Writing the Perfect Thank You Note
What do you do when someone gives you a present? You say thank you, of course. But while expressing your thanks informally may be fine for some other occasions, weddings call for the full treatment. You absolutely — no whining, please — have to send a thank you note.
You obviously knew that because you’ve already got a list of gifts — and hopefully, the original cards, too — along with the names of the people who sent them. You know how to spell their names correctly and you’ve got their addresses because you sent them invitations to the wedding. You’ve probably even bought some good notepaper with your new monogram on it, and you’ve got stamps, envelopes, and a pen. The hardest part is sitting down and starting. You’re not ungrateful, you just don’t know what to say.
Here’s How to Start
However you address the person when you’re talking to him or her is the way to start the note: Dear Claudia, Dear Aunt Jane and Uncle Phil, Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith. If a gift card was signed The Greene Family, address the note with the family’s first names if you know them all; if not, then address it Dear Barbara, John and all or Dear Barbara, John and family. And yes, when it comes to names, it’s ladies first.
Then Express Your Thanks
The time-honored way to begin is by saying “Thank you so much for the lovely picture frame.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can mix it up and say “We were so happy when we opened your package and found the great fondue pot,” or “The beautiful flower vase was such a wonderful surprise,” or “It was so thoughtful of you to send us the terrific juicer.”
What you don’t want to do is say “Thank you for the gift you sent.” Identify the specific item and say something nice about it.
What About the Rest of the Note?
One sentence isn’t going to cut it, even if the sentence is really long. So go on and describe how you’re going to use the gift or what it means to you. Here are some examples:
- “We’re delighted with the crystal bowl that you sent. It’s in the center of the dining room table right now, filled with green pears, and it looks so beautiful.”
- “Thank you so very much for the silver candlesticks. They’re too gorgeous to save for special occasions, so we’re going to use them every day.”
- “We’re thrilled that you sent us a place setting in the pattern we selected. It’s such a nice feeling to know that you’ll be part of every meal we serve.”
What If You’re Going to Return the Gift to the Store?
There is absolutely no need to tell someone that hers was the third coffeemaker you received. The time to say anything, if ever, is when she subsequently visits your home and notices that you’re making coffee in a machine she didn’t give you. Then you can say that you’d received multiples and hope she doesn’t mind that you exchanged hers for the slow cooker that you absolutely love and use every day.
What If You Don’t Like the Gift but Can’t Return It?
Write a thank you note as graciously as if you loved it, and then stash the present in the closet. Bring it out when the donor comes to visit. Then stash it away again. Do not re-gift it; that kind of thing can come back to haunt you.
What If the Present Was Money or a Gift Card?
“We’re so grateful for your very generous check. It’s going into our down payment fund to move us closer to buying a house, and we couldn’t be happier.”
“It was absolutely perfect of you to send us a gift card to Crate & Barrel. We’re going to use it for a paella pan, something we both wanted but never would have bought for ourselves.”
Add One More Thing
It would be a nice gesture to also thank them for coming to the wedding, or saying you missed them. “We’re so glad you could come to the wedding. It was a very special day for us and it was that much better because you were there.” “We’re so sorry you couldn’t come to the wedding. As soon as things settle down, let’s make plans to get together.”
If signing your note “Love” or “Much love” doesn’t feel right for the person you’re writing to, here are a few alternatives: “With gratitude,“ “Warmest thanks”, or “Many thanks.” (“Yours truly” or “Sincerely” are more appropriate for a business letter than a thank you note for a wedding present.) Regardless of which of you actually writes the note, both of you should sign it.
A Final Note About Thank You Notes
If you start writing them as soon as you begin receiving gifts, you won’t find yourself with a backlog. Worst case, if you’ve let the obligations pile up for longer than a month, ground yourselves (both of you!) and get to it. People deserve to be thanked nicely, but even more importantly, they deserve to know that their gifts have been received. The last thing you want is a phone call from your new mother-in-law telling you that her best friend has asked if you ever got the cheese board she sent. Don’t let it happen.