DEAR MISS MANNERS - Is it proper for me to wear a gardenia or other fresh flowers in the hair at a wedding if I'm not in the wedding party?

Also my children, who are 6 and 2, often get presents from friends or relatives. I have them write a simple thank-you (the 2-year-old scribbles) to the sender. My friends think this is absurd. I think thank-yous are important at any age.I shamefully admit I am lacking in the social graces. I am trying as hard as I can to better my children.

GENTLE READER - You are doing fine - much better than your friends, in fact. Miss Manners hesitates to think what sort of person someone would be who would think that flowers served only as a badge of honor at weddings and were forbidden to ordinary guests - much less who would discourage the teaching of writing thank-you letters.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - I would like to have a formal evening wedding, with dancing at the reception, but may not be able to afford more than heavy hors d'oeuvres. Is 7 p.m. or later acceptable for this, or would I have to have an early afternoon wedding to avoid a big dinner?

GENTLE READER - Contrary to popular bridal opinion, the bride is obliged to consult the natural requirements of those who are to be her guests, even before she consults her own wishes, when planning a wedding. You cannot invite a bunch of people at dinner time and ask them to dance on an empty stomach. It wouldn't even be any fun.

Miss Manners thinks an afternoon wedding with tea dancing would be charming. Your choice is between that and using the band money to provide dinner instead.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - What is the proper male's response to a lady friend's question, "Have you not noticed that I lost x pounds?"

Does the response vary depending on whether one notices the vast improvement but is too tactful to comment, or does not notice any decrease in bulk but is too embarrassed to admit this?

Finally, should one volunteer one's comments on the touchy issue of weight before being put in the situation of having to reply to the above query?

GENTLE READER - Not every question that is asked should be answered as its wording would suggest. "No" and "yes" are both wrong answers in this case.

"No" would mean "I don't see any improvement," and you know how discouraging that would be. But "yes" cannot help carrying the thought, "I sure have, and high time, too - don't think I didn't notice how dreadful you used to look."

Therefore, the only proper response is "I noticed that you look wonderful." This all-purpose statement (which could cover the happy expression of a triumphant dieter even if poundage is not visibly reduced) may also be volunteered if one notices any improvement in appearance. However, to accompany it by any specifics, even upon request, is to invite disaster.