Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm really not a totally disorganized a$$hole

Hey lady,

I have a post-wedding etiquette question for you and your team of wise sages:

I live on the other side of the planet, but got married in CA. I had all the registry gifts sent to my mother's place  - so items wouldn't have to be shipped across the planet. Some people also brought gifts to the wedding (in other words, gifts everywhere). After the wedding I went through the gifts and created a gift spreadsheet to ensure everything was organized and accounted for. Then I left for my honeymoon and then home. Now, I am back home visiting this month and am doing some further organizing (we left the country a couple days after the wedding and I couldn't do much more than open the gifts and write down who gave what). 

I'm going through the list and I see a couple friends on there who I'm pretty sure gave us something, but nothing is listed. Additionally, there were a couple gifts that did not have cards (or in all the mayhem, the cards got lost). I have no idea who gave them to us. Finally, there are some people on my list who I'm pretty sure didn't get us anything. 

So my question is this:

How do I find out who gave us the gifts with no card without making the friends who didn't give us anything feel uncomfortable? I was thinking of going the process of elimination route and emailing people on the list where no present is listed, but what happens if that person didn't get us anything? Their presence at our wedding was their present, and we're honored that they joined us to celebrate, I don't want to make them feel bad. I also don't want to be ass and not send a 'thank you.' 

Finally, what about the people who I suspect got us something but I don't have anything written down? I mean, I don't know for sure, but again, I cannot not send a 'thank you' if they did give us something. And what if I'm totally wrong in my assumptions? I honestly don't know.


Doesn't want to be an a$$shole & is usually more organized


I was doing my best to ignore your email. Or, rather, peeking at it every other day and promising myself, "I'll get to it..." And then Rachel's thank-you-note-spreadsheet post smacked me right in the face.

It is thus with great pleasure that I bring you this response from the blogosphere's foremost expert on thank-you-note spreadsheets:

Dear Doesn't Want to be an A**hole, 

I can completely sympathize because this is basically my worst nightmare, re: wedding gifts. And I can't even slap you on the wrist because you are doing exactly what you should have done (spreadsheet, etc) and against great odds, what with the flying back and forth issues. Now is the time to hone your thank you ninja skills.

1. Since you registered, work the registry. Most of them will keep track of who bought what. Some of them provide this information online if you dig (usually called "thank you manager"). This will definitely clear things up for all the gifts people purchased online. I've found that it's much more sketchy for in store purchases, although I did spend some time calling customer service and attempting to badger them into giving me more information. Probably don't waste your time with that. 

2. Get stealthy. You know where the gaps are on your list, which is good. What you need to do is spread the word in those circles (but NOT to those specific people) that due to the craziness of intercontinental wedding planning, some gifts got separated from cards. Mention some of the specific gifts. Play up the fact that you feel terrible because you're sure that you're missing some thank yous and you'd really appreciate it if you could figure out who the gifters were. Basically, if you currently have a blank next to your aunt's name, it is much less weird for your mom to casually ask your aunt if she might know of someone who gave you an coffee maker (because naturally you absolutely adore it and it's tearing you up inside not to be able to thank the giver) than it is for you to go down the list and confront the people with blanks next to their names. NEVER talk to someone about gifts if you aren't sure they got you something. That's uncomfortable and looks like fishing.

3. Some people will out themselves, but they'll never do it to you directly. They'll ask your parents or your mutual friends if they know whether you received x,y,z gift because they never received a thank you note. This is where the spreading the word part helps again, because those people are now primed to say "Oh my god, she was agonizing over that because the gift somehow got separated from the card!" and the gifter will feel relieved that you aren't just an ungrateful a**hole and then your informant will pass the information along to you and you can send an effusive card.

4. Yes, there are people who didn't get you anything. That's fine. I was awkward about this because I genuinely wanted to send these people thank you notes just for attending (because some of them made a huge effort to be there) but I didn't want it to seem like I was being a passive-aggressive asshole and pointing out the fact that they didn't buy gifts. I think my solution is going to be including a "it meant so much to have you at the wedding, it wouldn't have been the same without you on the dance floor" type note in a different context (casual email, holiday card, etc). 

Good luck and god speed, friend.

do have a team of wise sages, don't I?

p.s. Rachel did terrific how-tos on planning + budgeting a DIY weddingstreamer backdropspainted tablecloths and hand dyed napkins for 100 Layer Cake last week. And you should probably take a look at her wedding photos. (Spoiler Alert: THERE ARE SPARKLES)

Photo: Sarah Bebe Holmes via Arial Edge via Peonies & Polaroids


  1. Even just reading the word etiquette makes me nauseous and nervous.

  2. Good advice. Even if there are still blanks next to people's names for gifts still send them a thank you for being at your wedding! If they've made any sort of significant effort to travel a nice note to say you appreciated them being there is good! I've been to a few of my cousin's weddings, with gifts, and never received a thank you note. ANY is better than NONE!

  3. Agreed with Kathryn, a thank you is appreciated no matter what. And as a 5x wedding attendee this summer... i cant friggen remember what i got the happy couple either. So your welcome for the whatever i bought from your registry.

