DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a black-tie dinner the other night that had beautiful centerpieces. The hostess announced from the stage that guests were invited to take the centerpieces home. I decided to take her up on it. Well, I went to reach for the flowers at the same time as another person at my table. It was awkward, but eventually I stood down and the other woman got it. I felt horrible. I wouldn't have even considered taking the flowers if the hostess hadn't suggested it. What went wrong? Is it common for centerpieces to be given away at these events? -- Dinner Protocol, Denver
DEAR DINNER PROTOCOL: Sometimes centerpieces are given away at formal events. Yes, the host or hostess should be the one to announce this. Usually, the way it is handled is that there is a card or some other identifier under a particular person's plate that indicates who will receive it -- to avoid exactly what happened to you -- the scramble for who will get it. Your hostess skipped a key step in keeping the event elegant and organized.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been good friends with my high school boyfriend for my whole life. I am now in my late 40s, and we still check in with each other from time to time. He is married with a couple of kids. I am now engaged. We have always been respectful of each other's lives, even as we have stayed close.
My fiance doesn't like this setup. He thinks I should have no male friends other than him. He says nothing good can come of these kinds of friendships. I beg to differ. We have been very close for something like 30 years. Do I have to give up this friendship in order to marry my fiance? -- Hate to Choose, Milwaukee
DEAR HATE TO CHOOSE: Why not get your fiance and your ex and his wife together? Plan a meal where everyone can get together and get to know each other a bit. This may help to defuse any concerns your fiance has. You should also inquire as to why your fiance feels it is impossible for such a friendship to last. He may have had bad experiences in the past that have left him suspicious.
In the end, you two will need to decide together what types of friendships you will carry forward as you build a life together. This is no small issue. The people who figure prominently in your life are important. Relationships that have lasted for decades should be taken very seriously. Before shrugging off any important friendship, you should evaluate whether you think walking away is a smart decision.
Talk with your fiance about his expectations of friendships after you marry. Learn about his values regarding family, friends (of both genders), work and childrearing. Go through everything you can think of to see if the two of you see eye to eye on core values. Couples who do not go through this exercise often end up getting surprised by belief systems and values that don't mesh long after they have walked down the aisle.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)