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09.18.2003

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09.18.2003: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners
for real-world living
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waiting for thank you notes ...
Q:
My friend got married in June and had her bridal shower in April, and as of late August she hasn't sent thank you notes for either event. I got married myself last October and I know thank you notes take time, but I think they're necessary for formal events where friends and family buy thoughtful, sometimes expensive gifts. Now some of the girls in our circle are talking about her ungratefulness. Should I be upfront and ask her why she hasn't sent thank you notes? I am worried about looking tacky and her taking my comment negatively. I don't want to be Mrs. Busy Body, but maybe she doesn't know that people really like thank you notes. (P.S. The clincher is that I bought her monogrammed thank you notes as a wedding gift.) Thanks for the advice.

A: Okay, clearly your friend has had plenty of time to write those thank you notes by now, and is well beyond the normal amount of time that etiquette deems proper. It's a little odd that she hasn't written any thank you's by this point, and particularly ironic considering the fact that the gift you're wishing she'd written a note for was, in fact, a set of monogrammed thank you notes. And if I were your married friend, I'd be feeling mighty sheepish about my manners indeed (trust me: unless she was raised by wolves, she probably knows in theory that thank you cards are generally expected for shower and wedding gifts).

But here's an example of an instance where I feel like people waste a lot of time and energy feeling indignant about who's right and who's wrong in the etiquette wars. Did your friend already thank you in person for your gift/gifts? If so, the sentiment has been put out there, even if not in the proper socially-sanctioned formal bit of writing that you and the rest of the girls would prefer. Accept that your friend has either chosen to neglect the normal rules of etiquette, or is simply unaware of them, and be glad for whatever method she's chosen to tell you she appreciated the gift. If, on the other hand, the gift or gifts were sent to the house, and you've heard no mention about it ever since, by all means mention that you had sent her a wedding gift way back when, and that you wanted to make sure that she had indeed received it. In this case, be careful to word your inquiry in such a way that it doesn't come off as a "why didn't I get a thank you note, you ungrateful boor!" jab, but merely as a concerned query into whether your gift actually arrived.

My general feeling is that it shows a lack of grace to point out another person's social faux pas, unless specifically consulted on the matter. After all, you're not her mama, she's a grown woman, and chances are good that if you make some attempt to "correct" her on her manners, she's going to be somewhat offended. Telling her that everyone's gossiping about it is unlikely to help matters, as it'll only make everyone who's miffed sound rather petty. So forget about trying to force her to send out those notes; like gifts, thank you notes should be delivered because the person offering them genuinely wants to do so, not because they're mandatory. And personally, I'd rather miss out on something as small as a thank you note than run the risk of tainting a relationship with a good friend any day.

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