Always Thank You Note Questions

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,

 

I know that thank you notes, specifically wedding thank you notes, are a hot topic on the site! I’m getting married next month, and–don’t worry!–we plan to send thank you notes promptly after the big event. 
Here’s where modern wedding arrangements and technology complicates things. We’ve been living together for years.Our family and friends are located all over, meaning that more than half of the wedding guests are traveling out of state (some out of the country) for this thing. The wedding is actually an 8 + hour drive for us. Nobody wants to transport heavy housewares around the country. So, we set up a housewares/honeymoon registry on SimpleRegistry.com. Which yes, we know is controversial, but our guests seem into it for convenience.
Anyway, here’s what I don’t know how to navigate. I’m getting a bunch of notifications that people are sending us gifts through the site. Some of whom are coming to the wedding, some of whom are not. Should I wait until after the wedding to send thank you notes? 
More complex: we’re taking our honeymoon three weeks after the wedding. Some of the cash gift categories on the site are for specific honeymoon experiences (meals, boat rides, etc.). Should I wait until after the honeymoon to send these thank you notes so they can be more specific and we can talk about how we enjoyed the experiences? I know that promptness is encouraged, but “Thanks Cousin! Your cash gift enabled us to enjoy some delicious treats on our honeymoon. We had the most fantastic macarons at an adorable cafe overlooking the Seine.” is a lot more personalized than “Thanks Cousin, for supporting us through a cash gift as we begin our marriage.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Sincerely,
Promptly Thankful

Jaya: Okay, so there’s a lot here! So first off, transporting heavy things across the country. I wouldn’t worry about this.

Victoria: Yeah, people will figure it out. Plus, BTW to EVERYONE, you are supposed to ship the gifts to the couple/the bride’s home! Don’t bring it to the wedding. Because thats a pain for you and its a pain for the couple to get it home.

Jaya: That is a plus side of registries. People don’t want to schlep a stand mixer to a wedding, and I don’t want to schlep one home!

Victoria: Exactly, I mean, even if you buy off the registry, you should ship it to them. The registry will probably even tell you what address it should be sent to.

Jaya: Definitely. Unless there are explicit instructions otherwise.

Victoria: Yeah, always follow directions.

Jaya: But with thank you notes, I think everyone should be doing them as they get the gifts, even if some of them are cash to be used for specific honeymoon activities.

Victoria: Definitely, always always always send thank you notes as you receive the gifts. This way the giver knows that you received it and doesn’t have to wonder. Plus it cuts down on the amount of work you have to do after the wedding.

Jaya: Definitely. And if it’s for something on the Honeymoon, you can just word it about the anticipation. Instead of “Thanks, Cousin, for your gift that let us eat some delicious treats on our honeymoon” you can say “we can’t wait to eat some delicious treats on our honeymoon.”

Victoria: Yeah! And when you get back, there is nothing stopping you from sending them a quick email with a picture of you doing the activity that they gifted!

Jaya: The one I was always the most awkward about was thank you notes to people not invited to the wedding

Because there is that aspect of like…why are you sending me a gift? I know gifts are gifts etc, but it’s weird!)

Victoria; Haha yeah, that would weird me out too. I guess you just say, thank you so much for the [gift]. It is so kind of you to be thinking of us during this special time and we value your support.

And then…let it go?

But yeah, I think its easier to deal with when its older people. I think it would be really weird if a peer sent something and you weren’t inviting them to the wedding.

Jaya: Yeah, and short and sweet always works. Just try not to mention the wedding itself.

I’d like to take this time to encourage people not to send gifts for weddings they’re not invited to, unless it was a courthouse wedding/explicitly very small wedding. Maybe not all people getting married are like me, but you’ll probably be making the couple feel really guilty.

Victoria: And if you ARE a peer who wants to send a gift, please include a card that says “I know you are having a small wedding and I am very happy for you, so I really wanted to give you a little token of my affection with no strings attached.”

Jaya: Yesssss. That’s good.

Victoria: Except try to make it not sound passive aggressive. But if you are close enough to send a gift, you are probably close enough to get the right tone in.

Jaya: Definitely.

 

In My Opinion The Best Wedding Favors Are Edible

First let me state that wedding favors are purely optional. But if you do want to do them, don’t waste your money on stupid trinkets that your guests are going to throw away. Do something edible so that they can snack on the way home or shortly after the wedding. Here is a list of edible favors that I think are great (some are from real weddings!)

