Thank You for The Gift

Leslie Stainton


You should try to send a thank-you card within three months of receipt (and no, you don’t have a year to send your thank yous—that’s a total wedding myth!). To help, we’ve put together some sample thank-you notes for every gift-giving scenario.BRIDES magazine


Scenario #1: Someone gives you money.

Expert Advice: Don’t mention the amount but do explain how you’ll use the cash.


Dear M. and D.,

Wow! How generous of you to fund our honeymoon! Thank you!! And thanks for giving us your old Volvo, D.—we couldn’t have done this without it. Just hope the car’s up to the journey. We’re on phase one of the trip as I write—driving north into New England on a gorgeous fall day. The leaves are peaking, sun is shining, we couldn’t be happier. It’s all been such a whirlwind. I still can’t believe this time last year I didn’t even know A., and here we are, husband and wife!

(The timing still amazes me—just when I was beginning to worry about finding a job and a place to live, voilà! Almost makes you believe in fate.)

Hope you’ve had a chance to calm down after the wedding (thank you for that, too!). Remind me to tell you about our wedding night—or rather morning—when the door to our room got stuck and we were trapped inside for what felt like hours. A half-hour, really—but I was so worried we’d miss breakfast! No phone in the room, since the inn is old and they want to simulate that nineteenth-century feel. Boy did they succeed—at one point we thought the only way out was to crawl onto the roof. But finally a maid heard us pounding on the door and came to the rescue. Quite an adventure … to be continued!

Lots of love,


P.S. Thanks again for the wedding toast, D. “May you be as happy as your mother and I.” Too funny!




Scenario #2: You don’t know the person.

Expert Advice: Mention that you’re looking forward to meeting them at the wedding.


Dear C.,

A. has told me so much about you—all those months you were an item, the time you nearly married him yourself! (Thank you so much for changing your mind!!) I’m still pinching myself at my good luck—meeting him so suddenly, the dinner that turned into a weekend and then into a life. Amazing.

We were both hoping you could attend the wedding but completely understand the last-minute glitch. Life is so unpredictable—you think things are going one way and then all of a sudden they’re going another. Oh well.

Anyhow, we’ll send pictures. As you’ll see, it was a pretty simple affair in my parents’ backyard. Funny, when I was a kid I always thought I’d be one of those fancy brides in a bouffant dress with a long veil walking down the aisle. I used to go through the Sunday paper and cut out pictures of the brides I wanted to look like—even glued them into a scrapbook. Did you do that too? Did we all want to be princesses? I still remember trying on my mother’s shoes when I was little, how my feet slid down into the toes and the heels clattered on the floor when I tried to walk. I can’t quite believe I’ve grown up enough now to fill them.

Did you do things like that?

With best wishes,





Scenario #3: You don’t know what the gift is.

Expert Advice: Focus on the giver’s kindness rather than the mystery.


Dear Mr. and Mrs. H. (I still can’t bring myself to call you Mom and Dad!),

I’m so grateful to you for your son—so smart, so passionate, so witty, it’s just bewildering sometimes to be in his presence. Thank you! A. has told me lots about you both, and I know what a force you’ve been in his life, so I’m doubly honored by your kindness in letting me join your small family. (If three’s a crowd, what does that make four?!). I realize, of course, there’s no way I can ever take your place, Mrs. H., nor would I try—all those years of sitting beside him at the kitchen table while he studied Latin, pushing him to work harder, egging him on (literally! those raw drinks! no wonder he won’t touch an egg today!).

We’re just sorry you couldn’t make it to the wedding. But you made the right decision. What with jet lag and the hassle of passports and getting to and from Gatwick, I can only imagine how trying it would have been for you, Mrs. H., with your nerves, and you, Mr. H., with your angina. Definitely not worth the risk.

Meanwhile, we think of you all the time. And I am so looking forward to getting to know you both better. I really enjoyed meeting you this past spring (and apologize again for that mishap with the bath—I didn’t realize your water heater wasn’t up to a long soak! I trust it didn’t cost much to fix?). We’re counting the days until we can see you again.

You asked me about the baby blanket, Mrs. H. No worries, there’s plenty of time, so keep knitting! It’s sweet of you to ask.

We’re still unpacking my belongings—quite a challenge to squeeze all of my stuff into A.’s life apartment. As you might guess, we’re learning a lot about one another in the process, but each day I feel more and more confident we were meant to be. As I told my mom the other day, I see what they mean now when they say marriage is work. She laughed and said I wasn’t kidding!

Oh—A.’s calling to me just now. He wants me to tell you he’ll send you a letter very soon. He’s terribly busy right now, but he’ll be in touch shortly. We both send our love and hope you’re feeling better after that episode, Mrs. H.—you had us worried. But it sounds as though the new prescription is working. We’re so relieved.

With love,


P.S. You wanted to know about the wedding picture. Amazingly, it turns out no one took a photograph of the two of us together that day—can you believe it? (Neither can we!) But we’re going to restage the ceremony and get another round of photos taken next month, so don’t put that frame away yet!




Scenario #4: It’s a group gift.

Expert Advice: Send individual thank-yous but give a shout-out to the group.


Dear K. and S.,

My heartfelt thanks to you and to all of A.’s colleagues for the beautiful sheet set! I can’t promise to think of you every time we use them (😀), but it’s so thoughtful of you to want to help us “make our bed” (speaking metaphorically, of course), which is, after all, what marriage is all about, isn’t it? You old married types know so much more than we do, of course, but just the same I’m eager to embark on this adventure. There were so many times in the past when I thought it would never happen—all those wrong turns, false starts, bad dates, affairs (that awful time I nearly married a man who was already married, yikes!), and then at last A. came along, and the next thing I knew he was asking me if I would marry him “down the line,” and I was saying yes. Who knew that “down the line” would mean “in a couple of months”?!! But we both feel so ready, and I honestly can’t imagine where I’d be living or what I’d be doing if he hadn’t come along, so it’s all worked out.

