Modern Etiquette: Thank You Dos and Dont’s + 10 Cute Thank You Cards

Illustration by Anna Emilia

Last weekend I found myself collecting beautiful thank you cards at Greenwich Letterpress in Manhattan. I needed a few specific thank you cards, but I also wanted to collect some blank cards I could use for general thank yous and the sorts of cards I try to send as often as I can to remind friends and family what they mean to me. While I was sorting through them this morning, it got me thinking about the importance and significance of saying THANK YOU. These days thank yous are sent in the form of texts, emails, social media messages and the rare written note or phone call. While traditional etiquette would demand something written or done in person (which is of course, lovely), I think modern times call for a modern set of guidelines. Much like the discussion we had about communicating after the loss of a loved one, I think the way you communicate to someone has a lot to do with the circumstance at hand. So today I thought it would be nice to brush up on Thank You tips before we dive into a season full of events, occasions and surprises that will most likely be the perfect excuse to flex your gratitude muscles. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and any lessons/tips you’ve learned or appreciated in your experience. xo, grace

*I’ve also included 10 cute Thank You cards to get your started if you want to say ‘thank you’ in written form. The sources continue below, along with additional cards. If you prefer to DIY your own, here are three ideas: Flower dyed thank yous, Stitched cardboard thank yous and Embroidered thank yous

Thank you cards above, clockwise from top left: Flower card $19.95 for set of 8, Neon pink card $18.50 for 8, Chalkboard thank you $12.50 for 10, Faux leather striped cards $22.50 for 8, Chevron gold foil cards $24.95 for 6

The Big Picture: I think, at its core, giving thanks for something you’ve received, whether it’s an object, an experience or something intangible like forgiveness or support, is something that just needs to be done, period. The form, timing and details are rarely as important as the simple act of saying thank you. I’ve found I most often get tripped up on trying to make things perfect, when I should just stick to the simple “Thank You” and get the message out. So when in doubt, a simple thank you in any form is the best thing you can do to show your appreciation. My notes below are about finding creative, timely or most effective ways to say thanks, but the bottom line is this: Just say thank you. The person receiving the thanks will just be happy to hear it, the mode and message are rarely as important as the simple act of acknowledging someone’s kindness.

Tips to Remember:

1. Timing: I think the most important thing about saying thank you is doing it in a timely manner. Of course a thank you at any time is better than none at all, but I find I’m more likely to give thanks if I do it quickly and succinctly. No matter the size of the gift/support, a simple thank you sent within a few days of the event or gift you’ve received is always best. The one exception seems to be weddings, in which case it’s generally accepted that if you send the thank yous within a few months of the wedding date, you’re ok. But I think for everyday thank yous, a few days later (not counting mail delivery, of course) is ideal. It lets someone know you took the time to sit down and acknowledge their kindness and that their efforts weren’t forgotten right away.

2. Message: I think a lot of the time, people get hung up on WHAT to say in a thank you and end up not sending one. But honestly, something simple is always best. Yes, it’s lovely to get something long and details and meaningful, but a simple thank you that mentions the thing you’re thankful for is always enough. For example, if someone gave you a bouquet of flowers:

Dear Carol,

Thank you so much for the beautiful bouquet of roses. They were so thoughtful and look gorgeous on our dining room table. We hope to see you again soon!


Or if someone gives gave you some support when you most needed it:

Dear Henry,

Thank you so much for your help last week. It meant so much to have your support during this tough time.


You don’t need to pour your heart out if the words are thoughtful and to the point. People will appreciate that you took the moment to appreciate their efforts, period.

3. Type of Message: Here’s the rub– people often feel that a BIG gift demands a BIG thank you. I don’t agree. I think it’s more important to simply say thank you in a timely manner than to make a big showy display of thanks. That said, I think there are some things to consider, depending on the gift type and the timing.

Text messages: I think a text message is a nice, informal way to thank someone for something slightly less specific or more about a general thank you for overall support. For example:

Hi Jenny- Thanks so much for having me over for dinner. It was great to catch up over pizza and relax. See you next week, Grace.


Hi Jenny- I was just thinking about you and wanted to say thanks for always being such a great friend. I’m so lucky to have you in my life. xo, Grace

Emails: I think emails are similar to text messages, but are a great place to go into a bit more detail. If you want to call out the specifics of a gift or event, this is a nice way to do that. It’s also a nice way to say thank you for a slightly younger generation that is more used to using email for everything than say, your grandparents. Though if your grandparents are using email on a regular basis you might want to send them a virtual high-five for being so connected and awesome. I think it’s good to note that emails are a nice way to say thank you to someone you don’t know well enough to ask for an address or contact info. For example, if you love an article you read in your local paper, writing them an email to say thank you or ‘good job’ might make more sense than emailing them to get an address and THEN sending a note.

