Stop Slacking, Start Thanking


    Annoyed by the lack of thank-you notes months after hand-delivering both an engagement gift and wedding gift to a close friend, a writer asks about the etiquette of bringing this up.

    Dear Miriam,

    I gave an engagement gift AND wedding gift to a close friend between winter and her summer wedding. I gave her both gifts in her home, so I know she got them, but I haven't received any kind of thank you for either. This is someone with generally good manners, so it's irking me. I want to ask if she's planning on writing thank yous, because I'm offended. I mean, even if she didn't like the gifts, she should still fake it, right? I'm not up for embarrassing her, I'm just annoyed and wish I knew what the deal was. As far as I'm concerned, thank-you notes never went out of style. What's the etiquette on her end and on mine?

    Stop Slacking, Start Thanking

    Dear Slacking,

    Thank-you notes are still in style, and so is asking questions about thank-you notes. I answered a very similar question back in April. While the scenarios have some differences, the bottom line is that if you give someone a gift, you deserve a thank you. The corollary, then, is that if you receive a gift, you need to say thank you! 

    While I'm no Miss Manners, my general rule is that written thank-you cards are required for the following circumstances:

    • Shower, engagement and wedding gifts
    • Gifts given by anyone a generation or more older than you; and
    • Gifts that are so thoughtful or so generous that to do anything else would be gauche. 

    Ideally, gift-givers would also receive thank-you notes for new baby gifts, but I think it's a lot to expect of new parents, so I give a pass (even though I wrote them and so have most of my friends). For any other type of gift, a written note is still lovely, but an email or phone call will suffice. 

    The letter writer back in April wasn't sure her gift arrived in the mail, so I said she needed to find out for sure. You say that you brought the gifts to her home, but you didn't mention if you actually put the gifts directly into her hands. It's possible that your card got separated from the gifts so she didn't know who gave them. It's possible that the gifts got misplaced somewhere in her home. It's even possible that she had a great system for recording gifts that arrived in the mail but not for ones that showed up during an engagement party. Since this is a friend you like and respect, it's worth giving her the benefit of the doubt even though it's highly unlikely that these scenarios would have happened for two gifts that both came from you.

    Send her a quick email that says something like, "Hey Sarah! How's married life? Back when you got engaged, and then again for your wedding, I brought your gifts to your house. I know thank yous are such a pain, but I just want to make sure you knew the X and Y were from me. Don't worry about the note, but I'd love to know you have them and are enjoying them!"

    Hopefully, she will follow up with an apologetic email and a hand-written card. If so, all's solved. If not, you may need to rethink your impression of her as someone with good manners. 

    Two other possibilities, though: 1) If you did, in fact, give the gifts to her directly and see her open them, maybe she said thanks at the time and thought that was enough. She would be wrong, but it's conceivable. 2) She may have sent a thank you that got lost in the mail. This happened with a friend of mine. I spent a while being annoyed that she hadn't thanked me, and she spent a while being annoyed that I hadn't acknowledged the super-personalized note with pictures that she'd mailed. It was a bummer that I never got it, and we both felt bad about it, but through a direct and respectful conversation, we got to the bottom of what happened. I hope you can, too.

    Be well,