How to Make Thank You Note Writing Painless

If I had infinite dollars, I would only buy  fancy stationery.

If I had infinite dollars, I would only buy fancy stationery.

So in the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about who writes the wedding thank you notes with a poll and the results of that poll. As we were doing it, I was thinking a lot about what I would do if I had a wedding’s worth of thank you notes to write (NB I am not married but I am good at writing thank you notes and organizing large tasks.) Here are some ideas for making the process pretty painless:

  • Write them all on the plane ride to your honeymoon- what else do you have to do with all that time? (cons: you might lose them!)
  • Address and stamp all the envelopes ahead of time, it will save you a step later.
  • Write the notes as gifts come in. It’s reasonable to expect that wedding presents will start being sent to your house about 3 months before the wedding. If you write each note the day you receive each gift, you will hardly notice the time spent! And actually, you REALLY should be writing notes as soon as you get gifts, don’t leave people hanging for 6 months. Emily Post has a great story about a society bride who was getting hundreds of gifts and wouldn’t go to bed until she had written all the notes for the gifts that had come in that day.
  • Make your significant other write half! There is no reason you shouldn’t be splitting the thank you note writing exactly in half. (Make it a contest? The first person to be done with their half gets treated to dinner by the other person? Or gets to pick the date of their choice?)
  • Use thank you note writing as a fun newlywed date night- get some delicious takeout, some wine, and get cracking! You can even share your memories of seeing each guest at the wedding with each other.
  • Just buckle down- write 5 the second you walk in the door every night and you will be done in no time.
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All About Engagement Parties

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I just got engaged and a friend asked me if we’re having an engagement party and what is that?

Sincerely,

Somewhat Unfamiliar with the Wedding Industrial Complex

Victoria: So an engagement party TRADITIONALLY was meant to announce your engagement. Your parents would throw it and it would be a surprise to all the guests.

Jaya: But now we have Facebook.

Victoria: Yeah, so, NOW, it’s a celebration of your engagement. And it’s totally optional and is just for fun. And people should know that they shouldn’t bring gifts, even though a lot of people might. It is totally not expected and you as the couple should not expect it.

Jaya: Yesssss. Though I mean people will absolutely bring presents.

Victoria : But I feel like it is my mission to stop people from feeling like they have to give engagement gifts as well as shower gifts and wedding gifts.

Jaya: I am into that mission.

Victoria: You heard it here first. But yeah, you can have any kind of party you want! You and Matt had a bunch of people come to a bar. And that was the best engagement party I’ve ever gone to!

Jaya: Uhh did I not tell you about the other engagement party thrown for us?

Victoria: Hahah yeah, you did.

Jaya: I mean, it was a fun time, but I’m still slightly worried. I feel like there is some relative who came to our engagement party who probably assumed we expected presents and now thinks we’re selfish for throwing that party when we didn’t even expect anything!!

Victoria : But you didn’t throw that party! It was thrown in your honor and thus you are absolved from any blame.

Jaya: Okay, but how much do we really think that now?

Victoria: I do!!!

Jaya: You are the only one.

Victoria: I mean, its pretty clear who is throwing the party, no?

Jaya: I feel like most other people expect the bride and groom to be the ones orchestrating things. Yeah sure my grandma threw it, but they probably expect that we requested it be thrown. The way that brides ask for showers and bachelorette parties.

Victoria: Ugh, yeah, well, one, brides should stop doing that because its obnoxious. And two, I can 100% tell a parent decided event vs a couple decided event. Our other friends’ parents threw them a backyard BBQ engagement party that was great. And definitely felt like a parent orchestrated event. And I mean, are that many people really ASKING for an engagement party?

Jaya: I’m honestly not sure, but I feel like it’s really hard to tell. I don’t know if all these “couples making gift grabs” stories are real or just the media harping on a couple instances.

Victoria: I THINK, given my generous nature, that it’s a few bad apples

Jaya: Yeah

Victoria: Like your “night before” party was all you guys, and pretty obviously so.

Jaya: Yeah, it’s just so funny to me. I think pretty much everyone accepts that this is exhausting to have this many parties, and yet we still do it.

Victoria: It’s silly! If you don’t want to do it, don’t (unless it is forced upon you). If our writer doesn’t want one, I would say to just tell those people “we aren’t having one.” But yeah, if you DO want to have one (and actually I can understand this more than the array of showers because it is early on when you are still SUPER PUMPED), you can have basically anything you want! I would say that it should occur somewhere in the first few months that you are engaged though.

Jaya: Yeah! I feel like if anything, an engagement party is way more fun, and then it involves both of you. Definitely agree about being on the sooner side.

Victoria: Like within 3-4 months if you are going to be engaged for a year+ or like 1-2 months if you are going to be engaged less than a year. Oh and one thing to point out, if it’s going to be a formal engagement party with parents and family and all of that, it should be HOSTED by someone, not just all the guests pay for themselves. (Your informal, lets get together at a bar thing is fine if that’s a normal thing in your social circle.) But the thing I have been seeing complained about a lot lately is people being invited to engagement parties/showers etc, bringing gifts, and then being told, okay, your share is $50.

Jaya: What?!?! Omg ew.

Victoria: Yes, right? And even if it’s upfront, its not really okay.

Jaya: Like okay, the only time I could mayyyyybe see something like that happening…Wait no, I can’t because if you decide to do an activity like camping or a trip or going to an amusement park that requires people to pay, then you recognize that that is your gift. And that’s more of a bachelor/ette party thing anyway.

Victoria: Yeah, and like, a shower can be split among several hostesses (which is common!) but they should be providing all the food and drinks and decorations and stuff. I mean, I can see a group of friends saying, let’s take the bride out to tea and call that her shower and we will all split it. And that seems fine but it’s more of a group decision than this situation where someone is deciding, “I am going to throw a party, but oh no, I can’t afford the party I want to throw. I know! I will just ask everyone to give me $20! and then we will be set!”

Thank You Note Poll Follow Up

Notes

Results!!!

Thank you for all your responses to our poll about who writes wedding thank you notes. It was quite illuminating!

Since it’s us, we had a great chat about it and the implications of the results.

 

Jaya: First off, we can just cast away these two couples who didn’t write thank you notes?

Victoria: Yes, who DOES THAT! Monsters! (If our one groom who wrote the most notes wants to volunteer himself, we can give him a prize!)

Jaya: Ugh, no thank you notes is the worst. Unless they didn’t get gifts?

Victoria: They got gifts, I can guarantee it.

Jaya: Hahaha. Okay, so what I think is interesting is all the women who justified why they wrote all the notes. There were so many reasons.

Victoria: They did! Well, the ones who left us comments in various places.

Jaya: Yeah. But it was either they had better handwriting, they had more time, they had the address list or the gift list, etc. All reasonable but like…still not reasons, to me. Your husband can read a gift list.

Victoria: Yeah, the handwriting especially is a good example of learned helplessness. Do not stand for it!!!!!

Jaya: Oh man I have shitty handwriting, you just take more time with it. Yes do not stand for that!

Victoria: Consider it an opportunity to practice.

Jaya: You will be writing more thank you notes as a couple. I mean, I will admit that now when it’s just one note at a time, I tend to write it, because I tend to think of it. Next time, remind me to be like “we need to write a thank you note. You do it.”

Victoria: Haha I will! But like, writing 150 thank you notes or whatever, is a LOT of work. And, speaking in generalizations, generally the bride has also done the most work in planning the wedding. So maybe grooms should be writing most of the thank you notes to balance that–kind of a like, you cook and I’ll do the dishes sort of swap.

Jaya: I guess the reason I understand most is impatience. Either I can remind someone else 8 times to write a thank you note, or I can just do it myself.

Victoria: Yeah, ugh. It’s so frustrating- this thing that women have the burden of overseeing that things get done because everyone will be mad at THEM if they haven’t. And when you have to nag and nag it just becomes easier to do it yourself. Until you are doing it ALL yourself.

Jaya: And I did find it interesting that of the same sex couples, all of them split them.

Victoria: Me too!!!! That’s super great. Love them.

Jaya: Learn from themmmmm. C’mon straight men.

Victoria: Seriously. Although, apparently in 55% of couples, they split them equally. Which is good if it is true.

Jaya: Yay! Yes.

Victoria: But I kind of don’t trust it–I imagine there is a degree of “oh we split it, he wrote 20 and she wrote 80.”

Jaya: A few people commented that in splitting it, they wrote notes to “their” list. Which I slightly balk at because you’re married, it’s your collective list now. I believe we did an equal split, and we had a spreadsheet. I started at the bottom, he started at the top, and when I got halfway I stopped. I did it faster though. So for a general tip, make a spreadsheet of all your guests, what they got you, and whether you’ve written a note.

