Dos and Don’ts of Thank-You Notes


Etiquette experts and professional card writers offer advice for making the process easier and even go a little faster.

Credit…Getty Images

In the afterglow of a wedding or honeymoon, sitting down to write personalized thank-you notes can be a daunting, and often dreaded, task for most couples, especially those couples who have had large weddings.

But do not fret. Etiquette experts and professional card writers have some advice for making the process a little easier.

Shortly after returning from my own honeymoon in late September, I complained to a friend about the huge stack of thank-you notes I had yet to write. He responded, incredulously, “Are you really whining about people giving you gifts?”

My friend was right. Instead of griping, what I needed to do was change my outlook and show a little more gratitude.

“You know what’s great about writing wedding thank you notes,” said Wendy Bomers, a writer at American Greetings. “You get to relive your special day over again and think of all the wonderful people in your lives.”

Everyone who gives you a gift should receive a thank-you note, regardless of whether they attended your wedding. But some other people also deserve a special thanks.

“A lot of couples don’t write thank-you notes to their bridal party, but I think it’s a wonderful idea, especially if they played a big role in helping you organize your wedding,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and the founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach.

The parents of the bride and groom should also receive thank-you cards, Ms. Whitmore said. “The bride can earn brownie points by writing the thank-you note to the groom’s parents and vice versa,” she added.

Jennifer Spector, the director of brand marketing at Zola, a wedding registry and planning website, said if a wedding vendor goes “above and beyond,” the couple should include a thank-you note, with a cash tip, and write the company a positive review online.

One way to make the writing process easier, Ms. Spector said, is to use a template. The key, however, is to tailor your message to the gift that you received. You’ll want to create three templates: one for physical gifts, one for cash or gift cards and one for honeymoon fund donations (if you have one).

Keely Chace, a master writer at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo., said thank-you notes for physical gifts should: acknowledge the gift; elaborate on why you like it or how you’ll use it; and compliment the giver and make a personal connection.

Thank you so much for the terrific cutlery set you gave us for our wedding! It’s already coming in handy with meal prep, and the knife block looks sharp on our kitchen counter. We’re touched by your thoughtfulness, and thrilled that you were able to make it to the wedding. Having you there to share our special day with us meant so much to us.

For cash or gift cards, it’s a nice touch to mention how you plan to spend the money, Ms. Chace said, adding that there is no need to mention the gift amount.

We are so grateful for the generous gift. We can’t wait to treat ourselves to a couple’s massage on our next vacation. It means a lot to know you’re thinking of us, and wishing us well as we start out together. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness!

Honeymoon funds, which are typically found on a couple’s wedding website or online registry, enable friends and family to help subsidize the cost of this special, albeit pricey, vacation. (According to the Knot, the average honeymoon now costs $5,342.) Often, couples will specify in their honeymoon fund what activities they’d like to do (like snorkeling or sailing), and wedding guests can then pay for these expenses.

We’re beyond excited about the surfing class you got us. Thanks to you, our honeymoon in Hawaii will be that much more special. We’re so lucky to have a friend like you in our lives.

There should be a fair division of labor between both spouses. Some couples may choose to simply divide their list in half, but there are other options as well. “If one spouse says they don’t want to write thank-you notes because their handwriting is bad, that person should still be contributing,” Ms. Whitmore said. “Maybe they’re stamping and stuffing the envelopes, while their partner writes the thank-you notes.”

Just decide together, as a unit (you’re married, after all!), how you’re going to get everything done.

One easy suggestion is to buy a glue-tape roller so that you can seal the envelopes quickly. Also, there’s no rule that says you have to wait until after your wedding to send thank-you cards. “I urge people to write their thank-you notes as the gifts come in, and a lot of gifts arrive before the wedding day,” Ms. Spector said.

Ms. Bomers agreed, adding, “It’s kind of exciting to write thank-you notes as you receive gifts, since you’ll be more excited about the gift, and it’s going to show in your notes.”

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of writing thank-you notes by hand, you may consider ordering customized cards online. Zola, for instance, lets customers write personalized messages for each thank-you card for an extra 35 cents per card.

Want to cut out paper altogether and save on postage? Some couples are ditching traditional thank-you cards for eCards. “We’re dealing with a new generation now, and I think a lot of millennials are getting more accustomed to sending and receiving thank-you notes online,” Ms. Whitmore said, adding, “If you send an eCard, I recommend sending a photo of you with the gift, or a photo of you dancing at your wedding. It takes effort and time, but it’s worth it.”

Ms. Gottsman, though, had some reservations about that approach. “If you sent your wedding invitation by eCard because you’re eco-friendly, I think a thank-you letter via email might be O.K.,” she said, “but a handwritten note is the most sincere form of appreciation.”

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