Writing thank you cards - evolving etiquette


Across the last few years, my "thanking others" approach has changed. I used to be pretty diligent about writing thank you cards following my kids' birthday parties, Christmas, Chinese New Year, and I'm sure the list goes on for all of us. But then life got busy. Very busy. Had two kids, was working full-time. And the part of my to-do list that said, "Write thank you cards," became one of those annoying to-do's that added to my stress level - partly because writing thank you cards can be time consuming, and partly because I felt constrained by outdated etiquette rules when it comes to thanking others. 

I didn't like feeling that way. Thanking others shouldn't feel like a chore. It should be an act of genuine appreciation. So I decided to evolve my approach. Gone are the days that I diligently write thank you cards to every parent that attends one of my kids' birthday parties. 

Instead, I did the following:

  • Gave myself permission to not have writing thank you cards be my only way of thanking others.
  • Became more strategic in who I thank and how I thank them. I now use a variety of means to thank others, which I'm sure many of you do already, such as text messaging, e-mails and e-cards. Technology not only allows me to thank others more efficiently, but I would argue it allows me to make my thank you's much more customized and personal. And of course, there's thanking others over the phone, and in person. 

How I thank others using text messages, e-mails, facebook, and e-cards (see photo gallery below for examples): 

  • I love sending a text message with a photo of my child wearing their new outfit, playing with their new toy, or in a short and sweet video simply saying thank you. It makes our friends and family happy when they see how much we're enjoying their gifts. A thank you over e-mail or facebook can suffice just as well. Given a timely e-mail thank you vs. a late hand written snail mail thank you - choose the e-mail, and consider yourself done.
  • I subscribe to Hallmark's e-card subscription service, Smilebox. It probably takes just as much time for me to put together an e-card as it does to handwrite a thank you card, but it saves me a trip to the post office. Sending an e-card with a photo slideshow or video never fails to pleasantly surprise grandma and grandpa. 

How I prioritize who I write thank you cards to:

  • I prioritize those that matter most to me - or those that I know who'll appreciate the gesture. And yes, that means not taking the time to write thank you cards to those that I know I'll never see again. It's nothing personal, it's just that I know 9 times out of 10, the feeling on the receiving end is mutual: I got a thank you card - recycle bin. 

And one day, if needed, I'll manage people's expectations: "I don't do thank you cards..." 

  • My friend Tracy threw a fabulous Halloween themed birthday party for her daughter last year. It was a big party - lots of guests, lots of presents. At one point, she spoke to all her guests, and said, "I don't do thank you cards, but know from the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful that each and everyone of you came to celebrate my daughter's birthday. Thank you, thank you, thank you." It was sincere, refreshing, and in that moment - she was done with her post-party to do list. 

I have a suspicious feeling that Ms. Manners wouldn't approve of this post... but I'm not here to please others. I'm here to help us, very very busy moms, take back time for ourselves. Think of it this way, I'm pretty sure dads don't have "writing thank you cards" as a recurring item on their to-do list. If you haven't already, give yourself permission to express your gratitude through other means than thank you cards. So here's to thanking others more efficiently without sacrificing thoughtfulness, and taking pleasure again in the act of thanking others.