How to write a good thank-you note

Years ago, my mom went to the bridal shower of my dad’s former boss’s daughter. There is no reason why she needed to be invited in the first place and I’m sure she did not want to go, but she went anyway, and for some reason felt bold enough to bestow some lacy lingerie upon this woman she barely knew. (Mom, really, a serving platter would have been fine.) The thank-you note she eventually received said this and only this, “Thank you for the teddy. Marcia”*

Typical reactions to this anecdote might be, “Well, at least she sent a thank-you note! It’s a lost art!” or “Maybe she’s just a woman of few words,” the latter of which I think we can safely assume. Admittedly, a bad thank-you note is better than no thank-you note, but we should all strive for better. Here is my basic structure for a thank-you note that not only says “I like your gift a lot” but also “I like you a lot, too.” I have no credentials other than writing many thank-you notes over the past few months, so take it for what you will.

Dear Binky,

It was so wonderful to see you at our wedding, and thank you so much for the beautiful tea kettle. Special Someone drinks a lot of tea, so it will get a lot of use! We hope you enjoyed yourselves at the wedding and wish we could have talked more. We would love to get together soon at the new house. Please send our best to Mumsy and Cousin Eugene. Enjoy the rest of your summer and thank you again!


Skeptic Bride and Special Someone**

Hmm. After reviewing the elements of my traditional thank-you note structure, I have reached the conclusion that deep down I am a 78 year-old Southern Belle and that such language could easily be mistaken for a sycophant’s drivel. But really, friends, I mean what I say – that cake stand you gave us is just darling!

I may have no idea what I’m talking about, but one thing I must stress is the importance of adding at least one personal touch to each thank-you note. Since weddings are often impersonal monstrosities, you at least need to remind your guests that you have some vague idea of who they are, even if that personal touch is “I’m so sorry we did not get a chance to catch up at the wedding, but we are so happy you could come.” (Make sure you did, in fact, not talk to this person at your wedding, and that you weren’t just too drunk to remember.) It’s also nice to mention whatever relevant news they have, such as “Good luck with the new job!” or “Enjoy your trip to Peoria!” or “Congratulations on the vasectomy!” Not “We can’t wait till our honeymoon trip around the world!” or “Married life is so rewarding,” unless self-talk and boastfulness are distinctly apropos to this particular note. You don’t want the card to be about you, but about its recipient and how happy you are to have them and their generous cash gift in your life.

One thing I try to avoid in regular writing that I make no attempts to avoid in thank-you note writing is the overuse of intensifiers such as “so,” “very,” and “really.” In a thank-you note, there is nothing wrong with “I had such a good time catching up and am so happy you could attend! We are very grateful for the fruit pitting set, as well” but imagine if you read this in a newspaper editorial, “The S&P credit downgrade was such a huge disappointment and we are so sad they didn’t keep America’s AAA rating! This is a really sad day for the Obama administration.” It’s okay to be simplistic in thank-you notes, as the important thing to display is your genuine gratitude, not your sophisticated vocabulary. Of course, the tone of every thank-you note should be adjusted for its intended audience. If your PhD advisor comes to your wedding, depending on the type of relationship you have, you may want to avoid sentences like “It was sooo fun watching you attempt the Cupid Shuffle!”  (Remember, dears: fun is a noun, not an adjective.)

Still, as I said earlier, a bad thank-you note is better than no thank-you note at all. If you find yourself overwhelmed with all the gratitude you are required to express by hand, feel free to copy the template below, created by my brilliant and thoughtful husband. All you have to do is circle the relevant bold phrases, so it will really help to speed things up in the end. More importantly, it’s a thank-you note the recipient will never forget.

Dear Friend/Relative/Other,

We would like to thank you so much for your incredible and very thoughtful gift of an item/cash/other.
It was an absolutely perfect choice and it really made our day extra special/special/okay.

We look forward to using your item/spending the money/other and will think of you whenever we do so. It was particularly great seeing you at the wedding/Sorry you could not make it.

