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The Lost Art of Writing Thank You Notes -- Guidelines for Brides and Grooms

Unfortunately, the etiquette of wedding thank you notes is suffering from this basic skill set that parents didn't teach the newest generation of brides and grooms. It's time to do something about that.
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The art of writing thank you notes is being lost. Parents permit children to email notes of appreciation, and in some cases even (gasp) simply send a text. For those of us in the older generation who were raised in households where a fresh box of stationary for thank you notes was an annual gift from Santa, giving a gift and not receiving a note of appreciation (when appropriate) is fairly horrifying.

Unfortunately, the etiquette of wedding thank you notes is suffering from this basic skill set that parents didn't teach the newest generation of brides and grooms. It's time to do something about that. Immediately.

To be honest, my girlfriends and I even write thank you notes to each other on occasion for something very thoughtful we've done or given, but we are the exception to the rule. Most friendships today are casual to the point where a simple "thank you" in person or on the phone is totally acceptable. We no longer live in a world where all children call their elders Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but rather use their first names. Still, when a child receives a gift from an adult, he or she should learn how to write a thank you note for the gift because, someday, that skill set is going to come in very, very handy. But I digress...

It is NEVER acceptable to skip writing a proper, hand-written thank you note for every single wedding-related gift you receive. This rule applies to engagement gifts, shower gifts, wedding gifts and everything else. While technically speaking, your guests have one calendar year to send the gifts, you do not have that long to acknowledge the gift. All thank you notes for gifts received before the wedding should be written within two weeks of opening it. All gifts received two weeks prior to and two weeks after the actual wedding date get a reprieve of six weeks to complete writing the notes. All gifts received from that point on should be properly acknowledged within two weeks.

Why is it so important to thank people quickly? Because that's the only way they know you've received the gift most of the time. The vast majority of guests will send wedding gifts online and unless you say thank you, they don't know if it has even gotten there. And it's totally rude to thank them via social media, email or text. It's lazy and the recipient knows it. You obviously didn't think enough of their gift to sit down and write a proper thank you note.

Here are five tips to get you started on the right path:

1. Get a box of stationary that you really, really like and have it ready for thank you notes as soon as you get engaged. That way, when the presents start arriving to celebrate your engagement, you don't have any excuse not to write the note immediately. Also buy a book of stamps (or two or three) and keep them with the stationary. They make stamps with wedding-themed pictures on them and you'll never have an excuse not to pop the note in the mail in a timely manner.

2. Try to make a habit of either writing thank you notes on the same day they're received, or all on a specific day of the week. If you're having 300 guests, and multiple pre-wedding celebratory events, you are going to write A LOT of thank you notes. Knocking them out on a regular schedule ensures you don't get behind.

3. If you don't have a planning book with a section for lists of gifts received, create a spreadsheet for yourself. That way, you keep track of who gave you what (it might matter when it becomes a family heirloom years later), and you can tick off the list as you've completed your part of the deal and mailed a thank you note.

4. Pre-order stationary with your married name or new monogram on it and have it waiting for you to write on after you get back from your honeymoon. I can promise you, from experience, that it makes you smile as you seal each and every envelope.

5. Be sure to personalize every note. Generically thanking them for the "lovely gift" is a bad idea. It might have been cash or a check or a gift card where that phrase doesn't make sense. Be specific.

"We love the monogrammed grill brand and grilling set - we're going to have so much fun with it this summer."

"Thank you so much for sending me an entire place setting of my fine china. I'm so excited to serve a formal holiday dinner in our new home next year."

Even a less exciting gift can be acknowledged in a really gracious way.

"Thank you so much for the yellow bathmats -- you helped complete my duck-themed bathroom."

You don't have to be a professional writer to create thoughtful and sweet thank you notes for every gift you receive. Some couples split up the work, each writing the notes for the gifts received from their own sides of the family or guest list. That's great, but apply the same rules above and get the notes out the door before you've figured out where to place the gift in your home.

One final note, for those of you who might have slacked off on your notes and are reading this feeling really, really guilty -- it's NEVER TOO LATE to fix it and write an overdue thank you note. Yes, you broke protocol and you were tacky to not send a note in a timely manner. But everything is forgiven, technically speaking, if you write a thank you note in which you also apologize for being tardy.

"I'm sorry I've been so delinquent in sending this note -- as you may know, I changed jobs/moved/got pregnant/hid under the bed as soon as we got back from the honeymoon and it delayed my ability to properly thank you for your thoughtful gift. Yada yada yada."

Moral of the Story: Write your thank you notes when you get your gifts. But it's NEVER TO LATE to say thank you for a gift and apologize for being so late. A late thank you is far better than no thank you note at all.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

Special Note: This blog is dedicated a very special fan of TLC's "Wedding Island" who, upon reading my invitation blog recently, confessed via Twitter than she's more than a year late in finishing up this required task. Go write your thank you notes, Nicole!!!

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