Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Thank you Notes from Hell

Jan-Jun 2000 Archive
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Six years ago my best friend got married. A mutual friend of ours attended my friends wedding. He fancies himself a high roller--nice boat, BMW, big new house, etc. My friend and his wife later mentioned to us that our high-roller friend gave them a generous wedding gift of a rumpled $20 bill in a card. We all got a chuckle out of that..... Well, when my wife and I got married three years later, we were curious as to what our high-roller friend would give us. As soon as we got back from our honeymoon, we began to open gift envelopes as my wife started a list for the thank-you notes.....Finally, we get to the card from my high-roller friend--with nothing in it! My wife and I were a little ticked--we figure that at a minimum you should at least cover the cost of your dinner and drinks when you attend a wedding. Mr. High Roller likes to drink, and he brought a date as well. After lots of talking it out, I decided to send a thank you anyway for coming and sharing our special day. Six months ago, Mr. High Roller gets married...Agonizingly I wrote a check for $100 to the new couple, refusing to stoop to his level of etiquette...As you have probably already figured out, we has still not received a thank you for our gift. And yes, we did get the canceled check back from the bank, so I know he got it. It doesn't surprise me, as this history of etiquette hell warned us of what to expect..


A recurring theme in many Ehell submissions is the presumption of knowing someone's financial status.  Outward displays of wealth are deceiving and cannot accurately reflect the net wealth of the owners.   I'm reminded of that recent TV commercial in which the husband points out his big house (while cleaning the in ground pool), new car, riding lawnmower, golf membership and cheerfully says through gritted teeth, "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs.  Somebody help me."   

Or the classic case of mistaken perception of wealth is within Jane Austen's book "Persuasion" where Anne Elliott is astonished to discover her suitor's appearance of wealth is a sham and that he lives on loans.  

A person should not presume to know another's financial health and presume to think they are somehow privy to a certain percentage of it as though rich people owe a greater gift than less monetarily endowed friends or family.  

My story isn't so much about the thank you notes I have gotten as it is about a person who received one from me. The summer of my wedding was very busy. My best friend was getting married the Saturday after my wedding in another city three states away. We were Maid/Matron of Honor for each other. The four of us were then going to go on a two week group honeymoon to Alaska (which turned out to be a great time-I recommend it!) For me to pull off this whole thing, I knew I'd need to be organized. One faux pas I had been warned of my whole life was sending out thank you's that were late. My mother would be mortified if I didn't send out notes promptly. I was ready, though, with my stack of thank you notes, stamps, address list and supply of fun pens. My mother would be so proud! 

We opened presents the day after my wedding. I had three days before I had to leave to help my best friend get married and then I'd be gone for two weeks. I knew that, when I returned from my honeymoon, I would be swamped at work. I spent the Monday after my wedding writing thank you notes to all of the 250 people who were at the wedding---even if they didn't give a gift, I thanked them for attending. Truthfully, I thought that people would be charmed to get the thank you note so quickly and I tried to include a short message that was personalized to them, as I still had wedding memories fresh in my mind. I worked from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. taking very few breaks. By 9 p.m., and with the help of my husband, they were all done. We mailed them the next day. I was shocked, then, when I returned to work and was accosted by a coworker. She asks me if I wrote the notes on my wedding night (like I had nothing better to do) then proceeds to tell me that I was terribly rude to send out the notes that soon because it made it look like all I cared about was the gifts. I was entirely too focused on the gifts, she told me, and if she had known that, she would never have given me the gift she did. She said that she hoped that I would have the good taste to apologize to people for being so self-centered. Then she proceeds to tell me that I shouldn't have written thank you's to people who merely attended because they didn't "deserve" them--I'm not even sure how she knew I'd written those. Here I thought I was doing the right thing in getting the notes out and have unintentionally violated some unknown wedding etiquette. I suppose she would have liked it better had I sent them six months later and photocopied them!


