Fighting fire with fire?
September 9, 2006 3:00 PM   Subscribe

My cousin's fiancee had a baby last year. I couldn't attend the baby shower, but sent a nice gift anyway. No thank you note. (the relatives I talked to who went to the shower didn't get one either.) More than month ago, I went to her wedding shower and gave her another nice gift. So far, no thank you note. Now, what should I do about a wedding gift, or should I get off my cranky high horse?

I know I'm not a Miss Manners expert here, but come on. My cousin and the finacee are nice people. I like them, but I'm not necessarily close to them. My mother points out that the fiancee was on bed rest for several weeks at the end of her pregnancy, so she had more than enough time to dash off notes to people for the baby shower (especially ones who weren't there to get a verbal thank you). At the wedding shower, the guests got a little favor with a card attatched to it that said, "thank you!" so we were joking (actually, seriously wondering) whether that would count as the thank you note. My aunt jokes we should slip a package of thank you notes onto the gift table at the wedding, but she's sure she'll get blamed for it and then the real bickering would start.

My cousin's mom (my aunt, who is an extremely nice person who I like very much) knows that her future daughter-in-law didn't send notes at least for the baby shower, and I'm sure she's mortified, but what can she really do? And my cousin, who is a nice guy who I think should know better, doesn't have broken fingers and could certainly get in on the thank you note writing action.

I was planning on giving them a check for the wedding, but my husband suggested last night that as a little dig to them we just regift this salad server set that we got for our own wedding and haven't used. It's nice, it just isn't our taste. So is that a tacky answer to this situation? Should I just, as I said, get off my cranky high horse here? I don't necessarily need thank you notes to be validated as a person, but jeez. What do you think? What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (77 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've never received a thank-you note for a wedding gift, or any other sort of gift. I don't think you should expect any thing. A gift given grudgingly is no gift at all. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2006

I don't necessarily need thank you notes to be validated as a person

Obviously that's not the case.

Just ignore it and regift the salad server set. There's nothing tacky about regifting unless you make a big deal about regifting. That way, you get rid of something you don't use, they get something they might use, and you get to go back to clucking your tongue in disapproval when you don't receive a satisfactory thank you. Everybody wins!
posted by billybunny at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2006

For what it's worth, I've been to about 5 weddings and have *never* received a thank you note. Different families/friends have different soical norms though... I wouldn't take it as a slight at all.

If you feel that regifting the salad server set is a "slight", then I wouldn't do it. Slighting is for Thanksgiving dinner, not someone's wedding.
posted by Vantech at 3:10 PM on September 9, 2006

I have to disagree here. I have been to numerous weddings, showers and birthday parties-- I have gotten thank you cards for 95% of them.

Regift the salad set.
posted by oflinkey at 3:17 PM on September 9, 2006

Only regift if it's something you know they'll use. It's a wedding present, not fruitcake.

And stop obsessing about this issue. Get them a nice gift and be happy for their nuptials.
posted by mkultra at 3:18 PM on September 9, 2006

Hell yes, give them the salad server set. If they live in America, they know they should be writing thank-you notes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:24 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Huh, I had no idea you were supposed to give out thank you notes.
posted by delmoi at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2006

You are giving a gift to be nice, not for praise from them. Deal with not getting one and stop being so cranky.
posted by Loto at 3:32 PM on September 9, 2006

Nope. People should have some class. Trust me, in my fam, we are pretty laid back but you can bet your behind that with any grad/baby shower/wedding shower gift comes a thank you card later. It takes what, 4 seconds to jot a quick note? There's nothing wrong with a little courtesy. People are too quick to just expect everyone they've ever known to give them gifts, the least you can do is send a thank you note.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:46 PM on September 9, 2006

i live in america and have never received a thank you gift for a wedding present and to be honest i have never once thought i was supposed to
posted by phil at 3:49 PM on September 9, 2006

A thank-you is not optional -- not in my opinion. You took the time to pick out a gift, presumably wrap the gift, and then send it on its way -- it's your time and money. You deserve a thank-you -- a simple verbal or preferably a written thank-you for your gratitude. It takes much less time to write a nice card than it does to earn the money to purchase the gift. Salad set , with a box of thank-you cards, is my suggestion.
posted by seinfeld at 3:53 PM on September 9, 2006

I don't think regifting is really so bad as to constitute an answer/payback. I mean, it's not as if you used it and hastily reassembled it in the box before wrapping it up. It's just a middle-of-the-road wedding gift that won't be interpreted as a "little dig". An answer would have been to give her a package of thank you cards for her bridal shower/bachelorette party gift, which would have been a terrific gag gift, but oh well. Doing so now, however, would be a bit passive-aggressive.

