9 OCTOBER 2004, Page 111

Q. My problem concerns the wording of an invitation. My

husband will be 50 years old in January and we are giving a party for about 300 people. Without wishing to seem ungrateful, he actually is the man who has everything, and he dreads being given hundreds of new things he doesn't want, to say nothing of having to write hundreds of thank-you letters for them. Yet we both think there is something a bit killjoy about having 'No Presents' on an invitation. What is the most tactful wording, Mary? Or should I let people bring the presents and just divide them between our staff later?

Name withheld, Stockbridge, Hampshire A. Logical though it may seem to discourage waste, there is still something depressing about seeing the words 'No Presents' on a party invitation. They strike the wrong note. Parties are supposed to be about celebration and gaiety, not about complacency and jaded palates. It would also be tactless to dump a present mountain on your staff thus emphasising your income differentials.

Instead, accept the presents gratefully. Open them and make a note of who has given what for thanking purposes, edit out those inappropriate for redistribution, then quietly deliver the lot to a worthwhile charity with a forthcoming fund-raising ball where they will make a delightful addition to the evening in the foim of an upmarket lucky dip at £20 a go.

This anonymous donation will give your husband a far greater rush of happiness than any well-intentioned waste-avoidance gesture which could be easily misread as hiumphatist boasting of fat-cat status.