If you’re like Lolli and me, you have a running list of people to whom you owe a thank you note and try to keep pretty paper goods on hand for those occasions when you need to drop a card in the mail to someone who’s given you a present, included you at an event, or otherwise done something thoughtful! MAMA ALWAYS SAID™ it’s better late than never, so that’s my policy when I get behind on writing thank you notes (like right now with baby gifts!). If you need some incentive to get caught up on your own thank you notes list, a new set of beautiful letterpress stationery might be just the thing! (It’s great to gift, too.) So, we’ve invited fellow Dallasite, Heather Wiese Alexander, etiquette expert and founder of Bell’INVITO Stationery, to share her thank you note tips in a guest post for all of us who like to stay as proper as possible. She reminds us that thank you notes aren’t just a “to-do” but a gracious habit anyone can incorporate into his or her lifestyle. We appreciate Heather’s philosophy as well as her product line and bet you won’t be able to read through this guide without wanting a beautiful Bell’INVITO stationery set! You’ll find some of our Bell’INVITO picks linked in our SHOP and below, at the end:
Photo via Bell’INVITO
The Dos and Don’ts of Thank You Notes
By Heather Wiese Alexander, Etiquette Contributor
Many rules of etiquette are meant to serve as a guide toward grace. And there is a reason why “grace” and being “gracious” have the same root. Saying “thank you” is more than just something to be checked off a list; it is an act of grace. Thus, the rules of etiquette guiding the writing of thank you notes should not be taken lightly.
Photo via Bell’INVITO
OCCASIONS & RECIPIENTS
First, determine whether or not a thank you note is necessary. But consider this: If you think it might be an occasion to send a note, it probably is. It never hurts to send one anyway.
For wedding or baby shower gifts. Thanking the gift giver in person or digitally at or following the event is not sufficient; a handwritten note following the shower is a must. Have a friend take notes, or be sure the cards or gift tags are securely tucked back into presents after they have been opened so that you will know whom to thank for what when you sit down to write.
For people who house or entertain your wedding guests. These folks went out of their way (and incurred expenses) to be gracious hosts on your behalf. Thank them with the same amount of grace—a note and gift is appropriate. Send within 2 weeks of returning from your honeymoon.
For your attendants and wedding party members. Your closest friends and family who stood with you on your wedding day deserve to know how much you appreciate them for all they did before and during the wedding. A written note is necessary, and a gift in proportion to their efforts is customary. These notes and gifts are traditionally given prior to the ceremony, up to a week in advance.
For every single wedding gift. Each gift you receive should be acknowledged with a handwritten note, to be sent within four months of the wedding day.
For services rendered. Thanking suppliers and vendors in writing is not required, as they are paid for their services; however, it is a nice touch, especially if you plan to use them again in the future or recommend them to friends and colleagues. This is a matter of personal preference, not etiquette.
For gifts of congratulations or sympathy. If someone was thoughtful enough to send you a gift or message, whether for a graduation or promotion, or if you are ill or grieving, you should respond with the courtesy of an acknowledgement that it was received and appreciated.
For interviewers. After a job interview, it is wise to send a hand-written thank you note out of respect for their time. Missing this step in many cases is tantamount to an incomplete or ill-completed interview. Send immediately following the interview.
For those who host you. When you have been a guest in someone’s home, or you have been entertained socially at a dinner party, casual get-together, etc., you should write a thank you note and send to the host or hosts within two weeks.
For fun or “just because.” If a friend or colleague spent time with you that was meaningful or helpful, or “just because” you appreciate a gesture or character quality of someone you’d like to express and acknowledge, send a note! You never know when your words of encouragement or appreciation may provide motivation or at least a smile during that person’s season of life.
Photo via Bell’INVITO
THE DOS OF THE NOTES
Now that you know when to write a thank you note, here are some “nuts and bolts” of the thank you note itself:
Do handwrite each and every note. Thank you notes should always be handwritten and customized for each recipient; the result is a warm, personal show of appreciation.
Do personalize your notes and make reference to the person as well as the gift or favor received.
Do select stationery that suits and is appropriate for not only the recipient but also the situation.
Do remember that a gift should be acknowledged with the same courtesy and generous spirit in which it was given.
Do promptly acknowledge the receipt of shipped gifts by sending a note right away or calling, then following up with a written note in a day or two.
Do refer to the way you plan to use a gift of money, although mentioning the amount is optional.
Do be enthusiastic, but…
THE DON’TS OF THE NOTES
Don’t gush, unless you really mean it. Be genuine.
Don’t send form letters, pre-written notes, emails or cards with printed messages and just your signature (see the first do, above). Never post a message on Facebook or your website and consider that sufficient. Every note should have a personal and private touch.
Don’t mention that you plan to return a gift or that you are dissatisfied in any way. Honesty is not always the best policy.
Don’t ask guests to address their own envelope for your thank you note. Some hosts have been known to do this at showers to avoid the hassle for the guest of honor, but this is considered bad form.
Don’t tailor your note to the perceived value of the gift. Gifts of all types are thoughtful tokens worthy of your appreciation.
Don’t use lateness as an excuse not to write. Even if you are still sending notes after your first anniversary, keep writing!
Don’t write a thank you note for a thank you note. If someone’s note was especially kind and touching, send a brief appreciative email.
Lastly, if you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of notes you have to write, first, consider yourself blessed to have received the number of gifts that overwhelm you. Be overwhelmed with graciousness. Take a deep breath and enjoy that feeling. Good. Now, grab your favorite pen and some beautiful stationery and get to work. Try writing just 10-15 notes per day to help the list feel more manageable and your notes that much more sincere. Even if you had a thousand wedding guests, for example, just 15 per day starting right after you return from your honeymoon will only take you a few months if you’re consistent.
Shop our beautiful Bell’INVITO picks below, and find them on Instagram and Pinterest for more stationery inspiration and customization ideas!