What do do about late wedding thank-yous?
November 11, 2008 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Bad wedding etiquette: Got married in May. Haven't sent the thank-yous out yet. Aside from being ashamed of ourselves, what should we do?

My husband and I were married on May 3rd of this year. It was a lovely wedding and our friends and family were very supportive with their help, time, money and gifts. After we got back from the honeymoon, we bought the thank you cards, but they never got touched. We have a thousand excuses for why we haven't gotten to them yet, but the short of it was that we both work two jobs, have basically opposite schedules and we both felt incredibly burnt out on the wedding thing.

It's not that we aren't grateful. We managed to get the shower thank-yous out in a timely manner and also gave our wedding party and participants thank you cards and gifts during the event weekend. It's all those cousins, great aunts and former co-workers that we picture sitting out there fretting over whether or not we actually care about them enough to send them a thank you.

So, we would like to still send them out. Should we try to explain in the note why the thank you is so late? Should we try to be cute about it or straightforward? Should we send everyone pictures or something to make up for the lateness? I'm at a loss for ideas.

I'd like to say that they just won't sweat it or aren't thinking about it, but I've already gotten comments from relatives and knowing our families, they are taking it personally.

posted by bristolcat to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would still send them out. For what it's worth, if I had sent you a gift, and not heard anything yet, I'd still be happy enough to get a thank you, even if it's late.

I'd also be happy to hear that you are doing well, that life is busy, and that you do appreciate the gift. I don't think there's any real need to apologize, or try to make up for anything. A heartfelt thank you is always nice to hear, even if it's not so timely.
posted by Richat at 9:10 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's not really that late. The latest I ever received a thank you note for a wedding gift was more than a year after the fact.

I would just send them out now without acknowledging any lateness. If you can include a picture, fine, but that's not required.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:11 AM on November 11, 2008

Isn't the etiquette standard that wedding thank-yous should be sent within six months following the wedding anyway? Just send 'em. No need to apologize or be cute.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on November 11, 2008

Don't apologize. Just sit down to do it now. Send your husband to the CVS to have a bunch of photos printed on the spot while you write. The only thing that's going to make you feel better is putting those bad boys in the mail slot.
posted by letahl at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2008

I would suggest you turn to Miss Manners for your answer. My understanding is that you have six months to send out thank you cards, so as of today your cards are officially one week late. Not that big a deal.

This Miss Manners column suggests "no excuses but plenty of self blame and effusive gratitude: 'I have been hideously remiss in telling you how much we adore the whatzit, which is as useful as it is beautiful. Every time we see it we think of you with gratitude and pleasure…' blah blah blah."

In other news Miss Manners uses "blah blah blah" in her columns. Surely not!

On preview, just do it like everyone has said.
posted by ChrisHartley at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

My understanding is that you have a year to do it, and after that the door is closed and you must live with the shame. So do it and be done.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:16 AM on November 11, 2008

That you have months to send thank-yous is a myth. In the war era it was considered okay to take months to send gifts, but thatnk yous are always due promptly.

That said, not having done them promptly doesn't excuse them from being done at all. Whether you want to be serious or funny depends on the tenor of your wedding and your relationships. You might choose to be funny with your close friends, but send Great Aunt Matilda something that just says 'We're sorry this was so late in coming...'

Now that you've had those gifts for a few months, you can add to the personalization of your thank you notes by mentioning how you've used the gifts they've given, as well.

"Thank you so much for the espresso maker. Though we use it every day, we're most grateful for it on Sundays -- we always start the day with a cappuccino and the Sunday Times crossword. It's one of our favorite parts of the week."

If you send people thank you notes like that, they won't even notice that they're 6 months late.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:17 AM on November 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would send them out ASAP and I would apologize for the lateness in a sincere and straightforward way. The fact is that failing to thank someone for a gift is wrong, and when you are wrong you should apologize.

I have sent numerous gifts, including wedding gifts, for which I was never thanked, and I can tell you that as the months tick by, my opinion of the person doing the non-thanking hardens in rather a negative way. If I later receive a note that apologizes for the lateness, I think, "Oh, no biggie, I can certainly understand that!" but if I receive a not that ignores the lateness, I just think "Huh. About time."

