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

by Grace Bonney

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

Suggested For You


  • 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…

  • 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?

    • Hi,

      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!

      • Luke

        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.


  • 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.

  • 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 :)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!


  • 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!

  • 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. :)

  • 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!

    • 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. :)

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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….

  • 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. http://growinggratitude.com/

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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??? :(

    • Joanie

      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 ;)


  • 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.

    • Susan

      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.


  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

    • Denise

      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.


  • 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

    • 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.


  • Hi.

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


  • Grace,
    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?

    • 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.


  • 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?

  • 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!

    • Babette

      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.


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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 :)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Monty

      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.


  • 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

  • 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?

  • I often receive gift cards left on my desk at work for different occasions. I always send a written thank you within a day or so. My question is this: should I also call the person right away and acknowledge that I’ve received it and thank them?

  • We had an anniversary celebration. Some people gave gifts. Not all the gift came with a card and some cards got mixed up. I want to send thank you cards to everyone. I would like to acknowledge the gift if there was one in the card, but I do not know, what to say in the card if I do not know if they gave a gift. I was think, “Thank you for your gift of love and support.”

  • Is posting a thank you card under a door of a person’s office considered to be rude?

    • Jane

      I don’t think so- if you don’t have access to their mail or address. But handing it to them directly or putting it in their mailbox might be nicer :)


  • My daughter received a graduation card that had $20 written in the corner but there was no money inside. How do you send a thank you card for that. Thank them for money you never received? Maybe the card was meant for another graduate that they gave money to and they were mixed up? I don’t want to ask them where the money is, and if we don’t send a thank you and were expecting one I would feel bad? Awkward situation.

    • Patti

      I would give them a call and explain the situation- they probably just forgot to add it. I wouldn’t assume the worst, just give them a ring and explain the situation. If they can’t add the money, that’s their choice, but it sounds like an accident.


  • My husband is absolutely not going to write notes for several bottles of wine and various gifts from fruit, to gift baskets and a very fine written pen.

    Can I make a collage of the photos from his party– and write type them with a script font and then just let him sign them?

    He’s a doctor– not dumb, but wasn’t raised with birthday parties, much less thank-you notes. Help!

  • If you are thanking someone for an internship, is it tacky to include your email/ contact info at the end of the note?

  • I have a ton of beautiful wedding thank you cards leftover from the wedding. Can I use them for an anniversary gift thank you? The person did not attend the wedding.

  • I received a thank you for a wedding gift (selected from her registry) weeks before the wedding, sent by the bride who I didn’t know, and written in a very perfunctory manner. The message was clear: “one less thing off my to-do list”. This to me is WORSE than not sending a thank you.

  • I received a very nice Thank You card by mail from my boss. I was surprised that she took the time to look up my address and mail the card. I’m wondering why should did not sign her name on the card? Why would she not sign her name?

  • At my baby shower, a friend mentioned in the card that my gift will be arriving at my house. That was 2 weeks ago. Do I let her know I still haven’t received it? I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful by not sending out a thank you card but I also don’t want to seem greedy by expecting a gift because she said it was on its way.

  • My baby shower is approaching and some guests have had their gifts delivered directly to our home. I intend to send everyone a written thank you, post shower, but would also like to acknowledge those delivered gifts when I am opening gifts at the shower. What is the best, tasteful way to do this?

    • Kelly

      I think you can have them out for display if you feel strongly about it, but thanking them with a note or call is a great way to make sure they feel thanked and recognized. You could also reference their gifts in conversation if having them out feels odd. For example, if “Mary” gets you an infant tub and sends it in the mail, but then “Liz” brings you one of those adorable baby bath towel/robes in person, you could say, “This is so cute! Thank you, Liz. This will be perfect for using after [baby’s name] gets out of the infant tub that Mary got us!”

      Grace :)

  • I have paid school and university fees for a foreign boy who is like a son to me. Five weeks ago he went home to marry, and I sent many gifts I thought would make his bride happy (including my mother’s diamond and wedding rings). The wedding took place four days ago, and I have still to have a single word of thanks from the bride (whom I do know), although she has had time to post endless pictures of herself (and not him) and silly hehehe comments to other friends on Facebook. I am really very very hurt. He has thanked me, but that is not relevant; the things were given to her, not him.

