Are You Thankful? Put It In Writing

Modern Manners

After my last article, in which I discussed wedding gifts, I had a reader make a comment regarding the importance of thank you notes. The post made her think about an insincere sounding text she received after sending a check to a recent graduate. She recommended I share some thoughts about the art of thank you notes.

Here are a few general rules about extending proper thanks that, despite what you may think, still matter a lot.

1.There is no excuse for failing to write a thank you note for gifts and kind gestures. Noting your appreciation not only communicates your gratitude but confirms your gift arrived. I sent a wedding gift a couple of years ago via a couple’s bridal registry on the Bed Bath & Beyond site. I never received recognition so I have no idea if the down comforter, duvet and shams I sent ever found the newlyweds’ doorstep. That leaves me in the position of wondering if they think I stiffed them yet it’s completely inappropriate for me to ask them about it.

2. In our electronic world, human communication sans devices has become almost extinct. It’s certainly OK to send quick thank you texts for small, helpful gestures. If you have the flu and a fellow parent drives your child home from school for a couple of days, a short text to express your appreciation is fine. When you actually receive a gift – wedding, birthday, anniversary, etc. – a handwritten note is absolutely necessary.

3. When you’re expecting a baby, stock up on stationary. You will likely receive shower gifts and be gifted some new baby items after you deliver. If you’re about to be first time parents, you won’t fully understand this now, but your every waking moment (and that’s a lot of moments because ony the tiniest sliver of your life will be touched by sleep) will be devoted to a very small human leech (whom you will love more than anything).

When your baby is an infant, write short but sincere thanks. Anyone with kids understands you are in the baby cave and any time the adorable freeloader sleeps you usually reserve for teeth brushing and quick showers.

As your baby becomes a toddler, pre-schooler, kindergartener it’s still acceptable to write their notes but ask them to help by writing their name or adding drawings as they are able. Once they’re reading and writing, they should be forming their own notes with your guidance as necessary. Like anything, if your kids learn this good habit early, your need to nag them later will be minimized.

4. A Few Tips:

a) Although most etiquette books will say you have a whole year to send notes after your wedding, I think this advice is outdated and utter nonsense. Three months, maximum, is a more polite time-line. After an entire year, the sentiment feels like and afterthought and won’t be nearly as appreciated. We once received a note from a couple three-plus years after their wedding that included thanks for their wedding gift, baby shower gift and new baby gift all together which was so ridiculous it was hysterical. I guess they were going for the trifecta of thank you cards but it further cememted our opinion of them: They are completely disorganized, entitled, flakes.

b) As alluded to above, Be Prepared. Illustrating why you need proper stationery before you have a baby might be obvious but regular life gets busy too so stash a box of stationary in your desk at work and your desk at home. I used to bring stationary to my kids activities like ballet and soccer practice. Clearly I’m not one of those moms who had to see every single plie or drill so using that time for personal correspondence worked for me. Don’t forget to have stamps at home, at work and in your wallet.

c) While the sentiment is more important than the stationary or ink itself, the proper way to compose something handwritten is by using a thin, black, felt tip pen (aren’t you glad I didn’t say quill and bottle of ink?). Black ballpoint is also acceptable. Personally, I like a black Le Pen which is both smooth to write with and produces a very nice line. Find your favorite and have a few on hand. In terms of actual stationary, buy the best you can afford and a style you like. If you’re on a budget, there is nothing wrong with a simple, neutral card that can be picked up at grocery and drug stores.

c) Be genuine and give your correspondence a personal touch.

Don’t Do This:

Dear Grandpa, Thank you for the check for my graduation. Love, Ryan

-or-

Dear Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Hank, Thank you for attending our wedding last month and for the great wedding gift. We love it. Best, Brittany and Logan

Do This:

Dear Grandpa, Thank you for the check you sent for my high school graduation. I’m sorry you couldn’t be with us to celebrate but I really appreciate your gift. I’m going to use it to buy a desk lamp for my dorm room next year which I will surely need for late night study sessions. Love, Ryan

-or-

Dear Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Hank, We are so thankful you could both celebrate our special day with us. It means so much that you traveled such a long way. We were so excited to receive the beautiful, sleek coffee maker. We will think of you every morning when we awake to the motivating smell of caffeine. What a generous gift. Thank you for your congratulations and thoughtfulness. Fondly, Brittany and Logan

Taking just a couple of minutes to express something in writing, even in the busy world we live in with all its distractions, will make you feel civilized and make the person on the other end of the letter smile, for sure.