Personally, I would think that after going to the wedding shower, you wouldn't even need to get them another gift at all. And that's not reactionary, but reasonable. Although I'm not too familiar with wedding attendance etiquette, it seems that unless you are particularly close to the bride or the groom, one gift is enough, especially for poorly mannered people such as your cousin and his fiancee.
posted by apple scruff at 3:57 PM on September 9, 2006

not sure what you should give them for a wedding gift ... but for their first anniversary, a box of stationery and a pen seems more than appropriate
posted by pyramid termite at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Do what one of my relatives does every time she sends me a gift (I send thank yous btw). In your card, write something like "I always like to hear that my gift was received."
posted by Xalf at 3:59 PM on September 9, 2006

I don't necessarily need thank you notes to be validated as a person,

Erm...sounds like you do to me.

For what it's worth, until I'd been through the whole engagement / wedding / baby thing, I had no idea you were supposed to give thankyou notes / cards. Saying thankyou in person was, to me, more honest and heartfelt. But then I'm a man. My wife, on the otherhand, obsesses over sending them out.

And, for what it's worth, I think my "received thankyou note" score is sitting at about 50%. The idea has clearly penetrated culture, but has not got to everyone. As you say, since they didn't send thankyou notes to anyone else, either, clearly it's just not in their radar. Do you think sending them the "regifted" gift is going to somehow magically make them wake up?

Oh look honey, it's a second hand salad server! Oh shit! We must have forgotten to send thankyou notes!

Yeah, right. A gift is a gift. And a truly given gift requires no thanks.
posted by Jimbob at 3:59 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thank you notes should not be seen as signs of appreciation. A couple who cranks out 60 thank you notes may appreciate a gift less than someone who didn't realize thank you notes should be sent. Don't take not getting a note as a slight against you unless you have something else to go on (such as other people receiving thank you notes). Just assume the person was appreciative and be thankful you had the means to give the gift in the first place.

Everything shouldn't be about you, gifts especially.
posted by null terminated at 4:00 PM on September 9, 2006

You seem to need some kind of validation, if it's bothering you that this relative is not following protocol. I disagree about the mandatory nature of thank-yous as well as gifts for these occasions. These traditions are not intended to spur us to judge and alienate each other.

I understand that this isn't a close friend you feel like you can call out for being unthoughtful, but the right thing for you to do in your heart seems unlikely to be sinking to a lower level of propriety and thoughtfulness than you've expected of her. Don't go to her wedding with this attitude. Don't give someone a gift as a dig. I can't think of anything more rude.

On preview, sing it Jimbob!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:04 PM on September 9, 2006

There's a buddhist saying, "Expect no applause."

Is it tacky to forget to send a thank you note? Sure. Is it just as tacky to give a gift based solely on the expectation that you'll be receiving a thank you note? Oh yeah.

If making them a little happier by giving a gift isn't enough thanks to make it worth it, why give a gift at all?

Either your gift is a symbol that you support their baby, their marriage, whatever, or it's an obligation. If you think of it as an obligation, salad bowl away. If you do support them, their marriage, etc. and you think they'd genuinely like a salad bowl, give them a salad bowl. If you want to support them and think they'd like the salad bowl as much as you liked the salad bowl, send it to Goodwill and give them something you think is appropriate.

I'd stick a generous check in the salad bowl with a joke about how there's a law that you have to regift at least one thing after every wedding and tag, they're it.
posted by Gucky at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2006

"Should I just, as I said, get off my cranky high horse here?"

Yes. You're right, they should send thank you notes, but -- let's face it -- manners have slipped quite a bit in the last couple of decades, and this couple probably was never taught to send thank you notes. Making an issue of it in any way is just going to damage your relationship.

Hell, many people can't even be bothered to get off their damn cell phone to drive or go through the check-out line. Thank you notes are (sadly) probably too much to expect in this day and age.
posted by jzb at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2006

I also live in America and never knew of this supposed importance of thank you cards/notes. If I couldn't give a verbal thank you in person, then surely I would give a thank you either by phone or by a note, but for the people I have thanked in person already, I never thought that signing my name on a card makes a significant difference. It's not like they are going to treasure the card forever.

Anyway, if there was never any thank you for that first gift, then that's not very courteous of them. I don't think re-gifting is so bad if it's a nice set. If you don't find a good home for this set, it will just end up in a future garage sale or something.
posted by bread-eater at 4:07 PM on September 9, 2006

Nearly every wedding magazine, advice column, mom, or etiquette book considers sending thank-you's to be standard protocol-- a young woman could hardly plan a wedding or shower in this day and age without being reminded somehow to do this. That anyone would not do so is in incredibly bad taste.

