Dear Miss Manners: After my summer birthday, I mailed my thank-you notes for the gifts I received. And because I had purchased too many stamps for last year's holiday cards, I have been using the surplus postage for the past few months so as to not be wasteful.

Imagine my chagrin when a few thank-you note recipients gently chided me for using poinsettia stamps in the summertime. Was it in poor taste for me to use "seasonally inappropriate" stamps?

Gentler reader: Wrong question. Was it in poor taste, however jocular the intention, for your correspondents to complain about the stamps? Do they know how often people do not receive any thanks at all for their presents?

That some people enjoy coordinating stamps with occasions, Miss Manners knows. But this should not obscure the fact that stamps are the currency by which postage is paid. Do these people object if they are given bills on Presidents' Day that picture the wrong president?

The forks have it

Dear Miss Manners: I have a running disagreement with my wife. Is it OK to use the side of your fork as a knife to cut food from time to time? Must one always use a knife to cut?

Gentler reader: When spouses disagree, Miss Manners always hopes to find a solution that gives each some claim to being right. It is her little contribution to saving marriages.

However, you alone are right. For mysterious reasons having to do with the history of flatware, the fork, although adopted centuries after the knife, is the preferable instrument to use when possible.

Keeping it low-key

Dear Miss Manners: My same-sex partner and I have been together for 25 years and have gotten accustomed to having an "outlaw" relationship, so we've never felt the need to get married. But now that marriage benefits extend to same-sex couples, we've decided to get married.

It will be totally low-key — we'll take two witnesses with us, get married, go out to lunch and drive back. Then we'll mail announcements to our friends and family.

We have two questions. First, does our situation call for language in the announcement other than the traditional? Second, since we're retired and have everything we need, we simply want to announce our marriage, not generate a stream of gifts. Would it be appropriate to include a short note with the announcements stating this preference?

Gentler reader: As you are willing to write short notes, Miss Manners recommends doing that in place of a formal announcement.

That is not because you are a same-sex couple — the wording would be no different — but because you want a low-key tone. And also, frankly, because of the widespread notion that formal communications require recipients to reply with presents.

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