No Thank-You: Newlyweds who disregard thank-you notes

by EPI Staff on October 6, 2010

Q: I attended a wedding last year and haven’t received a thank-you note from the newlywed couple. It’s been more than six months since I sent the gift. Should I call to make sure they received it?

A: If you’re genuinely concerned that a gift has been lost in the mail, you could check with the store or post office. But I suspect what you really want to do is give these newlyweds a wake-up call about the missing note. And you may certainly go right ahead. The couple deserves embarrassment. Neglecting to send thank-yous is a chronic problem made worse by the myth that newlyweds have up to a year to pop those notes in the mail. The actual deadline is right away, with three months as the outside limit. What might make it easier is that thank-yous are no longer the brides responsibility–today’s grooms can do their fair share of the scrawling.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Annoyed October 6, 2010 at 4:45 pm

While this is understandable, upon my wedding I wrote and mailed all of our thank-you notes within the month. We did not have the address for one of my husband’s aunt and uncles because they were in the process of moving. My husband said to mail it to his father, who sees his brother regularly. At his house THREE YEARS LATER I found the note stuffed in a drawer with the silverware. I was mortified, we’ve seen this couple a few times since and they’ve never said a word about it. I wish they had! Then my sister in law threw me a baby shower, where again, I wrote and had the notes ready to go within a month. She said “no, you’re busy with the newborn. I will make sure they go out, I wanted to put a picture of the baby inside anyway”. Being sleep deprived and stupid, I thanked her for her help. Now a year later… I found the notes left in a stack on a bookshelf. What do I do? I can’t just hand them out now, but I look ungrateful and rude. One of the ladies whose card didn’t get handed out has been quite terse and rude to us, so I think she may be miffed over the note.

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Nicole October 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

It’s never to late to send a thank you note

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Lindsay November 3, 2010 at 4:24 am

My husband and I (of 2 years) are just now getting around to putting together a scrapbook of our destination wedding. So we are sorting through items to put in the scrapbook and came across a bundle of thank you cards that were never mailed out. WE ARE MORTIFIED! He thought I had mailed them, and I thought he had taken care of it. Obviously in two years time, we have since been in contact with all of these people and nobody mentioned it. I don’t know what to do now. I mean, I know it is never to late to say thank you but should I hand write a note explaining the mishap, or just mail the cards as if I just wrote them yesterday? We are so embarrassed…

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Audrey March 21, 2012 at 3:16 am

Good social etiquette’s underlying rule of thumb is to show humility and gratitude at all times and whenever possible. I would be completely embarrassed and feel terrible, as well, but it is *never* too late to make repairs. I hope you decided to go ahead with your instinct and send them with a handwritten explanation.

The people not sent the hidden thank you’s most definitely noticed their absence. They followed that rule of thumb, and chose to be humble and gracious by not mentioning it. They will be so grateful and feel so loved to receive the thank you and the note of explanation.

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Carlisle July 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I don’t understand why you wouldn’t ask and check up on whether or not the task was completed when they were sent out. It doesn’t have to be nasty, just, “Oh, did you send out the thank yous last week?” Then you have an answer.

And no matter how long after the event before you realize what happened, you send out the thank you notes. You can include whatever excuse or explanation you want, but….there you have it.

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Politically correct exhausted October 7, 2010 at 5:28 am

Forget thank you cards. What is the etiquette on hanging Christmas stockings for daughter-in-law or son-in-law? We hang our grown kids stockings still, but as they marry, must we also hang a stocking for their spouse?

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Jodi October 9, 2010 at 4:32 am

Either hang a stocking for the son/daughter-in-law, or repurpose the stockings to be couple’s stockings and fill it with things for each of them.

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Alicia October 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm

When they married in they became family it would be very unwelcoming to hang your kids stockings without hanging their spouses stockings and when you have grandkids hanging their stockings too. So either forgo stockings entirely or do stockings for everyone who will be at Christmas. Think how excluded you would have felt is your in laws had excluded you from Christmas in this way.

