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Do Graduates, Brides, and Grooms Write Thank-Yous?

It’s the season of graduations and weddings, wonderful opportunities to celebrate graduates’ accomplishments and individuals’ commitments to one another.

If you are a recent or soon-to-be bride, groom, or graduate, congratulations! Life is just beginning for you in many ways. One of the ways people celebrate your new life is by giving you gifts.

And one of the ways you celebrate people’s generosity is by writing thank-yous. Right? Right?

I would like to know what’s going on in the everyday world of thank-yous, and I would love to hear from you if:

  • You have given a gift to a happy couple or graduate. Did you receive a thank-you? Do you expect to? How do you feel about receiving or not receiving written thanks?
  • You are a recent or anxiously waiting bride or groom. Did you send thank-you notes to all gift-givers and your bridal party, or do you have a plan for sending them?
  • You are a recent or upcoming graduate. Did you/Will you write notes for all your gifts? How do you feel about thank-yous?


I’m curious about this topic because I’m considering whether expectations around thank-yous have changed. As I grew up, I learned that it was necessary and kind to write thank-yous. (Nice girls do!) All my life I have worked to express my gratitude in writing. I’m sure I missed some opportunities, but any blunders were not intentional.

Now when I give a special gift–for example, for a wedding or graduation–I normally expect to receive a written thanks. I know communication has evolved, and I’m happy with a note, an email, a text, or another type of online communication.

It’s hearing nothing that bothers me. How about you?

Please share your experiences, and please forward the link for this blog to anyone you know who has something to say about thank-yous. In a few days, I’ll share some tips for quick and easy thank-yous.

Thank you!


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

21 comments on “Do Graduates, Brides, and Grooms Write Thank-Yous?”

  • 1. Whenever wished with gift or saying words always accepted and returned Thank You Very Much in saying but not written note. feel better in receving thanks.
    2. After reading your article i felt and will be sending Thanks in writing
    3. Feel very nice to exchange Wishes in Thank You.

  • I don’t think graduation is as significant a milestone in the UK as in the USA. Two members of your immediate family may attend the ceremony but it’s not a wider social/gift giving affair as depicted in the American media.

    That said, whenever I have received gifts for my birthday or for a special occasion, I have always considered it important to give thanks.

    If I have received the gift in person I have always thanked the giver at the time of receipt. If the gift was received via a third party or electronically, or if the gift given in person was of significance in value or meaning, I have followed up with a note expressing why it was appreciated and a relevant comment about how I was going to use the gift/what it would allow me to do.

    I would suggest one of the concerns around thanking, as a recipient, would be the line between expressing sincere gratitude without it sounding like platitudes and without embarrassing the giver.

    When I give gifts I need to know that the gift has been received safely, and it’s nice to know that it has been appreciated, but I would hate to think people felt *obligated* to write a note of thanks – that would, in my mind, defeat the very purpose of a thank you note.

  • Thank you, Sanjay, Walker, Elaine, M. Wood, L M, Rachel, Teresa, Karen, Bart, Jackie, Devon, and Anita. I appreciate hearing your views and experiences.

    Devon, I love your reminder that boomers raised millennials. And I am impressed with your daughter! I remind my daughter (age 24), and she always writes thank-yous for people who send her a gift. If she receives it in person, she thanks them in person.

    I’m going to wait a day to respond in detail. Thanks so much for contributing, everyone.


  • I realize that the communications have changed to shorter, electronic messages. However, that’s no excuse for a lack of common courtesy. While I prefer to send & receive a hand written note, I’m accepting of any acknowledgement of my gift at all. It’s the fact that gifts go completely unrecognized that really shows a lack appreciation.

  • Lynn,unfortunately I believe that the lack of being grateful is part of this millennial generation who believe that everything is owed to them. I am not just old school, but part of many, many generations who have always been taught to be grateful. Not writing thank you notes/emails/cards is a very selfish, all-about-me mentality which speaks volumes about character or the lack thereof.