  • Beach wedding: salt water taffy
  • Barn/ranch/southwestern wedding: trail mix or some kind of cutesy Cowboy mix
  • Theater wedding: popcorn
  • Related to your honeymoon destination: biscotti for Italy (real wedding!), British candy for Britain, baklava for Greece, etc.
  • Vineyard: local olive oil (real wedding!)
  • Fall wedding: caramel apples if you have $$$$, apple chips or other apple-y themed snacks
  • Winter wedding: hot chocolate (real wedding!)
  • Summer wedding: honey (real wedding!)
  • State fair/circus wedding: cotton candy
  • Baseball wedding: Cracker Jack
  • Colorful/rainbow wedding: Skittles (taste the rainbow)
  • Camping wedding: s’mores
  • NYC wedding: black and white cookies

Can I Turn Down The Job Of Being A Bridesmaid?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

Can you turn down being a bridesmaid and still be friends with the person? I still love her and want to go to the wedding but don’t know how to turn her down. It’s far away from my hometown so it’d be too expensive for me, plus I don’t know her fiance or anyone else in the wedding party that well, and I’m prone to social anxiety in these sorts of situations.

Best,

Not The Best Bridesmaid

TRADITIONAL ETIQUETTE

Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette suggests you take great care in choosing attendants. “Participating in someone else’s wedding is both a pleasure and a responsibility,” and you should consider if this person is reliable, considerate, courteous and fun. The book also brings up “the number of prewedding events requiring a financial contribution or gift seems to be on the rise,” and that “people in their twenties and thirties may find themselves invited to attend or participate in several weddings in the same year,” so to keep that in mind when asking people to participate in yours. However, there is no explicit advice on how to say no to that request.

OUR TAKE 

Jaya: This is a great question, because as much as we’re like “turn down being a bridesmaid if you can’t do it!” we haven’t actually spoken about how to do that, or what the likely ramifications are.

Victoria: It’s a hard thing, and it definitely depends on the reason.

Jaya: To me there are two categories of reasons: circumstantial and, I guess, non-circumstantial. Some people would want to be a bridesmaid, but it’s too expensive, or they don’t have the time, or something like that. And some people, if they had all the money and time and freedom in the world, would just not want to be a bridesmaid. Here it seems like a little of both.

Victoria: If she does want to be a bridesmaid but there are these obstacles, sometimes they can be worked around. So let’s go on the assumption that in her gut she just doesn’t want to do it. I always assume that brides and grooms will be reasonable about this stuff, but that is not true.

Jaya: A lot of people see their wedding party as the ultimate expression of friendship, even though being a good friend and being a good bridesmaid are very different skill sets! And even within being a bridesmaid, there’s a difference between being good at helping plan a wedding and being able to afford to attend four different parties.

Victoria: I mean, I think you should stay away from making excuses like “it’s too far away” or “too expensive,” unless those are the only hurdles. Because you run the risk of the bride negotiating with you about that stuff.

Jaya: Right. I mean, if that’s your only hurdle, fine. But if you really don’t want to be a bridesmaid and you try to get out of it by saying “I can’t afford it” and the bride offers to pay for all your flights, then you’re stuck with having to say “well actually, it’s just that I don’t want to do it.” And that’s part of what you have to figure out yourself.

Victoria: I think you need to have a heart to heart with the bride, say you love her and want to support her, but being a bridesmaid is not something you think you can do, and that you’d better support her as a guest.

Jaya: Yes, and perhaps offering something in return, like helping to craft stuff. I think the best outcome is not you turning it down, but having a talk and you coming to a mutual agreement that this isn’t the best job for you. But again, easier said than done.

Victoria: If pressed maybe you can bring up the money and anxieties, but maybe just say something like “You know me so well, and we’re close enough that you’d ask me to be a bridesmaid, but since we’re so close you know that this kind of thing just isn’t my thing, and I don’t want to be the kind of bridesmaid that disappoints you.” And if they take it the wrong way and can’t understand that, maybe it’s not a great friendship.

Jaya: That’s great, though I imagine a lot of people would press for further details. Just like, “I don’t want to be a bridesmaid” quickly followed by “Why not?” A lot of people just won’t take “it’s not my thing” for an answer. Because the other side of this is thinking about the compromises you make for friendship. Given the choice, no, on most days I do not get up at 7am to get my makeup done and put on a dress I spent $200 on, even though when I’ve been a bridesmaid I had a blast most of the time. You do it because you want to support your friend. Like anything there are parts that are a hassle and parts that are fun, and it’s a balance of what you know you can do that’ll make them (and sometimes you) happy, and what’s too much.

Victoria: If people are just ambivalent about it, I’d encourage them to suck it up and do it. But if you’re dead set against it, you should bow out instead of participating and just being a downer the whole time. And you can even try to negotiate yourself. Maybe say, like, “I want to support you but in this time in my life, the only thing I can do is stand up with you on the day, and if that is fine with you, I’d be happy to accept.”

