How To Write a Wedding Thank You Note

The thank-you note is a dangerous beast. One minute you’re unwrapping a present from your well-meaning Aunt Maude, and the next minute you’re expected to come up with the words to tell her it’s the most useful, beautiful gift you’ve ever gotten. You can’t sit down with a pen because you’re off to the cake tasting and the dress fitting. Wait too many days, though, and you’ll be branded as a rude niece. It’s an awful lot of responsibility for a cat-themed china set you didn’t need in the first place.

Even when the wedding gifts you receive really are the most thoughtful, gorgeous gestures you could have imagined, and you’d love nothing more than to sit down and thank the giver properly, it can be hard to find the time to give the task your full attention. Wedding planning is a whirlwind of activity, but thank-you notes cannot be ignored. That’s why a systematic approach comes in handy. Follow these steps to ensure that your thank-you note pile stays manageable and your reputation stays untarnished.

Thank as You Go

A dream of presents piled high, each more exciting than the last, can quickly turn into a nightmare when the time comes to match each object with its wrapping. The last thing you want to do is to open all future conversations with, “You didn’t happen to give us an enamel banana rack, did you?” Even worse is sending the thank-you note only to realize you’ve thanked the wrong person. When you run into a thank-you blunder, it’s even worse than skipping the note entirely.

This obstacle has an easy workaround, although many happy couples overlook it in their enthusiasm. As soon as you open a present, stop everything and write a thank-you note. If you don’t have time for the start-to-finish process, don’t open the present yet. If you’ll be unwrapping presents in front of guests, designate a friend to keep a running list of who gave what, and write thank-you notes immediately after the occasion. That way, not only will you never risk a mix-up, but you’ll also never be overwhelmed with a thank-you pile-up.

Embrace a Formula

You’re not sitting down with a typewriter and a cigar to write the great American novel. The purpose of a thank-you note is to acknowledge that you have received your guest’s present and to assure them that their gesture is appreciated. Beyond that, you’re welcome to add some personal details, but on the whole, the fact that the thank-you note arrives promptly is much more important than the wording on the card.

That being said, it’s still important to write each thank-you note yourself, in your own handwriting (however bad your penmanship, it’s not an excuse to email). Never turn to pre-written cards. You want your guest to know that their gift is being appreciated by you, after all, not by some stationery factory.

How to write a thank you note

A basic thank-you note goes like this:

The date and a greeting. This can be formal for people you don’t know well (“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Thompson”) or more intimate for close friends (“To the best Maid of Honor ever!”). Informality is not a crime if you have an informal relationship with the recipient, especially if you’re planning a more playful wedding. After all, the purpose of the thank-you card is to make the recipient feel appreciated.

The actual thank-you. This can be as simple as, “Thank you for the tea set.” You may want to mention some specific details, such as, “The pink rose pattern is lovely” or, “I’ve never seen a porcelain cat make quite that facial expression.” For monetary gifts, it’s considered rude to mention the specific amount, but you can freely thank the giver’s generosity.

How you’ll use the gift. Your guests want to know their efforts went to a good cause. If you’ll use the juicer to make fresh-squeezed OJ every morning, let them know. Monetary gifts are the same: “You’ve made our perfect honeymoon possible.” If you doubt you’ll ever find a use for the gift, try to think of at least something nice to say about it. (“I’ve never had a whale-song alarm clock before and am excited to try it out.”)

Personal thoughts. This section will be longer for some recipients than for others. For close friends, mention a private joke or a shared experience. For more formal recipients, simply state that you enjoyed seeing them (or look forward to seeing them, as the case may be).

The closing. With love, many thanks, warmly, yours, best wishes to you and your family… the list goes on and on. Pick a closing, sign your name, and stuff the envelope. You’re done! Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Make sure your card goes into the mail promptly. In general, a thank-you note should be received no more than three months after the wedding gift arrived. For bridal shower gifts, wait no more than two weeks. You’ll surely have a pile of gifts to open after the wedding, so if early gifts arrive, embrace the opportunity to get started and write your thank-yous before the wedding.

The great thing about getting married is that you now have a partner who has promised to share both the thrilling and the obligatory parts of life with you. If you shoulder the thank-you note responsibility together, it can turn into a fun game. Keep a running tally on the fridge and see who’s written more notes by the end of the week. Promise to write to the eight cousins on your mother’s side of the family if your spouse writes to Uncle Theo’s new girlfriend.

As long as you don’t let thank-you notes pile up, they can be an enjoyable way of connecting with those who wish you well.