Malignant Thank Yous

by admin on February 24, 2011

A year or two ago, my husband and I were invited to our neighbor’s son’s wedding. This neighbor also happened to be one of my husband’s work supervisors.  We bought a nice gift from their registry and brought it with us to the reception.  Yes, I know it’s proper ettiquette to ship it before the wedding, but in our area, all the gift are brought to the reception.

During the wedding, I notice a message from the bride and groom on the back of the program.  Basically it said, “We have many friends and family whose lives have been touched by cancer.  In honor of those friends and family, we will be foregoing sending thank you notes and donating the cost of thank you notes and postage to the American Cancer Society.”  We saw a sign with this same message on the gift table.

So basically, for approximately 250 people at the wedding, they are donating less than $100 to the American Cancer Society and using it as a way to get out of writing thank you notes!  Of course, if anybody had not been able to come to the wedding and shipped their gifts, they would not have received any acknowledgement and would not have known the lame excuse that the couple was using to not write thank you notes.

If the groom had not been the son of my husband’s supervisor, we probably would have left the gift in the car and written in the card, “We are so happy that you support such a wonderful organization.  In honor of your support and your nuptials, we have made a donation in your name to the American Cancer Society.”   0221-11

Scuttling out of the obligation to write thank you notes by attaching the deed to some charitable cause is a clever use of alleged altruism to replace appropriate expressions of gratitude to giftgivers.

Weddings are not fundraisers for yourself or any other charitable associations.   Why?

1) Because it’s crass to link the solemnity and serious of a lifelong commitment ceremony to the acquisition of money, material assets, etc.    Yes, we all know weddings generate lots of gifts but the newlyweds in the above story committed the etiquette faux pas of assuming guests will give them gifts and that by doing so, their guests will happily desire to donate to newlywed’s pet charity by means of foregoing a written thank you note.

2)  Your charity may not be my charity.  In this story, there was no way the giftbearing guests could opt out of the plan to substitute thank you notes for charitable donation to the American Cancer Society. And before anyone reads too much into this and declares me to be a cancer hater, I’ve had cancer, my father and SIL recently died of cancer.   But I may have reasons why I would choose to not donate to a particular charity or organization.  Switch “American Cancer Society” with “Carry Nation’s Association For The Prohibition of Alcohol” or “Ku Klux Klan Senior Citizens Home” and you can start to see that maybe not everyone shares your same charitable convictions.

If the newlyweds were that concerned about honoring those in their family and friends who have been touched by cancer, a short note in the ceremony program such as,  “In honor of those friends and family whose lives have been touched by cancer, Bride and Groom have made a donation to the American Cancer Society.”   And then written a thank note for every generous wedding gift they received.

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Alice February 24, 2011 at 4:28 am

Might as well have foregone the wedding entirely and donated all the money to the American Cancer Society.

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RMMuir February 24, 2011 at 4:31 am

I’m almost definitely going to be in the minority here. While I can see that getting a thank you note is really nice, I don’t care about them, and they just clutter up the house eventually. I would much rather that the money was donated to a charity.

In the case of those who may have shipped their gifts in, you have no idea how those people were thanked. They may well have received a phone call or a letter. I do see the value in sending someone a note when they made a real effort to send you a gift even though they couldn’t be there in person.
And yes, I am one of those people you think are horrific because they don’t write thank you notes. But I fail to see why a written thank you is considered more genuine than a thank you to the person’s face.

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FunkyMunky February 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

How much do I have to donate to avoid feeding my guests? Or providing sufficient room, seats or shelter? I wasn’t aware you could trade money for your obligations – particularly surprising that you don’t have to give the money to those to whom you owe that obligation.

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Enna February 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

It depends on the situation. This was done in bad taste. The founder of the charity I volunteer at had his 50th wedding anniversary and his wife and him said instead of gifts would like donations to his charity. This is because they have everything they need being in their 70s/80s . But they wouldn’t expect everyone to give huge donations, and if people don’t want to donate to his charity but to another one closer to their hearts then that would be fine.