 

 

 

 

Ten Traditional Things Every Wedding Registry Should Include

Homemaking, Modern Manners, Weddings

I’ve recently had the opportunity to inventory some family heirlooms that have been stored at my grandparents home for decades. Among the items I unwrapped were stems of delicate crystal my great-grandmother received for her wedding (circa 1899) which made me so happy. I have several stems at my house but one was broken a few years ago and I had no idea more existed. The discovery was a most happy surprise.

I brought those goblets home with me to live with their kin and I left several interesting pieces of crystal and china on display at their home. Although they passed away in the 1990s (when they were in their 90s), my maternal grandparents left their house to my parents and it has become a vacation home of sorts for family and friends. Finding treasures from generations past really linked me to my heritage and me think about things young couples can acquire together that will start their own home and legacy. Here’s a list of ten things that should be on everyone’s registry.

1. China

2. Crystal

3. Silver

These first three items are the Holy Trinity of wedding gifts. Times have changed and entertaining has taken a casual turn but every proper home needs china dinnerware, crystal stemware and sterling silver flatware (I had my silver pattern picked out when I was 8 years old). Not only do these items make holiday tables sparkle but they elevate everyday life.

My paternal grandmother has used her sterling and china everyday her entire life (she just turned 101) and it’s always made a simple dish of ice cream or casual lunch seem special. There is no reason to reserve your formal pieces for formal occasions. Sure a few pieces will break and need to be replaced here and there but life is short. Use the good stuff.

4. A Mixer

A good mixer is the single best thing you can acquire to start your kitchen appliance collection. Bread can be toasted in the oven, coffee can be picked up at Starbucks but a heavy-duty mixer will do a lot more than mix cake batter. It can blend fresh juice, mix the perfect mashed veggies, whip up baby food and you can add attachments over time that will master a number of cooking tasks.

5. Single Old Fashioned Glasses

Crystal or glass, a single old-fashioned glass is the best vessel to start the proper bar. Except wine or champagne, it will elegantly hold any number of drinks your guests might request from nearly any cocktail to a simple club soda or soft drink. The next glass to acquire is a double old-fashioned glass that can be used for water, iced tea, lemonade as well as taller cocktails.

6. Champagne Flutes

Champagne requires a flute so even if your crystal stemware collection doesn’t include flutes when you’re stating out, make sure you have some inexpensive flutes among your barware. You can pick up a set at IKEA for about $10.00 and keep them on hand until you invest in pieces that match your crystal stemware. Keeping glasses crystal clear by hand washing and hand drying them will make them sparkle and look more expensive.

7. Beautiful Guest Towels

Even if you’re young and still use your college towels in your own bathroom (I think I had been married at least ten years before I discarded the college bath towels that had my name printed on them – insharpie.) We started out using them in our bathroom, then as make-shift painting tarps and finally, rags. Make sure you display lovely guest towels in your guest bath and have a couple of sets of decent towels for any over-nighters.

8. A Butter Dish

A pretty butter dish is a must for a formal table, makes the kitchen table pretty and looks nice when you open the fridge too. There are lots of inexpensive varieties out there if you don’t receive a crystal or china butter dish as a wedding gift.

9. Good Salt & Pepper Shakers

For large formal dinners, my mother sets her table with individual, crystal salt and pepper at each setting. For a table up to six guests, one set in sufficient but if you are expecting more, a set at each end of the table is optimum.

10. Mixing Bowls, Measuring Spoons, Tea Towels…

Every gracious bride/groom; bride/bride; groom/groom should include inexpensive staples on a wedding registry. Not every guest is in the financial position to send a place setting or sterling serving piece.

There has been an attitude among marrying couples that expects a wedding gifts financially on par with the cost of a guest’s attendance at the wedding. This philosophy shows nothing but entitlement and a huge lack of manners. If you spend $300 per person on your festivities and hope every gift will cover that cost is absurd.

Make sure you register for inexpensive everyday things like casual placements, cookbooks, everyday coffee mugs, wooden spoons. A guest on a budget will appreciate the opportunity to purchase something you want that won’t break the bank.