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The Thank You Etiquette Guide


When you’ve received mountains of gifts from shower attendees and wedding guests, the thought of writing an individual thank you note to each giver can be overwhelming. But because your guests were nice enough to think about you on your big day, a little handwritten token of appreciation is the least you can do.


Even in a day of e-mails and Web sites, digital communication remains no match for personal, handwritten notes, but with so many people to thank, where do you start? What do you say? And how long do you have to send a thank you? We have all your answers here.




Choosing your stationary will probably be the most fun part of the thank you note writing process! Select stationary that mirrors the formality or the colors of your wedding. Many brides order their thank yous at the same time they order their invitations, which is a good idea because they’ll be readily available long before you’ll need them. Always purchase more cards than you’ll think you need as you’ll most likely end up receiving gifts from people who weren’t invited to the wedding.


Staying Organized


To start, duplicate your invitation list to ensure that everyone gets a thank you. As you open your gifts, carefully record who gave it to you. It’s easy to get excited and open one gift after another without paying attention to the card, but take the time to make a quick note and you’ll ensure that no one falls through the cracks.


For the sake of your sanity and the quality of your thank you note, spread out your writing. Dedicate some time each evening to express your gratitude. You don’t want to try to write 200 thank-you notes in one or two sittings.




Most experts agree that response time is important when sending out your thank-yous. To keep the note-writing manageable, try to write thank-you notes as the gifts come in. It is generally understood that shower gifts need separate recognition from wedding gifts, even if given by the same guest, so try to mail your thanks to shower attendees within two weeks of the event. This helps you keep track of where each gift came from and also allows you to start tackling that long list of thank-yous early. There’s no need to wait until after the wedding to start sending out the notes. This also applies to gifts that arrive from guests who cannot attend your big day.


As a general rule, at the very latest, send wedding thank-you cards within 6-8 weeks after the ceremony. But remember, it’s always better to send cards late rather than never. So don’t let a lapse in time be an excuse for not sending them out at all.




What to write in a thank-you note can be overwhelming. You don’t want to merely sign a preprinted card. Try to keep in mind that you’re writing a short note of appreciation, not a long, personal letter to every single guest. While it’s important to be personal, you don’t need to conjure up brilliant or quirky prose in every card. Instead, express appreciation for the gift by telling your guest how you are using it. For example, “We simply love the vase you gave us. It sits on the kitchen table and we fill it with yellow roses from our garden.”


Thank-you notes for monetary gifts should include how you intend to spend the money; thank the giver for contributing to your home’s down payment, your beautiful honeymoon, etc. And while you want to be enthusiastic about the gifts you’ve received, there’s no need to exaggerate. If you don’t love the gift, focus on the giver, not the gift. And never hint that you will be returning or exchanging the gift. Be tactful and appreciative.


Addressing Thank Yous


How you address the note will depend on your relationship with the giver and the formality of your day. A good general rule is to look at how the guest signed the card to you. If Mr. James Smith signed his card “Love, Jimmy,” it’s probably safe to address the card to Jimmy rather than Mr. Smith. If you’re unsure, it’s better to be more formal than too casual. Address each person who signed the gift’s card if it came from a family unit. If a small group of friends sent the gift, try to respond to each one individually. And if a larger group of coworkers sent a joint gift, consider sending a thank-you note to the workplace, where they can post your card on a bulletin board for everyone to see.


You might consider including a photo from your wedding in the card. But if this step would postpone sending out the cards in a timely manner, send the thank-yous without pictures. If sharing the photography is important to you, talk to your photographer in advance (or arrange to have candid photos taken with a personal digital camera) to ensure that you have prompt access to photos.


The tradition of the bride writing the notes no longer applies, so be sure to spread out the writing. Include both of your names in the card (“Tom and I love the beautiful quilt…”), but have the writer of the card sign it. And be sure to put your new return address on the cards. This way, your loved ones will be updated with your current and correct address.


Additional Notes


Remember to thank vendors for their contributions, as well as those who hosted parties and showers in the months surrounding your nuptials. Don’t forget to single out your wedding party for being such a huge part of your day. In all, let those involved know that their efforts were priceless.


Take time to consider all that you’re thankful for, and then share that gratitude with your loved ones. Let the writing process remind you of your wonderful day.

Last Updated: November 7, 2008 at 5:32 am
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