We are both very excited about our new life together and really hope to see you/ chat on the phone/occasionally reminisce about you sometime in the future.

Sincerely/With Love,

Skeptic Bride and Special Someone


*Name has been changed to protect the guilty.

**If any of you has ever received a thank-you note from me, I swear it was from the heart and not from a template.


Now what?

In the blink of an eye, it was all over. (The wedding, not the marriage!) So much preparation, money, time, and anxiety were put into this one day. My mind was in a fog the entire time, but I’m pretty sure it was worth it.

Now that I’m thinking with a (slightly) clearer head, I’ll check back occasionally with some recaps, recommendations, and maybe a few more photos. I’m probably jinxing myself by saying this, but I do not want this to become a blog about marriage – mainly because I no longer have much to rant about. (And yes, I realize we’ve been married for just six days, and I’m sure the newlywed euphoria will settle down soon enough, but I’m trying to savor it while it lasts. Also, no one wants to read about our division of household labor or the harrowing saga of our living room furniture arrangement). I may have been a Skeptic Bride, but I am definitely no Skeptic Wife.

Above photo by Emily Magdics of Emily Rose Portraits. Hire her!

I Can’t Wait to Be Married

Many people like to remind me I should be enjoying this time, because it’s such a happy and exciting time, they say, and it goes by so quickly. To that I want to say, ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? Maybe planning a wedding was a real treat back in the old days, when getting married was the pinnacle of young women’s lives, but not no more. What an unbelievable production it has become in the final three weeks. And it really doesn’t help that I am both lazy and obsessive. Procrastinating becomes that much more torturous when you spend all your time thinking about all the things you should do without actually doing any of them!

In lieu of obsessing about the seating chart, I’m trying to look to the far future (and by “far,” I mean two and a half weeks from now). I’m daydreaming about all the things I’ll do with my free time, all the new hobbies I’ll take up, all the books I will read, all the delicious meals I will cook in our new kitchen, all the great non-wedding-focused conversations I’ll get to have with my new husband. I’ll also become a superior employee, a kinder and more dutiful daughter, and a champion of those in need. I’ll call my friends more often and visit my grandmother at least once a week. I’ll remember to send birthday cards. Heck, I’ll start making birthday presents since I’ll become such a prolific crafter. I’ll start a garden in our new yard and I will even maintain it. I’ll do volunteer work and I’ll stop using the excuse “no one is paying me to do this!” for not showing up. I’ll take weekend getaways with Special Someone and maybe I’ll learn to appreciate “hiking” – that strange uphill-walking activity that so many people inexplicably enjoy. I’m sure I’m just missing something, but I will find it soon enough.

I’ll read the entire newspaper instead of just the food section. I’ll become a tourist in my own city. I’ll go to yoga. I’ll bike to the grocery store and the library. I’ll introduce myself to our new neighbors and invite them over for barbecues. I’ll be better about automotive maintenance and I may even try to learn some basic handiwork myself. I’ll stop drinking so much. I’ll stop cursing so much. I’ll finally get all those clothes tailored that have just been sitting in my closet with the tags still on because I never got around to getting them altered. Shoot, maybe I’ll even learn how to alter them myself, why the hell not? I’ll iron Special Someone’s shirts. Wait, who am I kidding, the guy works from home and anyway he’s a grown man and can pick up a g-ddamn… Excuse me. I’ll scoop the cat litter daily. I’ll start going to book club again and not only will I actually read the books, I’ll even write insightful comments in the margins which will translate into brilliant discussion questions. I’ll visit my twin brothers at their respective colleges or, failing that, at least call them once in a damn while. I’ll start asking people more about themselves instead of just carrying on about myself and my wedding, like I’m doing here. I’ll organize my office and I’ll start doing all the things I tell my boss I will do, but never end up doing (wonder if he has noticed that little habit of mine). Speaking of which, I’ll stop blogging at work.