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Bint February 24, 2011 at 7:06 am

The sad part is that there is no way the couple truly believed this was a nice gesture. Nobody can fool themselves that it’s ok to give to charity instead of thanking people. It just sounds as though they couldn’t be bothered to do them and thought this would get them off the hook.

What a way to start your married life. If even 50% of the guests are offended, that’s 125 people you’ve hurt because you couldn’t be arsed to do what you knew was the right thing.

Take note of a friend of mine who married last year. They didn’t send thank you notes. Their circle of friends has shrunk rapidly – people were hurt, and those who weren’t close to them simply stopped bothering to stay in contact.

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surlychick February 24, 2011 at 8:05 am

What a clever way of getting out of writing thank-you notes! And by “clever,” I mean “appalling.” Lazy SOBs.

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jenna February 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

It is also possible that charities that seem awesome on the outside actually misuse their money or spend very little on actually helping people (and far more than they need to on overhead). My mom once worked in a high-level regional position for a well-known charity and quit in disgust over how little money actually went to the people they purport to help.

So while it may seem on the surface to be horrid to want to opt out of donating to what seems like a great charity, if you dig a little deeper sometimes you find reasons you’d never consider.

I know some people are very much against charity donations as favors at a wedding – I personally don’t mind it (assuming the couple picked a non-controversial charity) because while thank you notes are a MUST, favors are entirely optional.

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Counselorm February 24, 2011 at 8:22 am

I absolutely agree that this is a terrible way to “honor” loved ones by not honoring other loveds ones. I have a question, though: what about donating to a charity in lieu of wedding/ shower favors? I have found most favors to be useless gifts that just sit around collecting dust (except candy, which does not even make it past dinner… :) ). I don’t even really know the etiquette around favors. Thanks!

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admin February 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

The etiquette regarding favors is, 1) they are not necessary, and 2) your charity is still not everyone else’s charity. Donate discreetly without the pretense of attaching it to a token favor you *might* have given guests.

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SHOEGAL February 24, 2011 at 8:33 am

Truly unbelievable. I definitely would have put my gift back in the car – supervisor’s son or not and wrote, “Because books have touched the lives of my entire family we have donated to the library in your name.” Same difference.

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Xtina February 24, 2011 at 9:20 am

Wanted to comment before I read the other posters’ comments–well, I have to say that this is perhaps the most creative (in a bad way) and devious way I’ve ever seen to get out of writing thank-you notes. This is certainly a “win-win” situation in their eyes–they don’t have to take the time or (small) expense to write and mail the notes and they think they are probably fooling someone into thinking that they are actually doing something generous from the heart! Writing it in the wedding program was all part of the plan; by then, most guests have already purchased or given their wedding gifts to the couple–so that eliminates the “obvious problem” of people saying, “oh, what a great idea! I’ll make a donation to the Cancer Society in your name instead of buying you a gift!”. This couple is pretty despicable–to use a charity as an excuse to get out of properly thanking the wedding guests for THEIR generosity.

Agree with the admin’s comments about choices of charity–although *most* people probably aren’t going to mind that their money is being donated to someone’s favorite charity–I guess most people give a gift they think the receiver would like–but an alternate should be offered in case someone has an issue with the charity of choice. That’s why I don’t donate to the yearly office United Way shakedown–I would prefer to give directly to the charities of my choice rather than have to funnel it through several layers of administration first.

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Daisy February 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

I would have been more impressed if the lovely couple had announced they were donating their honeymoon money to charity. That would have sacrificed something of their own, rather than something they were doing to get OUT of sacrificing anything.

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Just Laura February 24, 2011 at 9:23 am

I like Alice’s answer.
RMMuir,
Do you seriously think the bride and groom were able to personally thank each and every guest out of 250 guests for the gifts that they hadn’t yet opened? This is why the “thank you” note is a good idea in this situation. Also, why would they clutter your house? You get the note, open the note, find out that your gift arrived safely, then toss/recycle the card.

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Xtina February 24, 2011 at 9:47 am

Sorry–to clarify in my previous post my comment about “I guess most people give a gift they think the receiver would like”; I mean that if the idea behind giving a gift is to give the receiver something they’d like, then a donation to the receiver’s favorite charity, even if it is not a favorite of the giver, is in that same spirit of giving them what they’d like.

@RMMuir–no, we don’t know if those people who didn’t attend the wedding but sent gifts were thanked or not; or for that matter, if the couple did call or speak to people (who came to the wedding) in person to thank them for the gifts. If they DID individually call everyone or make it a point to seek that person out and thank them for their gift in lieu of the aforementioned thank-you notes they supposedly donated to the charity, then that would be an acceptable alternative.

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irish February 24, 2011 at 9:49 am

@ RMMuir, I’m with you on thank you notes. I don’t know anybody who sends them. I haven’t sent them since I was a child. I never receive them and I don’t mind. They’re obviously very important to many on this site, but I can safely say that among my circle, they just aren’t done. People I know do seem to send them for wedding gifts however. I think here the issue is that the couple tried to pass themselves off as selfless, when the amount that will go to charity is small. They’ve also given themselves zero loss or hassle while essentially telling their guests that they have to lose out (even if many of the guests don’t mind about receiving thank you notes).

It brings to mind a recent situation I came across – I teach piano, and took on a few hours teaching in a school. The co-ordinator told me that the children would pay €12 per half hour lesson (the going rate for a music degree student is usually €15, and as a masters student I would be entitled to charge around €20 – as it happens I prefer to keep my lessons affordable as teaching isn’t my main profession). This was because, she explained, they were a community school, they had lots of disadvantaged students whom they didn’t want to exclude from the opportunity to learn piano. Now, the way I took that, that’s a lovely idea, but it’s easy to have noble ideals with other people’s money. Essentially she was providing low-cost music lessons – but at the expense of the teacher’s income. I think if she was really committed to music for everyone, the school could have made up the shortfall between what the children paid and a fair rate to the teacher. I think this is the same situation – the couple want to make themselves look good at zero cost to themselves. If they were really concerned about donating to the cancer society, they could have considered suggesting people donate in lieu of gifts (as per the guests wishes – the admin is right to point out that you can’t tell people which charity to support).

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Gena February 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

If the couple were so concerned about the charity, the note would have said “We are donating all gifts to charity X”. They were just trying to get out of thank you notes.

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Chocobo February 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

Agreed with the fact that it’s incredibly lazy and rude to try to substitute charity for thanks. Not agreed that charitable donations as favors make bad etiquette, not any more than any other favor that could be given. Not everyone likes tchotchkes either, or little coasters with crisscrossing hearts, or shot glasses, or sugary candy, (heck, they might even personally take issue with some of them) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a favor. Personally I would rather see the money for a usually useless favor go towards a charity than wasted on something that will be forgotten in a box within a week, if it is spent at all.

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Monica February 24, 2011 at 10:04 am

I would like to see the bride who comes down the aisle in a plain $20 dress because she donated the rest of the money most brides spend on a one-time gown to her charity of choice.

Then I would be impressed with her charitable notions.

I do not understand the trend of tying one of the most opulent rituals of most western cultures with giving to charity. Are we supposed to be happy you gave a couple hundred dollars to your charity when you spent 10 times that on a dress you’re going to wear once?

Parading your charity in front of your guests is not okay just because the wedding magazine suggested that it would be easier to write one check than tying bows on 150 little boxes of chocolate. If you really care about your charity, give up something personal.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a wedding program that said “Instead of taking two weeks in Bora Bora for our honeymoon, we’ve opted for one week at the local National Park so that we may donate a large amount to such and such a charity”?

