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Thank You notes

A handwritten thank you note may strike you as an antiquated tradition. But think about it this way: Thank-you notes are what you leave behind as a bride and groom - when they're received after the wedding, as most are, they're the closing impression a guest gets of you nuptials. While I understand that writing dozens or even hundreds of thank-you notes may not meet your definition of a good time, I can’t stress how important it is. Yes, gifts are part and parcel of getting married. But the unusual circumstance surrounding wedding gifts – namely, the fact that it’s the recipient who chooses them - in no way eliminates the need for reciprocity. Each gift giver has put time, thought, and no small amount of money into your gift. The least you can do is thank this well wisher in a writing. If the person has also invested time and money in attending your wedding, you should acknowledge that as well. Keep in mind that thank-you notes don’t apply merely to gifts. You’ll also be writing notes to people who host parties for you, your attendants, and possibly your vendors.

 

The Burning Question: What’s the deadline? I often hear this question phrased by couples as "How long do we have?" You’ll have a much easier time of it if you adjust your attitude from the beginning. Instead of looking for ways to put off your thank-yous, put your resources into finding ways to speed up the process.

 

Once those wedding gifts start trickling in, building some time several days a week to get some writing done before the trickle becomes a stream and the stream becomes a river.

 

For engagement gifts and shower gifts, thank-yous should go out no later than three weeks after you receive the gift. Wedding gifts can start arriving at any time after you announce your engagement, but you’ll probably start to notice more activity 2 to 3 months before the wedding. While reluctant note-writers love to dredge up an old etiquette rule saying they have one year to write their thank-yous, I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps in the days when couples took off on their European tours after the wedding and didn’t return home for months, a longer turnaround time was tolerated. But today, we live with texting, overnight shipping, and all other sorts of instant gratification. Your thank-yous should keep pace. Three months is the absolute longest you can take to send off a note from the time you received the gift, barring extraordinary circumstances. I know you’re busy, but that’s not an extraordinary circumstance. Many of the people who sent you gifts and traveled eight hours to attend your wedding are crazy-busy, too. Here’s a motivator; notes that are late need to make up for their tardiness by being longer and more eloquent. A note received two weeks after the gift was received will seem better to the gift giver than the exact same note received two months later. It takes a lot more literary finesse to convince recipients that their gift rocked her world if you waited for months to tell them so.

 

Style and Logistics. The best time to order custom-printed thank-you notes is when you place your order for invitations - you’ll often get a price break from the stationer. But if you’re going to be changing your name and want the notes you send out after your wedding to reflect that, you’ll need to have two batches printed up. As for the quantity, make sure to count out the number of couples or households - not individuals - so you’re not overestimating your needs. Take your total and add another 25% to it to cover unexpected gifts and mistakes.

 

Informals and Correspondence Cards. In stationary lingo, the standard thank-you note for weddings is called an "informal." It’s folded in half at the top and measures approximately 3 1/2” x 5”. Generally, names or monograms are engraved or blind embossed to the front, and the inside is left blank for writing space. Historically, an informal was part of a woman's stationery wardrobe, but it’s not fine for a couple to put both of their names on the card; however, if you’re using separate cards, the groom shouldn’t use a fold over note – in men's stationery, "correspondence cards" are the standard. They’re flat and heavy, with the name or monogram engraved across the top. And like informals, they are a fine choice if the bride and groom are having both their names printed on the cards. Correspondence cards tend to have a more contemporary look than fold-over notes; they can be edged with a colored border if you’re looking to inject more color. Black or gray ink on ecru paper remain the most classic choices. On a correspondence card, the writing space is limited to the front of the card. On a fold-over note, you can choose to write on two panels if you have the need. Writing on the back of a correspondence card is verboten, so if you can’t squeeze it all in on the front, you should throw out the card and start over. Make sure you don’t order oversize notes, or you’ll feel like you have to fill in the extra space. Your notes can be short and sweet, and smaller cards will help you achieve that.

Writing the Notes. The most important point of thank-you note etiquette is that notes must be written by hand. Email is too casual and easy to dash off, so it doesn’t give your gratitude enough weight. The recipient might suspect that you were copying and pasting the note, changing a few details along the way. Your goal is to make your notes sound warm and personal. Four to five sentences will suffice for all but your very closest friends and family members.

 

In those sentences you want to include the below items:

  • Thank the guest for the gift.

  • Describe how you'll use it. Example: "It will look terrific on our table for our first Thanksgiving dinner."

  • State how lovely it was or will be to see them at the wedding. If they were unable to attend but still sent a gift, express how sorry you were that they weren’t able to be there.

  • Make a reference to a future visit or get-together, and if you can tie it it back to the gift, so much the better: "We look forward to having you over for cocktails soon and putting that gorgeous martini shaker to work."

 

Who Signs? Old-school etiquette required that only one person, the author, signed the note. Today, couples often choose to sign both of their names to a note. It’s your call; having one person sign is certainly time efficient, and it makes it easier to include personal memories that might pertain to only one of you. If you have a dual signature at the bottom, your note should be written in the first person plural, as in: "We were delighted that you were able to share our special day with us." 

Envelope Etiquette. Just as the thank-you notes should be handwritten, the envelopes should be addressed by hand. Although it’s tempting to print off a batch of labels, the envelope is the first thing the recipient will see, and a label comes across as impersonal. You want a thank-you note, above all, to be as personal as possible. If time prohibits handwriting, at least make sure to use clear labels and print them in an interesting font and color. The return address, however, can be preprinted on the back flap. Envelopes with preprinted addresses are a time-saver, but you must pay extra for the convenience.

 

A note about stamps: Thank you notes typically require standard postage, but if yours are oversize, square, or an unusual shape, have them weighed at the post office to be certain you’re affixing the correct amount. And go the extra mile by choosing a special stamp.

 

Signing Off. For close friends and family don’t hesitate to sign "Love" or "With Love." For work friends and friends of your parents, you might feel more comfortable signing off with something less personal. Choices I like include: "Sincerely," "Yours Truly," "Best," "Best Always," and "Fondly."

Thank-You Note Don’ts. What you cannot say or imply in a note:

  • That you received duplicates of the gift.

  • That you’re returning or exchanging the gift, unless they already know or it’s going to be glaringly obvious.

  • That the gift fell short of your expectations in anyway whatsoever.

  • Any mention of money even for a monetary gift' simply allude to the generosity of the gift giver.