Yep, I can’t wait to be married! Drudgery, boredom, and petty arguments, bring it on! Okay, maybe not the petty arguments – we’ve had enough of those over the wedding playlist lately. But sweet, sweet boredom, it’s you that I crave. And if the inclination to pursue all of the above-listed activities eludes me — and it will — at least I know I’ll have the time.


Color Me Insane

Our wedding is just three weeks away now, and while I should have plenty to say from “the eye of the storm,” as one friend put it, I have really been at a loss for commentary. I prefer to just cry, throw tantrums, and hide in the bathroom. But the other day I found some inspiration and I hope no one minds a broken record: yes, BHLDN is my muse once again. Poor dears, I have already exhausted BHLDN so much that yesterday Special Someone told me he had “Beholden: Crazy Shit for Your Head!” stuck in his head all day. Of course I had to remind him it is pronounced without the vowels.

Now, let me be clear, this is not another close reading of the BHLDN catalog. BHLDN is very incidental here. My friend Sara‘s birthday is on Saturday, and I was thinking of getting her a present (I still am thinking of getting her a present, have just had to refocus). Sara is a dedicated Anthropologie shopper and a true BHLDN admirer. I know for certain she will be wearing a BHLDN dress to my wedding (even I must admit they have very cute cocktail dresses), and she has said on more than one occasion that she would like to also wear the crazy Damselfly headband* but admits the expense is not justifiable. So, I went to the BHLDN site the other day, hoping to find something she might like that costs under a million dollars, but ended up getting absorbed in the store’s new home page.

Their latest sales campaign is “Like Maid, Like Room,” which makes absolutely no sense unless you are looking at it, so go look at it if you haven’t already. What BHLDN is trying to do is convince you that you and your bridesmaids have to match all the decorations at your wedding. They have created five new “themes” — “lace,” “feathered,” “garden variety,” “in the fold” (all decorations and outfits are pleated), and “graphic” (polka dots and stripes). I’m not really faulting BHLDN for this new campaign — the more bridesmaid dresses and matching tablecloths they sell, the more money they make. BHLDN, I sympathize, I’m a struggling salesperson too (when I’m not busy reading wedding blogs, that is). But what’s more bothersome is the “matchy” aesthetic that brides-to-be try so hard to achieve. And when they don’t try to achieve matchiness, other forces — and I don’t just mean retailers — make them think they should.

The question “What are your colors?” is one I get asked a lot, and one I always answer rather awkwardly. I know most people are just trying to make conversation, so it’s not that I take offense when I hear it, but…I just don’t know what my colors are! I don’t have colors! That, or all the colors of the rainbow are my colors? Sounds a bit too kumbaya, but let’s see, my invitations were red, white and black; my bridesmaid dresses are black; but don’t worry, my main color is not black!; my flowers are mostly purple and orange with I think some lime green thrown in there; the linens at the reception are “champagne”; the dudes in my wedding are wearing dark-colored suits with any tie they want; I’m not sure what color banners the church will have that day; and I’m pretty sure the food will be a tempting mélange of off-brown and off-white. That answer is too long, though, so usually I go with, “Well, I don’t really have colors,” which inevitably elicits a look of confusion.

My mother also appears to be afflicted with wedding colors neurosis. The most recent trigger was the guest book, one of many details I probably would have forgotten about but am happy she remembered. I told her I didn’t care what it looked like as long as it wasn’t too weddingy — not because I’m trying to be rebellious, but because any intimation of an item’s utility for weddings bumps up the cost an extra 50 percent, mark my words. Sure enough, most of the flowery or damask-bordered white and off-white guestbooks she found cost around $50. Fifty dollars! But she did find this very pretty light yellow one with an attractive print for only $18. She called me about it before buying, and after a bit of back-and-forth — “Are you sure it’s okay?” “A spiral notebook from CVS would be okay!” — I declared in my usual exasperated way, “I DON’T CARE!” (No wonder my mom called me “a Bridezilla…but weird” recently.) So she bought it. Then she showed it to me a few days later and kept insisting she could return it, the implication being she was worried the yellow wouldn’t match with the rest of my wedding. I kept insisting I thought it was great. She did not return it. End of story. So, um, sorry that was a rather boring story, but it’s all meant to show that WE NEED TO STOP BEATING OURSELVES UP OVER THINGS NOT MATCHING. (And, as a sidenote, this story is also meant show that my mom is really nice for doing so much for this wedding and for putting up with a daughter who’s so bad at being a bride. I love you, Moth!)