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Gayle November 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

We have two married daughters, and our solution has been to overfill their stocking on the first Christmas after the wedding for both of them, and then the happy couple gets to take it home. In following years, Santa can fill their stockings at their home.

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Just Laura October 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Re: Christmas stockings
Every time I have been invited to a friend’s Christmas dinner, the mother or sister has always taken time to have a stocking ready for me. I have always been grateful at being so obviously included by these kind families. My fiance’s family even saves my stocking at their house.
No, of course you don’t HAVE to hang a stocking. But is it really so difficult to take 25 seconds to hang a stocking for someone who is a member of your family, then spend $5 putting some fruit or candy in it? I’m sure including them in your Christmas tradition would be appreciated.

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Diane October 9, 2010 at 1:22 am

My daughter and her husband married over 2 years ago in Las Vegas and didn’t tell anyone for 6 months. They’re both in the Air Force. The church wedding was in Sept 201o in Illinois which is home to them both. They did not open wedding gifts before returning to their base across the country. They opened their cards on their way back to their base-just the two of them. My daughter doesn’t feel it’s anyones business who gave what for cash gifts. I do. If they had opened gifts and cards with both sides of the family (which was the original plan) before returning to their base, should they have shared the amount from each guest? The mother of the groom and myself planned the wedding for them since they were in Iraq and across the country. The newlyweds did pay for most of the wedding. I feel that I would like to personally thank guests when I see them for their generous gift. 136 guests RSVP and they received just over $5,000 cash. Given her father and I are in an ugly divorce, I only helped plan and haven’t given any gift yet and her father did not give her a gift. The grooms parents picked up the bar tab for their gift. Am I out of line??
Wondering

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Graceandhonor October 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm

All you need say to your friends is, “Thank you so much for attending Jack & Jill’s wedding and the lovely gift you gave them.” As soon as they return, you should present your gift to them. We hope they have mailed thank you notes by now. It is no one’s business how much they received from whom. That is between the givers and recipients.

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Jane October 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm

What is the correct etiquette for responding to relatives’ and business partner’s invitations to their children’s important events when we no longer wish to give a gift? In the past, we have given numerous wedding, baby, graduation, birthday, and various event gifts to two different siblings families & their children, as well as my husband’s business partner’s children. We get all the invitations, but we have yet to receive a thank you note from any of the recipients (who are all over the age of 16 through 25 years of age). We have decided that “no thank-you note; no future gift.” However, we worry that we will be the ones who appear ungracious (even tho’ we know that is not the case). Is there a way we get the point across to them that we expected thank yous? In the future, we can send a simple card with a nice congratulatory note, but I am not certain that they will get the message nor make the connection to no note:no gift? I’ve thought of giving them a box of thank you notes and a book of stamps as their gift, so that it’s easy for them to thank the other gift givers. I welcome all ideas and advice!

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R November 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Jane, I can’t think of a subtle way of solving this problem, either. The best course of action would be to send a gift and if you do not receive a thank you note in a couple of months, to say something to the parents (or recipients if you are close enough). It feels like an awkward conversation, but how about a simple, “I just wanted to make sure Jenny received our gift — we haven’t heard anything from her about it.” It is totally appropriate! Please don’t do nothing — these teens and young adults would really benefit from the lesson of how important thank you notes are.

Another idea — along the lines of your thought to give notes — why not give a book on etiquette for a gift, especially a graduation? There are cool ones for teens.

