Southern Conundrum

Can One Text a Thank-You Note for a Wedding Gift?

Helen Ellis rises in defense of the handwritten letter

An illustration of a woman ina. flurry of gifts handing a present out to another woman who holds a phone out to her face

Illustration: LARS LEETARU

When I texted friends, “Is it okay for a couple to TEXT thank-you notes for their wedding gifts?” I got three “OH HELL NO”s and one “HAIL NO!” (the latter from my friend in Florida who is such a Southern lady that she won’t curse in print).

Some texted, “OMG, did this happen to you?” As if receiving a thank-you text, a blue blob filled with emojis of prayer hands, a red heart, a cake, and a wrapped box was as offensive as having my bra snapped.

This textual assault did not happen to me; it happened to a friend. But I clutched my pearls for her. And four generations of my Mississippi relatives rolled over in their graves.

Handwriting thank-you notes has always been part of the deal you strike with your wedding guests. We agree to come to your wedding. And sometimes that requires us to buy a new outfit or stay overnight in a hotel. Or to stay two nights in a hotel because there is a rehearsal dinner or a postnuptial brunch, or to fly to your “destination,” which means we must take time off from work. And maybe you don’t want kids at your wedding, so we agree to find babysitters, or sometimes you do want kids, so we agree to buy extra plane tickets. And then we agree to cram into a house of God or stand in a forest or sunburn on a beach and listen to untrained speakers read Bible verses or poems with the zeal of Ferris Bueller’s econ teacher. And we agree to eat chicken or beef with strangers and cheer you on as you do your first dance and then we must dance and get a little bit softer now, then a little bit louder now, then jump up and shout.

On top of all of this, we agree to buy you a gift from a list of gifts that you have compiled or give you an envelope of cash or Venmo a contribution toward your honeymoon or bathroom retiling. And we agree to be happy for you. And thereby you agree to show us your appreciation. In actual writing. So there.

Handwritten thank-you notes are so expected that the Knot—a business that helps you email save-the-dates and invites, link to your registry, and do everything else wedding-related online—sells lick-the-envelope, stick-a-stamp-on-it thank-you cards. The company also advises you to send those cards out within three months of receiving the gift (and no later than a year).

But what if your wedding was an informal small gathering at city hall or in your own backyard? What if your handwriting looks like hair pulled out of a drain? What if you can’t afford nice stationery? Well, if you got a gift, you should still write that note. It’s the effort that counts. I’ll take a serial killer’s sincere scrawl on loose-leaf over a toilet text any day.

Am I old-fashioned or am I just getting old? Do I want you to write a note because I was expected to write a note? In this newfangled, point-and-click, go-fund-me gift-giving world, I’m preaching the word according to Emily Post, but I fear I’m coming off like Archie Bunker. And maybe I need to accept that a thank-you text is better than no thank-you at all. Or perhaps, it’s just the opposite.