My husband has been working for years for the same company, and his boss and the boss' wife have been like family to us. We were excited for them when we learned about a year ago that their only son was getting married. The bride, a hairdresser, seemed like a sweet girl and we even hoped that she might get the groom to settle down and stay in one profession for a while. The wedding was at a church an hour away, with an hour-long drive back to the reception. The church was of a conservative denomination, and the layout provided a small narrow hallway perpendicular to the huge sanctuary, with massive curved pews and royal-blue shag carpeting. The ceremony started half an hour late, but the pianist was a real pro and we enjoyed beautiful music while we waited. Unfortunately, the rehearsal apparently didn't include plans for what the 3-year-old ring bearer should do for the balance of the 45-minute ceremony (complete with 20-minute sermon), so he wasn't released to the care of a kindly adult in a pew but had to stand there on the altar. Fortunately, his mother, a bridesmaid with impeccable aplomb, handed her bouquet to another attendant and picked up her sweet boy and held him. (He was so sweet! But a little squirmy, as any self-respecting 3-year-old would be.) Ceremony ended, and the receiving line was held in the hall, unfortunately, since it was suddenly pouring outside, but everyone was a good sport about it. We had given the bride and groom an expensive glass pitcher, one of those simple, curved designs that we thought was really beautiful. Regardless of what people gave her, however, I guess she had already decided on an approach to thanking them. Several weeks after they had returned from the honeymoon, we received a preprinted card. "Thank You," the front said. On the inside was preprinted: Thank you so much for your lovely gift." At least she signed the card with their names. Mind you, I'm a little sensitive about this because when we got married, my husband and I were sticklers for hand-writing thank-you notes for the shower and wedding, but I just think preprinted thank-you notes are in poor taste.


About ten years ago, I introduced a couple to each other who later that year decided to marry. He was a very close friend of mine and also good friends with my dad. She and I had known each other for some years, but were not as close. As the wedding date approached I was surprised not to receive an invitation. I was a close enough friend that I mentioned it to the groom in case the invitation had been lost. Turned out I wasn't invited, because they disapproved of my lifestyle of the time (the wedding was meat-free, alcohol-free, you get the picture). They did invite my parents though. Now, it is completely their right to invite whom they choose, for whatever reason they choose, it's their wedding. I sent a gift which I had already commissioned from a local artist as soon as they got engaged. It was a pottery dish featuring a scene of their beloved Dalmatian in their garden. The kicker? Neither my parents, who did attend the wedding, nor me received a thank you note. When I had occasion to chat to the groom at a social function six months later I asked if the gift had been received. He informed me that it had, and that he hadn't sent a thank you note because shortly after the wedding the dog had died, and thus my gift was too upsetting for them to feel like acknowledging it.


Hello! I have a story about a tacky thank you note. I work in an office as an assistant to the department secretary. One day I received a fax. Apparently my boss had either helped to plan a party for or given a group gift to a lady in another department, but rather than send out individual thank you notes she had bought one thank you card, written the names of the three other ladies and my boss on the inside of the card and drawn little boxes beside their names. After the other ladies had received the card and checked their names off the list it was my bosses turn to see the card. However, rather than send the card by interoffice mail (which is bad enough) they laid it flat on the copy machine, copied the inside and the outside (even the back, UPC and all) , and FAXED it to my boss. This was over a year ago and I an still aghast at how tacky this was! Thanks for letting me share! I love your website!!! Brandi R. Gooch I'm not even supposed to be here today!  Thankyou0728-03

Thoroughly enjoy your site and had to pass along my brief encounter with poor wedding etiquette. About three years ago, I was invited to a wedding of a former close friend from high school. We had not really talked in several years, but I was nonetheless pleased to receive an invitation to her nuptials. While the wedding itself only contained a few faux paus (the seating was not assigned, so because I did not know any of the wedding guests, I sat rather awkwardly with the bride's work acquaintances and the deserts consisted of wrapped ice cream bars), the wedding invitation and the (lack of) thank-you note is really where the bride's lack of manners begin to show. Not only were there FIVE places where the bride and groom were registered that was displayed proudly on the invitation, nearly three years after the wedding, I have yet to receive a thank-you note. Since the bride and I were indeed close friends in high school and we shared the same faith, I purchased a very expensive Bible for her and her new husband with their names engraved on the front. Furthermore, since I had not spoken with the bride in many years, I wrote a very thoughtful, five-page letter that I enclosed with the gift, detailing my thanks to the bride for being such a good friend. Almost a year after the wedding and not a word of thanks from the bride, I receive an email saying: "(Groom) and I are still happily married!!!!! I heard that you moved!!!!! What's your new address so I can send a thank-you note????" I replied with my new address, sure that I would receive thanks from the bride. Two years later, I have still not heard from the bride. The way I see it, even though I would never dream of not sending a proper thank-you note, if one is going to skip sending thanks, the bride should not send out solicitations for the thankee's new address.