Thank You Note Etiquette

Q. Hi Jordan!

I was recently part of a bridal party and gave gifts at the engagement party, the two showers and the wedding, but never received thank you notes (handwritten or electronic). My mom has also ordered gifts online for weddings and never gotten notes from the recipients, which worries her that they never received the gift.

How do you think this should be handled?


A. Oof, these situations can be so awkward. This happened to me last summer, actually – we gave a gift of cash to a couple at a wedding, but since there was no designated envelope drop the bride’s brother told us he’d deliver it. As the months went by without a thank-you note, I became increasingly worried that the envelope had been lost along the way, and that the couple would think that we hadn’t brought them anything.

Here’s the thing about thank-you notes: you shouldn’t expect them, necessarily – gifts should theoretically be given without expectation of anything at all in return – but when there’s a formal event (such as a wedding or shower) when thank-you notes are traditionally sent out, failing to receive one can inspire feelings ranging from indignation (“They didn’t even have the courtesy to thank me?!”) to worry (“What if the gift never arrived?”). And if you haven’t received a thank-you note, you may have cause to worry, since tradition holds that they’re sent following any event when printed invitations are mailed out (if you’re in e-vite land you still might receive an emailed thank-you…but you might not).

Not receiving a thank-you note when you’re expecting one can be a straight-up awkward situation for exactly the reason you said: you want to make sure that the gift arrived safe and sound, but you don’t want the couple to think you’re lecturing them or judging them for their impropriety. The best way to resolve this is by being courteous, but direct. If you sent a physical gift, ask how they’re enjoying it, or say something along the lines of “Just wanted to check and make sure that the blender got to you in one piece – you know how the post office can be with deliveries!” If you gave cash, try this: “I meant to mention – I left a card for you guys in the gift pile, but it was so small I’m worried it might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’m sure it’s made it’s way to you by now, but I wanted to check to make sure.”

The truth is, it’s the person who didn’t send the thank-you note that should be feeling uncomfortable, not you…but hey, they’re your friends, they’re presumably in the midst of a busy time in their lives, and things happen. Once you know the gift made it to them, it’s water under the bridge. Just be sure to send out prompt thank-you notes when it’s your turn to save your guests from feeling similarly nervous.

P.S. For those of you confused as to why Ferris is illustrating this post, that’s him singing Danke Schoen. And I’ll take any excuse to use a photo of Ferris I can get.

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