No need to send pictures or anything to make up for it. Just explain that you truly appreciate their gift and are sincerely sorry for your tardiness in expressing your gratitude.
posted by HotToddy at 9:21 AM on November 11, 2008

Just to clarify, my understanding is that you have 12 months after the wedding for all of the gifts/notes/announcements/whatever to happen, and after that be done with it.

I also make no claim to authority, but this is what I was told in May when we were sending out our announcements from February.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:22 AM on November 11, 2008

nthing send them out. don't make any excuses. by all means apologize, but not overly so. if you can personalize and put the gift in context, extra points.

pick a night, turn everything off, put on some music and get it done.
posted by micawber at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2008

Note. Not not.
posted by HotToddy at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2008

My wife and I got married in June and just wrote the last of our thank you notes a few weeks ago. We went with the theme "thank you for being part of our lives" for most of them instead of focusing only on thanking people for their gifts and attendance. We joked about lateness on some, and treated others as letters instead of thank you notes depending on our relationships with the recipients. No one ever gets anything personal in the mail anymore, so we found most people were happy to get a card with some thought put into it even if it was late.

The real trick is to make yourselves start writing. My wife and I went to a coffee shop and resolved not to come home until we had written and mailed the last 40 of our notes. Once you have written a few, figuring out what to say is not so hard. Depending on how many guest you had, you can probably write all of them in two or three nights.

You should set a specific date and place away from distractions and just write until you are done. You will feel better.
posted by abirae at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2008

Just do it now, don't apologize. Everyone knows that weddings and the lives of newlyweds are a bit hectic.
posted by grouse at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2008

Congratulations. My wife and I also married on May 3rd this year. We split our thank-you-notes up. She just finished all hers last month. I still have eight left. I believe desuetude is correct that etiquette calls for six months. So really, you're okay.

I did five a night and was on a roll until I started hitting the people I barely knew. The last eight I have are all people my parents invited. I feel awkward trying to write those notes.

I wouldn't call attention to being late. Just send it as you would have a few months ago.

As far as family mentioning the lateness of the notes, my Mother-In-Law was questioning the notes as soon as we got back from the Honeymoon.
posted by studentbaker at 9:28 AM on November 11, 2008

I'm struggling with this same issue, actually (married at the end of June). Only 4 left!

Oh yeah, the relatives especially are checking the mail every day for a damn thank-you note.

I think the picture bonus is a good idea, but don't let an extra task delay you further. Try to make the thank-you as genuine as possible (not a cookie-cutter thanks) to show you do actually care. My policy has been to not put in an excuse -- seems like that would serve only to highlight the issue. If I were to put in an excuse, I wouldn't go beyond "sorry it's taken us so long to write" or "please forgive our dilatory nature." Really, there isn't much you can say beyond that, you know?
posted by Ultra Laser at 9:30 AM on November 11, 2008

We waited 4 months to do ours which my wife thought was obscene and shamed me every for day that passed... but we sent them out and nobody, as far as we know, has said anything bad about us behind our backs.

For what it's worth I don't think you have anything to apologize for. You'll be making the gesture, albeit late. And honestly, does anyone actually read these things or care? I know I don't. Of course I am one of those weird people who would rather have you not waste the paper.
posted by fusinski at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2008

I have the same problem. I had an event that people sponsored me in that also happened in May that I still (not for lack of trying) haven't written thank you notes for.

My solution? They all get a Christmas letter this year! It's ostensibly one of those yearly update letters, but halfway through will become a "oh, by the way, thanks for the [money, etc]. Here's what's happened with that, and here's what will be going on in the future." note. They get the thank you, I don't feel like I'm admitting I never sent them, everyone wins!
posted by niles at 9:37 AM on November 11, 2008

Just send 'em. Maybe elude to how life as a married couple is busy, but that's enough. This helped me write mine.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:44 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe elude to how life as a married couple is busy, but that's enough.

