Separate Thank You Notes for a Joint Gift

[Via Emily Orpin]

[Via Emily Orpin]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

If a mother and daughter gave me a joint gift for my wedding shower, do I need to send them separate thank you notes? They live at different addresses.


Splitting My Thanks

Official Etiquette

In this situation, you would send separate thank you notes. The exception is a large group gift, such as a work team chipping in on something, you can write one note and send it to the main organizer to pass around.

Our Take

Jaya: Do you need to write a thank you for both of them?

Victoria: Yep! That was easy!

Jaya: I think so too.

Victoria: Yay, we agree!

Jaya: With the caveat that, if the daughter is like in college and likely just threw her name on the card (like I did and still do too often), a card to just the mom will probably be fine.

Victoria: Just like, if you are inviting a family of parents and kids but the kids are grown up and live on their own, they also need their own invitation.

Jaya: That’s a good rubric! If you sent separate invites, send separate thank you notes. Which made sense cause like, in college, invites to things like that got sent to my parents house.

Victoria: Oooh yessss, that is a good summation of my point!

Jaya: Yeah. God why are thank you notes so involved?

Victoria: Haha I mean, you could just send them for everything and not worry about it.

Jaya: Side note: handwritten notes are oppressive when you’ve injured yourself and can’t actually handwrite (ED: Jaya recently shaved the tip of her thumb off using a mandolin. Stay away from mandolins!). Stop being so ableist, handwritten notes.

Victoria: LOL, yes, well, I think people will understand in that case and also then your husband or partner should write them (which they should be doing anyway.)

Jaya: what if he’s come down with a terrible case of having illegible handwriting?

Victoria: Raise your sons to have good handwriting! Don’t let women to continue to carry the full burden of emotional labor!

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Wear Nude Hose Anymore But I Still Do

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It used to be a fact of life that when women wore skirts and dresses, they wore nude panty hose or stockings. Even to the point during WWII when there was a shortage of stockings, women drew the seam (because stockings had seams back them) up their leg in eye liner so that they would at least LOOK like they were wearing them. I confirmed this with my grandmother who worked as a secretary in New York City during the war. My mom started working in the late 60s and wouldn’t have dreamed of going to work with bare legs and wouldn’t have dared prooooobably until the 90s?

In fact, it was so ubiquitous that the original 1922 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette even addresses them. Even my 1967 version of Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette only says:

A woman is well-groomed when she looks fresh, neat, clean, and well-pressed. This means a daily, and often twice daily, shower or bath, fresh underwear and stockings daily or twice daily, competent home or professional hairdressing at least once a week, well-manicured hands, no chipped nail polish, runless, wrinkless stockings, and shined shoes at all time, even for housework.

I do have a book called How to Be a Lady published in the year of our lord Two Thousand and ONE that says, “If a lady expects her legs to be seen, she either shaves her legs or wears hose.” Granted, a book called How to Be a Lady is probably a little bit behind the times, but I can’t imagine a modern etiquette book insisting that it is de rigeur to either be freshly shaved or wearing hose. And thank goodness for that! There is absolutely no reason for anyone to insist on that and I think a large portion of the US at least is coming around to it. Outside of a few extremely conservative and stuffy offices, you NEVER see employee dress codes that specify that women must wear hose with skirts and dresses. And to think, pantyhose was a HUGE improvement on wearing a girdle with garters and stockings.

However, you can pry hose away from my extremely pale, cold, dead legs. I LOVE them! Like I said, I’m very pale with very sensitive skin so bare legs take me straight to chafe city. And I hate sweaty, bare feet inside my shoes. I think the key to understated hose is to try to match your skin color- so I don’t have Rockette-suntan legs clashing with my Irish white arms and face, and to try to get anything that is labelled something like “silky sheer.” The sheer helps your natural color come through even more and the silky has a tiny bit of sheen so your legs aren’t weirdly matte, plus they feel nice.

Anyway, the great thing about the modern world is that we have options and we can rock our legs au naturale, shaved, or clothed in nylon prisons (to hear some people tell it). Tell me all your preferences in the comments!

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have To Be So Strict About Wedding Anniversary Gifts

The paper anniversary?

I’m coming up on my second wedding anniversary this year. We didn’t get each other gifts last year and it’s likely not a tradition we’re going to follow (though we DID see Mad Max: Fury Road that night and a yearly viewing sounds like a fine enough tradition to start). However, were we to be traditional this year, we’d get each other gifts of cotton. Or paper if we’re going by other conventions. Or iron if we’re going by really old conventions. Or China if we’re going by the modern conventions suggested by the Chicago Public Library.

I can’t be the only one who finds these gifts puzzling. What about the tenth anniversary suggests tin? Why should I be supporting the ivory trade for the 14th? What about paper seems romantic? Where the hell did these come from?

Most sources suggest that giving certain gifts for certain anniversaries revolved around the luck-bringing properties of those gifts. A few sources also point to the trend beginning in Central Europe. “Among the medieval Germans it was customary for friends to present a wife with a wreath of silver when she had lived with her husband twenty-five years. The silver symbolized the harmony that was assumed to be necessary to make so many years of matrimony possible. On the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding the wife was presented with a wreath of gold,” according to one source. The other anniversaries probably trickled down from there, and by the 20th century less valuable and durable materials–crystal, tin, wood–represented fewer years. There are also theories about what each one represents, from “paper is a blank page” to “iron is a symbol of a sturdy foundation” blah blah blah.