Not only should you lose no sleep over giving the salad set, you should make sure that there is a card attached that prominently displays your mailing address.

And this whole "you shouldn't give a gift grudgingly" thing doesn't really apply to weddings and showers. Not only are gifts for these events practically a condition of attending, but often you are practically told what to get by way of registries, etc. This isn't about buying from the heart, it's about helping people set up a home-- you often wind up spending more money than you normally would on a gift, even if you don't know the couple exceptionally well. The couple getting married will be so busy on the wedding day that a thank-you note may wind up being the only meaningful acknowledgment that you even attended.
The very least they can do is say thanks.
posted by hermitosis at 4:09 PM on September 9, 2006 [3 favorites]

Just so you know, Iam the current holder of the Ms Crankypants crown.

The thing is, you are not necessarily giving a gift just to be nice. Few people in that situation are. You get an invite and you send a gift. It's the default setting and it's certainly what the senders of the invite(s) are expecting. People who genuinely wish to simply share their news/special event are perfectly capable of communicating "No gifts, really. We really really mean it, we just hope you can be there."

And frankly, a couple who goes through the efforts of inviting guests with whom they don't regularly socialize to their wedding and two showers are expecting gifts. You didn't mention if they registered anywhere. If they did, they are not just expecting a hearty clap on the back and a hug.

The flip side of gift receiving is thanking the giver, gift by gift, giver by giver. It's the default setting. It's simply common courtesy. Mass communication of thanks (preprinted notes attached to favors, skywriting, mimeograph slipped under the doormat) is not encompassing enough, it must be a personalized thank you, just as the gift was a personalized tribute.

So yes: you're owed a thank you note. You shouldn't feel guilty about expecting the note at all. Personally, I'd let the baby shower thank you slide (I'm ever so forgiving of how the lack of sleep and time caused by a new baby can wreak havoc upon even the most etiquette conscience new parents) but there's really no excuse for not sending out a note for for a wedding shower gift or a wedding.

So, about that salad bowl set. Give it to someone who really wants it. For your cousin? A card or note passing along your joy over his upcoming nuptials and a sincere wish for happiness and longevity.
posted by jamaro at 4:13 PM on September 9, 2006

Rather than regifting the salad set, a better dig would be to hit a local printer and commission a really nice set of personalized stationary for the happy couple.

Include a selection of thank you cards, writing paper, invitations, envelopes etc.
posted by empatterson at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2006

What Gucky said.
posted by scody at 4:24 PM on September 9, 2006

Damn it empatterson, you beat me to it. Definitely stationary.
posted by jlowen at 4:24 PM on September 9, 2006

A modern American who was raised in anything approaching a middle-class environment knows that thank-you notes are not optional. They're expecting you to comply with social mores by ponying up gift after gift, but they're not holding up their end. It's tacky, it's no-class, and it shows an unseemly sense of entitlement.

However, it seems like most people nowadays are tacky and have great feelings of regal entitlement. So my advice is to get used to this kind of treatment, or get used to having a very small social circle. You should be classy and decent even if they're not, as long as you intend to continue the relationship. Send a modest check. (Plus, it's less effort. Are these people even worth the effort of trying to teach a lesson to?)
posted by ROTFL at 4:31 PM on September 9, 2006

They have the "unseemly sense of entitlement"?

"A modern American who was raised in anything approaching a middle-class environment knows that thank-you notes are not optional."

Reading through this thread shows this is not the case.

Tackiness is giving gifts out of bitterness or anger based on an assumption which may or may not be true. Don't be a dick.
posted by null terminated at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

empatterson, great idea! Maybe a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette. Dated, but mostly relevant if adjusted for the present era. The basics are still there.

Ms. Manners, Emily Post, etc.... can you imagine them not recommending a thank you note?

It's a pet peeve of mine, too. General politeness and some degree of social ritual are good things.

If you don't think social ritual is worthwhile, then what the hell is a wedding about? Or engagements? These people obviously have the 'give me' part of that contract understood. They are OBLIGED to respond in a civil fashion.

The subtext of not receiving a thank you note for a gift is that the gift wasn't appreciated.

This would be my last gift, and IF ASKED by these folks, I'd tell them why.
posted by FauxScot at 4:39 PM on September 9, 2006

FauxScot: If it's a social ritual, then how does doing it imply any sort of appreciation?
posted by null terminated at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am utterly dumbfounded that some of you have become so "modern" that you think the gift-giver is rude to expect to be thanked, as opposed to thinking the gift-receiver is rude for not giving thanks. WTF? She isn't seeking validation as a person, she is just wants an acknowledgement that her gift was received and appreciated. It is what civilized people do. For events such as graduations, weddings, and births, which are highly ritualistic in terms of sending out formal announcements/invitations, it is extremely odd to participate in the formal benefits (i.e., sending out GIVE ME A GIFT cards) and yet not participating in the formal burden (sending out the thank you notes).