Hand-written notes: I think of these as the most formal way to say thank you. Not because writing is necessarily formal, but it feels like the most traditional way to be appreciative and acknowledge something. Notes are my go-to for financial gifts, holiday or birthday gifts and anything related to work and family. Though they clearly work for anyone in your life, I think notes tend to imply you know someone well enough to have their address and say thank you. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If your hand-writing isn’t legible (so many of us suffer from this thanks to years of typing over hand-writing), perhaps consider a different method of thank you.
  • If the gift was meant for multiple people, it’s lovely to write the note from several people and have them all sign it. Coming from one person can often seem like they are the only ones who remembered to say thank you.
  • Consider the recipient: If you’re thanking your new in-laws and only have a sarcastic or funny card better suited for close friends left over, try using a blank card instead.
  • Make sure you spell everyone’s names correctly
  • Include the entire family in the thank you if it’s a gift from everyone. Even if you know the gift shopping was done by say, your Dad, if the gift was from your entire family on the card, thank everyone.

4. Extras to Include (Ways to Bump Your Thank You Up A Notch): I love getting a thank you that feels personalized, decorated or like it has a little something special. Here are ways to bump up your thank you a bit:

  • Decorate the envelope or package with hand-drawings, stamps or appropriate details for the recipient. We use everything from washi tape and neon packing tape to old magazine clippings and fabrics to decorate thank yous at the office.
  • Include a picture of the gift being used. If someone sent your new puppy a sweater, including a photo of the item in use is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • If a thank you note isn’t enough, consider sending flowers, a baked good or an appropriate extra gift. But be sure to note the pitfalls of gift-giving below if you’re sending someone another gift to follow their gift.

5. Things to Remember and Avoid:

  • Spell-check. Make sure you spell everyone’s name correctly.
  • Rudeness: You’d think it goes without saying, but sometimes people can use thank yous as a way to be passive aggressive about not liking a gift. If you don’t like it, leave that thought to yourself- notes are about thanking the gesture, not the specifics. (Unless it’s an offensive gift, etc.) If someone sent you a green sweater and you’d prefer pink, this is not the time to say “Thanks so much for the sweater. I haven’t worn green since I was little, but thanks anyway”. I’ve seen that done before, so it’s worth nothing that that’s not the best way to truly thank someone.
  • Don’t OVER thank: If someone treats you to coffee, sending them a few dozen roses to say thank you might be overkill. And it can potentially make them feel uncomfortable or feel like they now need to thank you and start the vicious cycle of “Thank you”, “No, thank YOU” that can happen. Keep the level of the thank you near the level of kindness you received. It’s about making the recipient feel appreciated, but not like they now owe you something in return.
  • Thank you gifts should be appropriate and not about promoting. I’ve found that if someone is a maker or has done something (like written a book or a magazine, etc.) they often send out their leftover stock as a thank you. Not that receiving someone’s handmade work isn’t nice, but if what you produce has nothing to do with them or isn’t appropriate for them, perhaps think of just sending a note or something more neutral like flowers, baked goods, or a product that means something to them (or that you’ve heard them mention that they like). Someone once sent a friend of mine a baby onesie they make and sell as a thank you, even though she didn’t have children. When it came up later on, she told the friend, “Well, I figured you’d know someone you could give it to.” Thank you gifts should be something the intended recipient can enjoy.

The bottom line is this: Saying thank you in any form is better than saying nothing at all. While the world won’t end if you DON’T say thank you, the best way to keep and maintain friendships and good work relationships is to acknowledge the kindness someone has shown you. xo, grace

**Have you ever gotten a thank you that truly meant SO much to you? Have you ever received a major fail of a thank you? Please share your stories below, they’ll help the rest of us avoid mistakes and find the best ways to thank the people we love in our lives**

Gold dots card, $16.50 for 10

Geometric thank you card $4

Merci Beaucoup card $4

Many thanks card, 6 for $14

Honey card $5.95

  1. I love receiving a card with a handwritten note. It means so much to me that someone took the time to write it. As soon as my daughter could write and every year since, I have her write thank you cards for gifts she has received and I hope she will continue this simple act of gratitude as she gets older…

  2. Sus says:

    What’s the proper etiquette for thanking someone for a hostess gift? I’m a big thank you note writer (love the excuse to write a handwritten letter!), but I find that thank someone for a hostess gift leads to a “Thank you!” “No, thank you!” “No, thank YOU!” back and forth scenario. Also, I’m 27 and don’t think I’ve ever gotten a thank you note from my guests.

