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In honor of Thanksgiving, what better topic to write about than thank you notes? While they may be something that most brides dread, they’re one of the most important ways a bride and groom can show their gratitude to their friends and family. And brides take note: just like you know the name of every person who did not buy you a wedding present, guests usually remember when they haven’t received a thank you note.

The Thank You Note Rules:

  1. Every gift merits a written thank you note (no matter if it is received at a shower, engagement party, wedding or wherever).
  2. Everyone should receive a thank you note. This includes parents, bridesmaids, good friends, family — no matter how “close” you are to these people, they deserve your gratitude and thanks just as much as the people you do not see as regularly.
  3. You do not have a year to write thank you notes!! This is an urban legend. Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute says that a bride has three months MAXIMUM upon receipt of the gift (note – not the wedding date, but the date you receive the gift). Do it sooner though and you’ll be glad.
  4. You can (and should) send thank you notes for gifts received before the wedding. This is another urban legend that says you must wait until after the wedding to send thank you notes for wedding presents. Not true.
  5. When writing thank you notes BEFORE the wedding it is key that you use stationery with your maiden name or monogram, NOT your married name or your married monogram. Don’t bust out the Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt stationery until after the wedding.
  6. It is okay (and encouraged) for today’s modern couple to share in the thank you note writing duties. Grooms can and should write thank you notes. He should use his own stationery or blank notecards prior to the wedding. After the wedding, he can of course use the new Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt stationery.
  7. Get organized. Use Excel, index cards, or a notebook to log the following information: date the gift was received, gift, gift giver, and when the thank you note was mailed. Having a designated area with stamps, return address labels, stationery and a printed list of your wedding guests’ addresses will make this much easier.
  8. Email is not okay. The one exception, per Peggy Post, is to notify the recipient (especially those who you speak to regularly) when something large or substantial arrives in the mail. The giver may be wondering if you’ve received the gift, but doesn’t want to ask or put you on the spot. It is okay in this instance to dash a short email to the giver acknowledging that you received the gift, and be sure to mention that a formal note will follow. Even better – just write the thank you note that day and put it in the mail. No need to email.
  9. A friend of mine gave me at tip that I thought was brilliant. When she was engaged, she did not allow herself to open the next gift until she had written a thank you note for the previous one she opened. How easy is that? My brother told me that he and his wife would not deposit any checks or cash received until they had written the thank you notes to the gift giver. Another good idea.
  10. When writing, be personal, warm, and thankful. Even though the gift may not be what you always wanted, try to think of something nice to say about the gift, or how you look forward to using it. If you are planning to exchange the gift, you do not need to mention that in your note. But, be just as gracious when writing a thank you note for a gift you plan to return as you would be in writing a note for a gift you love.

For a great article about etiquette in general, check out this recent interview in the LA Times with Anna Post, Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter. Both she and her sister have joined the family business and are working for the Emily Post Institute. I’m proud to call Anna my friend and she’s incredibly knowledgeable and interesting if you ever have the opportunity to see her speak. She’s also authored four books, including these wedding titles:  Emily Post’s Wedding Parties, Do I Have to Wear White?, Emily Post’s Great Get Togethers: Casual Gatherings and Elegant Parties at Home.

This article was originally posted on my blog, Amy’s Guide to All Things Bride in November of 2005. It has been updated for today. Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!

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