A Guide to Thank-You Notes

One of the most popular complaints I hear from brides and mothers-to-be following their weddings or baby showers is the looming task of writing thank-you notes. And while I can see how sitting down to write hundreds of hand-written notes seems daunting, I’m here to tell you that expressing gratitude for a gift is really nothing to complain about!

Two things to keep in mind:

It doesn’t take long to say, “Thank You!” When you stop to consider the thoughtfulness, time, and generosity behind the selection of a gift (whether it was from your registry or not), the few moments you spend putting pen to paper to say, “thank you,” is only a fraction of the time the gift-giver spent shopping for you.

You aren’t entitled to a gift, but gift-givers ARE entitled to a thank-you. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve picked up on an attitude of entitlement among the newly engaged and expecting, a sense that because they’ve sent invitations, their guests are now required to outfit their homes and nurseries in the manner they see fit.

I know this may surprise some, but gifting is always at the discretion of the giver. Wedding and baby registries are meant to serve as guides, not demands. For showers, guests ought to bring a gift if they attend, but no gift is required if not attending. And although we use the word “obligation” in regards to receiving a wedding  invitation, any and every gift should be received as a generous gesture deserving of a gracious, handwritten, timely thank-you note.

The Thank-You Note Basics:

1. Each Gift Gets Its Own Thank-You Note

So we’ve already covered that getting married or having a baby doesn’t mean you deserve gifts—but anyone who chooses to get you one deserves a hand-written note. Whether it’s your engagement party, bridal shower, lingerie shower, wedding, baby shower, or gift you receive once the baby arrives, every individual gift deserves an individual thank-you note. If multiple people contributed to group gift, each individual giver gets their own note.

Resist the temptation to wait until after your wedding to write one comprehensive thank-you note for all the gifts you received—I once received a single note that covered an engagement gift, shower gift, and wedding gift—three separate gifts I gave over a 5-month period. Yikes!

2. Send them ASAP

Maybe you’ve heard the myth that you have up to a year after your wedding to get thank-you notes in the mail—it’s simply not true! Here’s a more accurate timeline:

Bridal or baby showers: two weeks following the event.

Weddings: as soon as possible, but no more than three months after your wedding.

The longer you wait, the less appreciated the gift seems. In a perfect world, you would be so thrilled with the gift that you would write the note on the same day it is received. Because that’s not always realistic, try to stick to the timeline above.

We all love online shopping, but since gifts are no longer hand-delivered, the sender is left wondering if you received the gift. Even three months is a long time to be left wondering, “Did they get my gift?” If possible, try to stay on top of it and write a note as soon as you receive the gift.

3. Use a Simple Outline

Don’t be afraid to follow a formula: your guests won’t be comparing notes!

  • Express your gratitude for the gift-giver’s presence at the event, or thoughtfulness in sending the gift.
  • Say thank-you for the specific gift, adding how you plan to enjoy it.
  • Close with either a look forward to the wedding day/baby’s arrival or reminiscing back to it.
  • If applicable, look forward to the next time you will see the person

Once I started writing my thank-you notes, I typed up a few so that I could refer back to them as examples for myself going forward. I would simply pull up the word document on my computer and sit down to write, inserting specific details for each recipient! Once you have a workable outline, you’ll breeze through writing the individual notes!

Click here to download sample thank-you notes for both wedding and baby events—you’re welcome to borrow them!

Guide to Thank You Notes
Monogrammed Thank-You Notes via Etsy Seller AugustaJoyStationary. Stick to your current monogram for notes written before the wedding day. Once you’ve tied the knot, you can send cards with your new name. Monogrammed Thank-You Notes via Etsy Seller AugustaJoyStationary

A few more “tricks” for getting it all done:

Buy beautiful stationery. It seems silly, but I genuinely looked forward to filling the gorgeous cards I bought for my wedding thank-you notes. Personalized cards are great, but use your current monogram. Save any with your new monogram for after the wedding day!

Write the notes as the gifts arrive. If gifts are coming one at a time, don’t open the box until you’re ready to write the note! Ideally, you should write the note the same day you open the gift.

Be a diligent record-keeper. If you’re using a spreadsheet for your wedding and shower invitations (which you definitely should), add a column called “gifts” to the right. Record each gift next to the giver’s name and address, and then once the note is sent, highlight to mark as “done!”

There’s a popular “trick” I personally advise against, and I have to take this opportunity to get it off my chest. I’m not in favor of asking guests to address their own thank-you note envelopes at the bridal or baby shower. I feel it reinforces the idea that saying “thank you” is a burdensome chore, not a genuine expression of gratitude. In my opinion, self-addressed envelopes are for dentist appointment reminders, not thank-you notes.

In addition to gift-givers, who else gets a thank-you note?

  • Your wedding suppliers and vendors (photographers, musicians, florist, coordinator, etc.). You don’t have to write a personal note to each one, but if you received exceptional service, a handwritten note would be much appreciated!
  • Anyone who hosts an event in your honor (engagement party, shower, luncheon for out-of-town guests, sip and see, etc.) Send these notes within days of the event, if possible.
  • Your attendants: in addition to a meaningful bridesmaid or groomsmen’s gift, be sure to write a heartfelt, handwritten note of thanks for all they’ve done for you leading up to the wedding day.
  • Your parents (or whoever is hosting the wedding)
  • When in doubt, send a thank-you note! They are always received with pleasure!

Looking for more etiquette tips?

Every week, the GiveIt blog features etiquette advice in our Ask Cheryl column. Follow along and submit your wedding or baby related inquiries to Cheryl by emailing [email protected].

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. The ideas are ours, but we may be compensated if you make a purchase by clicking on one of the links. Thanks for your support!

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