She is rude and deserves the ugly salad thing.
posted by gatorae at 4:43 PM on September 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Don't give them preprinted thank-you cards -- they're a no-no. Using them indicates that one was expecting a gift, but gifts should always, in theory, be surprises. Plus it's just plain lazy to use them.

I understand your peevedness, by the way. I have a friend who never thanked me for her wedding or baby shower gift, and... well, I wish she would. It's not like I fret about it every day, but I appreciate being appreciated.

The regifiting of the salad set is an entirely different issue -- one I have no opinion on other than that if you give it, you'd better hope that whoever gave you it isn't friends with your cousin.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

gatorae: Yours and similar responses assume that the receiver knew that sending out thank you notes was the standard MO. I agree that she should have sent these out, but there's no point in getting upset about not getting one or being vengeful over a perceived slight. I think "modern" would more accurately describe someone so out of touch with the concept of giving and so obsessed with being "thanked" for something that they are unable to actually give a gift selflessly. It's a damn gift, not half a contract that's only valid when the other party fulfills his duties.
posted by null terminated at 4:51 PM on September 9, 2006

Exactly what FauxScot said.

I think giving them something in response to their "lack of courtesy" like preprinted thank-you cards is rude on your part. Giving a small or mediocre gift (salad set) is one thing, while giving a gift that is basically telling them off is a completely different story. If you message comes through, you never know what kind of awkwardness may ensue, not just between you and your cousin, but also with anyone who finds out about this gift.

gatorae: I don't know if I am one of those you are talking to, but in my case, I think a thank you is common courtesy, but it doesn't need to be in a certain form like a note.
posted by bread-eater at 4:56 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oops, I take back my support for FauxScot... I actually meant null terminated.
posted by bread-eater at 4:56 PM on September 9, 2006

wedding etiquette is designed to give bored mothers-in-law something to bitch're not obligated, nor should you feel obligated, to give something if you don't want the same time, best not to tally others' failed obligations in your head...unless becoming one of such bored mothers-in-law is in your career plan...
posted by troybob at 5:16 PM on September 9, 2006

damn, ease up on anonymous people. There are certain rules to these functions that are common and interlinked. The guest's role is to show up with a gift within their means to start the happy couple on their new life together and to celebrate that with them. The new couple is expected to write them a letter of thanks. This isn't some recent development, it's been going on for years. Don't jump on anon just because she's a little put out by people being rude.

That said anon, stay the classy course. Give them whatever gift you would have given had they responded with a heartfelt letter to every gift. The fact that you're upset means other guests are probably just as put out, and this will come back to haunt them in the long run.

the best revenge is a life well lived.
posted by slapshot57 at 5:17 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Is it a gift based on expectations? Or are you giving a gift for recognition. If it's for recognition or reciprocity, then it's not a gift.
posted by filmgeek at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2006

I don't think there's anything wrong with giving the salad set if you feel it's a decent gift, but that's almost besides the point. For what it's worth... I've never written a thank card in my life (and I'm a very nice and grateful person, as well as very generous with gift giving). It's just not something I think about, or expect in return when I give a gift to someone else. It's very possible that in their minds they don't know that they've done anything wrong or offended you by not sending a card.
posted by RoseovSharon at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think a thank you is common courtesy, but it doesn't need to be in a certain form like a note.

I agree, actually. An e-mail or phone call would have been just fine. I have no hangups about the thank-you needing to be in the form of a note. The OP, however, didn't mention receiving a "thank you" in any form, other than a little pre-written thing attached to party favors. I may be traditional, but I believe that a personal thank-you in which the recipient acknowledges the gift and gives thanks to the giver is in order for situations like this.
posted by gatorae at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2006

I can't believe people waste time caring about this stuff. Good lord, get over it it. And I'd like the 10 seconds I spent writing this back please. With a thank you note.
posted by speranza at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've been there. Repress it. Seriously. It's better for you.

You don't give a gift to be thanked, that's true. However, manners are nice. You say thank you when someone does something little like holds the door for you so it doesn't slam on your nose. You say please when a waitress asks if you'd like another drink. Just everyday small courtesies. We all do it.

Weddings, at least to me and some miles may vary here, are a little bit above our everyday manners. It's an event that they wanted to share with you and you wanted to acknowledge with a gift (sometimes of their choosing thanks to registries). Yeah, they should thank you. I hope they do at some point via card or in person or by phone. Doesn't have to be hugely formal - to me, any of those would do.