Sorry—didn’t mean to ramble! I’m just so looking forward to meeting all of A.’s colleagues, you included, and to settling into our new life together. And thank you again for those sheets. They’re such a pretty shade of peach. The color reminds me of the inside of a shell, which is how I want to think of marriage, as a beautiful seashell, one you can crawl into and be safe when it’s stormy outside.

All best wishes,





Scenario #5: The person gave you a gift off your registry.

Expert Advice: Mention how much you love the gift and plan to use it regularly.


Dear G.,

Thank you so much for the gorgeous pitcher. So unexpected. I never thought of you as the sterling silver type, you know? Not my wise and rugged fisherman friend from the West. Do you mean it as a sign? A token to help me navigate the waters of marriage (which you and I both know to be treacherous)? A balm to quench my thirst in the dry days to come? Are you telling me something about the married state, that country where you’ve resided longer than I’ve been alive? Its unfathomable oceans, its salty tears, the unforeseen deluges and gentle rains? The mist into which I feel I am descending?

I’ll think of you every time I use it.






Scenario #6: You hate it and can’t return it.

Expert Advice: Don’t be a phony and rave about the gift, but do say something positive.


Dear Judge P.,

How generous of you to officiate at our wedding! I know you’re a busy man, and so I’m especially grateful to you for taking the time to preside over such a small occasion.

I was particularly touched by your remarks after we had that trouble with the wedding ring. I’m still not sure why A. couldn’t get it over my knuckle and I had to do it myself—never thought my fingers were that fat!—but you saved the day with your proverb. (What was the exact quote? “The Greeks have a saying—a wedding ring that’s hard to put on is impossible to take off”?).

A. and I both deeply appreciate your having helped us “tie the knot.” Thank you!






Scenario #7: You already have one (or already exchanged it).

Expert Advice: Don’t acknowledge the situation or say how you’ll use it, talk about the gift instead.


Dear B.,

Your letters keep coming. What pleasure to find an envelope in the mailbox with your inimitable script (just glad I get there before A.!— he has a bit of a jealous streak, I’m finding). Does anyone take the time to write such letters anymore, to dip pen into ink and lift it to a sheet of letterhead and set down thoughts and stories? What joy to sit in our apartment on a quiet afternoon when I’m by myself and slide a knife into the crease of an envelope and take out your words. Strange how a letter can conjure a world.

I am remembering, for instance, the time you flew over to see me in Spain a few months after I’d gone there on the grant, on that visit that proved so dismal for us both. Perhaps you knew it even as you crossed the ocean, strapped into your seat, listening to Schwarzkopf and the Four Last Songs. The last songs, for god’s sake! There I was in Madrid, giddy with expectation, so eager to show you the Spain I’d been telling you about. Little guessing you’d be so absorbed in your own work you’d barely notice. Definitely not the (re)marrying type, are you?

I was so naive, so young. No wonder I leapt at the chance when A. showed up a year later. I thought it would be simple. I couldn’t envision how two people with so much in common, for whom so much seemed right, could fail to cross that last tenuous border into true union.

You with your final songs already knew this. You’d known it for years. No wonder you refused to try again. I see now that you did me a kindness. Please keep writing. I treasure your letters.

With love,





Scenario #8: A present arrives long after the wedding.

Expert Advice: Don’t mention the timing but do say how you’ll use the gift.


Dear J.,

When I came to you seeking help for my husband, you listened for the better part of an hour and then said quietly, “I think you may need help yourself.” My gratitude is infinite. Thank you for the many hours that followed—all that delving into the past, the complications of family, the absurdities of childhood, the patterns and repetitions. On one hand it feels frivolous and self-indulgent. On the other, I think you may have saved my life.

Last night I had a dream. I was in the passenger seat of the Volvo. A. was at the wheel. We were in a small parking lot surrounded on three sides by water. He was backing the car toward the edge of the pavement. I screamed at him to stop, but he kept driving. The next thing I knew we were sliding into the sea. I woke as the waves were rising over my window.

I don’t need you to interpret this one.

With infinite thanks,





Scenario #9: You receive a gift that was clearly intended for someone else.

Expert Advice: Don’t acknowledge the error but do let the sender know how much you appreciate the gesture.


Dear A.,

Thank you so much for the past five-and-a-half years. Thank you for your time, your money, your attempts at friendship and love. Thank you for our house, for the garden with its lilacs and butterfly bush, the hydrangea we transplanted to the backyard, the bird feeders. Thank you for the garage floor you surprised me by painting that weekend I went out of town with my parents on a trip you refused to make. Thank you for the ruby ring and silver beads, for the walnut box in which to store them. Thank you for teaching me how to brew a proper pot of tea. Thank you for Mahler and Oxford and Michigan. For buying me a black cocktail dress on the day I didn’t get that raise. For showing me I wasn’t meant to live alone. For your candor and consistency on the topic of children. For wanting a cat; for wanting two cats. For turning up at my apartment after I’d left you and telling me you wanted kids after all. For the time you read through my diaries without asking. For your accusations. For your despair, which I thought I could heal. For our misgivings and missed cues, our failures. For believing in the possibility of us. For your inability to forgive me for giving up.

With gratitude and, yes, love,



Leslie Stainton is the author of Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts (Penn State Press, 2014) and Lorca: A Dream of Life (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999). Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, The American Scholar, Brevity, Crab Orchard Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. She lives with her husband in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she teaches writing at the University of Michigan Residential College. She is at work on a book about her slaveholding ancestors, the Scarletts of Georgia. More at


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