    • Nancy

      Etiquette wise, couples theoretically three months to write thank yous. So I would wait a while. If you’re still upset and hear nothing, I would reach out to her directly to ask about the gifts. Normally I would say to let this go, but you did give away your mother’s rings, so I think that’s definitely worth connecting about.


  • I received a gift of money from my cousin signed by just himself. Do I address the thank you card to just him, or should I also address his wife?

  • My husband and I have been married for 16 years and we have a beautiful blended family of 5 children and 6 grandchildren! All of them are spread out across the USA, but 3 of the grandchildren live in the same state as we do ranging from 4 to 6 hours away! This is a second marriage for both of us, but when we send a check together, the “thank you” notes are only written and/or addressed to him! My question is would this be considered proper etiquette? It really hurts when I am the one that makes sure the checks get out on time, and I am completely left out of the thank you note!

    • Lisa

      It should be addressed to you personally. I think your husband should bring this up with his kids if that’s who is leaving you off.


  • I don’t think anything other than a hand written note is acceptable for a wedding or shower.
    To me sending an e-mail is impersonal and tackey.
    E-mail notes for other things is a personal choice, some like to make others feel their efforts or gifts are special and worthy others don’t care. At the end of the day I have always thought the way a bride makes her family and guests feel is a lasting memory connected to her so make the effort and do it right.

  • I received a thank you from my friends sister ( first time I met her) for an event she attended. I want to send her some nice post cards from the event, but I don’t want her to feel she needs to write another thank you for them.
    Is there a polite way of saying she needn’t bother sending a thank you. I don’t have an email or text info.

    thanks, syl

    • Sylvia

      I think it’s ok for you to send that sweet gift and not expect anything back. If she wants to reach out I think that’s ok, too :)


  • Hi,
    I have a friend I’ve given gifts to. She will email and says she loves it, but has never said the magic words, “thank you.” I’m going to cease sending things because I was raised that gratitude is expressed with those words or something like that. Am I being too picky?


    • LJ

      Short answer: Yes. Gifts should never be given with the string attached that they have to be responded to in a certain way, or else. It sounds like she’s doing the work to acknowledge the gift and let you know how much she loves what you bought- which is a lot more than most people do. I agree that “thank you” should be words included in that. But to withhold gifts because she isn’t expressing gratitude in the same way you were raised feels misguided. We were all raised differently, so if she’s acknowledging the gifts, I think that counts for something.


  • I received a thank you card from my employer (for a job well done), along with a substantial gift card. Should I send a thank you card back to thank them for the gift card, or does it seem like we’d just be going around in circles?
    Thanks, Jan

  • Help! My husbands business partner and his wife and two girls keeo buying our new baby girl presents! I sent a very personalized thank you card that i went out and picked personally for them vs. a generic. Well they keep buying her things and I mean expensive things! What do I do? Keep sending a thank you card? Bake cookies? When does this end!? Lol! Please help!

    P.s. so sorry for the typos. I am typing on the run.

    • Stephanie

      I understand where you’re coming from, but I think the best thing here is to keep sending cards and I’m sure eventually the stream of presents (what a great problem to have though, right?) will subside. I’m so happy your new baby girl has such enthusiastic family friends :)


  • I have a strange question. I am one of those people that really prefer not to receive a thank you note. I normally just write on the card… “No thank you note needed or required” but I would like to have a card printed up that is a bit more eloquent. Any suggestions on wording?

  • I would love your opinion on this.. I recently had my baby shower and the invites were made only to my female family and friends. Some signed cards with their spouse’s name, so I’ve written thank you cards with both of their names. However, my cousin’s gift did not include a card; she is married so I’m just not sure. Also, my aunt made a beautiful quilt for my baby and the card was just signed by her, so I only made the thank you card out to her and did not include my uncle. I’m just not entirely sure what proper etiquette is in this situation. Thank you!

    • Allison

      I think if a card is signed by just one member of the family, it’s fine to address the thank you to them. But if it’s not specified, I think it’s safer to include everyone.