You're right to be irritated. I don't know about regifting. Don't use the occasion to punish them with salad bowls. I know you're pissed off, but as my mother would say and has in the past, "rise above it and don't stoop." So far, my mom has been right about a lot of things, except the Pat Benetar pixie haircut for a 10-year-old in 1987. She was dead wrong with that one. Either send them a check or whatever off their registry, and a nicely worded card, just as if nothing was awry to you.

In the end, trust me on this, you'll feel good about yourself, squared with your personal karma, and you may actually want to use the salad bowls yourself someday.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:41 PM on September 9, 2006

If you give them the "crummy" gift, and they do send a thank you note in this case, won't you feel even worse?
posted by smackfu at 5:57 PM on September 9, 2006

This thread is proof that a lot of people don't know you're supposed to send out thank-you cards.
posted by Jairus at 6:15 PM on September 9, 2006

This thread is proof that a lot of people don't know you're supposed to send out thank-you cards.

Surprising to me -- I would have guessed that way over 95 percent of people who have weddings, showers, or other events would know that written thank you cards are expected. I've been giving presents for weddings, baby showers and house warming parties for nearly 20 years, and have received written thank you cards for nearly every gift. The few times I have not received a card has generally been when the person who connected me to the event was the groom or father -- I think males are not trained by the world in the "thank you note rule" as much as females are. I sent written thank you cards for my own (ill-fated) wedding within 30 days of the event.

I have noticed fewer thank you cards (from me and to me) for birthday presents, but that is (I think) because those presents tend to be less formal and only to/from very close friends and immediate family.

If it were me in this situation, I would probably feel less generous for gift number three. I would still give a gift, but it might be more modest.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:49 PM on September 9, 2006

Two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by cribcage at 7:03 PM on September 9, 2006

I think we can assume that if anon knows that her cousin's mother would be mortified to know they weren't sent, that her cousin was in fact raised in the tradition of sending thank-yous.

Anon, I think you have every right to be upset at the lack of a thank you.

However, it shouldn't influence what you give as a gift. If the re-gift is something you think they'll like and use, then go ahead and give it to them - unless they know you got it as a gift (i.e. if a common aunt gave it to you and is likely to say to them, "that looks just like the salad server set I got Anon!"), there's nothing wrong with giving it to them. But don't do it just to be spiteful. If that's how you really feel, then get over it, because they're going to be your cousin your whole life and it is just not worth getting all bent out of shape about. If it really bothers you, then either passive-aggressively ask them if they received your gift - "When I didn't hear from you, I started to worry that it had gone astray somehow..." - or be honest and tell your cousin that it bothers you that you never received a note. Or, if you are close enough for this, warn them that they need to send notes because people in the family are starting to talk (I presume you aren't their only relation upset about this).

Or let it go. Be the bigger person. It's not your job to police their behaviour.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:28 PM on September 9, 2006

just to be clear, i do not think stationery and a pen would be appropriate for a wedding gift ... however, i'll repeat that it's appropriate for the 1st anniversary ... which, after all, IS paper ... and although it may be a pointed gift, it wouldn't be an inappropriate one
posted by pyramid termite at 7:36 PM on September 9, 2006

I'm with joannemerriam. If the cousin's mother knows enough to be embarrassed, the cousin should know better. If my mother knew that my brother and his (hypothetical) fiancee weren't sending thank-you notes, she would have given him a dressing-down by now.

I don't think that should influence your gift, as that seems spiteful to me. But if you feel offended, and you're a relative, then there are probably some non-relatives who also find this a breach of etiquette. Perhaps your aunt could drop a hint to the couple, or something similar.

And yes, I think it's common courtesy to write a thank-you note. If nothing else, it reassures the gift giver that you actually got their gift and recognized it was from them. Particularly when people send a gift (as opposed to giving it to you directly), it's polite to let them know that it was received.
posted by anjamu at 8:03 PM on September 9, 2006

Why wouldn't stationery be an appropriate wedding gift? It's perfectly appropriate.

I'm saddened and horrified by some of these responses. You thank people because they were kind enough to think of you and to spend their hard-earned money on you. It's not about praise, it's about gratitude. Gifts should NEVER ever be expected by anyone under any circumstances. Period. If someone cares enough to spend x amount of time and x amount of money on you the very least you can do is thank them for it.

That said, I realize there are a lot of people, some of my friends included, who are misfortunate enough not to have any training regarding good manners. The best thing you can do for them is to try to set a good example and maybe they'll come around.