Jaya: I think there are three stages to this, possibly. The initial rejection, the minor explanation, and then the firm no. Like, “I’m sorry, I love you but I don’t think being a bridesmaid is the right job for me, but I’m so happy for you and can’t wait to celebrate with you on the day.” Which can possibly be followed by “why don’t you think you’d be good as a bridesmaid?” To which you’d have to explain…something. And this depends on whether you just flat out don’t want to be a bridesmaid, or if you would were it not for money/travel/time.

Victoria: Or if you admit that you have crippling social anxiety and this would just not be good for you.

Jaya: Yeah, and ideally that’ll end the conversation, but of course some people won’t take no for an answer, which is where we move into the firm no/possible friendship strain.

Victoria: At that point, you probably just keep repeating that it’s not possible for you to be a bridesmaid, and that’s your final answer.

Jaya: Yes, and realize that no matter how careful you are and how much you make it about your issues, not theirs, there are people who will see this as a major blow.

Victoria: Which is why you shouldn’t do it lightly.

Jaya: And you know your friends best, you know who would possibly take it well and who wouldn’t.

Victoria: And if they take it really badly, maybe they’re not a great friend. I mean, I would feel terrible if I put a friend through a huge financial and emotional burden just for the sake of them standing next to me on this day.

Jaya: I guess it just comes back to our standard advice that both sides should be reasonable. If you’re a bride, try to understanding and not ask too much, or understanding if what you consider normal is “too much” for someone else. And if you’re a potential bridesmaid, understand that you’re going to take on some extra stuff in your life for the sake of a good friend, and weigh what you can handle and what you can’t.

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.

Reception Only Invitations

Victoria's great-grandmother at her wedding in 1906

Victoria’s great-grandmother at her wedding in 1906

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I was hoping to get some advice regarding wedding guest list etiquette. My fiancé and I are getting married in a very small chapel. It is a historical chapel that only has 6 long pews and we will be adding some chairs in the back. The chapel is tucked away in a private wooded area…quite secluded and intimate. Our guest list for our wedding ceremony is 50 people. However, our guest list for our meal and wedding reception is 150. Do you think it is bad etiquette to invite people to one part of the evening and not the other?

Thank you,

Confused bride

 

Official Etiquette:

In my edition of Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette, she says that it’s fine to have a large reception for an intimate wedding. The wording she suggests is:

Mr. and Mrs. Lastname

request the pleasure of your company

at the wedding breakfast of their daughter

Daughter

and

Mr. Firstname Middlename Hisname

on Day, Date

at Location

 

Our Take:

Jaya: Okay so I have my Emily Post book out and am looking for what to do about inviting people to the reception and not the ceremony.

Victoria: Yeah, I know that Miss Manners says you should come up with your approximate guest list first thing to get an idea of the numbers you are working with and THEN find a venue that fits them all. She is a people above all person. I think technically though, you can do this, though I personally do not like it.

Jaya: I know in a lot of cultures it’s pretty common, so I think if it’s that situation, everyone already knows the drill. Okay, Emily Post says basically that this is a way to have a wedding, and that two invitations are needed, so the wording is clear that some people are only invited to the reception. I mean, I think that’s why in a lot of “traditional” invitation packages there’s a separate card with the reception info.

Victoria: Ahhh yeah, that makes sense.

Jaya: I don’t think it’s inherently bad etiquette, though I think that if it’s not what’s usually done in your circle, no matter how carefully you do it, some people may feel jilted. You’re automatically setting up a very clear hierarchy, and if that’s not “what’s done” some people will have a hard time understanding it.

Victoria: Yeah, for sure. And for a lot of people, seeing the ceremony IS important. I actually did go to a wedding where the ceremony was separate and private, but the reception was the next day. So it didn’t feel like as big a deal? I was also about 15 so i don’t think I cared that much

Jaya: Haha right. And yeah, looking at various message boards, everyone has different opinions on this.

Victoria: Yeah, I think that’s why I would tread really carefully. Although, it sounds like it’s already a done deal for her. But for me, I would just avoid any possibility of drama and just have my ceremony somewhere that could fit all my guests.

Jaya: Yeah, so if that’s the case, the invitations should make it very clear that they’re being invited to the reception in honor of the couple. And be prepared to answer questions

Victoria: So many questions.

Jaya: (god so many of these are like “we want everyone at the ceremony but we can’t afford everyone at the reception.” don’t do that!!!)

Victoria: Oh man, it’s situations like this that make me think you should really consider all sides of your guest list and wedding choices before putting any money down anywhere. Like really think through everything you are planning on and what any possible consequences will be. Like that APW post I was reading recently where so many people were like “I wish I knew that having an unconventional venue would mean that I would be responsible for all kinds of permits and tents, and chairs, and floors, and tables, and lights, and portapoties and everything.”