Many older etiquette guides mention these gifts not as ones the couple should exchange between themselves, but gifts guests should give the special couple on “anniversary weddings,” or celebrations on their anniversary. Invitations to the first anniversary, the “paper wedding,” “should be issued on gray paper, representing thin cardboard,” according to The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette of 1877. The tin anniversary was supposed to be printed on oxidized tin cards, which is some hipster bullshit. The author also notes, “it is not unusual to have the marriage ceremony repeated at these anniversary weddings,” though notes a repeat ceremony is usually reserved for the silver or gold anniversaries.

Golden anniversaries could be somber occasions, according to The Home Manual of 1889, “too often fraught with sorrowful memories of the dear ones who have passed into the shadow-land.” The silver one is much more fun, with the couple “still in life’s prime instead of being near the end of their earthly pilgrimage.” You could also celebrate the twentieth anniversary as the linen wedding, but not if you’re Scottish, as they “have a superstition that one or the other will die within the year if any allusion to it is made.” Or maybe it’s unlucky for everyone.

According to Social Life: Or, The Manners and Customs of Polite Society, there is a particular protocol that must be observed when celebrating a golden anniversary. Anniversary poems are read (whatever those are), telegrams from those who couldn’t attend are announced, and there is a recitation of Longfellow’s “The Hanging of the Crane.” It is noted, however, that “good taste” would keep anyone from repeating the original wedding ceremony, so Social Life and The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette can duke it out over that.

Even though having specific silver embossed invitations and gifting conventions for an anniversary seems overly complicated, there’s something about it I like. It’s elaborate, but contained. Keep the celebrations to the milestones. I’m not saying the couple can’t choose to celebrate every anniversary themselves–they should! Get gussied up and go out! Just that families don’t need to be throwing parties every year. Can you imagine if, in addition to the seven weddings you’re invited to this year, you had to go to anniversary parties of all the weddings you were at last year? I’d die.

Separate Thank You Notes for Shower and Wedding Gifts?

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

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

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Do I need to write two thank you notes if a person gave me both a shower gift and a wedding gift? What if they arrived very closely together?


Doubly Thankful

Official Etiquette

Separate events, separate gifts and separate thank you notes.

Our Take

Jaya: So do you need to write two separate thank yous?

Victoria: Yep. That was easy!

Jaya: Really? I think if you’ve already received both gifts you can put them on the same note.

Victoria: Hmmm, I supppppose.

Jaya: Unless one is explicitly for the bride and one is explicitly for the couple.

Victoria: Which, technically the shower implies (Ed: Traditionally shower gifts are specifically for the bride alone). But these days its not so much.

Jaya: But if you got a towel set at the shower and a toaster in the mail a week later why shouldn’t that be both in one note?

Victoria; Haha yeah. Thats a good point. Just semantics, I guess. Two events, two notes. Like people who have birthdays close to Christmas- it’s nice to have the division.

Jaya: Right. it’s whether you see it as two events or like, all tied to one big event.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, to an extent often, the shower is just the women, so if the woman was part of a couple, you’d be thanking her both for the gift and attending the shower. And then thanking the couple for the wedding gift.

Jaya: Umm single people give gifts too, Victoria. Jeez.

Victoria: As a single person, I know they do, lol.

Jaya: Nah I bet you’re rude and never give gifts.

Victoria: I mean, I would probably still send two, but you are also probably fine with one. I might also posssssibly change my mind depending on the age of the gift giver. Younger people probably won’t care as much as older people, so if it was like a 60 year old friend of your mom’s….then probably two notes. It’s kind of rude to do that, have different levels of thanking, but I see it more as peacekeeping.

Jaya: Ehhh, hopefully future generations understand that one note with lots of thanks in it is intent enough. That’s not politeness, that’s expected custom.

Victoria: Yeah, true. I would say, in generally, go with your gut!

Jaya: Yeah!

Victoria: If you are afraid that person is going to whine to your mom that you are the RUDEST if you don’t send two notes, send two notes, otherwise, one is probably fine. IF the gifts really did come THAT close together.

Jaya: And then maybe don’t invite them to future things.

Victoria: Haha well, politics and blah blah blah. But once you are married you probably don’t have to worry about another big event

Jaya: Good point.

How to Decant Port

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was watch my dad decant port and other old wines. Not only because I was a strange child who grew up to run an etiquette website, but also because it was a big production with glassware and candles and expensive wine! Luckily, when I was home for Christmas, my dad was kind enough to go through it with me and let me take pictures for your edification.

The reason why you have to decant port and certain other good wines is that it should be fairly old and thus will have accumulated a lot of sediment which you don’t want to drink. So the idea is that you pour it very slowly into another container, such as a decanter while shining a light through the bottle and you stop pouring when you see the sediment start to approach.

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

First, you need to collect everything you need: your port (which should have been set upright for at least several hours if not days prior to let the sediment sink to the bottom), your decanter (or a jar or other container), a candle, and a funnel (you can use any kind, it doesn’t have to be a fancy silver one).

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Second: Position the bottle over the candle so you can see through the glass into what is happening inside.

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Third: Pour slowly and watch for sediment. Get a bigger candle if you need to.

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Four: Stop when you start to see a lot of sediment coming out. Optional: filter the remainder through a coffee filter into a glass so you can see just how much gross sludge isn’t getting into the nice port you will be drinking! (It’s hard to tell in the picture but there was SO MUCH you guys and it was all gooey!)

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Photo courtesy Victoria Pratt

Five: Enjoy! If your decanter is made out of older crystal, it might have lead in it, so it should be drunk right away and not stored long term!


If you are looking for more dad content, Jaya’s book (co-written with Matt Lubchansky), Dad Magazinecomes out April 26!