In the meantime, a nice set of boxed thank you notes, perhaps Crane's, and a good pen would make an excellent wedding gift.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:05 PM on September 9, 2006

get off your cranky high horse, some people just don't send thank-you cards.
posted by alon at 8:07 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Of course, some people also don't bring gifts to weddings. I don't think it's fair to pick and choose the social conventions that are the most convenient or beneficial. If someone is not obligated to thank their guests for gifts, the guests are not obligated to bring gifts. There's hardly ever a good reason for a gift to go unacknowledged. Period.

The view from the high horse can be quite lovely, really.
posted by ferociouskitty at 8:14 PM on September 9, 2006

Maybe they're busy with all the activity around their wedding, and they plan to send you one comprehensive thank-you note when it's all over.
posted by bingo at 8:19 PM on September 9, 2006

I am also pretty horrified by some of these responses. You get a wedding/shower/baby gift, you send a thank-you note, period. It's what's done, it's the least you can do if people took their time and money to do something nice for you.

When I got married, we registered at this department store that was not-so-great about actually sending us the gifts that people paid for. (On two different occasions people asked me, "oh, did you get such-and-such I sent you?" and I would have to say no, and then straighten it out from the store. Then I would finally get the item and send the gifters a thank-you note.) Now, more than two years later, I'm still horrified to think that some people bought us gifts, but they somehow didn't get to us because the store screwed up, and now those people think I'm some ungrateful, impolite wench.

Write thank-you notes. It's the nice thing to do.
posted by printchick at 8:36 PM on September 9, 2006

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Are thank-you letters passé? Over the last ten years, I've attended many weddings and have yet to receive a thank-you note from any of the couples. But for my own wedding, I've promptly sent out thank-you notes to everyone. Am I too old-fashioned to follow such outdated etiquette?


Dear Ella,

Thank-You Notes are definitely not Passé! They are just as Mandatory today as they were Back In The Day. People who choose not to write them and try to excuse themselves by saying they're Outdated are Lazy, Rude, and Wrong.

Yours sincerely,
The Etiquette Grrls

Give her a copy of Things You Need To Be Told and More Things You Need To Be Told, with bookmarks in the thank-you-notes sections.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:45 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I try to view ettiquette as a a guide to my own actions, not a set of expectations against which to measure my friends. I expect myself to send thank-you notes for gifts. But I'm not going to worry or make a scene about what anyone else does, except for my own children. That would be rude of me.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:16 PM on September 9, 2006 [14 favorites]

mbrubeck, nicely said. And let me add,

To me, good universal etiquette is what you would do if you acted logically with good morals, not a set of rules that you follow because you are told to. I.e., I would hold the door for someone because it makes life a bit easier for them, but the order of using eating utensils matters little to me.

I am actually horrified by the people who believe they are so well-mannered but are advising that Anon give an utterly rude gift. An eye for an eye, now? Is that etiquette?
posted by bread-eater at 9:39 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Do people keep a log of which gifts they've received thank-you notes for? If I've handed over the gift in person, I don't keep a mental tally of whether I've received a thank-you note, although it's always lovely when one arrives. If I have a gift sent out, I'm not going to wait several months to find out if it has arrived. If I don't hear from the recipient in a reasonable amount of time, I'll inquire if the gift was received, which always elicits at least a verbal (or e-mail) thank you. My husband and I recently sent a restaurant gift card tucked inside a wedding card to friends of my daughter and son-in-law whom we see frequently, even though we weren't invited to the wedding, just because we wished them well. I was very happy to receive a thank-you note, so some people still do know that this is the right thing to do.
posted by Joleta at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2006

How do you know you won't get a thank you card for the wedding gift? I've been to countless showers, most of which I didn't get thank you cards for, but those same people sent cards for the wedding gifts, and some of them thanked me in those cards for both gifts (shower and wedding). Unless you're psychic, you can't know if their wedding stationary includes thank you cards they'll use.

As far as regifting the salad set as some form of payback for the lack of thank you cards, the only people who will know about this "dig" is you and your husband, and giggling about how you got someone back secretly is just about as tacky as not sending thank you cards IMO. Besides, what if someone recognizes the set as one you got as a gift at your wedding? Then they'll be talking about you too. You have to be careful about regifting wedding presents within the same family group or social circle.
posted by Orb at 10:05 PM on September 9, 2006

You should have gotten a thank you note. No doubt about it.

Good manners never go out of style. Unfortunately, a lot of younger folks didn't get the memo. Perhaps their parents didn't give them the memo.

This is why we live in a world where people shout on cell phones in public, people won't stop talking at the movies or at concerts, people don't hold the door for someone right behind them, and folks of various ages and gender never get up on the bus/subway to offer an old person or a pregnant woman their seat.