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Rosie February 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

Then I guess I committed an etiquette faux pas because my husband and I donated money to a children’s hospital in lieu of favors. We gave favors just on a smaller scale- candy tins. I did send out thank you letters, so I have that point in my favor. ;-)

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Bint February 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

“But I fail to see why a written thank you is considered more genuine than a thank you to the person’s face.”

Yeah, I’m sure they went round all 250 guests to thank them personally, especially since the OP got NO thank you whatsoever. Read their little note again – not a word of ‘thank you’ to their guests. Just ‘you’re not getting thanks because we’re donating the cost to charity’.

Nobody HAS to send a thank you note. That’s not the etiquette faux pas. The faux pas is not to thank the person at all – this couple didn’t thank their guests in their note, and certainly didn’t thank the OP in any way. Had my former friend thanked everyone at her wedding, by email, when she’d next seen them etc, nobody would have been hurt. She didn’t thank anyone, period. Many couples don’t; that’s the problem.

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Just Laura February 24, 2011 at 10:47 am

Thanks, Bint. That’s exactly what I was saying. Not only did they expect gifts and opt not to thank anyone, they were also telling everyone how wonderful they are by doing that.

And isn’t real charity done without congratulating myself on how incredibly amazing I am?

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Typo Tat February 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

It is never okay to donate things that don’t belong to you.

Can you imagine being told by your employer that they decided to donate your paycheck to charity? The happy couple in today’s story did just that. They knew well that they owed their guests thank you notes, but decided not to honor that, with a flimsy excuse to boot.

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Stepmomster February 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

I look at charity the same way I look at the collection plate in church…

Both donations should be discreet and garner no attention, because charity is personal and meant to be an honest sacrifice, not a bid for all your friends to see how altruistic you are. To me this was double the f aux pas, because 1. The couple skipped the thank yous, and 2. They were entirely too public with their charity.

The only time I approve of outward displays of charity is when it is a fundraiser held for the specific charities involved, and when people present donate at that charity, discreetly. I don’t mind a “thermometer” marking off meeting a specific monetary goal rising in the background, but there better not be any announcements of “so and so donated $10,000!”

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AS February 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

Where I come from, thank you notes are not written. But instead, the bride and/or groom, and the parents (if they sponsored the party) call up every individual guest and thank them personally. The wedding guest lists are very big too, as you are expected to call every single person you have ever known, or they’ll take offence! So, I don’t care about thank you notes either – as long as they conveyed their gratitude in some way.

This couple did not want to write thank you notes and donate the money to charity. This clearly shows that they were being lazy, and tried to mask their laziness by showing altruistic motives. I wonder if they at least went around thanking every single guest personally. If they wanted to donate to a charity for their wedding, they should have cut down on something they got for themselves (like what some other posters here said – their dresses, or the ceremony, honeymoon, etc.). But they penalize their guests, who took the pain to attend their wedding and bring them gifts; and not only don’t compromise anything for themselves, but get something better out of it by not writing thank you notes. I don’t mind the idea of not writing thank you notes as long as they express their gratitude to the guests individually. But this couple was way too much.

BTW, I didn’t know that etiquette says that you are supposed to mail your gifts as the OP said. Can someone please clarify whether that is true? I often take gifts to the wedding, especially if I am not buying out of registry. I often like to buy glass items, and don’t want to pack them to have them broken during shipping (or spending a huge amount on shipping if I tell the carrier to pack). Am I committing major etiquette blunders?

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Louise February 24, 2011 at 11:27 am

A friend of mine donated to a cancer charity in lieu of favours. It was the first time I’ve seen that done, and I quite liked the idea, but then I had no objection to the charity. I can see how it would be a sticky issue if people did.

I think donating in lieu of thank you notes is a meaningless gesture, especially if it’s the only place where the couple cut corners in the name of charity. Previous posters raised a good point about people who couldn’t attend but sent wedding gifts anyway. I would be anxious about my gift arriving intact and pretty upset if it were never acknowledged. If I were at the wedding, eh, I wouldn’t really think twice about seeing that notice. I’d take it as a clumsy attempt to thank me. I agree that it’s not good behaviour or etiquette and you absolutely shouldn’t skip the thank yous, but it just wouldn’t bother me that much personally.

I would taken aback to see a note in the program that the bride and groom had spent only $x on the dress or decided to take a different honeymoon so they could donate money to charity. That’s bragging, and I don’t think guests need to know that. I think that kind of announcement would be tacky.

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Ashley February 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

I agree with Admin. The Cancer Society is near and dear to my heart, but my brother would rather donate to something involving animal rescue, my father would rather donate to veterans, and so on down the line. Your charity is NOT always my charity.

I do appreciate a good well written thank you note, and as much as the donation to The Cancer Society would be appreciated, I don’t think it is in good taste to try and disguise getting out of thank you notes as a good thing.

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Harley Granny February 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

How tacky. Getting out of writing Thank you notes and patting oneself on the back at the same time.

Where I come from one doesn’t pat oneself on the back. If you do good deeds (like give to charity…any charity I don’t care) that’s between you and the person benefiting.

Now if they had stated on the invitation “In lieu of gifts we’d be honored if you donated to XXX charity” my opinion would change.

But then again, everyone knows that wedding generate gifts…I don’t know why etiquiette dictates to keep that quiet. Kinda like the elephant in the room. I’m in the minority of actually liking and appreciating registries and/or suggestions.

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Psyche February 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

*facepalm* Translation: “We don’t want to be bothered with the tedious, time-consuming writing of thank you notes, so we think that you’ll be less likely to get upset if we hide our laziness with a charity.”

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Monica February 24, 2011 at 11:58 am

I agree with Louise that it would indeed be tacky to brag about your charitable donations in the ways I mentioned in my first post. If someone wanted to really make a sacrifice to charity, it should be personal and not flaunted to all. I just wonder if any couples ever DO cancel honeymoon plans just so they can give more money to those they think need it once they decide to include charity in the wedding planning. I would much rather hear of their giving through word of mouth (such as a friend finding out somehow, not from the couple bragging), of course.

Donating instead of giving favors isn’t that huge of a flaunt (even if there is a card at every table explaining that), but I still don’t understand why charity and weddings got tied together in the first place, especially when so much is spent on one-time items.

Regardless, trying to use charity as an excuse for not sending thank-yous (assuming the couple from the OP’s story didn’t thank anyone at all in any other way) is indeed poor taste.

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Gloria Shiner February 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Well, at least they had a “reason” :-) They could have simply been like my niece and not sent thank-yous for wedding gifts or shower gifts. I doubt they have sent thank-yous for the baby gifts or baby shower gifts either.

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Kaye Dacus February 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

If I ever get married (because I’m already in my late-30s and have a household full of “stuff,” and my future husband will, too), I would probably be more apt to put a note in the wedding announcement (or invitation if it’s big enough to actually invite people to) that in lieu of gifts, we would ask our friends and family to take the money they would have spent on gifts and donate it to the charity of their choice. And since there’s no way that I’d ever know whether they did it or not, that way they don’t have to feel obligated to do either (a gift or a donation) or feel guilty if they don’t.

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Mary Hetland February 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

“Yeah, I’m sure they went round all 250 guests to thank them personally, especially since the OP got NO thank you whatsoever. Read their little note again – not a word of ‘thank you’ to their guests. Just ‘you’re not getting thanks because we’re donating the cost to charity’.”

OP here. We were never thanked in any way for our gift. Not in person at the wedding, not by phone or in person afterwards and no mention of the gift by the groom’s father after the wedding.

And it doesn’t take that long to do thank you notes. My husband and I managed to have all of ours completed within 3 weeks of our wedding and we had 200 guests, plus many gifts from those who were unable to attend. If you split them up between the two of you and do a few a day, it does not take that long.

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lkb February 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I agree that as long as the couple thanked each guest and gift giver personally somehow then it’s okay they didn’t specifically write a thank you (i.e., a phone call, email, in-person thank you is okay).

However, I think it’d be better if the thanks for gifts came after the big day: My friend was robbed of her wedding gifts at the reception (yes, somebody just waltzed off with them. The cards (emptied of money) were found later, but everything else was gone). My friend sent a note to everyone explaining what had happened, not so they would send another gift, but to explain why they couldn’t give a thank you for a specific gift.

The main point of thank you notes is to express gratitude that someone took the time, thought and effort to send a gift when they could have been doing any of a number of other things. That merits some effort on the recipients’ part. The other point is to confirm that the gift arrived safely to its destination. Again, something that merits some effort by the recipients.

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Ellie February 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

To AS,
I’ve heard that one should not bring a gift to the wedding because it just gives the couple one more thing to “worry” about on their special day. If there is not a gift table already set up, then the couple or their family is “stuck” trying to find room for your gift. I think the whole thing is silly, flimsy excuses, as any gift, no matter how it’s delivered, should be accepted gratefully.
Where I’m from, wedding gifts are apparently supposed to be given at the bridal shower, which just runs contrary to every party I’ve ever attended: bring the gift with you to the party, the person of honor opens it and thanks you for it.
It seems that a combination of good etiquette and bad leave many guests never being thanked at all for their gifts. It is now common for gifts to be set aside at parties and opened after the party, but most people never send a thanks in any form in these cases. Hopefully I’m not a boor, but I like to be able to present my gift and see if the person enjoyed it. If it’s possible, then fine, but I enjoy getting gifts that people will appreciate, and the happy reaction from the recipient makes me happy in return.

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livvy February 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

@Irish & AS – while I know that thank-you notes are unusual these days, I would argue that gives them even more power! I’ve actually had people call me to thank ME for a thank you note, because it’s so rare, and they appreciated knowing they were valued. Think of it as your personal social ace in the hole! I can also guarantee that those who receive thank you notes are much more likely to be willing, perhaps even eager, to give gift, favor, or kindness again to the writer of such a note.

Is it really so much to ask someone to spend five minutes to write a few nice sentances & post them? Especially in light of the time and expense the gift-giver, host, etc. went through?

The no-note policy works ok when you’re talking about your best friends, who you see all the time, and to whom you are likely to give as much as you receive, but when you’re talking about neighbors your parents’ age, co-workers of your parents, out-of-town relatives, what are the chances you’re going to reciprocate? Nil? A note is such a minimal sign of appreciation.

@ Typo Tat – perfect analogy. The couple in question gave (a very small part) of what they owed to people to a third and unrelated party.

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DGS February 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

This is appalling and deceiful behavior. And, thank you notes are not “rare” these days; I don’t know anyone in our circle who did not write handwritten thank-you notes after their weddings, showers, etc. My husband and I had a very large wedding but managed to see every guest and thank them in person for coming and thank everyone within a month of the wedding for their gifts with a handwritten note. It’s not that difficult or expensive, and it’s the least we could have done for the people who took time out of their busy lives to grace us with their presence and were thoughtful enough to give us presents.

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EmmBee February 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I have to disagree with the idea that thanking someone in person is an acceptable substitute for a written thank you *for an event of this magnitude.* The fact is, verbal thank yous are drilled into us from childhood for everything. Someone passes you the potatoes and you say thank you. This couple says they are donating the cost of thank yous to the charity. But wedding thank yous are not about the cost of cardstock and postage. They are about the TIME you take to write them and acknowledge what the recipient did for you. Because in addition to their gift, they also spent the time picking it out, and the time working for the money to buy it! I worked many hours writing thank yous to all 100 of my wedding guests, who enabled me to stock my kitchen with nice dishes, and purchase a new bed and washer and dryer. If the couple really wanted this to be a fair exchange then they should spend those hours they would have written thank you notes volunteering!

