Question:

My nephew's wedding is fast approaching. We received invitations, but each of my four adult daughters, ages 21 to 30, were invited with no guests. They are not married. When they questioned their cousin, he replied that he and his fiancee had to invite 250 guests and had to cut somewhere, so unless you are engaged, you cannot bring a guest. Also, if they get a lot of "no" replies, they will revisit the idea of allowing guests.

This is hurtful, as we are family, and I feel that as adults, these young women should have been able to bring a guest and that it's tacky that they would allow them later to bring dates. Am I wrong for thinking family should be allowed a guest at a reception this big?

Answer: You want tacky? How about going back to your host after receiving four invitations and asking why you weren't issued eight. How about gazing upon a guest list of 250 and believing it's your place to suggest that it should be 260 or 300 because you're you and you believe in "and guest." Or worse, deciding 250 is fine, but that four people the couple care about should be axed to make room for four people your daughters care about.

Or pressing an accommodation out of your host, and then dismissing said accommodation as "tacky." Yikes.

I've sat in this chair for too many years not to understand there are rebuttals to my rebuttals, so I won't pretend you'll be satisfied by my opinion on guest lists.

However, my opinion does prove the fact of different opinions, as you and I clearly don't agree your nephew was rude. And that makes a more persuasive point: Managing a guest list does indeed involve judgment calls, and it's not any individual guest's judgment - or mine - that sets the bar for invitations made thoughtfully vs. those that are careless or rude.

You have been invited to celebrate the joyous life event of people you love, people likely under pressure to please a lot of different constituencies - many of them poised to be critical, ahem, of the way the couple chooses to host people at their or their families' expense. Wouldn't it be loving, joyous, and celebratory just to embrace the invitation as kindly intended, and show up without further complaint?

Question: My daughter and her husband have three families to see, her parents being divorced and remarried. I understand how stressful and demanding holidays are for her.

My problem is that it is always me and her stepdad at the "bottom of the barrel." Her other two families have more members, making it fun to get together, with people their age and the ages of their little children. It is just me and my husband, much less festive. I get it.

At the same time, we are left alone at the holidays, and it is always so depressing. We usually find some other people to share dinner with, but it doesn't relieve the lonely, left-out feeling. I have expressed this to my daughter in years past, but she just gets upset, and I feel like I've dumped a guilt trip on her. I hate holidays. Any suggestions?

Answer: I'm sorry. This is common and hard.

But you know what they say - if you can't beat 'em, blow everything up.

That is, assuming you've completely ruled out joining these bigger gatherings (via your daughter). I hope you haven't; radical inclusion can work, even when relations tend to the chilly. All you need to get started is a group decision to make it work. If your ex-husband, for whatever reason, stands in the way of your gathering with your daughter's side of the family, maybe you can create a niche for yourselves over the course of a few years with your son-in-law's crew. Certainly, you and your daughter don't lack for incentive to try something new.

When that's impossible or unpalatable, then, boom: Take your current idea of how a holiday is supposed to look and obliterate it. Tell yourself firmly and finally that what you envision - sharing with your daughter and her brood - isn't going to happen.

Then look at that fresh blank page and see . . . what? Is it interesting travel, even a day trip? A hike to a gorgeous view? Community service? (Though not a one-time Thanksgiving stint at a homeless shelter, because those overwhelm shelter staffs annually.) Or can you see just treating yourselves - be it to a performance, as not all venues go dark on holidays, or a high-end restaurant meal, or a streaming binge of a show or movies you love, with a menu to match?

Anything purposeful. Anything but a scraped-together consolation bird.

If you can't see holidays as an appointment to feel good, please note that right now, they're essentially an appointment to feel bad - and that nearly every element of this but your daughter's circumstances is within your power to change.

tellme@washpost.com. Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.