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Writing as part of daily life
House sitting in London the past few months has allowed me to visit more than a few phenomenal museums, such as the Charles Dickens Museum. On a tour of Dickens’ old house from the 1830’s I saw handwritten letters from his own quill hanging on the wall. The letters were there not just to show Dickens’ handwriting, but also to impart the fact that stationery and letter writing was an essential part of daily life.
Established writing rules were as useful back in Dickens’ time as they are now. Lucky for us, rules today are not as stringent and you can decide how much you wish to adhere to old writing traditions.
For example, if you want to adhere to traditional form, opt to write your thank you notes on formal white or ivory stationery. But who says you can’t choose a decorative floral or pattern thank you note? See how wedding thank you card etiquette can get confusing.
You may get bombarded with conflicting advice about what to do and what not to do. Take a deep breath, relax, and read on for our authoritative etiquette guide on how to rock your wedding thank you cards.
When to Send Wedding Thank You Cards?
Most newlywed couples dread writing thank you cards. My advice: pick up your pen, a glass of wine, and get together with your new spouse to write your cards as soon as possible! Trust me, it is good etiquette and just plain easier to do while the wedding is still fresh in your minds.
Here’s the thing: the longer you wait to send out your thank you cards, the longer and more eloquent they should be written. If you are speedy and get a short thank you card out within two weeks of receiving the gift, that short note looks a lot better than if it was received 4 months later. Four months later, you will need to write a lot more to convince the receiver that their gift rocked your world than if you had just sent a short note right away.
Once upon a time, thank you card protocol allowed up to a year to mail wedding thank you notes. The happy couple would likely have used the time after the wedding to go on a long honeymoon excursion, gallivanting around Europe.
Three Months is All You Get
Today we live in an age of instant messaging and communication where mail can arrive the same day if we wish. Naturally, protocol has changed. The acceptable timeline is three months (even that is a bit of a stretch).
“But I like to procastinate,” we hear you complain. Who says three months is all you’ve got?
The Emily Post Institute – a family business that maintains and evolves the standards of etiquette that Emily Post established with her seminal book Etiquette in 1922 – says so.
Make time to show your guests that they matter and properly thank them. After all, your guests bought you presents and/or traveled a long way to be there with you on your wedding day. Start with notes to people who live elsewhere and sent you gifts to let them know that you did receive their gift.
Thanking Guests for Early Gifts Received Before the Wedding
You may not even be married yet, which is fine. You’re reading this because you’ve already started receiving gifts before the wedding.
You are wondering if you should send thank you cards right away or wait until after the wedding. The answer is: yes. You can do either.
If you choose to send thank you cards for early gifts right away that is less work to do after the wedding. Just make sure you keep track of who you sent them to as you go.
On the other hand, if you send thank you notes for the early gifts after the wedding you won’t be able to include a picture from the big day.
Better Late Than Never
Knowing proper etiquette and timelines can help. But if we don’t meet time expectations, don’t use that as an excuse to not send a card at all. A thank you said a year later is still better than no thank you at all.
Tips to Order Wedding Thank You Cards
A great time to order thank you cards is at the same time as placing an order for your wedding invitations. Often times you will receive a discount for ordering both items at the same time. I used Minted.com for both my save-the-dates and wedding invitations and had great success. Minted has over 700 wedding thank you card designs to choose from, you will definitely find one that will fit your wedding scheme.
When sending pre-wedding thank you cards, make sure you use your maiden name. If you are going to change your name after the big day, and you want the cards to reflect that wording, then you will have to order two card sets.
If you plant to keep your maiden name, only include your and your spouse’s first names on the thank you cards – two full names can look awkward.
Make sure to count the number of couples or households at the wedding (not individuals). Then add another 25% to that total to account for errors and unexpected gifts.
Don’t forget: thank you notes don’t need to only apply to gifts received. Family and friend who arranged or hosted parties and showers for you, your vendors, and your wedding attendants should all be included. It is easy to forget certain individuals. Sometimes we think, ‘I don’t need to send mom a thank you card.’
It is still important to acknowledge the help and support of your close family to let them know their contribution didn’t go unnoticed. You can include this in the same thank you card when you thank them for the gift they gave you.
Styles of Wedding Thank You Cards
Correspondence Cards and Informals? What?!
Here’s your Stationery History Lesson
If you want to get technical, the ‘thank you card’ you will mail out is called an informal. In olden days, women of certain social standing (in the era of three month honeymoons gallivanting around Europe) had a stationery wardrobe, and an informal would have been part of that stationery wardrobe.
I am not sure why they call it an informal, when clearly it is formal, nonetheless it is a card that is folded in half at the top and measures approx 3.5″ by 5″.
Your monogram or name would be blind embossed or engraved on the front. The inside of the card would have been blank to allow for writing space. You could write on both inside panels if you wished (ex. A & B), but never on the back of the card.
In modern times, it is acceptable for both couples to put their name on the cards. If the groom decides to send his own thank you cards, he should skip the fold over cards and stick to the correspondence card, which would be considered man’s stationery. These cards are thicker, flat, and have a monogram or name running across the top.
