Protocol Prompts: Thank You Kindly

It seems this is a week for etiquette faux pas. There was the bride who decided to take up an anonymous cyber-collection for her wedding (into whose hands I will not play by linking again…), and then this. Yes, that’s right — not only will Macy’s send your guests a card letting them know about your registry, but once you receive your gifts, you can farm out the thank you notes too!!

So today I thought we’d talk about thank you notes. First questions first: yes, you have to send them. And yes, they really do need to be handwritten.

There is a nasty rumor going around that you have a year to send a wedding gift, and the bride and groom have a year to send their thank you notes. Neither is in fact true, and let’s talk about some of the reasons, on both the etiquette and common sense fronts.

First, the etiquette of thank you notes. Everyone who sends a gift or helps with your wedding should receive a handwritten note from you. Email is not good enough — think of this as your excuse to buy some pretty new stationary and a lovely pen. According to the strictest etiquette, the note should be sent on your personal stationary, not a card that actually says “thank you” on the front. As a matter of common sense, however, it’s doubtful that any of your guests will be offended either way. And there is, of course, the recent trend of using a photo with a “Thank you” sign. Only do this if production will not delay your sending the notes. Notes should be sent, ideally, within a few days, but certainly within three months of receiving the gift.

Speaking of which, a question that often gets asked is if there is a “statute of limitations” on thank you notes…what if that three months has passed? Should you just skip sending the note? The answer to that is an unequivocal “no!” As a matter of common sense and consideration both, send your notes as soon as you get the gift — it decreases the list you have to write at once, and your guest knows that you got the gift. As a matter of etiquette, however, the notes must be written until everyone has been thanked, however long that takes. If it’s been a while since the wedding and you haven’t gotten the notes out yet, make your apologies in the note, but don’t let the delay become an excuse not to send them! 

Again, by the strictest etiquette, gifts before the wedding should be sent to the bride’s home, so the bride responds using her maiden name/stationary. At or after the wedding, when gifts are sent to the couple, it’s perfectly acceptable (and perfectly practical!!) for either or both to send the note. However, as a matter of common sense, the bride and groom can both send them whenever. Guys can write notes too! Stationary with your married name or monogram should only be used after the wedding — if you’re keeping your name, of course you may use the same stationary before and after the wedding. I have seen stationary with “The Future Mrs. _____” printed for use before the wedding. This is a cheeky nod to etiquette that can be cute if done right. Keep your audience in mind, though — your friends may find it amusing, while your Aunt Maud may be horrified by your toeing of the line. 

Above all, thank you notes MUST be personal. No perfunctory “thanks for the gift.” And certainly no hiring a company to do it for you!! Offer enthusiastic thanks for the gift, even if you plan to exchange it — at the very least, you’re offering sincere thanks for the fact that they thought of you, even if their thoughts were a little off base. If they sent money, mention what you plan to do with it; mentioning the amount is optional. A hint on thanks for monetary gifts — guests want to think that their gift is helping you start your new life together. If you plan to blow it all in Vegas, best not to mention that exact fact. Yes, it’s yours to do with as you will, but your guests would probably much rather hear that you’re planning to use their gift “to enjoy new experiences as a couple.”

Good luck and happy writing!

Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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