Our columnist takes down a perpetual myth about wedding thank-you notes and sends a call to duty for newlyweds everywhere.

George Marks/Getty Images

Raise your hand if, when you got married, you heard the lie that you have a year to write your thank-you notes. You? You too? I definitely did—along with the related rule of having a year to give a gift, something that led me to procrastinate with summer weddings and then send a rogue trio of Christmas ornaments in December. I recently asked several friends, all of whom have been married for 10 to 15 years, and every one remembered it as a relief they took very much to heart. Is that why this lie persists–so the bride who’s losing sleep over catering costs and dress fittings gets at least one promise of reprieve from all the stress? Maybe. My childhood friend Murff texted me that exact sentiment: “I definitely remember being told that, and it was a great comfort since I took my time.” (I should note that she had a very large wedding, so there was a lot on her plate.) It’s like the promise of a runner’s high as a balm for a half-marathon. Lie.

I’m not sure where this rule of thumb originated, but the truth is, most of us know that it’s polite to be prompt. (Even The Emily Post Institute says you have only three months.) The longer you wait, the more likely it is that every note will start with some iteration of, “What’s that they say about taking a year to write thank-you notes? Ha ha.” At least, that’s how mine would go. Let’s be better! Here’s my encouragement to busy brides—and grooms.

Prioritize the right people.

Start with your great-great-aunt, who is worried you never got the sterling asparagus server, despite what the nice salesperson said. Give her peace of mind. Put your college roommate on the back burner.

Include a personal detail.

You’ve heard this but may assume it means a detail about the gift or how you’ll use it, which can be hard when most of the stuff is still in boxes in your parents’ den. Instead, incorporate a memory from the wedding: “You and Uncle Dan were the talk of the dance floor during ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.’ You’ve always been the best dancers in the family. We love the soup bowls. Thank you so much!” If the giver didn’t attend, include a detail about your friendship: “Your Oscars party was one of my favorite nights of the year. I can’t wait to host you soon. We’ll do soup!”

WATCH: How To Write a Thank You Note

Divide and conquer.

Have your spouse write half—if not 50%, then a big chunk. Now, 14 years ago, my kind husband did no such thing. At the time, I reasoned that he was busier than I and had terrible handwriting. When he did write thank-yous, they were to his or his parents’ friends—your side of the aisle, your notes. But think how ecstatic your mom’s lifelong bridge partner would be to receive a letter from your new husband saying how great it was to meet her and that the sheets she gave you are the nicest ones he’s ever owned. (I’ll add that I enjoyed writing to my in-laws’ friends the most, simply because it gave me a connection to this new community of people who had always loved the man I love.)

Don’t dread it.

They don’t need to be long. If you think you’re too busy, well, you’re probably no busier than you’ll ever be until perhaps retirement. And even then, you may have a lake house to maintain. Thinking of one day adopting a rescue dog? Renovating? Having a baby? Get those notes done now before things get even more hectic. If you do fall behind, just sneak them onto your spouse’s list. I said it’s okay.

Advertisement