  • When I was growing up, I learned that if you open a gift in the presence of the gift giver, a verbal thank you would suffice. Thank-you notes were required when you opened a gift outside of the presence of the gift giver (this may have been from Emily Post?). I agree that technology has evolved; if someone sends my child a Christmas gift that he opens at home, I may have him call that person to thank them. But I believe that written thank-you notes for wedding gifts, graduation gifts, etc. still are and should be standard.

  • I write thank you notes for all gifts I receive for occasions, like the listed examples and baby gifts for the little one we have on the way. I do not, however, write thank you notes for random gifts I’m given or birthday gifts if I open them and thank the giver in person. If I receive a random gift in the mail, I will either call or write a thank you, or both, depending on the gift-giver. For baby gifts I get in the mail, I tend to text or call the person in addition to writing them a formal thank you note.

    When giving gifts, it doesn’t matter to me how thanks is expressed. I am fine with not receiving a note if the recipient thanks me in some other manner (text, phone call, in person) but agree that hearing nothing is not ok. While I don’t expect them, my favorite thank you notes are those received for acts of hospitality.

  • I have given two gifts recently. One to a high school graduate and the other a college graduate. Both are relatives. I’ve not received a thank you note, call, Facebook message or text. I am fine with not receiving a “thank you” card in the mail but an acknowledgement would be nice.

    The last time I gave a gift to someone and they didn’t acknowledge it, I decided to no longer give gifts to that person.

  • I agree that this seems to be more of an issue with Millennials. I buy a gift for each of my team members at Christmas time and attach a personalized note thanking that person for her work during the year. I leave it on their desk the night before so I am not actually handing it to them in person. I am least likely to be thanked in any manner by Millennial team members (even verbally). And if I am, it is only a quick “thank you” without any reference to the gift itself. The only team member who consistently thanks me is a Babyboomer. She sends an email, lets me know she appreciates the gift and tells me why she likes it or how she intends to use it. I’ve given up expecting any thanks from Millennials.

  • A handwritten note is de rigueur. Electronic thank-you communication seems so insincere, rushed, dismissive, and thoughtless. How long does it take to write a note (assuming one can still put pen to paper), address an envelope, stamp it and post it? Much more meaningful to this writer than a few taps of the screen. However, like the gift, it’s the thought that counts. Or is it?

  • When I give a gift for a wedding, graduation or baby shower etc, I also expect to receive a written note of thanks. At the very least, I want to know my gift was received. Often I have to look at my bank account to see if the check was cashed and therefore didn’t get lost in the mail. When I hear nothing that bothers me.

  • I find the millennial bashing disconcerting. Didn’t baby boomers raise millennials? Therefore, why are you admonishing one generation and praising the other?

    My daughter is 7 years old and always knows to hand-write a note, unless she is able to thank them in person.

  • I keep a stash of thank-you notes at home and work, just in case the occasion arises. This stems from sincere gratitude and a love of putting pen to paper. Faced with the option of writing a thank-you note or emailing/texting; I prefer to physically write it. That someone takes the time to write a note is meaningful to me as a recipient, even though it could be done in electronic form with ease. I don’t mind e-thanks, but a written note just feels more personal. No acknowledgement at all is just plain rude.

  • I expect and usually receive thank-you notes for gifts. I always send a thank-you note (sometimes an email) when I receive a gift, am taken to dinner or hosted in someone’s home. A question I have is about sending thank-you notes to everyone who sends a card of condolence after a death. I understand that there may be close friends or relatives who should be thanked for their support, but is it really expected that the grieving widow (me) should sit down and write thank-you notes to everyone who expresses their sympathy? I wasn’t raised in a barn, but I find this a surprising practice.

  • Hi Meg,

    I am so sorry about your loss. Please accept my sympathy and allow me to help by responding to your comment. Thank you for sharing it.

    No one who cares about you would want you to take on any grueling task at this time. My view is that if writing notes to thank people for their sympathy and kindnesses helps you to feel better and to feel connected to them, do it. If it causes you distress, don’t–or don’t do it until you want to. You never need to thank people for pre-printed cards with very brief messages–again, unless you want to.