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Lindsay November 5, 2010 at 2:50 am

My husband and I (of 2 years) are just now getting around to putting together a scrapbook of our destination wedding. So we are sorting through items to put in the scrapbook and came across a bundle of thank you cards that were never mailed out. WE ARE MORTIFIED! He thought I had mailed them, and I thought he had taken care of it. Obviously in two years time, we have since been in contact with all of these people and nobody mentioned it. I don’t know what to do now. I mean, I know it is never to late to say thank you but should I hand write a note explaining the mishap, or just mail the cards as if I just wrote them yesterday? We are so embarrassed…

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Kim January 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm

My daughter is planning a oestination ceremony just her and the groom yet she wants a bridal shower and reception is any of this appropriate ??? HELP mom of the bride

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Jane November 13, 2010 at 4:45 am

“R” – Thanks for your reply about the no-thank you notes. I’ve asked the parents; they always tell me their adult children appreciated the gift. But the kids never write a note, nor do they even say thank you verbally. One mother (my sister) said, “Oh she’s so busy now that she’s married…they won’t be writing thank you notes.” Interestingly enough, my daughter (their niece & cousin) also got married this summer. We sent nice gifts tomy sister’s daughter; her daughter, the bride, regifted a Walmart Gift to my daughter’s wedding. So, that’s why I wonder about future gifts. Then, my husband’s partner’s daughter (age 25) works in the same office as my husband does. She didn’t thank us for the $200 cash wedding gift we gave her, so we asked if she got it. She said, “Oh, yes, we did.” Then, she didn’t even verbally thank him for the baby gift he left on her desk ten months later. She opened it and took it outside to put it in her car. Never even said thank you – and I know it was something “good,” for it came off her Babies-R-Us registry. See why I’m ready to give up?

Now for Lindsay…I say, go ahead and put the old thank you notes in larger envelopes and mail them, with a sweet, yet horrified note explaining exactly what happened. If I had been one of the gift givers, I would certainly appreciate the honesty, but I would really be grateful for the thank you acknowledgment. Better late than never!

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Laureen May 31, 2011 at 3:19 am

Jane,

For the ones who never thank you are are seemingly never grateful, I say stop giving them gifts. Peggy post gives this advice when giving gifts for teens, but I think it’s fitting here:” Stop giving, but explain. Tell the kids that since they’ve never said a word about your gifts, you figured they didn’t need or want anything.” http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/etiquette/continue-gift-giving-aug06

Then spend the money on yourselves. :)

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Audrey March 21, 2012 at 3:24 am

As a 28 year old high school teacher, it is mortifying to see how young adults act these days. Social etiquette is beyond a good portion of them. Since I deal with their parents, I can honestly say that many of them are just plain not taught how to act in certain situations. The parents may not even know, either.

Please do NOT let this go without saying/doing something to bring this faux pas to the recipient’s attention. It is usually merely ignorance and at your suggestion of sending a hand-written thank you for gifts, the recipient should say, “Oh, that is a great idea!” If they do not and act offended, you have an extra good reason to not send them anymore gifts!

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a mom December 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

What is the purpose of a gift? To get recognition that you gave a gift or to let someone know you care for them or to help them out? Who cares if anyone sends a thankyou…while it is nice to hear it, it seems too many are getting caught up in the big picture. We loose our blessings when we boast that we did something good…just be the better person and gift if you want if you get a thankyou then cool but don’t get so upset that you didn’t get one…

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Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

People like to receive Thank-You notes for the following reasons:
*It lets the giver know that the gift was actually received. Sounds silly, but how many times have packages been delayed or lost in the mail? Wouldn’t you want to know that crystal set you sent arrived safely?
*The giver wants to know how it was used. My grandmother gives a modest check every year, and loves to hear what I bought (almost always a book or a sweater). It makes her happy.
*The giver wants to know that the gift was appreciated.

If a person spent time and money to get me a gift, the least I can do is spend 3 minutes telling the person “thank you for doing this for me.” As far as I’m concerned, that is the big picture: Letting others know their efforts are appreciated.

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Graceandhonor December 7, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Go, Laura, Go!

No note? No gift for the next ocassion! Why should we keep giving to unappreciative, thoughtless people?

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Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I know you are far younger than she, but that’s exactly what my grandmother says.

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Graceandhonor December 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm

And, aren’t you glad she cared enough to declare this standard of behavior in your family?!

Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

To GraceandHonor:
I will admit, growing up I believed TY notes to be tiresome and a chore (at best). But after I went to college, my grandmother would write TY notes for the smallest things, and take that opportunity to fill me in on how she and my grandfather were doing. It was then that I realized how enjoyable they could be, and I’ve since tried to find as much pleasure in doing them as I found in reading the little notes from my grandma. My grandparents are in their 90s, and I won’t have them much longer, so these TY notes are treasured while they last.

Alison January 28, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Hi,

I am getting married in 4 months. In regards to thank you’s I was planning to send them out as I receive wedding gifts. I told that to a married friend today and I was told that it is bad etiquette to send them out before the wedding? Is this true?

Thanks!

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Just Laura January 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I’ve never heard that one! I like your idea better.

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Lora April 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

A dear friend of mine recently wed, and she asked me a question that I don’t know how to answer: the couple just opened their presents, but some of the gifts were not marked clearly so they don’t know who the giver is! They have a list of who was invited and of course a list of who they could identify, but what is the proper procedure from here? They truly would like to thank their generous guests! Thank you.

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Laureen May 31, 2011 at 3:22 am

As embarrassing as it might be, it’s best to call the people she didn’t get gifts from and explain the situation. Then she can match up the gift with the person, and write the appropriate thank you note. In this case, it’s best to be honest, and you’ll keep your friends and family happy. :)

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susanne June 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

My daughter in law sends no thank you notes. Not for shower, wedding or new baby, shower, baptism gifts. Friends ask me about it, I am embarrassed. What can I do?

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Alicia June 9, 2011 at 9:58 am

Well your son should have been sending out the thank you cards for his side for wedding, new baby, baptism. Did you raise him to send out thank you cards for gifts? If not you should ask your son why he has not sent out thank you cards for his wedding, baby gifts, baptism ect. Let the shower gifts and the daughter in law go as you are her mother in law not her mom but when you make it known to your son that you expect him to continue to be sending out thank you cards like he has been all his life then his example will make it clear for his wife and your new grandkid. Since your friends are his side of their family it is your sons main responsibility to be sending out the thank you cards that are to both of them or for his kid not his wifes. Expecting it of your daughter in law but not your son is likely to come across as sexist. Also be careful to model good thank you note behavior and make sure you are sending thank you notes for birthday mothers day or holiday gifts that your son or daughter in law is sending you.

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Just Laura June 9, 2011 at 10:06 am

Alicia’s answer is a hundred times better than mine, because she remembered that men are perfectly capable of writing a “thank you” note as well.

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Just Laura June 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

Normally I’d say you should stop sending presents, as she clearly does not appreciate them. However, even your friends are affected by this. I would sit down and kindly (not accusingly) let her know that your friends’ feelings are hurt, since they don’t know if Daughter-In-Law likes the gifts, or even received them in the first place!
Let her know the nice thing to do when receiving a present is to let the person know their generosity was enjoyed. Don’t say “you’re not polite” or “the correct thing to do is…” You already know the correct thing to do, but perhaps her parents didn’t teach her this.
If she says that she’s too busy (aren’t we all?), mention that these people took time out of their day to shop for something, bring it home, wrap it and send/give it. Surely she can find 2 minutes during commercial breaks or over the lunch hour to write “thank you” and place a stamp on it?

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Mary Smith November 7, 2011 at 12:51 am

My “new” daughter-in-law never sent me a thank you for her bridal shower gifts…what should I think..is there a subliminal message there. I attended two showers for her, plus provided the favors for both. Very hurt!!!

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Elizabeth November 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I think the easiest thing to do would be to mention it in passing to your son. Just say, “Oh hey, son, I’ve been meaning to ask you – did DIL like the gifts I gave you both for the wedding showers? I haven’t heard back with a thank you note, and I just wanted to make sure.” If you raised him right at all, it’ll get right back to her and the thank-you cards should be immediately dispatched.