Just like informals, if the bride and groom decide to use a correspondence card and have their names across the top that is okay too. You only want to write on one side of this card. Your name will be mud if you write on the back! If you need more room to write, crumple it up and start fresh with smaller print.
Who Receives a Wedding Thank You Card?
That might seem like a funny question. Thank you cards are for all the people who gave you the awesome gifts, right?
Gift givers are important, but there are other people to whom we ought to send a note as well. Take some time to think about everyone who helped make your wedding a perfect day. Make sure their names are on your thank you list too.
Send wedding notes of thanks to:
- Your parents
- Everyone in the wedding party
- The official who presided at the ceremony
- Friends and family who helped you with the wedding in any way
- Wedding planners and other vendors who gave excellent service
- Everyone who came to the wedding in person
- Everyone who didn’t come but sent you a gift
What Do I Write in My Wedding Thank You Cards?
Start with an “attitude of gratitude”
Let’s face it: for some of us, writing and sending thank you cards can seem like a bit of a chore. That’s especially true if you had a large wedding. You may now have a pile of thank you cards hundreds high sitting on your desk waiting for your attention.
I find it helpful to keep the ultimate goal in mind: actually saying the words thank you.
Being thankful is not only an appropriate response to a gift or service, but it’s an attitude that is scientifically shown to reduce stress and improve mental health.
How to Word Your Wedding Thank You Cards
Wedding thank you card etiquette is a structure to help us share the joy of our wedding day with everyone who contributed. It’s important to individualize your notes, at least a little bit. If they gave you a gift you should mention what it was and how you plan to use it.
(Helpful Read: We’ve got a post solely dedicated to how to word your wedding thank you cards)
Can I email thank you cards?
I mean, you could email them. However, it goes against everything wedding thank you card etiquette is about. Email is too easy, quick, and impersonal. I don’t recommend printing off form letters for the same reason.
Think about it: how many emails do you receive in the course of one day. For myself, it usually runs from 20 to 50 business emails a day. It is easy for an email to end up in the spam folder, not get opened, or to get deleted by mistake.
I highly suggest taking the time to write your thank you cards.
Pen and paper all the way
We don’t need Havard Business Review to tell us that handwritten notes are by far a more meaningful and respectful way to show your thanks.
That said, thank you cards don’t necessarily have to be expensive. Your guests will appreciate the fact that you took the time to write them a personal message.
Your wedding stationary may have included thank you cards that matched the invitations. In that case, you’re all set.
If you don’t have thank you cards yet, there are lots of affordable options. Have a look at our free printable downloads, which include thank you notes.
Can I combine a wedding thank you card with a shower thank you or a holiday greeting?
Although it may be tempting to save yourself some postage, I don’t recommend combining your wedding thank yous with anything else.
If someone gave you a wedding shower gift, it’s best to send a separate thank you card for that shortly after the shower, ideally within two weeks.
There are many templates available for combined holiday/wedding greetings. The problem is that it may be hard to keep your holiday card list and wedding thank you list distinct. You don’t want to send a wedding thank you to someone who wasn’t even involved or invited.
A compromise option might be to enclose your wedding thank you note in the same envelope as a holiday card.
Tips for Keeping Organized
Keeping organized will make sure you don’t miss sending a thank you card to anyone who should get one.
Before you begin you will need to have a few things at hand:
- List of names and addresses for wedding attendees (hopefully you kept this from sending out invites!)
- List of gifts received and names of givers
- Thank you cards and envelopes
- Nice pens which are comfortable to write with
- A treat for yourself like a cup of tea or glass of wine
- Checklist to keep track of who you’ve already covered
Don’t get overwhelmed
If you only had 20 guests at your wedding, you got this.
If you had 500, well, you might need some help. If the task seems too large, don’t do it alone.
Enlist your new spouse or a family member to help you with preparing envelopes or checking names off the thank you list.
The most important part of writing the thank you cards is adding a personal note; only the newly married couple should be doing that part. Friends and family can help with addresses and stamps.
One or both of you may have a disability which prevents you from writing by hand. In this case, it would be acceptable to dictate to someone else or type a note.
Otherwise, keep it in your own hand. Even if it’s not the most readable, your guests will know that it came from you.
Wedding Thank You Card Envelopes
Envelopes must be handwritten with love!
Nothing says thank you more than personally writing each address on an envelope. If you strapped for time and must use labels, then get the clear ones and use a pretty font.
You can use pre-printed return address labels on the back flap. Most companies (like Minted) offer pre-printed return addresses on the envelope for a small extra fee.
Now we must thank you for sticking around and reading. What are your thoughts about wedding thank you card etiquette?
Looking for more help?
No problem, we’ve got no shortage of helpful articles around here…
- Here is a little help on how to word your wedding thank you cards
- If you need a refresher on how to address your thank you cards, check out our article on how to address your save-the-dates.
- Find out how to properly preserve your dress after the wedding.