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Twik February 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Rosie – Favours are not an essential part of the wedding, being a relatively new addition by the “wedding industrial complex”. You are not required by etiquette to give your guests favours. In fact, if I were organizing a wedding, I doubt I’d bother with them at all. You really don’t have to give your guests gifts for doing you the favour of showing up at your wedding.

Thank you notes are different. Thanking people has always been a requirement.

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AS February 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

@livvy, I should add that I come from a country where thank you notes were not lost through the generation, but rather they just didn’t exist in the tradition. I don’t expect people who don’t know about the notes to just start giving thank you notes. I do send thank you notes now that I am in USA, because it is a different culture, and I go by the saying “be a Roman in Rome”. But it took me a few years to learn the etiquette rules here, and I am still not sure I know everything.
In my home country, it is even considered rude to mail your wedding invitations if you live in the same town (you care enough about the guest to actually visit them and invite). Any out of town invitations are accompanied with a note apologizing for not being able to personally deliver the invitation. I have read on this site that it is proper etiquette to mail it, even if you can hand deliver it.

Once a friend of mine (who also lives in USA, but from my home country) got married. She invited every one of our friends here, as well as invited them for a lunch to share the joy. According to etiquette rules here, she might be condemned to e-hell because this gesture would be seen as a gift grab. But in our native country, everyone is expected to be invited to a wedding as it is to include people in your happiness. Gifts are not expected at all. If people cannot come, many people take them out for a treat, and pay for everyone invited . My friend did the right thing according to the culture she knew of (our friends are very sweet and every one accepted that things are done differently at different places. In fact, no one brought any gifts, except some of us who would have given her something anyways. She thanked everyone profusely, as well as by e-mail saying how wonderful everyone made her feel).

What I am trying to say is that it is a different culture. In a country like USA where there are so many different cultures present, I don’t expect everyone to be the same. What is accepted as right etiquette for one culture is not necessarily the same for all cultures. It might save us a lot of ill feelings towards others if we accepted that differences exist, and people might do something nice according to the etiquette rules they know even if it is a terrible offence in your book.

Now, I still stick to my earlier statement (post #24) that this couple was rude. They did not have any good reason not to write thank you notes except being lazy masked by charitable cause. But I just wanted to say that it might not be a good idea to condemn anyone who does not believe in the etiquette rules as we know them. They might have a totally different etiquette rule they are brought up in.

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Li February 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Sheer laziness disguised as manipulative philanthropy. “How can people get mad at us for not sending thank yous if we’re donating to save people from CANCER?” This goes beyond rude to just plain offensive.

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Kat February 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

If one is attached to the idea of using one’s wedding to make a charitable contribution, what about the idea of requesting donations to XYZ Charity in lieu of gifts?

This removes the issue of “your charity not being my charity” since it’s a gift for me. If it’s a charity you really oppose, like Pistols for Pandas or something, you can just decline to contribute. It’s also a lot more tasteful than what happened in the OP’s story – instead of making the guests do without something, the couple are opting to do without something in the name of their charity.

But would this be seen as a cash-grab type situation? Would it be in poor taste? What do others think?

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Dear! February 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Ok, first let me say I’m from a culture/country that doesn’t do thank you cards. Holiday cards yes, thnak you cards no. First and foremost, if a person lives next door to me, or similar parts, I dont see the point of a generic card when I can go and give them a hug, a phone call, or a heartfelt thanks in person. If they are close enough to me to be invited to my wedding, they are close enough that I would want to call. Also, I’ve seen stories where epople are neighbors or close family members. They talk to the person everyday, and it is established that the person told them thankyou in person, and meant it, yet they are miffed that the person didn’t send them a card to say thank you. If I didn’t know the person that well, which would usually mean my parents would have made me invite them, I would have made the uncomfortable phone call to say thank you. I am not a person who likes talking on the phone, in person yes, but the phone is not my friend, and I feel a call takes more energy than a piece of paper.