  • I am looking for a new job, networking and reaching out to various people in my industry. I had a meeting with the owner of a company to pitch some of my ideas. Although this was not technically an interview I sent a follow up email as I would after an interview. I would like to also send a hand writen than you. Would that be too much? Or maybe keep it short since my email was thorough?

  • Hi. I received a thank you that had a general thank you preprinted on all the cards to save time and no personal note. I don’t feel that this was the proper thing to acknowledge someone. What are your thoughts?

    • Rosalba

      I understand it may not be ideal, but was this something like a wedding where someone may have needed to send a large number of thank yous? I agree a personal note is always great, but to me, a thank you is better than no thank you.


  • I received a thank you note and flowers from a student who I helped earlier this week. (I’m a school counselor. ) I thanked her and hugged her when she gave them to me, but should I also write a thank you note for the flowers? I was so impressed that someone her age would give a handwritten thank you note!

    • Laurie

      I don’t think you need to follow up with another thank you. I think her thank you and your hug is the best conclusion to that (very kind) interaction :)


  • I recently went to a football game. A friend’s parents got me a ticket to the game and would not accept any compensation for the ticket (about $100 value).

    I have their address and was planning to hand write a thank you note. My question is: would it appear more thoughtful if I included a gift card with the note? If so, are there any do’s and dont’s as far as the monetary value and the type of card? (e.g. I’m guessing a plain old $50 Visa card would not look as thoughtful as a $50 Ruth’s Chris gift certificate)


    • David

      If they insisted on not letting you pay, I think just a thank you note is plenty. It’s clear this was a gift they wanted to give you, so a thank you note is the perfect way to say, well, thank you ;)


  • I forgot to thank a friend for a sweet gift she sent me; it arrived 4 days ago and today she text me to see if I had received it (which I had.) I meant to send her a text message but just totally forgot. I text her back apologetically and tried to call her but she is traveling and could not speak on the phone. She text me back saying it was ok, but I still feel like I should do something else to apologize. Should I send her a small gift or a handwritten card?

  • We sent my daughter a birthday card and $200.00 for her birthday.
    It was October 29 and she turned 31. Her and her husband bought
    a home in Wichita Kansas in May. We haven’t heard from her since
    April. I have called her and left messages. No call back. She finally
    gave me, her sister, her grandfather her address in October so we
    could send her cards and gifts. So it not just me her sister told me.
    How long should I wait for a thank you.


  • I got married last month and I just sent my thank you cards to our guests. The cards are very personal with wedding pics on them. Do I need to send one to those who sent us gifts but did not attend the wedding? I did call them to thank them personally which is why I’m a bit confused on what should I do?

  • My sister sent flowers to our cousins funeral and she signed the card with her name first, me second and my wife third. I was the only one of us three who attended the funeral. My wife and I received a thank you card but my sister didn’t. I showed my sister our thank you card and the names in order were mine, my wife and my sister. My sister made a comment about her name being last and it should have been first because she is older than me. Is there a proper form of etiquete for the arrangement of names to be followed?

    • Francis

      My two cents? After the death of a family member, it feels like it’s not worth anyone’s time to argue about the listing of names on a thank you card. If you received a thank you and everyone’s name was on it, it’s time to let it go and focus on supporting the family members who lost someone.


  • I need some advice! I just purchased a car from a dealership for the first time and had a really great experience! My car salesperson was excellent and very helpful. Is it too weird or inappropriate to send a thank you card? Should I also send a small gift (like a gift card or baked goods) or is sending a gift too over the top?

  • I have an publisher friend across the country who regularly sends me bundles of books.. I just received the fourth package in two years & I am running out of things to say in the thank you notes. I am extremely grateful & let him know this every time we talk, but I’m wondering: should I continue to send a thank you note each time if they are going to start sounding repetitive? “Dear friend, thank you for the books, they are a joy to read, etc…” Or is keeping it short just as rude? “Dear friend, thank you for the books, gratefully yours, k.” Help!

