How to write heartfelt, unique thank you notes

Amy Wain

By Amanda Koehn


As the big day becomes a memory marked, in part, by those who celebrated with you, it’s time to articulate your thanks for their role in making it special.

While writing thank you notes may get a bad rap as a tedious task to complete in the post-party haze, it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it’s an opportunity to lean into your love for those close to you and show them appreciation for the meaningful gifts they selected.

While there are many ways to go about giving thanks, Amy Wain, owner and designer at The A.L. Wain Company in Beachwood, which creates stationery, invitations, thank you notes and other custom products, says there are simple ways to make it personal, stress free and a true exercise in gratitude.

Always send thank you notes.

For anyone who received a celebratory gift, it’s appropriate to send personalized and mailed thank you notes to the givers.

They should not be emailed or sent via other electronic methods, Wain says. And they should not be generic, but specific to each gift giver.

Always personalize.

When writing your notes, make sure to name all the gift givers, checking all the names listed on the card and their spellings carefully.

“If you are going to take the time to write a thank you note, definitely personalize it with the type of gift somebody sent you, or something about you personally, or that you enjoyed celebrating with them,” Wain says. “… So, instead of saying thank you for the generous gift, you should say, thank you so much for the Israel bond or the Crockpot or whatever the (gift) was. And make sure you are acknowledging them personally.”

She says while celebrants can create some formula for the structure of the letters so each blank page isn’t as daunting, there should be unique sentiments for each note regarding the gift giver and their presence at the celebration. For those who could not attend but sent a gift, the letters should thank them specifically for what they gave and say they were missed the day of the celebration.

Amy Wain

Handwritten is best – if legible.

While handwritten notes are considered the gold standard, Wain says there’s one exception: if someone’s handwriting is completely incomprehensible.

“What I sometimes suggest is to get a folded note card and type up the message and print it on the nice card, rather than just sending an email,” she says. “The other option is to just do it electronically. But I think in general, I think it’s still appropriate and accepted that you will send some sort of thank you note in the mail.”

Lean into tradition.

While a couple decades ago, using designs like dots and stripes that may be deemed kitschy were more common, today, wedding invitations and thank you notes are once again trending toward a more traditional look.

“They are doing their names in script or a monogram or something that’s a little bit sort of retro,” Wain says. “Not big loud designs or anything like that. It’s more traditional and (a) more … simple design.”

Trends like monogrammed letters and a more formal look are becoming popular. She notes though that b’nai mitzvah stationery can still be “pretty wild.”

Amy Wain

Pair invitations and thank you notes.

Clients who work with Wain often first consult with her for their invitations and then thank you note designs are created to match. The colors and style often can be the same, but one thing that might change for weddings is the monograms or names if the newlyweds change their last names upon marriage.

And while doing engraved or raised lettering is a nice, formal touch for invitations, it can be costly. Some will elect to use the same design but made flat for their thank you notes to save money, Wain says.

“They are much less expensive, but you can still do it in the same design and colors as the invitation,” she says.

For couples, split up the task.

Couples should split the job in half, with both partners doing their fair share.

To get a head start, Wain recommends trying to begin before the celebration if the gifts are received before the ceremony.

“Which really makes it easy, since you don’t have the huge pile waiting for you after the event,” she says, adding that the addresses should already be compiled from the guest list. “Do them as you get the gifts.”

One small traditional caveat is that before couples are married, etiquette says they should have two sets of stationery – one for each partner as a single person. After the wedding, they would use one set with both their names on it. So, if the bride is sending out thank you notes for her bachelorette party or shower gifts, she would want to use her personal stationery, as opposed to the wedding thank you notes, which would be from the couple as a unit with their married names.

Amy Wain

For kids, make it a lesson in gratitude.

While Wain says expectations can be quite low for thank you letters from children, that also means it’s fairly easy to impress with a heartfelt, kind and personalized note.

“I will say if someone writes a really nice note – a personal note – the person receiving it will be really impressed and it’s a really nice thing to do,” she says.

To create those special notes, she recommends parents guide children in reflecting on those who celebrated with them and what they mean to them, as well as the child’s gratitude for all they have.

“If they take the time and make it sort of like a project where they have to think about what they think about that person, even if they don’t know them that well, it gives them a little more of a perspective on the whole experience of the (b’nai) mitzvah,” she says.

Pay attention to the timeline.

While some say thank you notes should all be sent as soon as a month after the event, others deem it acceptable to take as long as a year. Wain says her recommendation is to have all the notes sent out and completed within the first few months after the event.

The sense of urgency comes not only from the need to wrap up the big day and thank those who were present, but also to acknowledge that you actually received the gifts and they weren’t lost in the mail or in the shuffle of the party. It also helps solidify the memory of your celebration in the mind of the attendees, reminding them of the fun and meaningful time they had.

“I think it’s a lovely tradition and I’m sorry it’s sort of disappearing,” says Wain, who has been in the business for 37 years. “People love getting mail, and you get so little mail these days.”

If for whatever reason you missed that window for sending the note, Wain says it’s never too late. You could perhaps acknowledge the lapse with an apology in the note, but it’s not always necessary, she says.

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