Etiquette is defined as “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life”. In other words, it’s something you do if you were raised right or if you want to be part of society.
Alas, just writing a thank you note isn’t guaranteed to demonstrate your good breeding or make you part of society. There are rules of etiquette you must follow or run the risk of being seen as even ruder than the person who writes no note at all.
Congratulations on doing the right thing by even preparing to write this note in the first place. Now don’t blow it. Remember a few simple rules of etiquette, and check the sample thank you notes for additional guidance.
If Aunt Tina gives you a gift at your wedding shower and then also gives you one on your wedding day, send her an individual thank you note for each gift. It doesn’t matter how close together you received the gifts– write two notes.
Thank You Note Appearance
It used to be that they should always be handwritten. However, it is becoming more acceptable to email or even text a thank you, depending on the situation.
However, I do not believe in typing an email on your computer, printing, and then sending via mail. If it is going in the real mail, it should have your handwriting. And use dark blue or black ink over colored ink. It is more easily readable and you are probably not a 10-year-old girl.
How Long Do You Have?
It’s a good habit to send your thank you notes as soon as you get your gift. It’s easier to think of things to say when the gift is fresh in your mind and it’s nice for the giver to hear it arrived safely as soon as possible. But officially:
- Standard etiquette says gifts received at the wedding shower and before the wedding day should be acknowledged within two weeks of their receipt
- Gifts received on your wedding day should be acknowledged within two months of your return from your honeymoon.
- If you are not going on a honeymoon, then you have 6 weeks.
What Occasions Require a Thank You Note?
- Wedding gifts. See wedding sample thank you notes.
- Sympathy letters, flowers, or mass cards. See sympathy sample thank you notes.
- To the hostess after a party that was hosted in your honor. (You may thank them for their gift and the party in the same note.) Check party sample thank you notes.
- Bridal or baby shower gifts. See baby sample thank you notes.
- Gifts that were received by mail.
- After being entertained by your boss. Check business sample thank you notes.
- Gifts received during a hospital stay, as soon as you are well enough to do so. See illness sample thank you notes.
- After being hosted as a houseguest for one or more nights (unless it’s a close relative or friend who is doing the hosting, in which case it still doesn’t hurt). Check hospitality sample thank you notes.
- After a dinner party for which you received a hand-written invitation. You’re off the hook for an Evite or verbal “come over tomorrow night”– but a thank you phone call or email the next day is a good idea.
- Gifts of congratulations.
Notes from Children
If a child is not old enough to write, parents should write on their behalf. However, they can (and should) encourage their child’s participation. For example you can ask your 3-year-old why he likes his new truck and he might say, “I like the fire stickers”, which gives you something original and personal to add to the note. You can also let children add stickers or draw a picture on the other half of the card. More on that here.
Gifts of Money
Treat the same as a gift, but standard etiquette dictates you do not mention the exact amount. More on this here.
Also, if you have a particular item you intend to buy with the money, you can include that, such as “I have been craving a massage but would never treat myself to such an extravagance. But thanks to your gift, I have an appointment for next week!”
How to Begin
Personalize it. Starting your note with generic statements like “Thank you for the gift” are too impersonal. Even a brief description warms it up like, “Thank you for the fuzzy blue sweater.”
What if you don’t like the gift? Well it really is the thought that counts. Remind yourself that the giver spent time and money selecting the gift, and that is why they deserve thanks.
Use words to describe the gift such as useful, unique, unusual, remarkable.
You can also focus instead on the gift giver instead, as in, “You were so thoughtful to think of me” (or considerate, kind, helpful, generous…)
Or take the easy way out and fill in the blanks on my Thank You Note Generator.
Addressing Thank You Notes
Thank you notes should be addressed to whomever signed your gift card. If your card was signed by Mrs. Crumb, write to her but mention the rest of the family if you know them, such as “Please send my best to Todd and the kids.”
When You Have Many Thank You Notes to Write
Apparently at some weddings, the bride and groom have “thank you for coming” printed on many pieces of paper, and guests are to pick one up on their way out, and that is supposed to serve as their thank you note. I do not recommend this.
Yes it’s a ton of work to handwrite personal notes to each guest, but consider how much work it was for your guests to pick out and pay for your gift and travel to your wedding. You don’t have to write them all at once. But you do have to write them.
And here’s a secret: It doesn’t have to be THAT much work– fill in the blanks on my Thank You Note Generator and cut your thank you note writing time in half, at least. It’s not cheating. Really!