  • I had a baby in September and one of my neighbors (whom I’ve never met because we haven’t lived here that long) made a beautiful blanket for my son and left it at our door. This was such a thoughtful and generous gift. I plan to send a handwritten Thank You card. Will that be enough for a gift that they clearly spent a lot of time on? Or should I do more than that?

  • I could really use some guidance. We moved into our new home one year ago and have become friendly with all of our immediate neighbors. They’re wonderful and we love that. We’ve had a couple of social get-togethers since then but are not super close. One couple left us a $50 gift card on our porch as a Christmas gift. We haven’t exchanged gifts before and though truly nice, that’s just way too generous from my perspective. I’ve prepared little bags of cookies for everyone, which seems about right. How do I genuinely thank them for such a sweet gift while not sounding ungrateful, but also resetting the gift giving expectations going forward? Thanks!


    • Jules

      The tricky thing with gifts is that everyone has different budgets. I think you should stick with yours and accept that theirs is within their budget and they wouldn’t give it if they didn’t feel comfortable with that. Unless they start gifting you big-screen TVs, I’d just chalk it up to different budgets, write them a thank you and send/make the gift for them that YOU feel most comfortable with.


  • I would like to know if it is ever acceptable to 3rd party thank you? As in “tell you mom I liked the gift”.

  • My father-in-law has repeatedly given me bad gifts at Christmas. I’ve been married for 15 years and I think I’ve gotten 1 or 2 that I liked. Advice in the form of books, that I don’t need or want – jackets, lots of jackets or fleeces that are typically the female version of what he gives my husband…though one year I just got a mens plaid shirt…golf lessons (even though I don’t golf). This year I got a piece of clothing that I won’t wear. I have tried thinking of these gifts in terms of a donation so someone else can use them. What is the best way of thanking someone for a repeated bad gift?

    • Theresa

      I feel you. The simplest answer is: thank them as you would for any other gift and donate it to someone who could use it. If you think there’s another message behind these gifts that aren’t very “you”, then you can discuss that directly with him, but otherwise I would just trust your instinct to donate them to someone in need :)


  • I just bought a couple a weekend getaway in the mountains and they texted me to thank me.
    My friends are retired pastors and are very kind people. But whenever I give her (of course I am closer to her) then I get a text message “Thank you.”
    I think this is tacky and hurtful. They are in their 70’s so I am sure they trained all their kids to write thank you cards. But now they thank me via text.
    Also, I bought their daughter (my age) a 2 day retreat and her favorite retreat center and she also texted me to thank me.
    I don’t know if I should say anything or just stop giving them gifts as I have told them (the couple) before that it offends me to get text thank yous.

    • Terrie

      I agree that a written thank you would be lovely, but the purpose of gift giving is to give someone something nice out of the kindness of your heart- not with a string attached that a thank you has to come in a certain form.

      If you’re giving these generous gifts with the stipulation of requiring a written thank you, it may be time to rethink the gifts and why you’re giving them.


  • About the getting gifts from your father in law that you don’t like, just be polite and thank him.
    Nobody is entitled to a gift. A gift is because the person cares enough about you to think to buy you something. It would be great to like every gift we get but that isn’t really realistic. Nor relevant.
    Whether or not you like what you get you should be thankful that someone bothered.
    Also, I am sure he doesn’t head to the store and purposely tries to get you the worst gift possible. I am assuming he thinks you are going to like it.
    If you don’t like it,,like someone said, donate it.

  • I recently sent my Mom, who lives out of state, a bouquet of flowers just because. While she did thank me by “Text”, I feel hurt that she did not call me. I know that texting has become the new way of communicating, but I just can’t get past not receiving a personal call. Is it just me?

    • Melissa

      No, it’s not just you. Many people feel slighted when they have a specific form of recognition in mind. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a particular type of communication, but it does set you up for disappointment. And it sets up your recipient for failure if you don’t make it clear what you’re expecting in return. But that gets to the core of the problem: you’re expecting something specific in return for your gift, which isn’t the best idea. Gifts are a good idea when they’re given without any expectation in mind. When they’re given with string attached, it is like giving the recipient a test they don’t know they’re signing up for.