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Winifred Rosenburg November 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Unfortunately, there are many brides out there who don’t send thank-you notes at all. You’re probably not the only one who didn’t get one. The good news is it’s unlikely it was a personal attack although I realize that’s not the best consolation.

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Mary Smith November 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for your comment. However, I asked other people (friends and family), if they received a thank notes and they all acknowledged that they did receive a thank you note. They were all taken aback by the fact that I did not receive one. So do you think there is still a subliminal message there. Thanks for input.

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Just Laura November 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm

…or it was lost in the mail. My grandmother was furious one time that I hadn’t sent a thank-you note for a rather generous gift. I actually had! She received it two months later, with a two month-old post mark. We have no idea what happened.
Sometimes events are out of one’s control, and we shouldn’t go out of our way to assume the worst in others.

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Mary Smith November 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Thanks Just Laura. I thought it might have gotten lost in the mail, too. However, is it a coincidence that my daughter (who doesn’t live with us) never got one too. The DIL doesn’t like my daughter either. I am trying to be real positive here, but the more I stew on this the more I’m convinced that it was done on purpose. I really do appreciate all the upbeat comments and I am trying to keep an open mind. Here is another scenerio…the day of the wedding the bride (my DIL) was paying for the bridesmaids make up as their gift for being in the wedding. However, my daughter ended up paying for her makeup because her name was inadvertently (on purpose?) left off the list. I think I’m screwed.

Jasmine June 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

On the night of my wedding we handed everyone who attended a Thank You gift (a framed leaf for a our fall wedding) and a thank you note. We went around and personally thanked each table and had a “drink” with them during our cocktail hour and after dinner. We even allowed our parents to take extra thank you gifts to those who they thought would appreciate the gesture. When we returned from our honeymoon, we settled into life and I never thought a second more about thank you notes since I felt that I had give lots of thanks.

However, my grandmother still felt like I need to send out thank you notes, I provided her with one for her time and effort.

Have I done enough or should I still send out thank you notes to everyone else?

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Winifred Rosenburg June 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I’m guessing that the thank-you notes were not specific to each person and gift? If so, you still need to send personalized thank-you notes that say “Dear Aunt Martha, James and I were so excited to see the blender you gave us…”

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Chocobo August 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Generic thank you notes are not appropriate for wedding gifts, because a generic note takes no time or effort in comparison to a written letter specifically thanking each person for what they have given. They have taken the time and energy to give you something, and you in return need to acknowledge their effort.

If you received wedding gifts, or favors from people who helped you in your wedding, you must write a personalized letter thanking them for their gift, specifically mentioning what they gave you and acknowledging your relationship to that person.

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isedso August 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm

We got three wedding invitations to three out of town weddings. Three gifts were sent. Zero thank you notes. All three of these brides were strangers to us. We apparently are just the rich distant relatives. The lesson that we learned: Don’t worry about offending them by not responding to their invitation. No more gifts.

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Rococo November 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

When we got married, I sent thank you cards to everyone! Even the people who didn’t send gifts, or the ones who sent cheques with the wrong name spelling so we couldn’t cash them – even to the usher and best man who didn’t give us a gift! I figured it was polite to thank everyone for making the effort to attend. Sadly, not everyone is so polite. My teenage niece never says thank you when I send her gifts and two friends of mine have neglected to say thank you when I’ve sent them gifts for their new babies. I’m left wondering if they even arrived! I did email one of the two to check I had her address right, but she didn’t reply to that either. How can people be so rude? I don’t expect a card – a simple verbal, text or email thank you would be enough. Some people!