    I have another question too. I just got married and we have several young friends that live in our neighborhood, that we see all the time, that have repeatedly said, “Don’t worry about sending me a thank you note! Seriously!” My husband thinks we shouldn’t worry about sending them a note, I think we should. Thoughts?

    1. Luke says:


      I’m the husband who is always trying to slow down and scale back activities and commitments for my family. Between work, raising our little boy, self care, and supporting each other, our time is tight. We had a large wedding and the thank you notes from it was a major source of anxiety for my wife. We tried to minimize gift giving fairly unsuccessfully in anticipation of this. Now we are coordinating our first birthday party for our son and I can feel the anxiety building. My wife is one of the most grateful people I know and everyone who will attend the party knows this as well. She doesn’t like the idea of sending text messages. I think we need a culture shift. Good luck!

      1. Grace Bonney says:


        While some may disagree, I think a friendly email is thank you enough if you’re quite busy, especially if the people attending are of the generation that use email religiously. I know it’s hard to find time, but the guests found time to buy gifts and attend, so squeezing out a little time just to email to say thank you will go a long way.


  3. Elizabeth says:

    I love this post. My mom was religious about having me write thank you notes as a child and I’m so grateful for that discipline.

  4. Avery says:

    Last year I threw my sister a baby shower and wanted it to be soooo perfect for her and her first baby. It turned out great, and my sister sent a thank you goodie bag with all of these things to “treat myself” for treating her so well. An ice cream gift certificate, facial groupon, pedicure voucher, etc. It was such a thoughtful way to say thank you, especially since it certainly wasn’t necessary! It could have easily spiraled into the, No, THANK YOU! situation you explain above, but we kept it at that :) It’s funny, because now we joke that we love doing nice things for each other because the thank you is always just as fun.

    I always try to send pictures of gifts in use with thank yous, even if it’s just a text of me wearing a piece of jewelry with a “Thanks again!” Grandparents especially love this! It makes me happy to be able to actually show them how much I appreciate them thinking of me and know it’s gone to good use :)

  5. Tiffany says:

    Love this article. Shopping for Thank you cards is so much fun and sending them just feels good. My Grandmother inspired me to write them.

  6. Martha says:

    The best thank-you note I received was very late, but came from an old friend after her 50th birthday party. She did not open my gift until after I left, but I gave her a 5 lb package of organic cocoa mix with a home-made card featuring a photo of her at my 9th birthday party.
    She wrote back that it was the best birthday card she had ever received, and the hot chocolate was often the only thing her ailing husband could drink after a chemo treatment…. It had been extra effort for me to make her card during a busy week, and I really wanted to keep the cocoa for myself. But she was going through a difficult time in her life (her husband later died) and to know that my gift was greatly appreciated made a huge impact.

  7. Anonymous says:

    We have a lovely friend who is a florist, and any time she gets invited to a get-together, she sends a flower arrangement ahead of time as a thanks, which the host can use as a centerpiece for dinner. It’s so thoughtful, and makes the host feel special and appreciated. I love it.

  8. Heather says:

    I work at a hospital and once recieved the sweetest card imaginable from a patient spouse. I didn’t even have a whole lot of interaction with her, I simply sat with her friends who were also at the hospital and talked to them. I think it’s the most thoughtful card I have ever recieved. It’s thoughtful acts like that that keep me going.

  9. Nina says:

    Twice, I’ve received thank you cards from parents after attending their child’s birthday parties where they included a picture of my child in it. Not only did they both acknowledge the gift and give thanks, but also shared a sweet photo of my son attending the party. This was truly special!

  10. Connie D. says:

    We had a rule in my house when I was growing up and I employed it when my daughter was growing up. We had 2 weeks to write a thank you note or the gift was sent back with a note that no future gifts should be given. My daughter is very diligent about writing thank you notes today and all my friends comment about it.

  11. Malia says:

    This was lovely, thank you, Grace. I have one small quibble, though–I don’t think poor penmanship should be an excuse for a handwritten note. Any sentiment will outweigh supposed legibility issues. Maybe it should be seen as a rare opportunity to practice writing by hand instead!

    That said, I should get to work on my own thank yous. I’m a little behind!

  12. Great article. Thank yous almost seem to be a lost art. Still think the best way to say thank you is with a handwritten note. Glad to touched upon this subject.

  13. Jeanne says:

    Great subject, Grace! A good discussion of the basics, including what young people are doing these days. I am a firm believer in thanking promptly, and I usually write a note in a hand-made card. I make all of my greeting and Christmas cards as a creative outlet, and I love doing it. I do have one question that troubles me, however.
    I have given a number of gifts to my great-nieces and nephews (weddings, babies), and they have not responded with a thank-you (by any means: email, note, phone, etc.). I can’t decide what to do in such a situation: stop sending gifts and cards; keep sending them; say something to them. Any suggestions on how to handle this?

  14. BW says:

    I appreciate that you addressed this topic! I think most tangible gifts should be acknowledged with a handwritten note. My handwriting isn’t usually that great, but I can certainly step it up enough to be more or less legible! That’s SO much better than a computer-generated letter/card/email. And when my friends/relatives write notes that I can barely read, I find it kind of charming that they put the effort to send the note anyway. That said, snail mail notes that are entirely perfunctory (‘Thank you for __. I love it. Love, __.”) are really annoying. Take two seconds to think of something personal to say! If the note could as easily go to your grandma or your best friend, there’s a problem.

  15. Katrina says:

    My favorite go-to when I’m struggling with writing a thank you note is to use this wonderful guide written by Leslie Harpold in, I think, 1989.

  16. Nellie says:

    Love this post!! I totally agree that thank you’s done even if over text or email are still important to showing someone gratitude. A year ago I attended the bridal shower and wedding of my husband’s childhood friend and new wife. He is close to him and even served as best man. A year later and still NO thank you card. No thank you for the gifts we gave, the time we spent at each reception and bridal shower….nothing. Terrible. Can’t believe there are such ungrateful people.

  17. amber says:

    This is so timely, as I am planning on catching up on a long list of thank yous this month and am hoping to write at least one a day. I often “think” my thank yous instead of getting them out of my head and actually writing them! I read a quote recently: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” (This is by William Arthur Ward and was written on a chalkboard in Greer Chicago.)

    I realize the world won’t stop if I don’t send a note to say “thanks for having us over for dinner,” but if my heart is warmed every time I think of someone’s kindness and I continually think to myself, “I need to tell her thank you” then I should communicate it. It’s more complete, like a wrapped present that’s actually given. :)

    I really love your Modern Etiquette posts (wish I’d discovered them sooner!). Thank you for caring about this and writing about it!


  18. Giselle says:

    I love sending and receiving thank you notes. It’s such a simple gesture that can really make someone’s day!

    I have this great stamp that has an image of a deer on it and says, “you’re a dear.” I’ve used it sooo many times (usually with gold or silver ink on a brightly colored notecard) when I didn’t have any thank you notes around and knew that I probably wouldn’t get one in reasonable time… The point: A good gratitude stamp ensures you always have a thank you note when you need one!

  19. Su says:

    Really great article and agree with every point that was made! I agree especially that saying thank you in ANY form is better than not saying thank you at all – which unfortunately has happened to me several times, even with a wedding gift! Unfortunately you never forget the times you haven’t been thanked (or at least I don’t, because usually time and thought goes into the gift!) Also this is not necessary, but I generally love it if thank you cards are mailed (I mail them even if we live in the same city, it just seems classy!) as opposed to handed to me to save money on a stamp. I suppose it’s picky but I enjoy getting mail and I think others do too. :)

  20. Emma says:

    What about this major fail: How do you apologize for sending an incredibly late thank-you? Timely thank you’s would be best, but is it better to apologize profusely, or not mention the passage of time, before getting to the thanks?
    Love this series, Grace!

    1. Amy Azzarito says:

      Hi Emma-
      I think you should acknowledge with something like “The tardiness of my thank you, in no way reflects, the gratitude I feel for…..” and then go on to thank them. But I would go over-the-top. We have all been there. :)

  21. Miranda says:

    More than once I have found myself putting off thank-yous- or even never sending them :( for the simple reason that I didn’t have stamps and kept forgetting to go to the post office!! Maybe this is a normal thing that grown-ups do, but I have begun to keep stamps in my wallet at all times, whereas I used to run to the post office only when I needed them. I also started buying them at the various grocery stores, etc. that sell them to avoid the dreaded post office.

  22. Kate says:

    I have often received thank you cards that were not personally handwritten. While this may seem to save time in the writers eyes, it really did not give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that a nice, heart felt thank you gives.
    Please make sure they are handwritten!
    Emma, thank you for the great advice!

  23. cathy says:

    This is timely as my son just finished writing thank you notes for his birthday gifts last night. We’re a little tardy on them (only a few weeks), but I’m in the better-late-than-never camp. I was brought up to write thank you notes (considered better manners than a phone call and necessary even if you’ve thanked the giver in person) and have had my kids write thank yous all their lives; before they could write, I’d write the thank you and they’d decorate the card.

    A thank you for coffee or dinner is nice, and often unexpected. But as others have said, you really remember when you send a gift and it’s never acknowledged. In fact, I tell my kids that one important use of the thank you is to let the giver know you actually received the gift. I think this is especially true when you send a gift through a registry.