      If you have a specific form of “thanks” in mind, I would suggest putting more time into the reason behind the gift. If it’s being done in order to get a “thank you”, perhaps find a different way to express your love/care for that person in a way that already is in your chosen format.

      So, for example, if you wanted to essentially tell your mom you loved her “just because”, perhaps try giving her a call to tell her that you love her and enjoy a conversation together. She gets the same gift of love and your time and you get the personal response format you prefer.


  • I sent Christmas gifts to my sister and 27 year old niece. I received a thank you note from my sister thanking me for the gift I gave her and her daughter. Seems a 27 year old is capable of sending her own note.

    What is your opinion?

    Thank you.

  • I have two different co-workers who welcomed a new baby into their family in 2016. While I was not, and did not feel obligated to give a gift to either- I actually hand- crafted unique baby gifts for each of them as well as giving a store bought gift. The gifts were delivered in person and opened in front of me. I was thanked verbally and it was made aware to me that the gift was very much appreciated and like by the first recipient. A week or so later I received a hand written thank you note as well for the gift. This made me feel like the recipient truly liked the gift. The second, however, barely made time to open the gift let alone pay attention to what the package contained. I received at best, a brief acknowledgement via a picture posted of part of the gift by a third party on a social media page,(I had the bear/blankie monogrammed and the person who did the work posted a picture of it on her social media page) and when I went so far as to actually ask if the gift – a baby bear/blankie- was being useful or if the child liked playing with it– I was literally told- “oh, we haven’t given it to her yet, it’s still in the box on the kitchen counter…” this was about 2 months ago and I still have not received so much as a proper thank you not to mention a card or note. And I was even asked by a fellow co-worker’s spouse if I had gotten a note since seemingly they were in the same situation and feeling the same way I was. Just my opinion– but I have always sent thank you notes, taught my children (who are now adults and are teaching their children) to send thank you notes and yes– there are times that I do resort to emails and texts because I consider myself very tech-savvy, but I still feel like, at times, there is no substitution for the hand written note…

    • Ann

      I feel differently about hand written notes, but we’re on the same page: this second family could have been more caring in their response about your gift. Whether it was hand made or store bought, when you asked about the gift, saying they hadn’t opened it or thought about it isn’t polite. I’m sorry that happened. If they have a new baby they’re probably tired and stressed and adjusting in so many ways that they just don’t (understandably) have those sort of etiquette or gift concerns as top priority. So in the big picture, I think this is probably one to let go and move on from, assuming this behavior isn’t typical for them.


  • Hi, my cousin sent a thank you note for my attendance at her wedding shower, that did not acknowledge a (somewhat expensive and large) gift my mother and I gave her, off the registry. We both signed a card, which I beleve was taped to the gift. I was so surprised & kinda offended, but since I received the card first, I thought she somehow didn’t realize the gift was from both of us. I hope it wasn’t too rude but I messaged her and her fiancé (they have dated about ten years, so I know him well too!) and said I just wanted to make sure you knew gift X was from my mom and me, not just from my mom. Then several weeks later my mom received a thank you note that ALSO did not acknowledge the gift!! I find it very weird and somewhat passive aggressive. Thoughts?!

    • Lisa

      That’s odd- what did they say after you messaged them? When was the wedding- is it possible they just haven’t sent out gift thank yous yet?


  • A family friend gave a gift to my mother-in-law for my child but with the intent to keep it at her house. Since it is for my child’s use, should I send a thank you to the gift giver? What is the proper etiquette when the gift is for you (your child) but not given to you (your child)?

    • Nancy

      I don’t think I quite follow- they gave it to your child but don’t want the child to take it back to your house? That seems odd- could you explain further? How is it a gift for your child if it’s not given to your child?


      • Sorry-it’s a blanket/pillow thing personalized with my child’s name but they gave it to my mother-in-law to have at her house…does that make sense? So it’s a gift for my child to use but it stays at Grandmas house…

          • Umm, I don’t know…they gave it to my MIL and said this is for “baby girl” to use at Grandma’s house…so I didn’t ask to take it to our house because my MIL never offered it to us…she just kept it at her house. I think she would be offended if I asked, and feel like “why can’t I keep this here for “baby girl”? So I’m not sure how to proceed.