*Shocking update: The Damselfly headband is SOLD OUT! You may recall this hairpiece retailed for $245. Two hundred forty five dollars! Either BHLDN made just a few of them or weddings obscure people’s judgment even more than I thought possible. 

It’s the little things that count

As the size of my to-do list seems to grow exponentially longer every day, so too does my talent for wasting time on the “little details” I never knew I would care about.

Take, for instance, the table number holders. You see this type of thing at restaurants where you order from a counter and food gets delivered to your table. They are usually constructed from wire and have a double loop to hold the number in place but are otherwise unremarkable. This is fine, even at a wedding, because they exist only for function. Furthermore, at weddings there are presumably flowers on each reception table and therefore little need for additional ornamentation. I got it into my head that I could find these table number holders online for about a dollar each. If they didn’t look pretty or “personalized” enough, I could tie ribbons around them. (When in doubt, just add ribbon!) Unfortunately, store-bought table number holders are a lot more expensive than they should be. We’re expecting to have about 200 guests — so that means about twenty tables — but I would strongly prefer not to spend close to a hundred dollars on yet another silly little detail that hadn’t even occurred to me until this morning.

So, I’ve spent the last few hours daydreaming up some potential handmade table number holders (my regular job has really taken a backseat to such noble pastimes). And of course all my ideas are insane. And of course I really want to put them to use, but won’t. Blast you, social convention! And of course, all you devil-may-care brides- and grooms-to-be are welcome to use these ideas…if you really want.

1. Potato table number holder. Everyone who knows me well knows of my fondness for the humble spud, so this idea would have added a “personal touch” at my wedding. Would have. Sigh. Anyway, according to my vision, each table gets a nice big baking potato with two grill skewers sticking out the top of it. The skewers are close together enough that you can just slide a piece of cardboard with the table number between them and it should stay in place. Alternatively, you could use just one skewer and stab the number through it. I really was serious about this potato idea for a good ten minutes or so.

2. Lego table number holder. They would have to be the big fat kind of Legos that toddlers play with, to both save time on construction and minimize opportunities for choking. Put your ringbearer/flower girl to work: just have them make a Lego tower about a foot high for each table and tape on the table number at the top. Then they and any other little kids at your wedding can play with Legos while they are suffering through the speeches and dances. It will keep them preoccupied for at least three minutes.

3. Gingerbread House table number holder. This one is quite a bit more time-consuming than the last two. Make a gingerbread house. Okay, now make 19 more gingerbread houses. Each one needs to have a chimney. Affix the table number to the chimney with frosting. I don’t mean to brag, but this idea would be really cute for a wintertime wedding. Too bad mine is in July and I hate baking. For a summery, gluten-free alternative, maybe I could try building 20 popsicle stick houses instead.

4. Pipe Cleaner table number holder. Now we’re talking – this idea is both cheap and easy, my favorite adjectival combination. Take four or five pipe cleaners, twist the top halves together and make a fluted base with the bottom halves. “Fluted base,” doesn’t that sound classy? Now, if you would like your table number holder to be taller, just keep adding more pipe cleaners and twisting them around until you have reached the height of your floral arrangements. Then stick the numbers in somewhere. Easy, huh? And pipe cleaners come in every color, so you’ll have no problem finding some that match the groomsmen’s cummerbunds or whatever. I only wish it were so easy to make Gimp stand up straight.

