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Ask Amy: Musician tired of giving services away for a song

DEAR AMY: I am a professional musician and frequently am the soloist at weddings. I am paid for my music services.

Recently, however, several friends of mine from college and high school have gotten married and have asked me to sing at their weddings. Most of these people I am no longer in contact with, and I am sure I have been invited to the wedding and the reception only because I am singing at the wedding. In some of these cases, the bride and groom have not paid me for my services.

My question is, am I expected or required to give a gift to these couples? Because the bride and groom are not friends of mine, and in many cases I have never met one of the two, I feel that singing at the wedding is gift enough. However, I am not sure if the bride and groom then feel slighted if I go to the reception and do not give a gift. - LL

DEAR LL: I don't know how you stay in business as a professional musician if you give away your professional services. That's an unusual approach, to say the least. Do you really want to be known in your hometown circle as "The Pretty Darned Good and Definitely Free Wedding Singer?"

When friends or acquaintances approach you to sing at their weddings, you should say, "I'd love to do this but I have to check my schedule; this is my busy season. My fee is (name your standard fee)." If you care to cut the couple a break, you can add, "The family and friend's discount is (name a reduced fee)."

Generally, clergy and performers at a wedding do not give wedding gifts to the couple. If you happen to sing at the wedding of an extremely close friend or family member, you might want to give the couple a gift - perhaps a CD of you performing their special "wedding song" would be a nice keepsake. In fact, I think you should cut a few CDs and prepare them, along with your business card, as a thank you to couples for hiring you. A little thoughtful marketing will boost business.

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DEAR AMY: I am a 22-year-old college girl, and I have never had a real boyfriend. Most of the time, I don't have a problem with this because I have many other things in life that I enjoy, such as music, writing and just having a good time. But when I see all of my friends dating, I start to wonder if I am missing out on something.

I am reasonably attractive and intelligent and have no problem making friends, but it seems that whenever I am attracted to a guy, we get to be good friends, but then he always ends up dating someone else. I have always thought that it should be the guy who asks the girl out because guys like the chase and want to be the ones asking, so I never tell a guy I have feelings for him so he won't feel like I'm "chasing" him.

I have two questions: Is it normal for someone my age to never have had a real relationship? And, if I am attracted to someone, how do I get him interested in me without being pushy? - Late Bloomer in N.D.

DEAR LATE BLOOMER: I don't know if it's "normal" for you to never have had a "real" relationship at your age, but I do know that it's normal for "late bloomers" to be late bloomers.

There's no real timeline for having important life experiences, but you wouldn't know that if you consume popular culture. To judge by the current standards on television and in the fashion magazines, everyone who is anyone has done everything by age 21. But you know what - as long as you are happy, fulfilled and satisfied with your choices, your life will unspool in its own fashion.

I have one correction to make, however. Throw out all the books you've read that tell you that guys only want to "chase" girls. If you like a guy, ask him to hang out. You don't have to openly declare that you "like" a guy to show him that you're interested in him. Taking that sort of risk isn't always easy, but you'll learn as you go. That's what the guys do.

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DEAR AMY: I received a wedding invitation where the engaged couple included a card for a honeymoon registry site where invitees could buy various items for the honeymoon, such as a night's stay, luggage, dinners, etc., for the couple. I have never seen this done.

I always thought that if couples could not pay for the wedding of their dreams, then they should take a less expensive honeymoon.

Is this tacky? - A Wedding Guest

DEAR GUEST: These registries are becoming more common, and while you and I might not particularly like the practice, I also don't like the practice of giving cash as gifts, which some people think is perfectly acceptable.

Registries are meant to give guests an idea of what the couple would like to receive. Consider the registry a guideline; you can choose to "gift" the couple in any way you please.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.