  • Hi – I recently gave a birthday gift to someone I work with (though in different offices). Her birthday was a few days ago, but I gave the gift 2 weeks ago knowing I wouldn’t see her before her actual birthday. This was a personalized gift with her name on it, from a company I know she absolutely loves. I was hoping she would open it in front of me when I gave it to her, but she just took the gift and moved on in the conversation. So I figured she might have been saving it for her actual birthday, which was a few days ago. The day of her birthday, I sent her a Happy Birthday email, to which she did not respond. The next day, I sent an email asking if she had opened the gift, because I was dying to know what she thought. Still no reply. Is it just me, or is it rude to not even acknowledge receiving such a personal, thought-out gift? I feel really hurt by this, but I don’t know how to tell her. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it’s getting harder with each passing day. She’s sending out other business-related emails, so I know she’s in the office and on email. I’m not sure what to think.

    • Kate

      That does sound odd, but I wonder if something else is going on? I would give her a few days and then text/email her and be direct. I’d say something like, “Hi [Name], I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I just wanted to check in because I’ve been trying to contact you and haven’t heard anything back. Is everything ok?”

      There could be something else going on in her personal life that has nothing to do with you, so I wouldn’t lead in with “where’s my thank you note?”.

      If she says something like “everything’s fine” and nothing else, I would ask her directly if she liked her gift. If she says yes and thank you, it’s probably best to let it go. Not everyone handles thank yous the same way and perhaps she was planning on writing a letter or email of thanks in a few weeks? Either way, I’d start by checking in and making sure everything is ok with her.


  • Dear Grace,
    We helped a couple who were stranded get home (not that far) and they gave us a bottle of wine (totally unnecessary). Now do I send a thank you for a thank you?
    Thanks, Linda

  • Grace, I am so glad I ran into your article because I’ve been struggling with something, and it’s possible you hit on it in one of your tips, but I want to double check. And if you did, possibly see if there’s anything I can do to soften the effect, although I suspect you’ll tell me to leave it alone.

    I have a feeling I may have “over thanked” on two occasions. The first is when the neighbor next door helped me put up my hurricane shutters. My husband happened to be at work for an extended shift and wasn’t going to be home in time. The shutters are kind of a pain to put up, it took about an hour or more. And when it was all over he was kind enough to come over and ask me if I needed help taking them down. About a week later we gave him a $40 Gift Card to a local restaurant and a thank you expressing how thankful we were for the peace of mind, etc.

    The other, we had an out of town funeral to attend and we happen to know someone with some connections who was able to allow us some flight changes last minute at no extra charge and didn’t charge us for our bags. This was incredibly helpful to us because since it was an unexpected funeral we really didn’t know when it was going to take place. Plus the flight was expensive so being able to save on the bags was a huge help. We sent him a $50 Gift Card to a restaurant, also with a thank you note saying how much we appreciated the help, peace of mind, etc.

    It felt right at the time because I was feeling so grateful but for some reason now looking back I fear we may have made these people feel uncomfortable as in thank you, here’s a gift card, now we’re even. And what I fear even more is that since I’m not so generous with my time and may not be as kind as these people were that maybe that was partly what was driving the gesture. :/ Maybe I didn’t want to feel indebted. :/It’s dawning on me that when people are genuinely nice to receive money for time they gave or something they did may feel awkward. :( I thought of a gift card only because we don’t know either of these people that well to have given something a little more personalized, or like something like a little box of chocolates or something. But with gift cards unless you know someone’s a coffee drinker and can do something small like that a $10 card to anything else just feels funny. I’m also thinking that perhaps NEXT time something happens and we need help they may feel awkward thinking that we might do something like that again and feel funny about it. Or worse might feel a little obligated in a sense.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    And if it was indeed an over thank in both instances, is there anything we can do to fix it? And how do you know when something like a gift card or an actual gift is OK to do?

    Thank you so much. I’m really feeling awkward about all this now.


    • Hi Gina

      I think the short answer is this: as long as these people don’t contact you to say they’re uncomfortable or act any differently, I’d let this go. I think you gave them a generous thank you gift and that’s just a nice surprise. :)


      • OK Grace thank you. I’m glad you thought this was a generous thank you rather than an over thank you. That’s comforting.