    Here’s what Emily Post says:

    “Handwritten condolence notes, flowers, Mass cards, contributions to charities, and acts of kindness should always be acknowledged (by the recipient, if possible). . . . Preprinted cards with no personal message, emailed notes of condolence, online sympathy notes, and visits to the funeral home or the service don’t need to be acknowledged in writing. Letters of thanks are customarily written to pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, ushers, eulogists, and readers.”

    So that’s the Emily Post gold standard. But do what works for you.

    For the messages you want to write, perhaps sitting down in a lovely spot with a dear friend, favorite pet, or glass of wine will make the experience more centering for you.

    This blog post I wrote many years ago includes some brief examples:

    Here are some other ideas:

    I hope these ideas are helpful to you.


  • Thanks again, everyone, for your comments.

    Sanjay, I’m glad you will be sending thanks in writing after reading this post. However, please note that many people are happy to receive an oral thank-you in person.

    Walker, thanks for bringing up the idea of being “obligated.” I believe that even when people love a gift–for example, a wedding gift–their belief that society obligates them to write a thank-you is probably what moves them to get it done. What also moves me to write or call is the belief that people will be delighted to receive my thanks.

    Elaine, you and I agree completely. Thanks for commenting.

    M. Wood, I’m not sure what causes many young people not to express their thanks. I haven’t received thanks yet for a gift card I gave a young couple for their wedding 18 months ago. It was a card for one of their favorite stores. I haven’t received thanks from my nephew for generous birthday and Christmas gifts I sent last year. The lack of thanks certainly demotivates my future giving to him.

    L M, thanks for sharing your view. I confirmed that the most recent Emily Post etiquette guide says this: “If you open a gift in the presence of the giver, then your verbal thanks are sufficient.” It also notes that shower and wedding gifts traditionally require written thanks.

    Rachel, thanks for sharing your experiences. Like you, I like to receive (and to write) thanks for hospitality. It’s fun to find a note or card in the mail and remember the happy visit.

    Teresa, my feelings match yours, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get more opinions. I simply feel bad when I happily find the perfect card, send the perfect gift, and then hear nothing in response.

    Karen, thanks for sharing your personal experience with employees. I imagine a millennial who did thank you in writing would impress you.

    Bart, I always appreciate your opinion. And you may be surprised to hear that I know of at least one young adult who doesn’t know anything about postage stamps or how to buy them. His world is just electronic.

    Jackie, my experience matches yours. Thanks for commenting.

    Devon, thanks again for pointing out the millennial bashing. Also, I love what your daughter has learned from you.

    Anita, the stash of thank-you notes is brilliant. Thanks for telling us about it.

    I really appreciate hearing everyone’s helpful views on thank-yous. Thank you for taking the time to write.


  • I’m late to the party, Lynn, but I agree with those who appreciate receiving written thank-yous in any form, and I make it a practice to send a thank-you note when appropriate.

  • Hi Casey,

    I can attest to your sending thank-yous since I received one recently from you. As a business owner, you use thank-yous wisely, featuring your brand (an old-fashioned typewriter) as a graphic in the note.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • I, too, am saddened by the lack of respect by millenials.

    I have in past months given a wedding gift, graduation gift, and sent some money to help a college person in a jam.

    I received no thank you notes from any of them. I believe it is rude not to send a thank you when a gift is not open in the presence of the gifter. I understand the stress of sending dozens of thanks yous to everyone and do not even get upset if a wedding thank you takes a few months. People often have moving, school, work, and blended family issues happening.

    I am a baby boomer which raised generation-x (who had been taught to give thanks and tries to instill that in the next generation). However, no thanks from any of the aforementioned millennials by note. My Grandson does give both verbal and/or text thank you(s), however.

    So, to all he millenials who have read this: “I do not think the response above about the baby-boomers raising the millenialsl is now an excuse for a millenial who has now been instructed on common courtesy.”

    Thank you for this forum and reading this.

  • Joe, thank you for telling your story. I’m a boomer mother with a millennial daughter. She is evidence that this skill can be learned–it just needs to be taught!


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