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In the afterglow of a wedding, it can be a joy to write thank-you notes expressing heartfelt gratitude for the gifts you've received. But no matter how genuine your feelings, keeping the sentiment meaningful from one note to the next takes focus and creativity. Plus, you need to be somewhat organized to get the messages completed in a timely fashion. If you start the job as soon as gifts begin to arrive, you'll find this final important task congenial and gratifying.
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Buy thank-you cards early (if you're having them printed, it's often cheaper to order them along with your other wedding stationery), so you have them on hand. Set up a log when you begin addressing your invitations to help keep track of the correct spelling of names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers. Use the list to record guests' responses and, ultimately, gifts they give you. Store the information on a computer, in a binder, or on index cards.
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When you open presents, immediately record who gave you what, either in your log or right on the gift cards, which you could keep together in a specially designated box. Despite your best efforts, a few gifts may become separated from their cards. If the gift was from your registry, call the store to see if it has a record of who purchased it. If not, you may have to try figuring it out by the process of elimination.
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What's the Time Frame?
Ideally, you should acknowledge every present immediately, but sending it within two weeks is also acceptable. The period surrounding your wedding is a busy time; if you fall behind, make every effort to send a thank you as soon as you can -- but no later than three months after the event.
To ensure the task doesn't become too overwhelming, write notes in small batches. Diane Warner, author of "Contemporary Guide to Wedding Etiquette" (Career Press; 2005), offers this strategy: "Set a goal of writing three or four thank-you notes per day. Don't try to tackle them all at once, otherwise they may tend to start sounding trite." She also recommends that both the bride and the groom divide the note-writing duties.
Photography: DANA GALLAGHER5 of 9
What Should Your Thank-You Notes Look Like?
For weddings, the most traditional thank-you cards are white or ecru and measure approximately 3 1/2 by 5 inches, with a top fold. They can be monogrammed or embossed with a motif you've used on other decorations. With a monogram, remember that it's improper to adopt your married moniker until after the ceremony. You might combine the initials of your first names instead, or use different cards for thank-you notes that are sent out before the wedding date.
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You can save money by dressing up plain cards and making your own notes. Another alternative is to turn a photo from your wedding day into thank-you postcards. Your photographer may offer them (keep in mind that it takes time for him to produce them), or you can make them yourself (just be sure you have the photographer's permission).
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Who Should Write Them?
It is customary for just one person to write and sign each note, mentioning his or her spouse's appreciation ("Karen and I want to thank you.... Love, David"). However, coauthored notes, signed by both the bride and groom, are also acceptable. One easy way to share the work is for the bride to write to her own family members and friends, and the groom to his.
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What Should the Message Say?
You don't need to write a lot -- four or five sentences will suffice -- as long as what you do express is heartfelt. Identify the gift, say why you appreciate it, why it has a personal meaning for you, and how you plan to use it. If the giver came to the wedding, especially from a distance, also include a sentence thanking him for attending: "Thank you for coming to our wedding. Your presence made our day extra-special. David and I love the coffee maker. We've used it every day since we got back from our honeymoon. Thanks so much." For cash gifts, you need not mention the dollar amount, but it's a nice touch to say how you plan to spend the money.
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What Should the Sign-Off Be?
The sign-off should reflect your relationship to the recipient. "Love" is suitable for close friends and family; "with affection" is a slightly less intimate option; "sincerely" may be the most appropriate when you're writing to someone such as your manager at work. You needn't sign off with your full names with people you're close to, but you may want to use them in thank-you notes to business associates and friends of your parents. Trust your instincts: If using your surname feels cold or stiff, leave it out. If your message sounds overly familiar without it, then include it.