        I can’t say either has been acting differently because I don’t see them that often, they are both very casual relationships.

        But I’m still curious – if you care to address it – what would you if they did indeed, act any differently? (or they actually expressed feeling uncomfortable.) I’d love to know because I’d love to know how to handle it and because I’m sure it may come up again at some point (plus I’d just find it interesting, I’ve always loved reading about manners.)

        Anyway, thanks again, it’s good to hear the gifts weren’t over the top.


  • Hi Gracee, I have read through many times of your comments. I read what you said about the boss and the student with flowers. I am a teacher and with school ending, with have received several gift cards as thank you for the school year and teaching me,etc. Oh course I expect expressed a verbal thank you. Some gifts were not handed to me but delivered to my box. Should I send thank you notes home to each of them? Or just be happy I was thanked for the work I did all year.

  • Hi sorry for the typos above. I am not sure how those happened. See correction below.

    I read through many of your comments.

    I am a teacher with school ending and have received many gift cards as a thank you…

    I expressed a verbal thanks.

    Thank you

  • Grace, I have a question as to how to handle a gift my son received. His friend asked him to a concert which was very expensive, like around $300 a seat. The boy’s sister was unable to attend. We offered to pay for the seat but the Mom said there was no need. My son will write a Thank you card, but Im wondering if I should try to pay something for the seat or perhaps a gift card along with the Thank you card? Not sure how to handle this.

  • I am a school nurse do I send a thank you note for a thank you gift I receive from a student?

  • Hi All,

    My daughter had two events (she graduated from High School). There were those who went to her graduation (and this was a tough choice on who to invite as tickets were limited) . We then had a graduation party and everyone was invited. My daughter sent out thank you cards to everyone who gave her a card or present.

    My question is this..my husband thinks she should have sent out thank you cards to all those who attended her graduation but not all those who attended her graduation party. I believe that everyone who gave her a card or present should receive a thank you and don’t see the difference between those who attended her party and those who attended her graduation.

    What is the proper etiquette ?

    • Joanne

      I agree that thank you notes are appropriate for anyone who gave her a card or present- and possibly for anyone who made a long trip for the graduation.


  • DO NOT be so lazy or tacky as to send a text or an email instead of an actual thank you card. Times may change but if you’re mature enough to get married you’re mature enough to extend the formality of a Thank You card. And please…….do not think that you’ll get to it when you get to it. Miss your favorite TV shows for a few nights and get the job done. Your guests were kind enough to buy you a gift; be considerate enough to extend a heartfelt and timely thank you. And by timely I mean asap. The “up to three months” or “up to one year” so-called “rule” is for lazy people. If you don’t have the ability to send a thank you note within one month of your wedding then ask for assistance. Any later than that reads a true lack of sincerity.

  • What is good etiquette to have people over for an appy evening to thank them for helping with a move? Would it be okay to ask them to bring appys?

    • Yvonne

      If you’re inviting people over to thank them, it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask them to provide the food for the party to thank themselves.


  • I belong to a small book club of five ladies. At Christmas, we have lunch at a cute restaurant and we exchange presents. Is it required to send a Thank you Card if we exchange a gift? I’m inclined to think no, but it might be nice. What is your opinion?

    • Carol

      Does the rest of the group send cards? I think it could be nice, but if everyone has gone along without them for a while I’d say let it stay the way it is since you see each other and can thank again in person at your next meeting :)


  • If someone gives you something after you have done something for them is a thank you note required?

  • Is it proper for our daughter to include her boyfriends name on gifts she bought and on the thank you card she sent us for what she received?

    • Windy

      Short answer, yes. If she chooses to add his name willingly (even if you presume he wasn’t involved in the purchase), that’s her choice.


