Read an Excerpt
The Bride's Thank You Guide
Thank-You Writing Made Easy
By Pamela A. Lach
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2010 Pamela A. Lach
All rights reserved.
Your First Questions Answered
"Who writes the notes?"
In the past, the bride would write the notes and sign her name. Today, most couples share this responsibility.
Writing the notes can be a pleasant way for the two of you to spend an hour or so together each evening. It will help you relive your wedding memories and give you an opportunity to talk about the ways you can use the gifts you've received.
When you share this experience with your partner, you will find that the task is quickly completed. After you're finished, you will both have more time to spend doing your favorite things.
"Do we sign both our names?"
Yes, most couples today sign their thank-you notes with both names.
"Can I sign a note with my married name if I write it before the wedding?"
No, prior to the wedding you would sign with your maiden name.
"When do I send the notes?"
As soon as possible. If the gift arrives up to one week before the wedding, you should send the note within three weeks of its arrival. If you receive the gift after that, four weeks after the wedding is considered the maximum acceptable amount of time for sending out your notes. (This assumes you went on a honeymoon immediately after the wedding.)
A note that arrives months after the wedding lacks enthusiasm. It is inconsiderate. It leaves the giver wondering if you received the gift (unless you sent an acknowledgment card). Remember, she spent time helping you or selecting your gift. She's not expecting too much when she hopes to hear that you enjoyed what she gave you. It is also easier to write the note if you do it while everything is still fresh in your mind.
"What are some ways to save time?"
If you follow these four suggestions, you'll find that you can speed up the process.
* Address the envelopes for your thank-you notes far in advance of writing them. If you do it at the same time that you write your invitations, you will only have to gather the addresses once.
* As soon as you receive a gift, write a description, such as "a hand-painted vase with intricate floral designs." You can use the description when writing your note.
* Have a system of recording gifts to keep track of names and each item received (see chapter 2 for organizational tips).
* Write your notes as the gifts arrive.
"Whom do I send thank-you notes to?"
Send a note to anyone who gave you a gift, attended a celebration, or went out of his or her way to help. This includes members of the wedding party such as ushers, bridesmaids, ring bearers, and flower girls. People you see every day — including both sets of parents, siblings, or friends — still deserve a note of thanks.
You will send more than one note to just about everyone on your guest list. Each gift deserves its own thank-you note. For example, do not thank someone for both her shower gift and wedding gift in the same note; write separate notes for both gifts.
It doesn't matter how small the gift or favor might have been — you should still send the person a note of gratitude.
"Can I send a thank-you note before the wedding?"
Yes! In fact, it will make the process much easier if you write your note as soon as you receive the gift or favor.
"What return address should I use if I write the note before the wedding?"
Use your current address. If you know the address you will use after the wedding, include that information with your note.
"Should I mail them as I write them or wait and send all the notes at the same time?"
If the gift is received before the wedding, write and mail the note as soon as you receive the gift. After the wedding, you might want to mail all the notes together or in batches.
If you don't mail them together, try to sort and send them in groups that may have contact with one another. Coworkers, neighbors, friends, or close relatives might mention to one another that they received your note. It would be wise to make sure that all members of that group receive their notes at the same time. It may sound like a lot of trouble, but believe me, if you don't mail them at the same time, you'll be hearing, "So-and-so received her thank-you note today and I didn't. Didn't you receive my gift?"
"Is it enough to thank someone in person?"
It's nice to thank a guest in person, but it is not enough. A handwritten note of thanks is a better display of gratitude.
"Is it okay to e-mail or text my thank-yous?"
Not if you are trying to use either as a replacement for a handwritten thank-you note.
"We posted a nice thank-you message on our wedding Web site. Isn't that enough?"
No, that type of message is not personal enough. An individual note, written on stationery by you or your partner, is the right way to thank everyone who helped or gave gifts.
"We placed little scrolls with preprinted thank-you verses next to each plate at the reception. Isn't that enough?"
It is a nice gesture. However, it does not replace the personal touch of a handwritten note that specifically mentions why you are thanking your guests.
"We sent out preprinted acknowledgment cards as we received each gift. Isn't that enough?"
Sending out acknowledgment cards is a great way to let your guests know that their gifts were received. It eases any concerns they might have about their delivery. Do acknowledgment cards replace handwritten thank-you notes, though? No, they are still not personal, handwritten gestures of gratitude.
"We bought nice cards with preprinted verses to sign and mail. Isn't that enough?"
A card with a catchy preprinted message, using words that seem more clever than you might write yourself — very tempting! But it doesn't begin to mean as much as a handwritten note. Think about it. When you receive a card, what do you really want to read — the preprinted message or the personal note from the sender?
Even worse are cards with preprinted verses and preprinted signatures. You might think, "Oh, what a great time saver!" The recipient will think, "What a waste of time and postage. This person really doesn't care enough to send me a personal note."
"I plan to type each personal note on the computer and then print them onto some nice paper. What's wrong with that?"
It is not a fitting substitute for a handwritten note. Yes, it is easier. Yes, other people do it. Neither of those reasons makes it the right thing to do. The point is that you took the time, in the age of instantaneous digital communication, to write the note on paper yourself. That effort is what indicates your genuine gratitude.CHAPTER 2
Make It Easy: Use a System
"How can I be sure to thank the right person for each gift?"
This is where organization is important. Every gift should immediately be tagged in some way. Whether you are using a spreadsheet, an online program, or plain index cards, note the name of the giver (or the names of the givers, if it's a group gift) and the gift as soon as you receive it. Keep your records up-to-date and as organized as possible. It will save you a lot of stress in the long run!
Simple and low-tech, using index cards is a very popular organizational method. Some stationers and gift shops have preprinted cards for this purpose. You can also create your own and design the cards by hand or on a computer. If you organize them in alphabetical order, it will be easier to access each name (though sometimes couples choose to keep the card with the gift until the thank-you note has been written to avoid mistakes).
In many cases you will receive more than one gift from each guest (such as engagement, shower, and wedding gifts), and this method allows you to keep all the details in one place. If someone does a special favor — helps address invitations, throws a shower — you can note it on the back of the card.
Here is an example:
Name: ________________________________________________________ Address: _____________________________________________________ Phone: ________________ E-mail: ______________________________ Wedding Invitation Sent?________________ Date Sent: __________ Occasion: ____________________________________________________ Gift: ________________________________________________________ Thank-You Sent? ______________________ Date Sent: ____________ Occasion: ____________________________________________________ Gift: ________________________________________________________ Thank-You Sent? ______________________ Date Sent: ____________ Occasion: ____________________________________________________ Gift: ________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ Thank-You Sent? ______________________ Date Sent: ____________
Another popular method is a three-ring binder system with tabbed index pages. With this system, every aspect of the wedding is in one place. Your contract with the florist is a few pages away from your guest list; the dinner menu for the reception and copies of your marriage license are safely tucked away. You can use the design from the index card example for everyone on your invitation list. Just to be sure to include the following information:
* Name and address
* Brief description of gift
* Date thank-you note was sent
Add details about the gifts when you record their receipt. It will be easier to write the note when you have time.
There are programs available for purchase or online databases at which you can register (such as BridalTrack.com) that keep all of your data in one place. You can also create your own database in Excel. With this method, it's easy to make changes. If you keep your database current, you can instantly check it if you find yourself asking, "What gift did Mr. Cooper send?" or "Did I send a thank-you to Julia for her shower gift?" You can save the data to a portable drive and carry it everywhere. However, a crash or virus could be a disaster if your information cannot be retrieved.
"I didn't keep up with my organizer. How do I know that I've thanked everyone?"
Sit down and think about the past year. Who went out of his or her way to help you? Who gave you a shower or party? Make a list of all the names. Don't forget your parents and your wedding party! If you do forget someone, you will probably hear about it sooner or later. Be sure to send a thank-you note as soon as you learn about the error.
"What if I can't send out all my notes in four weeks?"
When you have a very large wedding (which usually consists of 200 or more guests) or if you plan a long honeymoon, it may not be possible to acknowledge all your gifts within four weeks. In that case, you can send a preprinted card acknowledging the receipt of each gift as it arrives. This lets the giver know that you have safely received the item.
Acknowledgment cards are not a substitute for thank-you notes. They are placeholders, buying you time to write an actual note of thanks. Here is sample wording for a preprinted acknowledgment card:
We have received your gift. Thank you very much! We will be writing a more personal note in a few weeks.
Fondly, Nicole Shapiro and Jeremy Meyers
If you are having a large wedding and a long honeymoon, address the envelopes for the acknowledgment cards ahead of time.
Don't ever say, "Well, it's too late to send a thank-you now." It's never too late — it's just more polite to do it quickly.CHAPTER 3
"What kind of paper should I use for the notes?"
In most cases your paper will match your wedding stationery. The type of paper and how closely it adheres to tradition reflects your wedding's style. A rich, thick, white vellum paper indicates a traditional, formal wedding. A thin, colorful sheet on recycled cotton paper suggests a more informal affair. The color and style of your notes should match the rest of your wedding stationery as closely as possible.
