Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 1999

Almost every aspect of planning a wedding throws up one choice after another, so it may come as a ease to recognize that there is one custom-made no one has to debate: Every bounty must be acknowledged with a individual, handwritten thank-you note. Preprinted or typed notes won’t do. And even the most enthusiastic phone call, while it may be welcome, can’t substitute a written acknowledgment.

If you receive one hundred gifts, you can plan to write that many notes. Gifts will begin to arrive as soon as you announce your engagement, so you’ll want to be ready. Think about what you want your notes to say, both aesthetically and literally. These, after all, will most likely be your very first expression of yourselves as a duo, and the details deserve careful consideration: What kind of paper is adequate for the occasion? Whose initials or names go on the stationery? Who writes the notes? Who signs them? What, and how much, do you say? What is the acceptable time lapse inbetween receiving a bounty and sending a note voicing your gratitude?

Begin with the foundation of a thank-you note — the paper. Selecting a style of writing paper has become simpler in latest years, according to Joy Lewis, the possessor of the Fresh York City stationer Mrs. John L. Strong. “Handwritten correspondence has come to be used for ceremony and presentation only — thanking and inviting,” she says. “Otherwise everyone uses the computer or the telephone.”

There are two common formats for thank-you notes: a stiff five-by-seven-inch card on which the correspondent can write on both sides, or an “informal,” a puny fold-over card typically about four-by-five inches. The informal may be engraved fairly formally; its name comes from the placement of the fold at the top, in contrast to formal correspondence, such as wedding invitations, which fold at the side like a book.

As an alternative to formal thank-yous, paper can be trimmed with bold colored borders, engraved with nontraditional typestyles, or embossed with whimsical emblems. An informal (top left) is embossed with a single initial. The fine quality of the lined envelope and bordered card (bottom left) compensates for it not being personalized. A duo’s names are letterpressed in green ink (top right). A bee emblem (center right) separates the bride and groom’s embossed initials. An informal (bottom right) is decorated with a pear gag.

Some couples order their writing papers at the same time as their wedding invitations, and, in the interest of establishing a style, carry through the same typeface and colors. Others treat thank-you notes as an entirely separate chance to exercise either formality or whimsy, and choose writing paper that’s in deliberate contrast to the invitations. The most traditional colors for writing paper are ecru and white, but you can pick upbeat color combinations for thank-you notes as long as your writing can be read clearly against the background.

If a bride is going to switch her name, a duo should order one set of writing paper to use before the wedding and another to be used after. The prenuptial paper might carry the bride’s maiden name or initials, both of their very first names, or both sets of initials — but it’s too soon to use a combined monogram. Engagement-phase envelopes should be printed or handwritten with the bride’s current comeback address. The paper for notes written after the duo is married traditionally bears either the wifey’s married monogram, her formal name (Mrs. John Smith), or the decent way in which she and her hubby will be addressed (Mr. and Mrs. John Smith).

For the most formal thank-you notes, names or monograms are printed in black ink on white or ecru paper. The writing papers (top and bottom left) are engraved with the most traditional typestyles; the lined envelope (top) is a modern trend for informals. Under a feather emblem (center right), a bride and groom’s very first initials are engraved and centered above their last initial; this monogramming style was popular on eighteenth-century silverware. An ornate monogram (bottom right) is centered on a bordered informal. A bride and groom stack their names (center left), a good device for notes written during the engagement and for a bride who will keep her maiden name.

These traditional styles won’t suit couples who choose a more informal treatment. For them, one option is to head the paper with the hubby’s and wifey’s very first and last names. It doesn’t matter whose name comes very first, albeit Lewis says that traditionally a woman’s name was placed 2nd to reflect the quaint idea that a wifey was protected when flanked by her hubby’s very first and last names. You can also create a monogram that blends your initials. A bride who plans to keep her maiden name can order paper that is headed by both hers and her hubby’s total names, stacked one above the other — again, there is no rule as to which comes very first. Or you can forgo names and monograms altogether, and incorporate a dearest wedding photograph into a keepsake thank-you note.

