Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

The most important things to do after your wedding night.

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Now that the weather is consistently warm throughout the country, we've entered into what the British would probably call high season for weddings. According to American Wedding Consultants, the nation's oldest association of professional wedding planners, the months of May through October are big favorites for saying "I do."

So, if you're getting lots of heavy-stock envelopes in your mailbox this time of year, that's the reason. Maybe you're young and a lot of your friends are getting married for the first time. Maybe your children are young adults, and many of their friends—the same ones you hauled to little league, and fed after the game and who consider you a surrogate parent—are. And then, there are all those people in your office who are tying the knot.

"The honor of your presence" and presents seem to be inextricably linked, but in reality, they shouldn't be: All that wedding guests are required to bring to the ceremony are their good wishes for the happy couple. Presents are the icing on the multi-tiered cake. (And they're sent ahead of time, so the family doesn't have to lug them home after the reception. But you knew that, right?)

Wedding invitations are about asking you to witness a happy event—they're not about advertising that the joyous couple needs to complete their service for 12.

To put it bluntly: A wedding is not a shakedown in fancy clothes.

Presents, then, are a lovely fringe benefit of the happy day. But after the dance floor is cleared, after the bird seed (the new rice) is swept up and the guests have returned home, after the blissful honeymoon, come the thank-you notes.

Unlike presents, those are not optional.

The fact that someone shopped, selected, wrapped and sent a gift to you means you need to say thanks. On paper. In your own handwriting. (There are a few obvious exceptions like people who are hurt or ill or otherwise unable to write, unless they can manage it. But I've gotten thank you notes from legally-blind people, so the bar is pretty high here.)

Thank-you notes don't have to be long or written on expensive custom stationery, they just need to be heartfelt. And they should be written within a reasonable time of having received the gift. And they should probably be mailed soon after they're written.

So, dear newlyweds, a few gentle hints to help you when you sit down to acknowledge generosity: