Once the vows are exchanged and the cake is cut, it may feel like your wedding has come to an end, but that's not entirely the case. When you wake up the next morning, you'll find a pile of cards and gifts from your nearest and dearest, and this feels like an entirely unexpected bonus after you've spent the last 24 hours celebrating with the people you loved most. While gifts aren't the point of a wedding by any means, the two do go hand in hand, so it's important to have a game plan for unwrapping them, keeping a record of what you received, and sending prompt, heartfelt thank-you notes.
That begs the question: When should you start unwrapping those incredibly generous presents? Should you dive in immediately, or is it better to wait until after the honeymoon? Both choices have their merits—waiting until you get home gives you something else to look forward to and means you won't have any returns or exchanges hanging over you while you're traveling, but getting your monetary gifts into the bank ASAP is the safest spot for them. For many couples, though, the wait-vs-don't debate hinges on one big task: When can you reasonably expect to write your thank-you notes?
The Pros of Waiting
If you're leaving for your honeymoon within a few days of your wedding, then it might make more sense to wait until you return to open your presents—especially when they're material gifts. It's not impolite to get those thank-you notes out a few weeks after the wedding. "When you're talking about anything that comes in a box, the most important thing is to not open those gifts until you have your thank-you notes ready," says wedding planner Piper Hatfield of Piper & Muse Events. "If you don't have time to make that list and start on those thank-yous before the honeymoon, then don't open those boxes." She encourages her clients to order stationery for their thank-you cards when they order the rest of their paper suite, so they have no reason to delay their expressions of gratitude.
Etiquette expert Lizzie Post of The Emily Post Institute agrees: "If you're going on your honeymoon right away, opening them after is totally fine." Plus, waiting until after the honeymoon gives you something to look forward to upon return, helping to stave off those dreaded post-wedding blues.
The Pros of Not Waiting
If you're taking your honeymoon several weeks or months after their wedding, it's important to carve out some time before you go to open gifts and write their thank-yous, says Post. "If you are coming home for a couple weeks and then going away for a week or two, I might try to get it done before I leave, just for the ease and kindness of getting someone a thank-you quickly," she says. "You really want to try to get them done within three months of the wedding, or three months of having received the gift." (This means you should open gifts you receive in the mail before the wedding as soon as you get them—as long as you're ready to promptly write a thank-you note; if you're uncomfortable mailing a thank-you note before the wedding, ask your maid of honor to drop them in the mail while you're on your honeymoon, suggests Hatfield).
Newlyweds may also benefit from using the monetary gifts they receive while they're traveling. "Open those envelopes before," says Hatfield. "It can really help with the honeymoon, and maybe you splurge a little there, or buy something for the house—a great sentimental item you can treasure for years to come, like a piece of art." Though it might feel awkward to deposit the checks before your trip and leave guests waiting for a thank-you while you're gone, etiquette allows you to write them after you return home, says Post. "I wouldn't write it weeks and weeks after the honeymoon," she says. "For the checks I would try to get them a response quickly because you have actually cashed it." But accessing the money before your honeymoon might even make writing those thank-yous a little bit easier: Says Post, "The trip might give you some things to tell people you used the money on!"