5. Wedding Present table number holder. There are two ways you can approach this one. You can assume some guests will bring gifts to your wedding, so just appoint a helper to set them up on your reception tables and sit a foldable number card on top of each gift box. No sweat! But I like this second approach better, because it shows your friends and family that you really are putting your gifts to good use. Open up the gifts you receive in the mail before the wedding and place them on tables as centerpieces, displaying the table numbers on top. I’ll bet you never thought that coffeemaker or that butcher block had more than one function! Suitcases, vacuum cleaners – anything tall and noticeable is fair game. Your aunt will be delighted to see the 36-quart stockpot she bought you, taking up the entirety of Table 15. Just make sure she gets to sit there too!

6. Birthday Candle table number holder. I don’t mean the little birthday candles that come in a 24-pack; I mean the big number candles that the older crowd gets to blow out sometimes. You will need to find tall candlesticks to hold them in place (I recommend searching thrift stores; for some reason department store candlesticks cost the average American a full week’s pay), unless you have a better idea. Then put the corresponding birthday candle number(s) on top and light them. For this method, timing is everything – you don’t want them to melt while everyone’s still at the cocktail hour! Other than that, this idea almost makes me want to pat myself on the back. I hope BHLDN doesn’t steal it.

7. Litterbox table number holder. You knew I was going to go there, so I did. But don’t be silly – I’m not saying you should bring 20 giant litter pans to the reception and put them on the tables where people are going to eat. That would be absurd. Just use cute little metal buckets and fill them up with cat litter (or sand, if you are a dog person), then pick up some sticks in your yard, use twine to tie the number cards to the sticks, and place the sticks in the cat litter. It’s a rustic touch that can do double-duty as an ashtray.

8. Handcrafted Wire table number holder. Of course, one can also channel his or her inner Alexander Calder. Just buy some wire at the hardware store and sculpt it into shapes that are capable of both standing up and displaying a cardboard number. You could get really inspired and attempt to mold the wire into figures that resemble the newlyweds themselves or their different interests and activities. I can see it now, at our tables: an old Buick, a cat, a badminton raquet, a frying pan, a pinball machine, and of course a potato. In the meantime we’ll have to start pursuing 15 new interests and also master the art of wire sculpture. No problem.

Readers, I’d love to hear your ideas! Postmaritals, what did you use for your table number holders, if you had them? Where did you buy them/how did you construct them? And, uh, can I borrow them from you? I know sometimes it’s hard to tell, but I’m being serious this time.

Above image stolen from It’s a very strange site and I’m quite confused by it. 

Toile and trouble

Remember when I wrote about how I judge other people’s registries? Well, now I know how the other side feels. A couple weeks ago, my mom sent me this email about my unlikely choice of dinner plates:

Hi Diana,

I looked at your Macy’s registry today and I was surprised to see the china you picked.  When you told me you picked the Villeroy and Boch with different patterns I thought you meant the French Garden pattern which has a whole bunch of different french garden patterns in plates and serving pieces that you can mix together, giving you a lot of variety.  I wanted to make sure that they posted the one you picked.  It just doesn’t look like you, with the hunt country scenes.  If it is the one you picked, that’s fine.  I hope you don’t take offense.  My mom thought my wedding china was “boring and mamby pamby” but that didn’t stop me from choosing it.  If it isn’t the one you ordered you should let Macy’s know.  It doesn’t look like anyone has ordered it yet.
Moth [yes, I often call my mom “Moth” — short for Mother — and she refers to herself as such.]

I actually didn’t pick out the “hunt country scene” pattern from Macy’s — although that’s what appeared on my registry site — but it still managed to cause quite a stir among my shower and wedding guests. My aunt told my mom she thought I would come to regret these plates, with the polite qualification “I know Diana likes quirky things, but she might get really tired of those,” while another friend came right out and said my plates are ugly.