  • I wasn’t raised to write thank you notes. I sent thank you notes for both high school & collage graduation gifts. After I got married, I continued to write notes after any kindness I was given. Since my daughter was born, I’ve sent notes in her name for any and all gifts for her until she could write her own. I am raising my daughter to write thank yous. I always tell her how important it is to let people know they are worth a kind word & a stamp (I don’t care how many people think texting & email thanks are enough… it’s not)
    I have 2 stories to share & hope they will help those “on the fence” about whether or not to send an appreciation note.
    Many, many years ago, I read an article where a mom was irate at her mom in law as instead of sending gift for the kids, the grandunit sent a note saying that since she didn’t receive a thank you note for the last gifts, she wouldn’t be sending anything. The response from the article’s author told the upset mom that the grandunit did give her kids the best gift.
    My great aunt was so impressed with the thank you notes that I sent her in my daughter’s name she decided to send her a card each “Hallmark” holiday including a dollar until my aunt passed away. She always gave my daughter dolls that she made (her dolls were sold for several hundred dollars each). She would tell my grandmother that her own children & grandchildren never sent her thank you notes.
    To this day, I recall how proud my grandmother was that her granddaughter was so kind & other people knew it.

  • I was wondering if it is weird to send a gift basket to someone who has helped me tremendously through email to get a project done…..for free! I really want to say thank you for his willingness to help me and get back to me very quickly, while he is trying to run his own small business. This isn’t the first time either. So……is that weird or a good way to show my gratitude?

  • When my sons were young, I made sure they wrote thank you notes. When they were still babies, they were given a crayon to scribble on the notes I wrote. Once old enough to draw something, the stick figures were included. When they were old enough to write, we made a master letter with blanks for the name of the recipient and the gift. These were printed and filled in for each person. Later, we made cards out of drawings or funny photos.
    When there were many thank-yous I printed out address labels and each day they had a certain number of notes to write before any activities began. The idea of writing 4 or 5 notes and not having to prepare the envelopes was less intimidating than giving them a list of 20 or more.
    They are both still good at writing thank-yous, although we have made agreements with all aunts and uncles that email messages are OK for all the cousins. We get more news that way!

  • Hello. To put it simply, on a whim, I sent my married niece a small gift for her little girl for Valentines’s Day.
    Over the years as our family has grown, I have changed my personal policy on gift sending to our great nieces & great nephews. I have always been fair to all the children in our family for many years & for many occasions. They are now grown adults with children of their own. I simply can’t continue gift giving to this next generation.
    In response, I was very surprised to receive a text message from my niece’s mother, my sister-in-law to thank me for the little gift ( essentially for her grandchild.) It was a nice text & nice to be acknowledged, but I wondered why my niece couldn’t have sent a text message to me, herself? To date, she has not sent any form of thank you via text or handwritten.
    I just found this situation rather odd. Your opinion will be appreciated.
    Thank You.

    • Hi KAB,

      Thank you notes are one of the most complicated issues we’ve discussed here over the years and there’s no “right” answer. There’s how we each feel individually and how others feel. Sometimes we’re able to meet in the middle, but mostly I find how we grew up shapes what we expect of others.

      I personally feel that it’s tricky to give gifts with the expectation of a specific form of thank you. It’s understandable to want one, but in today’s generation, it’s a tradition that doesn’t exist in the same way that it once did. I was raised writing hand written thank yous, but personally, I don’t expect them from anyone else. What I tend to expect (which sets me up for less disappointment and less expectation in general) is an acknowledgment that the gift got there and a small thank you in some form. That can be a text, an email, a call, a letter- anything that connects you to acknowledge the gift.

      I do think it’s interesting that the recipient (who is an adult, yes?) didn’t contact you themselves. I assumed when you said that that the recipient was a younger person/child, where the parental response would be more expected.

      So I have a few questions:

      1. Is this the first time this has happened? Or has the mother always responded with the thank you on her daughter’s behalf?
      2. Is there anything else going on in the niece’s life you may not know about that could explain why she’s not currently in touch?
      3. Is it possible that anything about the gift could have been upsetting or controversial, even if it may not be to you?
      4. Would you feel comfortable asking your sister in law if everything is ok with you niece? If she asks why, you could say how you’re feeling and perhaps she knows something you don’t?

      I would gather some more information to hopefully better understand what happened and why she may not have reached out directly.

      Grace :)