There is no area of wedding etiquette that gets trampled on more than the thank you note. Any of your guests who took time to select, wrap, send or bring a gift deserves an appropriate note, their first from you as a married couple. Computer-generated anything—invitations, address labels, maps or anything else—is just wrong for a wedding. Sending a non-personalized thank you tells the recipient they did not mean enough to you for their gift to be singled out and noticed.
A proper thank you note does not have to be on embossed, monogrammed paper from Tiffany (although that is incredibly chic). It just has to be a note card, on good paper stock and written in black or possibly dark blue ink. There is nothing nicer than to get your mail and see a lovely card properly addressed, with a warm personal note inside. It does not have to be long, but you must use their name, mention the gift, how nice it is and how you’ll enjoy using it. A handwritten note expresses gracious sincerity.
Another group that must be thanked personally includes the friends and relatives who hosted showers, parties or luncheons for you and your wedding entourage. Any person who handed out programs or acted as a reader, soloist or usher (even if they did not send a gift) also should receive a handwritten thank you note.
Remember, too, that you must thank every person for every gift received. If you’ve received a shower gift, and a month later a wedding gift, you cannot mention both gifts on one note. Shower gifts must be acknowledged within a week, and wedding gifts anytime up to two weeks after the honeymoon (that’s right!)
Always, even if you haven’t moved in together, send the card with your new address. If you’re concerned about your prissy Aunt Hortense or your grandmother, you might write, Our new address will be…This will come in handy when it’s time to send out holiday greetings and will keep Granny out of the cardiac care unit!
There are pens with inks of all colors (including ‘your’ color), but no thank you notes written in aqua or lime green ink should be sent. If you go with black ink you’ll never go wrong.
Your choice of words will vary with your relationship to the sender. A close girlfriend might get a ‘hugs and kisses’ before your signature, and an uncle and aunt might get ‘love,’ but when sending a note to your dad’s business associate a ‘yours truly’ is probably the most appropriate. When a family or group has gone in together on a nicer gift, you must send each person in the group their own note. It’s perfectly fine to mention the group, but thank them each as if they had sent the gift alone.
Then there are the gifts you don’t want. When you receive something you intend to return, tread carefully. Use terms like ‘creative,’ ‘unique’ and ‘pleasant surprise.’ Never lie, and most important, never hurt anyone’s feelings. When thanking a guest for a gift of money, use the same formula as a tangible, wrapped gift. You might want to add something nice: Since we’re hoping to buy a home soon, your gift will be a wonderful addition to our savings for the down payment.
The most important thing, whether done on Crane stationery or cards from Walgreens, is to acknowledge every gift or nicety that you received in an appropriate and timely way. Good manners are more attractive than a Chanel suit. And while I have put the onus on brides, a proper note from the groom carries the same cachet.
John Sullivan has a fine arts degree from Kansas City Art Institute. He has partnered with Ken Miesner for the past 25 years at Ken Miesner’s Flowers at Plaza Frontenac, where they recently did flowers for their 1,000th wedding!