How to write the perfect thank you note

Alicia & Ryan's thank yous 7

The thank you note is one of those things that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in wedding discussions. It’s not as exciting as having your invitations printed, not as fun as opening presents and as soon as the big day is over, you’re so relieved that the planning is over that the last thing you feel like doing is another wedding job.

Firstly, a big fat do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do disclaimer: we actually haven’t sent all of ours out yet (will explain why next week when I’ll post more photos of the notes). But I promise that, despite a bit of a hitch, actually writing them did not take long at all. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get to that stage:

Write a list
When you are preparing your guest list, add a column for gifts and fill it in when you open them.

Get prepared
Have your thank you notes printed at the same time as your invitations. Not only will it save you the headache later, but it can save you money due to more efficient printing and shipping. While you’re about it, buy twice the stamps and print double address labels so once you get back from your honeymoon, all you need to do is grab a pen and start writing.

Get help
If you’re lucky like me, your new hubby will want to do his share (sorry, ladies, he’s mine). But even if he doesn’t put his hand up, still ask him to do his side of the family and friends. If he’s not confident with it, he might like to read some of yours first (or you could send him this article!). And if he’s worried about his handwriting, let him know you don’t care if it looks like it’s written by a monkey, and neither will the recipient.

Don’t overdo it
If you sit down with 100 sheets of blank full-size paper, of course you’re going to be overwhelmed by the task of filling it, so choose pretty stationery that’s appropriately sized. You don’t have to write War & Peace, a short but heartfelt note is perfect.

Now that you’re all prepared, here’s my approach to writing a thank you note.

State your business
The first line is fairly obvious: say what you are thanking them for, for example, ‘Thank you for attending our wedding’. If they weren’t able to attend but sent a card or gift then say something like, ‘Thank you for thinking of us on the occasion of our marriage’.

Thank them for their gift
Don’t just say thanks and nothing else, though. Say not just that you love it, but why, such as: ‘The beautiful vase fits in so well with our decor.’  Better yet, add something to describe what benefit it has to your new married life together. This works especially well for gift registries, cash and gift cards, where you are not so much thanking them for their thoughtfulness in choosing a gift, but for what the registered item means to you. For example, ‘Thanks to the power drill we purchased with your gift card, we’ll now be able to tackle the projects we want to do to make our house a home.’  or, ‘The honeymoon you contributed to was the perfect start to our marriage and we have created so many wonderful, lasting memories.’ See how that will make the recipient feel all warm and fuzzy rather than just a signature on a cheque?

…even if you don’t like it
There’s no way around it, this is always tricky. I know it’s tempting to say you like the life-size medieval unicorn statue just so that Grandma doesn’t get offended, but never lie. It will only come back to bite you when she decides since you loved it so much she will add to your unicorn figurine collection every birthday from now on. Simply thank them for thinking of you and honouring the special occasion with a gift.

Acknowledge special circumstances
There’s a good chance that many of your guests went above and beyond to celebrate your day with you, so be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their effort. Did they have to travel? Did they have to get the night off work during a busy time at their new job? Has she just had a baby and hasn’t slept or worn anything but stretchy pants in months? Don’t mention the pants, but you get the idea. Same goes for anyone who helped out in some way. I’m not a fan of wedding speeches where the couple thanks everyone down to their cousin for recommending the florist, but your thank you notes are an ideal opportunity to do this. Of course you’ll want to make special thanks to your parents, bridal party, MC, and ushers. But don’t forget your sister-in-law for helping you handmake your centrepieces, your uncle for picking out-of-town guests up from the airport and your friend for providing the bracelet for your ’something borrowed’.

Talk about the day
So that the whole thing is not just thankyouthankyouthankyou, it’s nice to mention something about the day, such as ‘It was amazing being surrounded by all of our loved ones,’ ‘I’m so happy that the whole family was in one place for the first time in years,’ or ‘The day was everything we imagined’.

Sign off
You might like to leave it at that, or you can wrap it up in a few days depending on circumstances. For example, we had a number of guests who have since become engaged so we could finish off by saying ‘We can’t wait for your big day!,’ (only do this if you are absolutely sure you are invited!). If they were unable to attend, you can express your hope to see them soon.

Now, I’ve used the example of a wedding here, but the same applies to any time someone has given you a gift or done you a favour.

I will leave you with this thought: I recently received a letter from a family friend thanking me for sending them a condolences card following the tragic loss of their son. I can’t even imagine how hard those letters would have been to write. All of a sudden, writing a note to thank our wedding guests didn’t seem like so much of a chore. It reminded me I have a lot more to be thankful for than presents and I should tell people more often.


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