    I don’t know about other people, but if I repeatedly send gifts that are never acknowledged (like Christmas gifts to young adult nieces and nephews), eventually I stop giving to them.

  24. sue says:

    I’m a teacher and have always been confused about writing thank you notes to my students. I get gifts for holidays and always send thank you notes for those. But I also get gifts for teacher appreciation day and end of the year thank you gifts. I was raised to believe that one sends a thank you note for any gift but then I am sending a thank you note for a thank you gift. What is appropriate?

  25. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this post! It’s so helpful to know how/when to write a note. I love receiving something hand-written, I think it says so much about the sender especially in our text-driven age.

    I also wanted to thank you for your podcasts! I recently found them and have been going back through the archives. I really appreciate how honest and open you are. I’m sure it’s hard to be that way all the time, but I wanted you to know that I very much appreciate it. I hope you continue doing them!

  26. C says:

    I pulled out of co-hosting a baby shower for a friend who asked me to do it. (I have a hard time saying no). It was her second baby of the same gender in a short amount of time. One day I got a text saying these are the invitations I ordered. They had the registry on them. I asked to take it off. She refused until I said I wouldn’t host. Turns out she was planning the entire thing herself. Anyway after hearing “its really not about the gifts” multiple times, I was never thanked for mine….

  27. Becky says:

    Thankfully, I was taught at a young age to write thank you notes and to write them promptly after receiving a gift. (Although most important is to truely be GRATEFUL.) Not being a natural writer, I’m often left a quivering puddle over penning even the simplest of notes. AND…I’m sure my childhood notes said that I was thankful, but probably did not really “sound” like it. What helps me now…especially when saying “I love the sweater…it looks fantastic with my denim skirt” sounds a little forced…is to use the Growing Gratitude app. I’m able to be spontaneous, goofy, stuttering…and that’s OK…because it’s honest and in-the-moment. This app has been wonderful for the younger kids, too…who aren’t writing yet but are still learning to be grateful and to express it.

  28. Sarah says:

    My mom was very strict about our thank-you cards. My sister and I have winter birthdays, so Christmas thank-you’s had to be in the mail by New Year’s before the next round had to go out. We’d always get a package of beautiful cards in our stocking to promote this, too. My rule of thumb for thank you’s (especially for twice-a-year thank you’s) has always been 1) thank the giver and include something you are looking forward to related to the gift, 2) a two-sentence life update, if you haven’t seen them in a while, and 3) a quick comment or compliment, like how you are looking forward to seeing them soon, something you know they are doing, or how they are always so thoughtful. Just five sentences does so much!
    Also, I’m a big fan of Paper Source’s blank patterned notecards.

  29. Jennifer says:

    For years, we’ve tried to give special, thoughtful gifts to our niece and nephew. We used to do it for every single holiday and occasion (small gifts for things like Valentine’s Day or the first day of school). To the best of my recollection, we’ve never gotten a written thank you note from their parents, or the children (they are 11 and 9 years old). The best they’ve managed is a “yeah, thanks” in person when we gave them the gift, or over the phone when we’ve sent it and called them. Because of this lack of acknowledgement or gratitude, we’ve tapered off the gifts to Christmas and their birthdays. They are both school age children and capable of writing a short note. Since they (or their parents) can’t be bothered, we’ll be getting the kids a small gift card and spending our time, effort and money where it’s appreciated. Some people have said it seems mean to “take it out” on the kids, but I just can’t understand how a complete lack of basic good manners is now acceptable.

  30. Nicole says:

    As a Manager, I am always impressed by Employees who take the time to give a hand-written thank you.

  31. Joanie says:

    What should i write on thank you cards if i got some gifts confused, There are a few peoe at my 59th bday party that i cant remember what they gave me!! I do t want to sound rude, but would live to write a thank you and dont know what to say??? :(

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I think this would be best done over the phone and honestly. Ring up the people and say, “Hi Gail! I just wanted to say thank you again for coming to my birthday this weekend. And, I’m so embarrassed, but I’m afraid I somehow got my gifts and cards confused. I’m so sorry to ask, but would you mind reminding me which gift was yours?” Then thank them and say something specific about how excited you are about that gift.

