Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Etiquette of Wedding Thank You Notes

The following is a comment made on the "Giving Gifts" posting. Rather than a lengthy answer on that posting, let me answer here. The information in the answer is taken from a number of etiquette style books and from bridal magazines and wedding planning sites.

Just Curious said...
What about the other side- those who receive the gifts at their wedding, and then spend the next four months figuring out how to write personalized thank you notes to everyone who gave them gifts? Is there an etiquette deadline for thank you notes?

When to Send Them
You always should acknowledge and thank someone for a gift - right away! The rule of etiquette for thank you notes... for gifts received before the wedding, you should send out a thank you note within two weeks. For gifts received after the wedding, you have up to one month to send out your thank you notes. However, it has become acceptable today to send wedding thank you notes up to two months after the wedding, especially if you take a long honeymoon or invited several hundred guests!

Printed or Handwritten?
Thank you cards should be handwritten. While this may require extra time, it is more polite to personalize your note with your own handwriting rather than having it printed. Your recipients will appreciate the time you took to write them out.

What to Say
Always mention the gift somewhere in the body of the note. Let the person know you like it!
Mention how you plan to use the gift (or spend the money). For example, "I can't wait to have my first dinner party so we can use the new china..." or "Thank you for your generous gift... we've been saving for a down payment on a new house."

You should also make at least one personal reference in your thank you note, such as... "We were so happy that you were able to come to California for the wedding."
If you are writing the thank you notes, you should reference both you and your choson/husband... "Chaim and I really like the...." "Moshe and I want to thank you for the..."

Things to Include
The date that you are actually writing the note.
For an informal thank-you, use the name as it is written on the gift card given to you. Example, the individual's name is Yaakov, but on the gift's card he wrote "From Kovi", then on your thank you it would be "Dear Kovi..."
On a formal thank you, you would put "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Brown..."
Mention the gift in your thank you "Thank you very much for the lovely candle sticks ..."
Mention what you'll use the gift for "They will grace our Shabbos table and always remind us of you..."

Whoever is writing the thank you is the one to sign the card "Love Malka"
Include both of your names in the card "John and I will think of you every time we make a toast ..."
Closing terms could be , "Sincerely, Malka", "Love, Malka", "Affectionately, Malka".

Who should get them?
Send thank you cards for all gifts, even if the gift is something you don't particularly care for or don't know what to do with. Remember, you are thanking them for their thoughtfulness, not just the gift.
Don't forget to send thank you cards to the people who helped you plan your event. This includes your parents and siblings and certainly any friends who were involved.

A Word About Showers
If someone sends you multiple gifts for different events, regardless of how close in time those events may be, send that person a card for each gift. For instance, a friend may give you a gift for your wedding shower as well as another gift for your wedding a month later. Send a separate card addressing each gift, even if they're both addressed to her. That's right--shower gifts also require handwritten thank you notes.

A Few Words of Advice
Don't let your thank you notes pile up... the task will become overwhelming and you won't want to tackle a mountain of thank you notes! Also, don't think of writing out thank you notes as an awful, arduous task. Think about all the people that cared enough about you to come to your wedding and gave you a gift. Thank them!

Last but not Least
Both the choson and kallah receive wedding gifts jointly. The responsibility for making sure that the thank you cards are written and sent out in a timely fashion therefore belongs to both of you. The choson's job is not to periodically remind his new kallah to send out the notes; he, too, is responsible for writing them.


G said...

The choson's job is not to periodically remind his new kallah to send out the notes; he, too, is responsible for writing them.

I'll tell you what...when the kallah comes to help with the myriad of items that need toveling then the chosson can make some time to write out some cards.

--See...aren't generalities great!

ProfK said...

G, I believe that "hoist with your own petard" is about to become applicable here. Speaking about generalities, yours doesn't hold water--items in a home get toiveled in four general ways: the choson and kallah TOGETHER during sheva brochos week toivel whatever has not already been toiveled; since all household items are originally purchased and/or gifted to the kallah, and are in her house prior to the wedding, the kallah, her mother and any siblings she can bribe toivel the items that need toiveling; if the items are purchased in certain stores in the Brooklyn area there are dish mikvehs on site and they will toivel what you buy there; some girls who make bridal showers toivel the items they are giving to the kallah as part of their gift to her.

Anonymous said...

According to G's logic my husband should have written all the thank you notes by himself since he did none of the toveling. I did it with my mom, MIL and sisters. And I've toveled everything we have ever bought that needed it since then. I'm sure that my husband has no idea where in our community there is a dish mikva since he has never used it.

G said...


...and Thank You cards generally are written by both the chosson AND kallah TOGETHER. mean not in your experiance? Huh, could be. Much like my toveling example, i guess.

Or is there only one correct standard here?

Knitter of shiny things said...

It might be useful to add to this post etiquette for writing Thank You notes for gifts of money. Back when I had my bat-mitzvah 10 years ago, I remember having to write a lot of those. Most of the time it was "Dear Ploni/t, thank you for the generous gift..."

