Dear Miss Manners: I've recently left elected office. How and when do I use "The Honorable" and "Senator"?

Gentle reader: Never.

Lest you squeal in protest, Miss Manners assures you that she is not trying to deprive you of your honors. But these are for others to confer. In writing to you, the correct address is "The Honorable," followed by your full name and no other title; you should be addressed as "Senator" with your surname.

But unless you are writing or talking to yourself, you should modestly refrain.

No dishes to pass

Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper etiquette as far as guests wanting to contribute to parties?

I like to entertain for different occasions, plan a menu and do the cooking myself. I finally got most people to accept this and just come to my parties.

I do, however, have one friend who insists on bringing a dish. I told her there is no need to bring anything, that I enjoy planning and doing the cooking. On one occasion, she told me we would do the party at her house if I didn't let her bring anything. It was my invitation and my party. I got so annoyed, I just canceled the party.

To my last invitation, she told me she would come to see everyone, but not eat anything. This would have been awkward, so I rescinded my invitation to her.

Is there any tactful way to respond to those who insist on bringing a dish and get my point across?

Gentle reader: You will get your point across by accepting those offerings while saying, "Thank you, we'll look forward to enjoying this tomorrow."

But don't you wonder why your supposed friends are frantic about contributing to the meal, to the point of antagonizing you?

Miss Manners guesses that it is because they believe that this excuses them from doing any share of the entertaining themselves. When your guest threatened to hijack your party, your response should not have been to cancel it, but to say, "Well, my party is already planned, but I'd be delighted if you would pick another date when we can go to you."

Wedding dress-up

Dear Miss Manners: I find that I could use a guide to the invitation language regarding wedding attire.

For example, what does "semiformal" mean? What about "semiformal garden party"? "Informal"? "Day attire"? "Black tie optional"? And the latest: "festive attire"?

I am uncertain about how women and men should dress, not to mention how this is affected by the time and season of the wedding. Would you please explain?

Gentle reader: What they are all trying to say, in this improvised and confusing way, is "Please Dress Up."

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to her website, or to