When is a Thank You Note Too Late?

By Meg Fullenkamp

As my wedding nears, and showers and parties are quickly approaching, there is one thing I am dreading: thank you notes.

Thank you notes are a time honored tradition. And for good reason, you should thank people who have taken time and money to help celebrate your day and get your marriage off to a good start.

But with over 300 people invited to our wedding, the thought of writing all those thank you notes is quite a daunting task. Being a guest at a fair amount of weddings over the years, I have noticed extremely different approaches to thank you notes.

One time, when I shipped a gift ahead of time, I received my thank you note before the big day. Another wedding, I am still waiting three years later for my thank you (not holding my breath.) And currently, there is a wedding we attended 9 months ago that we still have not received a thank you note. My coworker completed all her thank you notes within 2 weeks of the big day. And with all this experience I have heard anything from six months to a year as being the latest you can send out the notes.

As a natural procrastinator when it comes to things like this (and I am bad about thank you notes in general), I knew I needed a kick in the butt or I would be one of those people that waits and waits and waits. So I wondered, what is the appropriate thank you note etiquette? And even once you take etiquette into account, what do people REALLY think is an appropriate timeline for thank you notes?

As a note: I am in NO way saying I know anything about etiquette. I am sure I have made my fair share of etiquette faux pas along the way. Which is why I wanted more information about this topic.

The Emily Post institute features a guide to wedding thank you notes. And the one year or six month rumors are smashed by the etiquette master. “Contrary to popular myth, the happy couple does not have a year’s grace period. All thank you notes should be written within three months of the receipt of the gift.”

The Knot, considered by some to be the online authority on wedding planning, doesn’t even have a timeline listed on their site (at least not prominently in their complete thank you note guide.) However, there are sometimes regional rules that dictate etiquette on things like this. So this could explain the site’s reluctance to address the subject.

So I turned to Facebook and Twitter to ask people in the area about their take on the thank you note timeline. And people definitely have an opinion when it comes to this topic.

Most people tend to agree that the most appropriate time to send thank you notes is between 6 weeks and 3-4 months after the wedding. Six months is an ok time but all thank you notes should go out at least within 12 months.

@lisaderus echoed this sentiment. “3 months would be A+. Ideally within 6 months, but within 12 months is fine. Past 12 months would be weird.”

@RedbirdsBroad expects thank you notes within 2-3 months of the date of the wedding.

From a male perspective @pnovara said “I’d vote six weeks, but I’m a dude that’s not married, so what do I know?”

At some point, your notes start feeling late and guests will stop expecting them to come.

“I felt guilty for not getting mine out until six weeks later and IMO they are ‘late’ after 3 months. I internally judge people up to six months and then I give up,” said Allie May Briley.

Others agreed on Twitter that after waiting for a year for a thank you note, most assume it is no longer going to ever come.

Planned a wedding and past the suggested timeline…better late than never is the rule. It may seem rude to send them after a long time, but experts on theknot.com suggest addressing the tardiness directly within the note and your guests will still appreciate getting the thank you even if it is late.

As for tips on how to get those dreaded thank you notes finished, advice wavered between spreading them out and doing one long marathon session.

@MegHoulihan sent her thank you notes within two months by bringing them to work and doing 5-6 a day on her lunch break.

@stlsmallbiz tried to spread them out and learned that for her, that didn’t work. “We planned to do a little each night– but that didn’t happen. We ended up doing ours all in one day. I say just pick and date and do them all at once instead of doing them here and there.”

Another tip I picked up is that our elders expect them sooner than the rest of your guests, so write grandma’s thank you note first!

My plan is to write them before the big day for any gifts that are received before the wedding (if I have time) and then mailing them after we get back from our honeymoon. Then I am giving myself the goal of completing the remaining notes within 6 weeks and having 3 months as a firm deadline.

So what is your opinion? How soon should they go out? And how late is too late? Any other thank you note pitfalls to avoid?  Plus, any tips on how to make this task not so daunting would be greatly appreciated.

Image Credit: blogs.washburnlaw.edu

Meg is currently juggling planning a wedding, fixing up her new/old house in south county, playing with her attention loving dog Cody and working as the PR Director for Captiva Marketing. You can find her on twitter @megfullenkamp

4 thoughts on “When is a Thank You Note Too Late?

  1. Jenn

    Great article Meg! My mom’s rule growing up was that a thank you note had to be written immediately after receiving a gift. Obviously that’s impossible with a wedding, but I still think that 30 days is the acceptble timeframe. I also hbe to agree with the fact that thank you notes should be sent as you receive gifts prior to the big day. Why wait? Sending them early lets the gift-giver know that you’ve received their gift and it’s one less thank you that you’ll need to write after the honeymoon!

  2. Meg Fullenkamp

    I just actually wrote my first thank you note this morning so this article was perfect timing! And I would ask my fiance to help, but his handwriting is even worse than mine (and mine is bad) so I think he will be on stamp, label and seal duty :)

  3. Bonnie Krueger

    I followed @MegHoulihan’s methodology by doing about 5-10 a day on breaks at work. I knocked them out in less than a month. I also made sure I wrote the ones first who participated in our wedding or would be expecting it quickly (Like older relatives). My husband didn’t help either. :(