      If that doesn’t feel write and writing is the only option a general “Thank you so much for helping me celebrate my birthday and for both wonderful gifts- both your presence and the thoughtful present you brought. I enjoyed them both immensely and hope to see you again soon!” But that leaves the door open for them asking how you liked it, etc. later. So I think it’s best to just be honest and call ;)


  32. Susan Ruhm says:

    What do you do if you’re being “forced” to send a thank you for a gift from a person you despise? This woman, who is 28 years old and has latched onto my father, who is 83 and spends his money very freely and lavishly. We (family) can’t stand this person. A few days ago my dad presented myself, my sister and my daughter with necklances that he said this woman bought for us (even though I saw the money for the purchase came from his credit card) and now keeps telling me I have to send her a thank you. I admit, I was to chicken to refuse the gift. I’ll give it away or bury it somewhere. Since I accepted it and my dad will keep on me until I send something, is there a message I can send that says thanks but very insincerely? Again, she didn’t even give it to me in person and I know it’s an attempt at hushing me up regarding my intense dislike as I’m pretty straight forward with how I feel about her.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I think the best thing to do is to send a short but sweet thank you note to her and your father saying thank you for the lovely gift.


  33. Margaret says:

    I will admit, I still haven’t sent thank-yous for my summer wedding. You’ve inspired me, though, Grace! I wonder if it would be weird to write them in Christmas cards? I think I will try to make 2014 a more thankful year!

  34. Myra says:

    Hi Grace,
    I have a question about a thank you note. Do I send a thank you for the thank you note I recieved for a gift I gave my niece?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      nope- the thank you note is where the thanking ends :)


  35. Catherine says:

    I’m a late arrival to the conversation, but have enjoyed it. Myra’s question reminded me of a nice thank you note I received from a friend’s daughter (I’m an honorary ‘aunt’ of sorts). My friend called and said that they hadn’t heard anything about her daughter’s thank you note to me. I was puzzled, “A thank you for a thank you?” I asked? My friend (who prides herself on her good manners), said “Yes! Of course, for a child.” I said it was a lovely card (over the phone), but added that I do not send thank you’s for thank you’s. Her logic means the giver is locked in to a two-time commitment – the gift AND a thank you for a thank you.

    Alas, this friend has been the source of other issues like this. I gave her daughter a gift on another occasion that she chose to exchange. That’s fine. I’d rather she have something that works for her. But, her mother said that her daughter was not going to send a thank you note until she could report on what she’d exchanged it for (and then I still never received one). Once I give the gift, I’m done. Give it away, exchange it, break it – all those things can happen, but please don’t tell me. Just a simple thank you note will suffice. Once a gift is given, I have no strings of attachment to it (other than I really do think a thank you note is important – although I often don’t get them).

    Lastly, I have a relative who follows up on her gifts much later. “How was that book I gave you last year?” or “Do you still have that tray I gave you 3 years ago? Do you use it much?” !?!? I have thanked her at the time the items were received but she has a need for validation that her choice made me happy and is something I continue to like or use. Once in a while, the item broke, or I’ve re-gifted it because I don’t hold on to things I don’t love, find sentimental or useful. Then I have to chose whether I tell her the truth, or say, “Yes, it’s still great,” and hope she doesn’t drop by to see it.

  36. Becky says:

    Hi Grace! I really enjoyed this article–you inspired me to send out a few thank-you notes that had been on my to-do list for a bit too long. Quick question: I recently went to the first bridal shower I’ve ever been to, which was for one of my close friends. Do I send a thank-you note to her mom and sister, who threw the shower, for having me?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I think that would be lovely to do, but it’s not ‘required’ by modern etiquette rules.


  37. Denise says:

    I’m so glad to have run across this article. My dilemma is with my new daughter in law. I sent her a birthday present nearly a month ago and have not heard a word from her. I know the box was delivered because the tracking info said so, I also had told her that a box was on it’s way to her so she knew it was coming but I do not know that the box actually got into her hands. Do I contact her directly to ask if she received it or should I ask my son next time I speak with him on the phone. They live 800 miles from us so we rarely see them and because of their extremely busy lifestyles we rarely hear from them. My son was brought up to acknowledge gifts right away so he knows what I expect. This isn’t the first time that she has not acknowledged a gift. I’m beginning to think that I will no longer buy her gifts. I take great care and time in choosing things that I am fairly certain she’d like based on what I’ve seen of her. It is shocking to me that she wouldn’t make the effort to make sure she didn’t offend me in anyway. She is a very nice girl (27 yrs. old) and I’m very happy they married but her lack of manners is beginning to shape how I feel about her. Lack of manners seems to be part of her family’s way quite frankly and I’ve overlooked it several different times but now I am growing weary of it. I hate to make a rift but honestly. I’d like to know if she never received the box and I’d like to know if she liked what I sent. I find it difficult to comprehend that “in this day and age” this is how it is done.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I think you have every right to call and ask if she received it- hopefully she has the manners to apologize for forgetting to call and tell you.

      I don’t think this is cause for a rift though. One shouldn’t give a gift only to be thanked and a thank you certainly isn’t a reason to cause a problem.

