The First Year: Getting Out Those Thank-You Notes

Sorry, you don’t have a year. But we do have 5 smart tips for the making the job more manageable.

To most newlywed couples, thank-you notes only spell torture. The prospect of addressing, composing, and sending hundreds (or is it billions?) of hand-written, personalized letters can all but dissolve the well-deserved, romantic Zen upon returning from your honeymoon — that is, if you don’t have a plan of attack. So we talked to The Papery of Philly owner Carolyn Brandhorst to get her advice to for taking the pain out of the paperwork.

1.  Pre-order thank you notes with your invitations. It can prevent the headache of making arrangements after the fact. “I always make that suggestion so it’s not something that gets put by the wayside,” says Brandhorst. “Especially if they want everything to have a nice cohesive look.” She’ll use your guest list to address the thank you-note envelopes (since even guests who can’t attend will probably send a gift),  so your only task will be penning and slipping in the notes. Brandhorst says a good percentage of her customers pre-order, risking the minimal fund-wasting for any unused envelopes in favor of getting the jump-start on labor.

2. Divvy up the work (just not on your honeymoon). Some couples might opt to bring their list and stationery along on the honeymoon and crank out a good chunk of the chore on that 10-hour flight home from Maui (less to do when you’re home — plus, your, ahem, “help” can’t escape). But Brandhorst suggests leaving the thank-you note task until you return, so your vacay is all about unwinding. And when you do hunker down, split it up. “Talk about it beforehand, and to make it more manageable, divvy it up — do five a night, each. That way it doesn’t build up. You have to do it in stages,” she says. Maybe he can do his family and friends and you can do yours. But however you do it (and however he spins it), this is definitely a two-person job.

3. Give yourself three months (and a little wine). Brandhorst also advises turning thank-you note writing into less of a chore: “Make it something fun — have a glass of wine under candlelight, or something romantic like that.” But even if you make the writing sessions relaxed, don’t let the time get away. Brandhorst says a strict three-month window is more appropriate than the oft-recommended year.

4. Handle tricky situations carefully. What about when the sending—not the writing—gets tricky? Etiquette issues, such as contacting people you didn’t receive a gift from (in case it got lost, and the giver is wondering where their thank-you is), can make the thank you note job even more burdensome. For these situations, Brandhorst suggests just letting some time pass, “unless it’s a really close family member or friend you’d be expecting a gift from.” If there’s a mutual acquaintance — your father’s work colleague, say — ask your intermediary to broach the issue of whether a proper thank-you is in order.

5. Be specific. The biggest key to a classy thank-you note is personalization, says Brandhorst. “I think it’s nice to make each thank you card personal,” she says. Literally thank them for their specific gift, tell them how you’re using it — that you can’t wait to use it — and how much you enjoyed having them be a part of your day.