The right paper and pen — blue or black ink — will make your notes beautiful, but it’s what you write that will make them meaningful. Before you begin to compose, however, you will want to make sure you have all the facts at mitt. Establish a system to keep track of all the presents and who gave you what and when. It does not have to be complicated: Make a computerized or handwritten list. You can also compile this information on index cards and file them away. If you are of a disposition to be more ceremonial, you might annotate the bounty cards with the specifics, then stash them in a box or paste the cards in an album next to a snapshot of the bounty.

Some of the most private thank-you notes include a photograph of the bride and groom. The least elaborate (top) is a photograph duplicated on heavy-duty color printer paper and tipped onto a fold-over with rubber cement. The picture on the card below is linked with photo corners. A photo can be simply glued into a card with a precut framework (left). This note (right) is three layers: a card with a photo glued to it and a computer-printed vellum overlay on which the bride and groom’s names have been printed; the lumps are tied at the top with satin ribbon. Because photos take some time to develop, address the envelopes and write the notes very first so they can be mailed as soon as the pictures are ready.

The next step is to determine who will write the notes and who will sign them. Often the reaction is that the bride will write some and the groom others, albeit this is a latest development: Brides used to write them all. That is partly because at one time gifts were considered to be the property of the bride. This custom-made is a vestige of a social order in which a woman might not have had much, if anything else, that belonged to her.

When the economic status of women switched, wedding gifts became the property of both the bride and groom, and either or both can express their thanks. To make it clear that whoever is writing is signifying the two of you, say, for example, “John and I were delighted to receive. ” then sign the letter, “Bonnie.” Sometimes it’s lighter to split up the list according to the people you each know better, especially since there may be a few guests one of you has only met at the wedding. You can also choose to write thank-you notes together by embarking the note with, “We would like to thank you. “

Only one person should do the actual writing, but as coauthors, each of you should sign in your own handwriting. The sign-off you use will indicate the degree of intimity: The least intimate is “Sincerely”; after that comes some variation of “With affection,” and eventually, “Love.” The matter of to whom the note is addressed has also switched in latest years. A while back, thank-you notes were written from the bride to the wifey of a duo. Now, it’s more customary to write to both hubby and wifey. If you choose to do it the way your grandmother did, however, and address your note to the wifey, you will want to include her hubby’s name somewhere.

To customize any paper, names and initials can be combined with plain details and private touches. A wheat emblem (far right) is printed above a bride’s initials on a fold-over note (right). A bride has enclosed petals from her bouquet (center). A ordinary leaf motif (left) is printed above the bride’s and groom’s names; this note was created on a computer.

You don’t have to say too much after the salutation (which is always followed by a comma, not a colon, in handwritten letters); a four-sentence note can be slew. But whatever you do say should be individual and reflect your relationship with the giver and the nature of the bounty. Points that should be included are a specific mention of the bounty (“the Victorian dessert plates”), why you like them (“because I love setting a table with different china for each course”), and how you plan to use them (“for our very first annual holiday dessert party” and “we hope you’ll be there!”). The words “thank you” usually go in the very first sentence, albeit they can stand on their own at the end of the note.

How long is too long to wait before writing a thank-you note? Two months after you’ve returned from the wedding excursion should be slew of time to get the job done; three months is the maximum. For gifts arriving before the wedding, getting notes out as soon as you receive them is usually lighter than waiting until after the event; since gifts do not come all at once, you can write a duo of notes a day to cover the latest arrivals.

From time to time, a bride and groom will receive hundreds of gifts and will not be able to write all the notes promptly, so some couples order printed acknowledgments that can be sent out stating that a private note will go after. When the backlog of notes piles up and commences to seem like an insurmountable task, it helps to recall that your friends and relatives spent considerably more time selecting each bounty than it will take you to express how pleased you are by their thoughtfulness.

Stamps and Embossers
An economical way to customize packaged paper is by having an embosser or rubber stamp made. The his-and-hers monogram embossed on blue deckle-edged paper (top left) and the rubber stamps for two couples (bottom) were made from custom-made calligraphy. A heart is embossed on the front of a rose-toned card (center); another heart on the envelope links the unmatched papers.

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