Now, I won’t say these people are Ehellions just yet, maybe just naive and might have thought this would have been a nice and heartfelt thing to do. Give them a bit of a break.

Yes, we are a hugging culture too, so I might go to ehell for my first meeting hugs or thank you hugs. It’s not full on bear, but shoulder to shoulder hugs. Double kisses freak me out though….Sorry, I went on a culture rant. :)

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SJ February 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

@RMMuir
I get where you’re coming from. I don’t need a thank you note, and I certainly don’t hold it over your head if I don’t get one.

However, I still think what the couple did was in bad taste. It doesn’t seem like much of a charity if you say “I was going to spend this money anyway . . . “

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SJ February 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm

@irish
About the piano lessons, I had something similar happen to me. My boss at a music school gave out a gift certificate for a free lesson, then asked me to teach the student for free. He, the boss, lost no money by giving a certificate, and I, the teacher, was expected to donate a half hour of my time.

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K February 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Cheap and tacky people. Shame on them for scamming gifts like that.
And what’s with it’s proper etiquette to ship wedding gifts and not bring? Who told you that? The same tacky couple who has no clue what etiquette is? If you’re local and the store they are registered with is out of the doodad, then they still give you a fancy decorative bag with a card saying the gift is being shipped and why. You don’t show up empty handed.
Boss or not, I would have walked that gift right back to the car, in front of all of them.

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Rebecca February 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm

When I give a gift, a verbal thank you is plenty for me, even though I am aware that a written thank you is proper form. I just want some kind of acknowlegement so that I know my gift was received and perhaps appreciated.

I think this couple probably meant well, but it came off badly. They still owe each person who sent them a gift a thank you, whether it’s written, in person, or by phone.

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Enna February 24, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Just out of curisoity is it okay on Christmas day/birthday to call your relations and say thank you on the telephone to them instead of a thank you note? Thank you notes aren’t something which aren’t really done in my famiy as it’s more of a “Thank you” phone call. E.g “Thanks for the slippers Grandma, it’s so cold in my student house in the winter these will be really useful.”

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Allie February 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I’ve always found the whole “in lieu of flowers…” thing for funerals to be odd. It’s like saying “We’re expecting you to send flowers, but you know what? You can take your flowers and shove them!” If I want to send flowers to a funeral, I’ll send them. If I want to donate to a charity, I’ll donate. Could we all just stop telling each other what to do?

As to the thank-you note issue, I take the point of those who say they are useless and they don’t want to receive them anyway (and I agree they are not required for small functions like birthday parties, where the guests are thanked in person), but if you are going to have a big, splashy wedding, it just comes with the territory, and you shouldn’t try to avoid it or shirk your obligation with an alleged charitable donation.

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Allie February 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Ellie, I’ve always thought (and this does happen as Ikb points out) that the reason gifts are not supposed to be brought to the reception is the risk of theft. That said, in my culture, money is usually given, and my husband always passes the envelope directly to the bride’s or groom’s father (depending on which side we are guests of) for safe-keeping.

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Rachel February 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

When my husband and I were married 3 weeks after 9/11, we put a note in our program that said, “In lieu of FAVORS we are making a donation to the 9/11 fund.” In other words, “We are spending the money on a charity rather than on some tschtoke that you will likely throw out next week.

I don’t think wedding thank-yous are optional even in this day and age. I think of every wedding I have been to in the past 10-15 years and I have received thank-yous for all but two of them. One of them was from someone who began to slowly withdraw from our friendship after the wedding. The other is now divorced.

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Maitri February 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I was writing thank you cards on my honeymoon :) It’s a nice way to spend an unexpectedly rainy day. DH and I made a happy celebration of it.

I think the couple in the story is horrendous.

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