September 22, 2003 01:00 PM

When, just days before their Sept. 14 wedding date, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck decided to call off their plans to get hitched, it left them with more than just a free weekend. It also left 400 guests wondering if there was still enough time to rebook airline tickets to the Sugar Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya fight in Las Vegas, The New York Times speculates.

J.Lo, 34, presumably attempted to provide as much warning as possible — she personally notified relatives as to the change in plans, while she left it to her assistants to alert the rest of the guests.

But was that the “proper” way to handle the situation?

Consulting with etiquette expert Letitia Baldridge — who was the social secretary to First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s — The Times reports that when wedding plans are canceled, it’s best to pick up the phone and let everyone know.

Not that just any voice will do in announcing what’s happened, however. “Hire a couple of widows who need money and have attractive, educated voices,” Baldridge tells the paper. “Give them the entire wedding list, and have them call everybody personally or leave a message.”

The message, she says, should specify a reason as to the cancellation, such as “if the bride’s father has suddenly taken ill.”

That, of course, was not the case with J.Lo and Ben — to which Baldridge further advises: “If it’s simply that one person jilted the other, the reason should be that it was by mutual consent.”

As for the wedding gift the guest already may have sent, The Times suggests that you always hold on to the receipt, though what good that’s going to do is not properly explained.

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