Blank cards with the words "Thank You" preprinted on the front are sold everywhere, from grocery stores to trendier, upscale paper stores. According to the formal rules of etiquette, these cards would only be used for small, informal weddings. However, many couples prefer to use them regardless.
Another option is using cards with your wedding photograph on the front. The inside should be blank for you to add a personalized note. These cards double as a delightful keepsake from your wedding. To save time, select a card that has a slot in which you can slip a picture after the wedding. You can write the note ahead of time and then just add the picture before you mail it.
Traditional notes are written on four-by-five-inch cards. They match your wedding stationery and can be ordered with your invitations.
"What should I put on the front of the cards?"
You have some options for the front of the card. For notes sent before the wedding, the card would have your full name or a monogram of your initials. After the wedding, it would have your name as you plan to use it. If you prefer, you can use both your names. (Using both names is not quite adhering to formal etiquette, yet it is done often enough to make it OK.)
Before the wedding, it might look something like this:
Brianna Nicole Wilkinson
If you are planning to keep your maiden name or hyphenate your and your partner's last names, the card sent after the wedding would offer that information to your friends and family.
Brianna Nicole Wilkinson
Brianna and Austin Yag-Wilkinson
Brianna Wilkinson Yang
Mrs. Austin L. Yang
Brianna and Austin Yang
Mr. & Mrs. Austin L. Yang
"Can I put my maiden name on the front of the card?"
Yes, you would always do that with cards used before the wedding day. If you plan to use your maiden name after the wedding, you could still use the same cards.
"What if I plan to keep my maiden name after the wedding? How should I write our names then?"
You can indicate your preference by having your maiden name on the front of the card. If you don't have your names on the front, you can include that information at the end of your note. For example, your signatures might read:
Sincerely, Brianna Wilkinson and Austin Yang
"My fiancé has promised to help write the notes for gifts received before the wedding. Shouldn't we just go ahead and put both our names on the front?"
If your name will remain exactly the same, it is an option. Traditionally he would have his own cards with his name on the front. Men have stationery needs too!
Austin L. Yang
"I would like to use a monogram on the front. What are my options?"
There are many different kinds of personal monograms. If you are not married yet, you should use the initials of your first, middle, and last name.
B N W
If you are married and have taken your spouse's name, your personal monogram would be the initials of your first, middle, and new last name.
B N Y
Or you might prefer to use a joint monogram. One option uses your first names and last initial, as shown below:
Another combines both of your initials in a more traditional style.
B Y A
Remember, anything that is sent should indicate your name the day you send the note. Don't presume and use your married name before the wedding.
"Should the cover lettering be printed, thermographed, or engraved?"
Engraved invitations have raised lettering that feels very elegant to the touch. It is still considered the proper choice for very formal weddings. As such, it can be the most expensive choice. However, if you continue to use engraved stationery, it is possible to save on repeat orders. Thermographed and letterpress stationery are similar to engraved stationery but are created through a less-expensive process.
"What can I do with leftover cards?"
If there hasn't been a name change, you can continue to use them as stationery. They are ideal for sending brief notes, accepting or declining invitations, or writing other thank-you notes. They can also be used as informal invitations or as gift enclosure cards.CHAPTER 4
Write with a blue or black pen. Other colors are harder to read. Try to write as legibly as possible.
Don't use words that make you feel uncomfortable, and don't try and use formal, stilted language. Just be yourself. You want whoever is reading the note to hear your voice in it. A good trick is to try and picture the person you're writing to as you compose the note. It will make it easier to address that person in the same way you usually do.
The note doesn't have to be long — only a few brief, sincere lines are necessary. The idea is that when the recipient reads it, he feels that you were truly thinking of him. This isn't always easy, especially when you're writing 50 notes at a time. No matter how tired you are, try to make each note sound like it's the only one you're writing.
Start with a note to someone you know well — that makes it easier to get into the flow.
General Outline of a Thank-You Note
The basic structure of each note is as follows:
* Address the person you're thanking.
* Note who is giving thanks (i.e., just you, or you and your partner).
* Thank the person.
* Mention something nice about the gift.
* Tell the person how you might use the gift.
* Make a final pleasant comment.
* Thank the person again.
* Sign off.
In More Detail
Address the Person You're Thanking
If you are writing to a couple, according to tradition, you would address the note to the wife. The husband would then be mentioned in the body of the message. Today, many couples prefer to address the note to both the husband and wife.
Excerpted from The Bride's Thank You Guide by Pamela A. Lach. Copyright © 2010 Pamela A. Lach. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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