There were some benefits of going to a Catholic school back when nuns were tough as nails. Having manners is one of them.
posted by bim at 10:11 PM on September 9, 2006

Clear from the responses: some people think that things like wedding presents and thank-you notes are obligatory, some don't. Since lots of people do feel they're mandatory, it was rude of your cousin not to write them.

Obviously, your cousin doesn't think it's obligatory to write thank-you notes. Given that, he probably also doesn't think it's obligatory for you to give him and his wife a present. So if you don't feel like giving a gift, don't! Just don't think of it as a punishment -- if they're not keeping track of the presents in order to write thank-you notes, how would they even notice?
posted by escabeche at 10:59 PM on September 9, 2006

Re-gifting the salad server set seems rather ... passive-aggressive. I'd suggest taking the high road, and sending them a modest but appropriate gift. If the lack of a thank-you note really offends you, but you're not close enough to them to tell them so directly, perhaps just tell your cousin's mother (but don't make a big deal out of it, just let her know).
posted by russilwvong at 11:42 PM on September 9, 2006

jesus h. you're bent out of shape about not receiving a card you'll immediately throw away? get some freaking perspective.
posted by xmutex at 11:49 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's frequently said that it's the thought that counts. If that's so, then I'd only say this: what is the thought that goes into not acknowledging the receipt of a gift?
posted by Dreama at 1:08 AM on September 10, 2006

The bride had the baby, then had an (apparently) big wedding (large enough and public enough to warrant a shower, etc.). Forgive me if I seem unduly judgemental, but this is not a woman with a high degree of sensitivity to social niceties.

Lotsa luck on thank you notes from Bridezilla, anon. You probably aren't missing much, and a gift of stationary would probably go right over her head. The salad set sounds perfect, particularly if the box has some older tape from earlier wrappings still attached.
posted by paulsc at 1:27 AM on September 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

There are lots of reasons people don't do things they should do. Many people are just barely keeping it together most of the time. Give them a break. Also, give yourself a break and don't feel bad about regifting the salad set.
posted by teleskiving at 3:38 AM on September 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

While they may be considered rude or thoughtless for not sending a thank-you card - you are showing yourself to be obnoxious and petty. And going with your husbands idea of a regifting as a "dig" is just meanspirited. Whether they know it's a regift or not, how could you possibly be happy with yourself in giving someone a gift with such intentions? Is that going to make you feel better about yourself (or your husband for that matter) the day after the wedding? Is that kind of behaviour going to make you feel like a good person?

Anyone who asks "Should I just, as I said, get off my cranky high horse here?" already knows the answer. Yes. Duh.

If you are happy for them and wish them to enjoy the gift because they are your friends/family and you love them - then give them a gift that shows that. If you are giving them a gift for any other reason, then you should forget it.
posted by jaded at 5:27 AM on September 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Look, you took the time to give nice gifts, and it feels bad not to have it acknowledged. Gifts require a thank you. It doesn't have to come from the bride; your cousin is just a sresponsible for the wedding gift thanks. They have committed a social error, not a crime.

So now it's time for another gift. They didn't do the right thing but you can continue to do the right thing. Give them a gift cheerfully.

Someone gave me thank you notecards, so I recently started sending thank yous for non-required things. People are immensely pleased. It's a nice thing.
posted by theora55 at 5:35 AM on September 10, 2006

Not sending the cards is rude but not the end of the world. Using the opportunity to give a wedding gift as a chance to get in "a little dig" is petty but not the end of the world.

But you obviously care about doing the right thing or you wouldn't be asking the question. They're family. Give them what you'd like them to have. You're not that close--maybe you don't care much what they have, and that's OK too. Just try not to let the thank you note thing factor in. That's lame.
posted by lampoil at 5:57 AM on September 10, 2006

There's three responses to this sort of thing:

1. The saintly. Go to your cousin's wife-to-be, express your sympathy for the recent difficulties with her health, and ask if you can help her with something -- like, say, finding nice stationery for thank-you cards, because you know how important proper thank-yous are to your family and hers. If you discover that she's an essentially nice but socially clueless or simply overwhelmed girl, report that back to concerned family to help ease the ruffled feathers she does not even know she's caused. Give a thoughtful, gracious gift at the wedding. Upon dying, ascend to heaven in a tastefully decorated chariot, giving graceful little queen waves to the assembled cheering angels.

2. The decent. Feel understandably irritated about the lapse, then forget about it. Refrain from criticizing her about it behind her back. If you think the couple will like the salad set, give it, but if you don't, give something else. Upon dying, ascend to heaven via the standard escalator.