Victoria: I think it could also be a fun date night–like get some takeout, have some wine, write some notes. (Actually I have an upcoming post about how to make writing TYNs fun).

Jaya: It’s just…it’s not that hard. For about two weeks after we got home from our honeymoon I wrote five a night.

Victoria: Yeah! And if you write them as the gifts come in (which you should!) it’s even easier.

Jaya: Oh yeah! We did that, we just still had the bulk afterward.

Victoria: Ahhh, interesting. I always imagine that most people send their gifts a month or two before the wedding (since that it what I do, lol).

Jaya: Lots of checks. Lots of people who send gifts and then bring checks.

Victoria: WHATTTT?!?!?!

Jaya: Yeah that was ridiculous.

Victoria: Brb gotta go get married.

Jaya: So yeah, I’d say a good 2/3 of the gifts came on the day.

Victoria: WOW my WASPy expectations are EXPLODED.

Jaya: Hahahaha but it’s just like, you take your trip, you come back. you spend like 20 minutes a night each doing this.

Victoria: Totally, and like, do them together.

Jaya: Yes, make dinner, and sit down and do it while you eat or something.

Victoria: I like doing unpleasant things together so that you KNOW you are spending equal time on them.

Jaya: Yes! Also, even though I don’t like the idea of his and hers lists, I do think being the one to write notes to each other’s family is nice. I think I wrote all the notes to his aunts and cousins and family friends, and he did them to mine, even though yes, every note is from both of you.

Victoria: Awww yeah. I like that, because then especially for the bride’s family, they know he is a decent person. Where, hopefully, with his family he has always been sending thank you notes so they already know he is a decent person.

Jaya: Yeah. I have heard, elsewhere, the argument that if it’s important to just one person in the couple, it’s their responsibility. And I just want to go on the record that I wholly disagree. I’m pretty sure I was more concerned about thank you notes. But the point is we’re married and it’s a joint responsibility now.

Victoria: Yeah! And like, there are probably going to be tons of important stuff that comes up in your marriage that is more important to one person but needs to be split. I always say this about chores–like yeah, maybe one person has a higher level of cleanliness, but unless you want to live in a pigsty, the messier person needs to make an effort to- not to mention that dirt and stuff can actually permanently damage your home if it isn’t cleaned regularly and then you lose resale value or your deposit and that’s bad for your whole family. And if you can’t manage to write a few thank you notes, how reliable are you going to be about your kids/pets/other important but boring chores?

Jaya: Hahahaha yes.

Victoria: Not to say that your brand new marriage is going to fail if one person refuses to help write thank you notes, but it seems like a thing you might want to notice and nip it in the bud. And accept no excuses!

Jaya: Yes! God sometimes I have no patience with people. Just do it. Just shut up and do it.

So You Want To Have A Theme Party…

The Pretty Little Liars always have the right costumes

The Pretty Little Liars always have the right costumes

Your basic party is pretty easy to plan. Clean the house, put out some snacks and drinks, turn on some music, and your friends will generally make a good time of it. And sometimes parties have a natural theme, like a certain holiday. But sometimes you want to throw a party around a specific theme or activity. You may want to have your friends over for board games, or a craft night, or a costume party, or even to watch a specific TV program. This takes a little more finesse to pull off. On one hand, it’s weird if only a couple people have taken the activity seriously. On the other, it’s weird to force people to participate in something. Here are a few tips on how to throw, or attend, a successful theme party.

If You’re The Host

1. Make it really clear what the party is about. I’ve seen so many emails along the lines of “there will be food and drinks and games and music,” which reads as a list of optional things available to you should you decide to attend this party. And then you show up and apparently games are the whole point. Make your invitations specific. Say you want to host a Monopoly night, or marathon The Sopranos, or have everyone learn macrame. Tell people explicitly what they need to bring or wear if that’s important.

2. Not everyone is going to be great at the theme. Once Victoria hosted a “masquerade” party, and requested everyone dress in sexy, fancy attire and wear masks. I think we all wore masks for about five minutes before our faces got sweaty, and some people dressed fancier than others, but it was okay because 1. we’re all friends and 2. Victoria is a great hostess who would never in a million years make someone feel bad for not adhering to a theme. Also, every year we host a Halloween party, and though we will lightly jab at people who don’t show up in costume, we understand that not everyone has a costume/wants to wear one.