No, please don't. Being married doesn't automatically make you any busier than the rest of us, and it doesn't give you an excuse for being late on the thank you notes, either. Just write them, no excuses- I like the part about including what you've been enjoying about the gift over these months.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:51 AM on November 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Almost 10 years and living with the shame.
posted by schwa at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2008

I was under the impression that you had a year. You could mention how time flies, but personally I would not make any direct reference. You know and they know it's late - it's more important to do it than to think about how it hasn't been done. Lots of people equate the note with basically being a notification that you got the gift. So that's another reason why people may be curious about the lack of notes.

FWIW, I know exactly who never sent me a thank-you note for a wedding gift, but I have no idea when I received one from the people that did send a note. I am not a Miss Manners type at all. So...if I can remember who didn't send them, your guests will probably remember too. But, like me, they may not remember that you sent them late.

I find that writing out a few drafts on the computer helps. Then you have a template that you can modify if you want. It becomes mindless writing and not quite so challenging as staring at the blank notecard. It also doesn't seem as overwhelming because the hard part (figuring out what to say) is done before you get started. Good luck.
posted by ml98tu at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2008

If I went to your wedding, no need to thank me for a gift or for attending. You probably fed me, boozed me and showed me a good time. Maybe I brought a guest and you did that for her too.

Also, I was there because I like you and we're either friends or family*. I know I'm in the minority, but I'd really rather you NOT go the the time, trouble and cost of sending me a thank you card. I'll just assume that you were happy I attended, and that you either liked my gift or have returned it for something that you do like. You have too many things to do (including each other) to be spending valuable (naked) time on this stuff.

Nonetheless, I'm sure my fiance will have me sending out thank you cards after we're married this July.

*If I'm your boss or employee, send the thank you note already. If I'm a coworker acquaintance, do whatever.
posted by terpia at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2008

Oooh oooh!

I almost forgot I've received two thank you cards that absolutely rocked.

Awesome card #1
The couple in question picked out a funny mad lib, edited it to include some wedding type stuff and printed cards. You gift went into one of the blanks and your name/s went into another, along with a third blank that described how much they enjoyed your gift. I'm not sure they used the same mad-lib for everyone, but I think it sped things up and kept it fun.

Awesome card #2
Envelope. Inside? A picture with the couple using your gift. That was it. No words. Just a smiling couple and your gift. Some of these probably had to wait a while if the gift is used seasonally, and I have no idea what they did for people who didn't give, or who gave things in duplicate that were returned etc...
posted by terpia at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2008 [5 favorites]

Did I say single people specifically *aren't* busy? NO. Life changes can make you busy. getting married, getting divorced, moving, changing jobs, starting school, getting a puppy it's how life works. Crests and troughs. The "gee we sure are busy being married!" thing falls under the category of "pleasantries" and is not any sort of excuse, or value judgment, just conversation.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:29 AM on November 11, 2008

Response by poster: Wow! So many great insights and comments here. I feel so much better about this now. I really like the idea of enclosing a picture of us using the gift. So funny! If I got that from a couple, it would really flatter me and make me smile. I don't know if we'll have time for that or not, though.

We'll probably just power through them here and determine on a case-by-case basis whether an apology is necessary or not. Thanks so much for all your help!
posted by bristolcat at 10:38 AM on November 11, 2008

We're in something of the same boat though our wedding was in September. What spurred me into action was that my father called and said he'd been to $familyfriend's house and they mentioned they hadn't gotten a thank you. My father was mortified and gave me a bit of a lecture. Basically I decided that smooth familial relationships took precedence over whatever I was so busy with. They took time out of their schedule to get you a gift and/or attend your wedding, so you can surely find time. I mean this not to make you feel bad, just to look at the practicality of it. Take a day off if you must, get up early, skip going to the movies or watching TV. Outsource some household chore. There's always a way to make more time. Shame really isn't productive at all. Get into action, and you will feel better immediately.

posted by desjardins at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2008

Don't worry about it- they're not THAT late, so don't bother apologizing. But yes, still send them out. I just received a lovely thank you note with messages from both the bride and groom. It will take more time, but people will appreciate a hand written personalized note so much more than a generic "thank you for your thoughtful gift."
posted by emd3737 at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2008

bristolcat, the idea of the gift picture really is so nice, but if you have no time you might try something we did: we just included our favorite wedding picture in wallet-size with our thank-yous. It's a nice reminder of the day for people and a little way to say thanks.