Actually, I guess I had to do this a bit more recently when people gave me gifts after graduating college, in which case I said something along the lines of "Thank you for the generous will definitely help fund my future studies." Etc.

But I feel it's often hard to talk about money tactfully, which is why I think the issue should be addressed specifically.

ProfK said...

Knitter of shiny things,
Tucked in in the posting was this advice for talking about gifts of money and how to say thank you:
"Thank you for your generous gift... we've been saving for a down payment on a new house." Or you could say "Thank you for your generous gift. I bought______with it and when I use______I will always be reminded of you."

If you don't have a specific item you have already purchased you could write: "Thank you for your generous gift. I am searching for just the right thing to spend the money on, something as special as the people who are making it possible."

Knitter of shiny things said...


Oops, I must have missed that when I was reading your post. Also, I meant to say in my last comment, but accidentally left out, that this was a really good post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting the rules on this- although now I have a pile of notes to get to!

Anonymous said...

But none of this explains why the thank yous have to be written. At my shower I thanked each person after I opened her gift. I even said why I loved their gift. Why shouldn't that public thank you be enough? If I say thank you to someone who hands me an envelope at my wedding haven't I said thank you? Why do it twice? And why shouldn't an email work just as well as a thank you card sent through the mail. The receiver is just going to throw out the thank you card as soon as it is read. How is that any different from their deleting an email after it is read?

ProfK said...

The debate about what to do with computerized social correspondence is going on among those who "set the standards" for etiquette. There are some couples who have opted for emailed wedding invitations--there are even some sites that will design them for you. I personally haven't heard of a frum couple using this type of invitation. The problems would be two-fold: 1)some guests who do not have the Internet and 2) some guests who cannot use the Internet--think way older members of the family.The same thing would apply to sending thank you cards via email. You would need to send some by regular mail and only some by email.

Will the system change at some point in the future? Quite possibly. Today's technology is already redefining what it means to be "written."

As to the verbalized thank yous versus the written ones, there I believe you are stuck with the status quo. The argument is over the means by which a written thank you/invitation may be sent, not over the necessity to send one.

Anonymous said...

I would have written out all the thank you cards for our wedding if I could have done them as emails. First I type a lot better then I write and a lot faster. Then there is the mail merge function. If all the notes for a gift of money start out with Thank you for your generous gift the computer could have entered that for me. Ditto for the line tht we used about we hope to share many more simchas in future years.

I guess that you'd you still would be stuck with a few cards that had to be written out by hand but using the computer would mean that thank yous got to the givers a lot faster.

Scraps said...

One month to send out thank you notes? Two? That's hilarious. I've gotten thank you cards over six months after the wedding. (No, I'm not saying they were right to do so, just that it's happened. And at least they bothered to send them out at all.)

Anonymous said...

Computers would surely make things a lot easier and a lot less costly. Invitations sent out by email--cost 0. Thank yous sent by email--cost 0. And if you still have to print up some invitations for those without computers or the Internet, why not print them yourselves? Staples has a lot of different kinds of blank invitation cards for a far more reasonable price then the printers take for printing invitations. You could run them through your printer and save a bundle. Heck, you could buy a printer and the blanks and still come out cheaper then the professionally printed ones cost you.

Anonymous said...

We had two kallahs at the same time. You can imagine the expenses. But we saved lots of money on the invitations and the thankyou cards by printing them ourselves. A friend who had done the same thing had the Hebrew text for us on his machine and we only had to change the details. We also put the guest list on the computer and let the printer address all the envelopes in fancy print. We bought all the blank stationery on line from a wholesaler. The cost for both weddings, not including the postage,was $189 and we even printed the aufruf invitation cards for one of the chosonim. We also saved money with something else that is such a waste--we didn't use two envelopes for the invitations. Never could understand the purpose for that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Allen, but are you saying that someone who was gracious enough to give you a gift isn't worth the card and postage to thank them properly?

Any thank you is appreciated, but hand-written notes make the giver feel as though they weren't just an afterthought.

Thanks for posting the etiquette, ProfK. It never hurts to brush up.

Anonymous said...

It's not about the worth of the person Riv. Why should writing an email be treated so much differently then writing a few lines on a card and mailing it? It takes the same effort to sit down and compose the thank you. For many of us the computer has all but replaced the use of regular mail. All my business is conducted on line, I pay bills on line, I shop on line and I communicate with family all over the world on line. I no longer have to wait for a letter to get from here to Israel to share news or share photos. Our family hears our news in almost real time. Why should thank you cards be exempted from this? Wouldn't getting a prompt thank you also be worth something?

Anonymous said...

Yes a thank you is important for a gift you get. But the rules of etiquette have to keep up with the changes in the world. Computers are not so slowly changing what it means to get mail. Many schools no longer teach penmanship but do teach keyboarding. We need to adjust our thinking that something written by hand has more value then something typed on the computer.