly what happened at my wedding. I was shocked and amazed at the number of people who literally ate and ran.

Would you ever show up at a dinner party, eat, and then as soon as the hostess has her back turned, dart out the door?

Gentle Reader: If you can give Miss Manners two assurances, her sympathy will be totally with you. One is that you had a receiving line at your wedding, so that your guests did not have to run around trying to find you and to claim your attention while you were kissing other guests. The other is that you and your bridegroom made a ceremonial exit from your wedding reception, allowing your guests to cluster around and call out their goodbyes and good wishes, instead of hanging around until your guests were exhausted.

If you neglected these duties (neither of which characterize dinner parties), your guests still should have made some effort to do theirs. But Miss Manners will direct some of her sympathy toward them.

Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners, in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Miss Manners will not answer questions except through this column.

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