Jaya: Right. We don’t know this bride’s family, or her reasons for wanting the ceremony in such an intimate chapel when their guest list is three times the size. But we’re trusting she has them. And I think she just has to be prepared to explain them to the reception-only guests if anyone asks. Interestingly, a few people on these forums are saying the ceremony is the part that should be open for everyone, while the reception should only be for close family and friends. So, you know, everyone has opinions.

Victoria: Yeah, I think technically weddings in a church are open to all regular parishioners? I would assume she has already dealt with all of the big issues. but I would definitely tell people in the planning stages who are thinking of doing this to talk with their families and really get an idea of what kind of fallout if any they are looking at.

Jaya: Yeah. Also, this might be just me, but 50 guests seems sort of large to get away with “intimate” wedding. I’ve had friends who got married with like, 5-10 people by a JOP, and then held a dinner for everyone after. That makes more sense. 50 people is already the size lots of people have for their full wedding.

Victoria: Haha yeah, definitely. Although, if it’s only 1/3 of her guest list, I guess that’s not SO bad. But I think when you get to the point that 1/2 your guest list is invite to the ceremony and 1/2 isn’t, then it starts to become a bit murky. And if you are only excluding, say, 1/4 of the guests, I think that’s full on rude.

Jaya: Right

Victoria: I mean, it’s all totally subjective. But it’s the situation of all the kids in the class invited to the birthday except for one…it becomes hurtful. And hurting people is bad.

Jaya: Okay, so I think no, this is not inherently rude. But they should start explaining to their friends and family, get the info out there, and see how people react. I think people are much more forgiving if they’ve had a conversation about why this is happening than just getting the invitation and seeing where they fall in the hierarchy.

Victoria: Yeah. Until they think they should be higher up in the hierarchy.

Jaya: Right. And we don’t know their family, but there is definitely a chance that would happen. Offbeat Bride has a great point, that in a reception only invitation, there’s no need to mention the ceremony. You don’t want to bring up the thing people are missing. “We love you but you can’t come to this part — but we still love you … no seriously!” It’s just rubbing salt into a wound that people didn’t even know they had.

Victoria: Although, if there are 50 people there who are all discussing the ceremony that they JUST witnessed…It’s hard to keep it on the DL. Or if they don’t know people were excluded, they’ll be like, why weren’t you at the ceremony?

Jaya: Right. It’s a difficult balance between making sure everyone knows what’s up and also hiding the fact that, well, some people just didn’t make the cut.

Victoria: Yeah. That’s why I don’t like it…its too hard to control that many people. I mean, not control but if you have 5 people at the ceremony, its obvious that its very exclusive.

Jaya: Yes. Which is why I think this bride has to be careful. 5 out of 150 is exclusive. 50 out of 150 is not really? Or maybe it is. It’s hard to draw a line somewhere like that. Okay, so like, hard advice, what should she do if she’s already decided this is what it’s gonna be?

Victoria: Okay, yes, and I want to reiterate, that there’s no real judgment from us about her choice in this. But yeah, definitely separate invitations with clear wording for those attending just the reception something like, so and so invite you to celebrate their marriage at a dinner and dancing (or whatever) reception in PLACE at TIME on DATE. Whereas the ceremony guests would get something like so and so invite you to celebrate their marriage at PLACE at TIME on DATE, reception at PLACE to follow. And I might be so bold as to put something specific on a wedding website like a ceremony page that says “we will be having an intimate wedding ceremony prior to the big party with everyone we love.”

Jaya: Hmm, do you think that’d just be drawing attention to the fact that certain people aren’t invited? Or maybe people invited to the reception would be confused if they went to the website, and saw the ceremony thing? Like, they’d think they could go to that too?

Victoria: It might, but if you’re going to do it, I feel like its better to be up front (yet vague about how intimate) rather than let people find out by calling Aunt Suzy to discuss the wedding and finding out that SHE is going to a ceremony.

Jaya: That’s true. But yes that’s another point–get your family on board.

Victoria: I mean, in the ceremony page, you wouldn’t list the location…

Jaya: I can forsee a lot of aunts being like “well of course the cousins can come to the ceremony” without running it by the couple.

Victoria: Yes, if your parents aren’t 100% with you on this, you are going to have a struggle.

Jaya: Hell that happened to me at the rehearsal dinner. Luckily it didn’t really matter but, yeah.

Victoria: We had some friends get married and one of their moms was inviting random people left and right.

Jaya: Hahaha yuuuup

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I think that the moral of the story is that the more you go out of “the usual” (the usual for your circle)  the more time you are going to have to spend explaining things. And the more you are going to have to have a fully united front with your families. And the more likely are to have drama and or hurt feelings.

Jaya: Right, and you just have to balance what’s worth it to you.