Missing Thank You Note


    Months after mailing a generous wedding gift to a friend, a reader worries that it didn't arrive because she never received a thank you. Is there a way to ask without seeming to chastise the couple for not sending a formal card? 


    Dear Miriam,

    A friend of mine got married back in October. I decided not to go to the wedding for a variety of reasons, including that it was far away and would have entailed an expensive trip. Instead, I sent a very nice gift, probably nicer than what I would have given if I'd had the expense of actually traveling to the wedding. Now, months later, I realize I never got a thank you card. While I know that thank you notes are cumbersome to write, at least they let gift-givers know that their present arrived. I'm starting to wonder if maybe they didn't get it at all. Is there a way for me to inquire without looking like I'm chastising them for not sending a formal card?

    Missing Thank You Note 

    Dear Thank You,

    You're right to wonder, and you're also right to be cautious about how to satisfy your wondering. I think honesty here is going to be your very best route. I suggest writing an email along these lines:

    Dear So and so,

    I hope you and Mr./Mrs. So and So are doing well and having a very happy spring. I was just thinking about you and realized that I hadn't heard from you since I sent your wedding gift. I'm sure you're totally swamped, and I don't need a formal thank you card or anything, but I did want to check to make sure the gift arrived. Plus, it's nice to have an excuse to say hello!

    Thanks, and looking forward to hearing from you!

    Hopefully, you'll get a quick, satisfactory, apologetic and grateful reply. A phone call in this case has the potential to be too confrontational or to risk seeming like you've gone through a whole friendly catch-up only to spring the "did you get my gift" reason for calling at the end. A text could either be too direct or not direct enough, and you actually have a real question you need answered. Of course, this is a person with whom you presumably want to maintain a friendship, so having an excuse to catch up shouldn't be chore and that part of your email will be honest, too.

    You could similarly argue that wedding guests ought to be those with whom the couple wants to maintain a relationship, too. So, cumbersome as it may be, sending thank yous should be a golden opportunity to be genuinely thankful to the people who help celebrate a milestone. Alas, writing thank yous has gotten an awfully bad reputation. Clearly most people view it as a chore rather than as a chance to express a heartfelt emotion. 

    Whether or not you end up getting a formal thank you, I hope you find out that the couple received your gift. If it turns out the gift actually didn't arrive, then you'll need to contact the store where you purchased it and/or the shipper and find out what happened. If it arrived but the couple didn't realize it was from you, they'll be relieved to solve the mystery. Even under the best circumstances, keeping track of a lot of gifts, cards and addresses is a big project, and something can easily fall through the cracks. Follow up with your friend, be gracious, and leave it at that.

    Be well,