Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: why don’t my guests thank my husband for hosting too? 


Q. When people come to stay for house parties, my husband – who already works a 60-hour week – does a lot of the unseen chores. He’s in charge of fires, drinks, seating plans, arranging outings, and he pays for everything. We are in our sixties and I know it is traditional etiquette to write and thank the ‘lady of the house’, but my husband really feels rather miffed that no one ever mentions him in their thank-you letters. How should I most tactfully encourage people to address their thank-you letters to both of us, rather than just to me, without seeming bossy?

– G.M., West Sussex

A. It may be more effective to clink your glass during dinner on the Saturday night and toast your husband for his huge contribution in the way of unseen chores. There is bound to be a spontaneous warm response for him to enjoy. The gesture may even trigger a name-check when letters come to be written.

Q. I am staying with friends in a small rented house in Florida. My first night I was continually disturbed by a noise in my bedroom of the revving up of a machine every ten minutes. I assumed it was the dehumidifier, and exhausted – and despite a notice saying ‘dehumidifier must be kept on at all times’ – I pulled its plug out. When the noise continued, I realised an air conditioning unit was the true culprit. Now the dehumidifier won’t work despite the plug being put back in. Do I come clean to my hosts?

– E.S., by email

A. This is not your fault, but the property owner’s. Ask your host for their contact details, pretending you want to recommend the house to another friend. Then email the owner, explaining that you are contacting them privately as you don’t want your hosts to realise the noise has meant you have been unable to enjoy your stay. Can they organise a swift repair?

Q. You advise authors, dedicating books to friends who may already have bought a copy, to write the dedication on a separate sheet so that the book can be given on (27 January).  Readers may be interested to know that we have a similar practice in my own (very large) family. When one of us finds a really excellent greetings card – and these are hard to come by – we write the greeting on a Post-it note and send the card, including unaddressed envelope, inside a larger envelope. Thus the recipient can re-use the card.  – S.H., Woodborough, Wilts

A. This may be of interest to those in penny-pinching circles but would clearly exclude Valentine’s cards. A reminder: these need to be posted soon to arrive by Wednesday.

Write to Dear Mary at