This past summer, I attended a couple of weddings and several graduation parties. Just like most people, I looked forward to going. I brought a gift to each event to show my support for the newly married couple or graduate; I was truly happy for each honoree. So, each special day came and went, and life moved on.

However, a huge etiquette violation has occurred in all but one of these events. Can you guess what?

Here’s a clue: It requires very little effort. It makes your guest feel appreciated. It doesn’t have to involve seeing anyone after the party.

The answer is … Thank You’s!

When I graduated and later got married, sending each of your guests a thank you note was a must! I understand that sometimes it takes 3 – 6 months to send out a thank you card after a large event (I’m not sure why, but that’s what the etiquette rules say), but it feels rude and unappreciative on my hosts’ part to completely ignore the simple act of saying ‘thank you’. A simple thank you note is a thoughtful way to let your guest know that you appreciate them.

Here are some simple ‘Thank You’ etiquette rules that I picked up during my lifetime:

  1. Anytime a person receives a gift, a ‘thank you’ is expected. If the guest isn’t present, send a ‘thank you’ card or handwritten note.
  2. For shower and wedding gifts, even if the guest is present and even if they are family, a ‘thank you’ should be sent as soon as possible, no later than 3 months. Do not send a pre-printed or form card with just a signature. Acknowledge the guest and the gift enthusiastically in your note. You can mention how you intend to use the gift, but do not state that you plan to exchange or return it or refer to it’s value.
  3. For congratulation occasions (graduations or promotions), every person who brings a gift of any kind should receive a handwritten thank you note. You can refer to how you plan to use the gift, but do not state that you plan to exchange or return it. Do not refer to the monetary value either.
  4. For condolences or get well, every person who sends flowers, donation, visits, or sends a personal note, a ‘thank you’ should be sent as soon as the recipient is feeling better or as soon as arrangements are ended. A close family member can write these on a person’s behalf.
  5. For birthday parties, personalize each ‘thank you’ to your guest. Birthday party guests put time into purchasing or making a specific gift that they feel the party honoree would enjoy. Even if you do not like the gift, you should thank them for their thoughtful gesture.

Thank you notes do not have to be intimidating or time-consuming. A simple handwritten note to your guest acknowledging their time and their gift comes across as heartfelt and genuine as opposed to something that is not written at all. If you do not have time to sit and write all of the thank you notes at one time, write a few when you have spare time until they are all written. Even if it takes you months to write them all, just keep writing!

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