Thanks, Macy’s, for starting rumors of my questionable taste. It was embarrassing enough that I just took the plates off the registry and am too overwhelmed with other details to replace them with something different. (It’s sooo hard being me!!) Oh well, I’m just as happy eating off the mismatched thrift store plates I’ve had since college and am looking forward to adding Special Someone’s plates to the dinnerware collage. On the other hand, the mamby-pamby “hunt country scene” plates I accidentally registered for would have nicely complemented the background on this blog.

BHLDN: Crzy Sht 4 Ur Hd!

Oh BHLDN, you are such a g-ddamn goldmine (gdmn gldmn) that I don’t even know where to begin with this follow-up post. The plan was to focus on the Hair Adornments collection, but when I went to your web site I saw you had added a whole new lingerie department! Like most brides, I aspire to look just like my great great grandmother probably did on her wedding night; also like most brides, I don’t want my “something old” to be a musty pair of bloomers dating back to the McKinley administration. But with a little help from BHLDN, I can look like the 1890s without smelling like the 1890s — see, for instance, the Vanity Table Peignor ($250), Tranquil Morning Knickers ($90), or the Perennial Garter Belt ($70). Okay, I have to admit some of the other items on this site are pretty cute, but who spends $64 on a thong? And don’t let the giant satin butt-bows fool you into thinking that’s a fair price.

Anyway, I did come here to talk about Hair Adornments and that is what I will do – mainly for selfish reasons, since I am still figuring out what to put on my head on my wedding day. My rules so far: no long veils, no birdcage veils (only because I heard they are sooo 2000-late and I want to be a “cool bride”), no headbands, and no bows. Of course, a few months ago I also said I did not want a big wedding with a sit-down dinner at a country club, and look what happened! So I might be willing to bend the rules if the right birdcage comes along. BHLDN, show me what you got!

Oh dear. James Coviello, designer of this veil, took the birdcage motif a bit too literally. Did he really mean for the “knotted velvet starbursts” to resemble trapped doves? I can’t handle the symbolism. Feminist rant commencing in 5…4…3… alright, let’s just move on to this next…babushka?

If I were a rich bride, ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum, I’d pay $160 for some cotton, stick it on my head, if I were a wealthy briiiiiide. The catalog description calls this Dotted Voile Veil “50s-inspired” but somehow I’ve been transported to a shtetl in Tsarist Russia.

Now, why is this model looking so pleased with herself? It can’t be that she’s so happy about posing for awkward senior class photos with the rest of these models. It must be the satisfaction that only a neo-nautical headband — “stunning and wide as the sea, with a striped straw bow and a jaunty rope tie” — can provide.

I’m pretty sure this Swarovski-studded headband is just a repurposed Birds of a Feather Cake Topper from the Decor Collection. Never mind that it is still $160 – what’s more striking to me is the model’s Brontë-esque capelet below that icy blue gaze. She may look fragile, but I wouldn’t want to meet her on the moor on a dark night.

Speaking of fragile. When I first noted this hairpiece is called the “Damselfly Headband,” I thought, “UGH. What a stupid play on words, calling it a damselfly instead of a dragonfly just because it’s bridal attire and everything has to be all girly and sweet.” Boy, was I wrong! Turns out a damselfly is, in fact, a real insect. And I determined after looking at a few pictures of damselflies that this thing is as entymologically correct as any crystal-encrusted hairpiece can be. Conclusion: if I want to wear a giant, realistic-looking-while-also-quite-sparkly bug on my head, I can do that for just $245.

Put on this disco headband (mysteriously named the “baguette halo”) and the only other accessories you’ll need are a slack jaw and unkempt hair. Is she on drugs or is that the face of cold feet? I’m inclined to believe it’s just sticker shock: she’s actually wearing two headbands, and each one sells for $140. Such is the strange world of BHLDN, where we pay hundreds to look completely insane on the alleged most important day of our lives. I manage to look insane on a regular basis for far less than that, thank you very much.  I must admit, though, this Dogwood Flower Hairpin caught my eye for a minute.

Then the price caught my eye: $240. For a barrette. Does the store Claire’s still exist? I am way overdue for a trip there.