3. The devilish. Continue to stew about it with the rest of the family, raising the subject again each time her name comes up for a minimum of 15 years. Give the couple a copy of Etiquette for Dummies with the section on thank-you notes highlighted, along with any other improving devices you think she might need -- ie, deodorant, a book of psalms, a Thighmaster. Upon dying, rocket down to hell in a Dodge Neon to the strains of "Muskrat Love."

That's my basic understanding of the issue, at any rate. You may wish to consult Miss Manners and your personal clergy for a more definitive opinion.
posted by melissa may at 6:43 AM on September 10, 2006 [8 favorites]

im currently in the process of writing out thank you cards for my wedding. we can try to make each one personal but you can only say so much in a card that isnt getting regurgitated in every other card. its not personal, its not a genuine thank you, and you are going to open it, say 'oh look, i finally got one.' then dispose of it. its a waste of paper and a poor display of thanks.

also, the showers, were the gifts opened while you were there? because if so id assume you recieved verbal thanks which is much more genuine and better than a card, if you did and are still expecting this card then that is very selfish of you and you are DEFINATELY looking for validation in yourself and your gift.

are you going to this wedding because you love your family? if so get them a genuine gift. if you are going because you have something to prove and feel like they should prove something to you. seriously, stay home.
posted by trishthedish at 7:02 AM on September 10, 2006

Folks are not automatically ENTITLED to a gift because they have a baby or get married.

If someone has spent time and money to give a gift, the recipient should thank them. Period.

All these rationalizations about the "card just gets thrown away" are baloney. If you're going to get married and have a family, it's time to act like an adult. Thank people for being kind to you and helping you start your married life. It's called courtesy. It would be a good thing to teach your kids.
posted by bim at 8:15 AM on September 10, 2006

I've found that the under 30 set can be very rude when it comes to these social niceities. Who knows why. Generally they don't send thank you's and they don't RSVP either. It drives me crazy.

And I have no problem asking about it either - "Hello, we sent your child a birthday party invitation with an RSVP. We haven't heard whether little Johnny is coming or not, so I hope he gave you the invite??" Or - "Hello, we really enjoyed your wedding last year, it was beautiful. We didn't receive a thank you card, so I hope you received our gift of salad tongs??"

But remember, they have one year from the wedding date to send out thank you cards.
posted by LadyBonita at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2006

All these rationalizations about the "card just gets thrown away" are baloney.

I just want to add to my previous comment that a) we wrote thank-you notes for all our wedding presents, and I agree they are socially obligatory, and b) we have received plenty of thank-you notes for wedding gifts we've given, and not once did I appreciate it or feel it was a worthwhile use of the couple's time to have written and sent it. So it's not just a rationalization -- there really are lots of people who don't care if you write them a thank-you note. But, obviously, since lots of people do care -- and why shouldn't they? -- you ought to write them.

LadyBonita: I think the rule is that you have a year from the wedding date to give a present, but that thank-you cards are due immediately upon receipt of present.
posted by escabeche at 11:01 AM on September 10, 2006

Yes escabeche, you're right. I was interrupted by a toddler and didn't write my sentence the way I meant to.

I meant to write - But remember you have up to one year to send a wedding gift, and they should send thank you notes within 2 months.

All the thank you notes we've received are saved - but I'm a family historian :)
posted by LadyBonita at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2006

All these rationalizations about the "card just gets thrown away" are baloney.

Maybe, but your point is irrelevant. The OP didn't ask our opinion about her family's actions. She asked specifically, "What should I do?" There's a lot of fuss about whether the cousin's fiancée acted rudely — and if so, how rudely — and it's all irrelevant. Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because someone else abandons etiquette does not entitle you to follow suit.
posted by cribcage at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2006

Welcome to the 21st Century where all the rules have changed... apparently. Sad as it is, few people of the up and coming generation know much about basic manners and etiquitte.

If someone took the time to shop for, pay for and ship a gift for whatever event in your life, you should take the time to hand write - not e-mail or call - a thank you note on nice stationary! If you keep stationary on-hand, this should take no more than 10 minutes and will mean very much to the gift-giver.

I can't imagine not sending a note for gifts received after a shower, a baby's birth or a wedding. What are people thinking these days!!??

I agree that personalized stationary and perhaps going as far as to make it Thank You stationary for the 1st anniversary would make a splendid gift. It may even be necessary to include Instructions for Use.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2006

I think you should re-gift the salad set because then it will get good use. It's tacky to give USED things - unless they are old, and then they are obviously heirlooms and better than new. But un-used things are still new. It doesn't matter that someone else gave it to you - it needs a home where it will be loved. So pass it on. And if they don't love it, they should pass it on.
posted by jb at 2:27 PM on September 11, 2006

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