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Stephanie August 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

Although this is an old post, I would like to add a comment for anyone else that comes across this, as I have.
There is another reason to send Thank You notes, you send them for yourself.
When you take the time to sit down and think of someone else and what they have done for you, it helps you become a more gracious, thoughtful human being. Not just in the eyes of those around you but the very act itself, helps to round you out and more appreciative of who you have in your life and your world around you, it can humble you and you may actually feel good about yourself, knowing that you gave back to something of yourself.
I have sent out four wedding gifts this year and not received one note, however, I do believe I will hear from some of them by the end of the year. But, a girlfriend of mine, who works full time and has 5 grandchildren as well as her ill parents living in her home, was leaving for a missions trip. I gave her a cash donation just 3 days before she left for the trip and could not believe the thank you note, I received 2 days later in the mail. She is busy enough but it was more important to her to take 2 minutes out of her schedule to say, I appreciate you. Wow, that is what builds relationships! Even though I have received thank you’s thru email and on the internet, a hand written not, in my mailbox, always takes my breath away because I know they sacrificed a little bit of themselves for my benefit!

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Katie K August 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Stephanie, You make an excellent point!

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marilyn French November 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm

My step-daughter in law never sent us a thank you for the wedding that we paid for and her husband never thanked us for his birthday gift. I think that it is totally rude and selfish – I like and expect a thank you note. Their next present is a box of thank you cards!

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Andee September 6, 2013 at 4:18 am

I don’t understand how so many ladies can get their feelings hurt by this. I’ve been to 3 weddings where I gave gifts and never received a Thank You card. I’m perfectly fine with it, didn’t hurt me at all. Its a silly card. I usually give a money gift or put the gift on the table and its gone when they leave, so i know they got it. I plan to send Thank You card because I know if i don’t, people will throw a fit. I hate writing those stupid things, I’d rather just call and tell people I appreciate their gift. Perhaps that’s why I don’t mind when i don’t get a card, I know how brutal they are.

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Elizabeth September 6, 2013 at 7:10 am

Personally, I don’t think a phone call is a bad substitute for a thank you note. But many weddings are huge and the guest list can involve many people from the other side who are unknown to the bride (and sometimes even only barely known to the groom) and visa versa. A note is an easier way to thank those people, and to avoid making 100 phone calls, each of which could last far longer than the 3 minutes it takes to write a note.

You may consider gift-giving a meaningless obligation, but if you have limited resources or if you spent time picking out a thoughtful gift to celebrate a loved-one’s day, then it’s reasonable to get upset when your gift goes unacknowledged. No one *likes* writing thank you notes, but it is important to acknowledge and recognize when someone does something nice for us, it is important to show appreciation for that.

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Winifred Rosenburg September 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

I actually love writing thank-you notes… seriously! If you think of what you’re trying to do, show appreciation for people who were generous to you in a personal way, it becomes less of a chore. Plus I’m one of those people who loves getting letters in the mail so I feel it’s a good opportunity for me to give that joy to others.

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Nancy September 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I tell you as a mother of two boys it was the hardest thing to get them to write thank you notes. But, I still did it.
It takes 5 minutes to do and it goes a long way with th gift giver.
I attended several weddings in te past year and didn’t receive thank you’s from2 of them. One I mentioned something to th mother of the groom an she replied, didn’t he text you?
What is wrong with the young people today???? Simple polite appreciation for a gift is something that shouldnt EVER be don’t by text, email or orally.
Sit down write that note and be appreciative!!!!

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Emmanuel December 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say
that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so!
Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice article.

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Graceandhonor December 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

It is your grandmother’s knack for infusing her notes with news and personality that I wish we could impart to the naysayers for ty notes. It is that human connection, the moment taken to share something of ourselves and lives with someone who thought enough of us to give us something that is the most important component of a ty note. Whenever we get a posting from someone who doesn’t understand this, I feel very, very sad for them and their families and all of us. It is uplifting exchanges such as acknowledging generosity that help form the warp and weft, the foundation, of our society’s tapestry.

And, Laura, I could be your older sister, or most fabulous, youngest aunt :) .

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Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Well that would be fine with me. From what I read on some of these etiquette sites, we could all do with more fabulous, considerate relatives.

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