      If it bothers you tremendously, I would consider asking your son first if she’s busy or going through anything that might have prevented her from remembering to write/call. If there’s nothing, than I would consider saying directly to her, assuming this happens again, the next time “Hi, [HER NAME], I just wanted to check if your gift arrived? It would mean so much to me if you could let me know if things get there. I was excited to hear what you thought of [gift] and just wanted to make sure it got there ok.”

      Whether or not the gift is perfect or just what she wants, she should thank you and let you know it arrived. But a missed thank you definitely isn’t a reason for causing a rift between you and your son’s family.


  38. Mary Burnette says:

    Grace, I’m 83 years old and I’ve been pondering the fact that sixth generation members
    of my family don’t bother to say Thank you for gifts received. Recently a fifth generation niece told her sixth generation son, a college graduate, to send thank you notes to us Ole Skool folk because we expected things to be done a certain way. I wondered why she didn’t tell him that it was courteous to say Thank you for gifts received and a matter of common sense to let the sender know that you have received something sent through the mail. For instance, a check that’s cashed can be verified by the sender’s bank. But that doesn’t mean the intended recipient cashed it. Why would anyone tell a child it’s old fashioned to say Thank you but do it anyway because they expect it?
    Is this mentality indicative of a new cultural development? Please enlighten me. Aunt Mary of Alabama

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Aunt Mary,

      Sadly I do think these sorts of traditions often seem to be dying off with younger members of the family. And while there is something to be said for accepting the change of technology and culture (ie: being ok with email ‘thank yous’ versus hand-written notes), I don’t think it means people shouldn’t have proper manners and thank someone and acknowledge a gift.

      I would speak with the 5th generation niece about her thoughts on the thank yous and stress that it’s something that’s important to you and something you’d hope would be important to her, too. If it’s not, it maybe interesting to know why she no longer deems it important. I don’t think the purpose of giving a gift is to be thanked in writing (although it’s certainly polite to do so) but I do think the bare minimum of acknowledging that someone got a gift and saying thanks via email or phone call is something you should feel free to expect and inquire about.


  39. Lisa says:


    Should I send a thank you if someone sends me a get well card from a recent surgery I had?


    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I think the next time you see them it would be nice to thank them- or just give them a quick call to say thank s:)


  40. Rose says:

    I am staying two weeks as an over night guest at a friends home. I
    am taking a hostess gift, but I would like to know if I should also
    include a card of thanks?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Rose!

      Two weeks is a good amount of time, so I think a card AFTER you leave is definitely the way to go. The hostess gift is perfect for arrival and I think a nice thing to do while you’re in town is to take the hosts out to dinner (or cook dinner in) as a thank you, too. Then a follow-up thank you note is perfect after you’re back home.

      I wrote a whole post on guest/host etiquette, too if you’d like to check that out.


  41. Amy Smith says:

    I always struggle with this:
    If I receive a gift and tell the person, “thank you” in person, do I also need to send them a thank you card or is it overkill?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      A written thank you for a gift is always nice. :)


  42. Babette Hodge says:

    Hi! My son just graduated from high school yesterday and I told him he needs to write a thank you card for the gifts of cash he received from guests. Some were from people that I go to church with and have good friendships with. He and both his dad and his step dad (my spouse) both think it’s not necessary cuz he thanked some of them (which ones he did or didn’t I don’t know) when they handed him the card. I’m feeling very frustrated due to I was raises to send a thank you card to everyone who gave money. When I tried to explain this they said I was trying to force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. It really makes me upset that I’m being accused of thinking og only how I feel because I don’t want their lack of etiquette to reflect badly on me. I have relationships with those from my church who took their time to come to the party and give him a card and a cash gift. My son wouldn’t even tell me what they gave so I could properly thank them. What should I do? Not do anything or send a card to them from me? I’m pretty mad that my ex and more husband and son don’t think it’s important. Please advise. Thank you!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      This is tough because I can’t speak to the nature of your relationship with your husband, but manners are manners and if someone gave your son a gift, the proper etiquette would be to write a thank you note. Your son will have to do plenty of things in life he “doesn’t want” to do, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t still do them. So I would assert your rights as a mother, while he’s living under your roof, to require him to send a thank you note. For anyone he can’t remember the gift, a general thank you will do. But maybe next time, if you want to help, you can keep a list and then hand that list to him so he knows who to thank for what.


  43. peggy anderson says:

    My husband and I sent my brother a lovely antique serving dish setting for their golden anniversary. We wanted to send something with gold on it and found a lovely set with gold trim. My brother sent a thank you card with $20.00 on the postage charge because he said”I know you cannot afford the costly postage”. Which is ludicrous. We find this to be very rude and insulting. My husband did not appreciate this. How do we respond? Thank you, Peggy

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      Yes, that is blatantly rude and deserves to be addressed in person.