Just to echo everyone else about being gracious and restrained: We're sorry it's taken us so long to reply; we've meant to write you sooner because we so enjoy the X and this is how we use it; here are a couple of life highlights since the wedding; I hope you and spouse/kids are well.

Glad you're feeling better about it!
posted by melissa may at 11:04 AM on November 11, 2008

I recently (well not recently) went to a wedding 3 months ago and just got the thank you card. I actually forgot all about the wedding until I got the card. People know that being just married there are about 1,000 things to do. Also you could combine Xmas and Thank you cards into one. Just a thought.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:09 AM on November 11, 2008

Whatever you do, don't continue to procrastinate until it's ridiculously late. The guilt just gets worse, especially as you get older and inevitably become more responsible. My hubby and I are about to celebrate our 8 year anniversary, and while I sent out *most* of our thank you notes, there were a few I kept putting off until it was just way too embarrassingly late, so I just never did. Since we are from the South, I'm pretty sure those people will think less of me forever because of my neglect to write them a simple, quick card. Not something cool to have to wonder about for the rest of your life. Do it now!
posted by susiepie at 11:56 AM on November 11, 2008

desjardins: I'm in the same as the OP, saw your message, got inspired, suited up for a freezing bike ride in the rain, road to the post office and then realized that today is Veterans Day and the fricking post office is closed. Maybe tomorrow...
posted by ChrisHartley at 11:58 AM on November 11, 2008

Chrishartley: OMG I'm sorry. I totally forgot!
posted by desjardins at 12:43 PM on November 11, 2008

I got married in May as well, and what helped me was putting together a semi-canned message to write in each card. I had to keep reminding myself that people wouldn't be comparing notes with each other, so if they followed the same structure it wouldn't matter! This got me over my writer's block and kept me moving so I could just get them DONE.
posted by Coffeemate at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2008

If it makes you feel any better, there are people like me (and grouse and terpia) on your guest list who aren't waiting for a thank-you with bated breath. Every time I receive one (and I never pay attention to how much time has elapsed since the wedding), I marvel at the thoughtfulness of people who have already thrown me a party with an open bar and are grateful that I attended.

Send 'em out now, don't bother with the fact that they're "late," and keep in mind that people not expecting the thank-you (but who will appreciate it) will karmically balance out those who are miffed at your "misbehavior." Guilt-be-gone!
posted by kittyprecious at 2:43 PM on November 11, 2008

desjardins: I'm in the same as the OP, saw your message, got inspired, suited up for a freezing bike ride in the rain, road to the post office and then realized that today is Veterans Day and the fricking post office is closed. Maybe tomorrow...

You can get them at the grocery store probably.
posted by Airhen at 4:50 PM on November 11, 2008


you might want to make sure those are "forever" stamps, in case it takes you until after the next price increase (or two) to send out those thank you cards, otherwise those cards are going to look silly with a bunch of one-cent stamps on them.

i disclaim any personal experience on that.
posted by jimw at 8:40 PM on November 11, 2008

On several occasions, we've received thank you cards 6-8 months after the wedding. It's common and really no big deal.

I do recall that one card included a simple Word-formatted update of the first six months together officially hitched. It was a simple, casual note, but it remains the one thank you card I recall a good five years later. You might consider doing something similar. I would imply the apology, rather than make it a formal "we apologize for the tardiness of this update, but it's been quite a whirlwind..." sort of thing. It's not necessary--your update will do the job of reminding them how crazy life is 6-12 months after a big life change, and getting hitched ranks as one with the biggest shockwave. Be honest, direct, and light-hearted.
posted by prinado at 9:55 PM on November 11, 2008

Seriously, the only thing you can do at this point is to find a time machine. Seriously this is so important that it is WORTHY of the time it will take you to find one.
posted by thegmann at 1:16 AM on November 12, 2008

Thank you notes are so nice and personal that the recipients will be delighted to receive them. You will only feel more awkward as time passes, so get them done. Sit down with the spouse and maybe a good friend whose handwriting will not be questioned by Great Aunt Sally, and drink some wine, and they won't be awful, and you can get them done in an evening or 2.
posted by theora55 at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2008

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