  4. Oof, good luck with the sleuthing! I am feeling both sides of this right now. I just found an addressed, un-stamped thank you note on my dresser that has been there... for a year. Apparently I wrote it,, and it wound up hidden in a pile. I used the spread-the-word technique and told my mom to mention to her friend how terrible I felt about it, and sent the letter along.
    Any confusion about gifts we sorted out by asking around like Rachel described, which mostly meant asking our parents to mention things to their friends.
    On the flip side, I don't have a thank you note for a present I gave a friend a year ago, and am worried that she didn't get it – I dropped it off at her parent's house when no one was home. Is it cool to check that she got the gift without sounding like I'm digging for the thank-you note?

  5. @ Kathryn + anon - Hmmmm ... so maybe I'm too sensitive? I just worry that if a guest hasn't bought a gift and I send a TY note for their attendance, then it looks like I'm calling attention to the fact that they didn't bring a gift. I might be overthinking it, but I'll probably still just stick to adding a special thank you in the holiday cards for those particular people.

    @ Emily Elizabeth - Totally legitimate to check, especially in your situation. Also, I have no issue with people checking to see if their gifts were received. I just think you shouldn't have to because the receiver should have sent a thank you note!

  6. Just my two cents: I think I have a slightly different take than Rachel about sending Thank You cards to people who didn't give a gift -- It would actually make me really sad if I learned that the bride was saving her "Thank You" stationary only for those who gave gifts... as if I weren't worth a fancy shmancy thank you card because I didn't buy a present...

  7. @Nina now i rly wish i had sent thank-you cards to everyone who spent so much $$ + effort to get to our wedding

  8. @ Nina - I think I am convinced. I desperately wanted to send those cards but did not want to make anyone feel awkward. Seems like I'm vastly outweighed in the awkward category, which is good to know.

  9. I just like thanking people... so presence or presents = thanks for being there!

  10. i couldn't figure out at least 5 couples because of lost cards or bad note taking on my part. i just sent them a thank you for EVERYTHING you've done card... hoping thats enough to roll the gift into :/

  11. Speaking of not fishing for gifts, but unintentionally coming off like you were...

    My mom's cousins gave us a card at the wedding that said "We sent a few pieces of your china (which was my grandparents wedding china, and therefore only available on ebay/, and only known to them because they are on that side of the family) to your parents' house."

    Which I totally forgot about until I was going through our cards from our wedding before recycling them all (sue me) last year. And then I was like, huh. We didn't get any china from them? So I asked my mom to very casually and diplomatically see if they'd sent it, but to make sure it sounded like I wasn't fishing for a present or anything, that I just genuinely wanted to know if they'd sent it, because I would feel terrible if they had and I hadn't received it and hadn't sent a card.

    Well, queue vague response about checking on it, followed by zero communication with my mom in the last year. Uhhhmmmmm. Oops? But I thought I was being responsible!

    You can't go right sometimes, I tell you. Clearly the "thank you for coming" card would have been a more graceful way to handle that.

    Also, I have yet to send thank you cards for Dashiell's first birthday (in February). Guess what I'm including in our holiday cards this year? I've been lugging it around like an albatross for the last 9 months.

  12. what the eff is with point #4?! Thank you cards are to say thanks for coming to the wedding. Thanking for the gift is secondary to that.

  13. We had a mystery off-registry gift without a card which I assumed came from one of my friends rather than my husband's, as it was from a specific shop in my home town. I did some sleuthing to no avail - I guessed who I thought it was from (an unaccounted for friend from my home town) then approached the housemate of that friend, as I knew they'd all travelled to the wedding together and surely housemate would've seen the gift. Nope - that friend had made a charity donation but her card had must've gone astray hence she was on my unaccounted for list (we gave our guests a registry or charity option - many were ridiculously generous and did BOTH but that's another story). In desperation, I ended up doing a facebook post saying "M&R would love to thank whoever got us the gorgeous XXX but we have unfortunately lost your card. Help!". Tacky, but effective - and given it was just our friends not older guests we didn't need to stand on ceremony. Mystery gifter rang me immediately and the mystery was solved, and I could thank him on the phone as well as with a card, which was nice.

  14. Hey ESB,

    This is the disorganized, but well intentioned bride Hey, isn't there an expression about the road to hell and good intentions? Anway.... Thanks to this amazing advice, I was able to find find out who got me what without anyone being the wiser, and the final couple who I'm thinking got us something even though I still can't find evidence, has been outsourced to a sneaky best friend who is going to help me figure it out. All in all, this has been a great success. I cannot thank you and Rachel enough!

  15. p.s. Jeez, should I proof or what. Sorry about the spelling errors. I wrote this while at work. Oops! -- the bride

  16. BTW Anon 1:37, thanking someone specifically for a gift is a really nice way of personalizing the message. I don't think that's secondary at all.

  17. If you are sending a thank you note for their presence mention the fun you had with them and put a printed photo in the note of them at your wedding. I did this and it went over really well. People love thank you cards no matter what the occasion. You are definitely over thinking it.

  18. @anon 6.40 if it's about personalization then yes it's secondary.

    But that's not the point.

    To only send cards to those that gave gifts is beyond rude. Ok.