3. If tone/theme is important to you, you need to provide it yourself. Basically, the bigger you want the theme to be, the less you can rely on people to do it for you. Not that your friends aren’t great, but let’s say you want to throw a Mad Men party, where you all eat 1960s food and drink 1960s cocktails and dress like you’re on the show. Asking someone to pick up a six pack for a party is one thing, but asking them to research vintage cocktails and be on top of all the ingredients for them is another. I’m sure you have close people in your life who would do this for you, but part of being a host is, well, hosting. If it’s important to you that everything match this way, you’re going to either need to spend the time and money pulling that together, or delegate with the risk that it won’t be your vision.

4. Understand if people decline because they’re not into the theme, or choose not to participate. As with anything, you have to know your audience. Not all of your friends are going to have an outfit at the ready that makes them look like they’re in Mad Men.  Not everyone wants to marathon the same TV shows as you, or is into crafting, or knows what people eat at a 1970s disco party (quaaludes?). Sometimes this means your guests will try their best and fall short, sometimes it means they’ll show up because they want to hang out with you and not really participate, and sometimes it means they won’t come at all. You cannot make someone as enthusiastic as you, and that’s okay!

5. Relax, nobody will notice the details as much as you. This is a blessing and a curse, but try to see it as a blessing. Give yourself a break. Don’t spend a week worrying that the ratio of vegetarian to non-vegetarian appetizers is off, or asking your guests a hundred questions about what they’re bringing, or bemoaning that half the people showed up without the right costumes. Of course these things are frustrating, but at some point you have to let it go, mainly for your own sanity, but also because the most important thing for a host is to appear relaxed and happy. If you’re stressed, your guests will pick up on that vibe, and no one will have much of a good time.

 

If You’re The Guest

1. Make an honest attempt to engage in the theme!  Themes are no fun if nobody participates, so if it’s clear there’s a certain activity the party is centered around, go for it! Wear a costume, bring themed favors, suggest what board games you’d be excited to play. Don’t try to make it just a normal party if that’s not the host’s intention. And if you don’t know what you should be doing, be honest. A few weeks ago I went to a potluck, and one person admitted she wasn’t a great cook and offered to supply cocktails. It was great, because she clearly wanted to be at a party with all her friends, even if making an elaborate fish entree wasn’t her thing.

2. If you really can’t do that, don’t go. Do not go to a Game of Thrones party if you hate Game of Thrones, no matter how many of your friends are there. You will not like it. You will either be forced into conversation after conversation about Game of Thrones before watching the show, or you’ll be that person trying to change the subject and steer everyone away from it and it’s just not a good look. If you can’t make a good faith effort to engage in the central activity, just don’t go!

3. If you’re the type of person to notice negative details, keep it to your-fucking-self. The last thing a host needs is being told their 1960s decor isn’t really authentic. Keep your mouth shut.

Apartment Showing Etiquette

Hey Ladies,

Got a good question for the website. Tis the appropriate season…what’re you supposed to do while the landlord/real estate agent shows your apartment? Just got word of mine being shown from 6:30-8pm tomorrow night which is normally when I get back to my apartment, make dinner, veg out in front of the TV.

Sincerely,

Open House Blues

 

Jaya: Firstly, I think most rental contracts have something about this.

Victoria: Do they? Man, I need to read mine.

Jaya: Like how much notice you should be given when someone is going to show your place. Like, they can’t just barge in on you.

Victoria: Oh right. Yeah, it’s something like 24 hours, right?

Jaya: Probably, I mean I’m sure it’s different everywhere but I feel like this is a thing.

Victoria: Yeah, it definitely is.

Jaya: Anyway, my theory is that if you can make yourself scarce, do so, but don’t bend yourself backwards.

Victoria: If its just a quick apartment viewing it probably won’t be more than like 10-15 mins, so you can always go for a nice stroll around the block.

Jaya: Absolutely. But right, if it’s a blizzard out, don’t worry about feeling like you need to leave. Just maybe confine yourself to one room and don’t be naked.

Victoria: Haha oh right. Yeah, and if they are scheduling some kind of open house or something, I do think its probably better to just plan on being out. But I would hope they would give you decent notice for that.

I remember when I was a kid we were trying to sell our house and it was on the market for a few months and there were pretty regular open houses- my parents would take us to the movies.

Jaya: See that’s pretty cool. Get your landlord to pay for movie tickets.

Victoria: Hahaha, yeah, right!