  44. Jenna says:

    Hi Grace!

    I have a perplexing situation that I could use some advice on. I am a firm believer in ThankYou etiquette and keep well stocked with a variety of cards for saying “Thank You” (I just LOVE the appeal of a personal handwritten note of thanks and think that it truly does make the gift giver or deed doer appreciated in a way nothing else does) My conundrum: I volunteer with a group and have just received unexpectedly and privately (not as part of a volunteer appreciation event or something), from the head of the group, a very lovely and expensive “Thank You” gift and card for the work I have done with them. I am at a loss for what to do. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and recognition, but am stuck on this “Do you send a thank you for a thank you?” I have yet to come across an Emily Post article about this sort of thing and would greatly appreciate someone else’s opinion. Thank you, Jenna

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      Short answer? Yes. If it was an unexpected gift, I think a ‘thank you’ card is appropriate :)


  45. Michael says:

    Is it proper to send a thank you for a birthday card that did not include a gift? I thought it might be a little much, but I’m not sure.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi michael

      letting the sender know you got their card and a quick thank you is fine. if they’re younger and use email/social media/text you can say thanks there. if not, a quick call is nice.

      grace :)

  46. Irene eldridge says:

    I was in a restaurant and saw our former cpa, we visited when he left the restaurant he paid for my husband, 2 sister in-laws and my dinner. He had gone by the time I realized it. What is the proper thank you? The cost was approximately $45 to $50.00.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      hi irene

      a nice note is perfect :)


  47. Robin says:

    I visited a graduate school a few months ago (7 months ago). They had hosted a prospective womens students event. I was very busy in the months following. Despite the generous way they’d hosted us, including having provided lunch and other special events, it took me a while to write a note. I sent a brief email remembering the event when I received an invitation for another similar event. This is an Ivy League school and I know I should really make anyt hanks special. Can I send a brief hand written note and a small reminder of my work through a gift? I paint oil painting and am quite good. I’m applying for MBA programs to further a career in arts managment. I thought a small reproduction of a piece might be nice. Also I was given such warm welcome there due to a famous ancestor being a former alumni and administrator. I think I’d feel better sending something even if I were to not get in.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi Robin,

      I don’t think a gift is required here- but I think a hand-written note is perfect.


      1. Robin says:

        Thank you Grace.

  48. monty says:

    Would you please help with a question that my sister and I have going. My mother passed in June and we had a memorial services for her in October. My sister and I have never been close and whenever we have to work with one another is it horrible. When we broke down the list of things to do the thank you cards were to be done by one of us. My sister wants to combine the thank you cards for my mother memorial into her family Christmas card. I think that a personal hand written is the proper way to go and my sister feels a combine Christmas and thank you card is good enough. What is the proper Etiquette, it is almost six months since she has passed.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I don’t think you need to send a thank you card to people for attending a memorial service. If someone provided a gift, flowers, special help, etc. then a thank you would be nice. I agree a separate card would be nice, but I don’t think it’s required by etiquette.


  49. lex says:

    Hello, I will start off by saying that I am a little too shy and it gets in the way of showing my appreciation. For example, my three young daughters attend an after school program after school, they have been attending for years, but I work and when I get off they are usually waiting for me outside. Today I received a call from the program saying that they had sponsored my children and bought Christmas gifts for all of them. I didn’t know what to say. I went to pick them up and was so excited that I asked the person helping me load for a hug?.. The gifts are all marked from: Santa. This meant a lot to me because I really needed the extra help and I want to say thank you. I was thinking if it would be strange to take a pic of the kids with their gifts and thank you card for the club since I do not know who sponsored my kids? and deliver it myself or email them a pic and thank you card?.. I live close by and can deliver it myself, but I am worried that my shyness might make it awkward and might be better idea to email the club? Help, I have made this so complicated

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      I would write them a thank you card and leave it with someone from the school program when you pick up your kids :)


  50. Phil says:

    My family this past Thanksgiving decided to spend our Thanksgiving holiday preparing a meal for a family that had just had a baby. They were not “in need” in the financial sense, but we had heard they were going to purchase a meal and we instead wanted to make them a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal with all the traditional foods. Our whole family worked on this including our three kids, and we delivered it together, wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. We did get a thank you card from them saying they loved the food, or I should say my wife did. It was addressed to her only and thanked her for all the work she did on the meal. This was a family my wife’s sister knew, so there was no pre-existing relationship there. There is by far not the first time this kind of thing has happened, where our whole family works together on something for someone, and the assumption on their part is that only the wife was involved and only she needs to be thanked. At least one of my kids felt hurt by not being acknowledged. Am I right to be offended?


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