How to Write a Thank-You Note for a Gift You Returned

There is on major change from the traditional thank you note

Photo Courtesy of Papel and Co on Etsy

By now you know you’ve got to send a thank you note for all of those wedding gifts (including the ones you get at your engagement party and bridal shower!), and that the best way to do that is to handwrite a card and put it in the mail. And yes, you have to say thank you even if it’s something you don’t love! If you get a gift that you’re planning to return, here’s how to show your appreciation for your loved one’s generosity.

Whether it’s a duplicate from your registry or an off-registry item that you simply don’t want or need, there’s bound to be at least one gift that you’ll be bringing back to the store. But returning a gift does not excuse you from writing a thank you note—the gifter still spent time and money picking it out, and even if you plan on putting those funds toward something else, it’s essential to acknowledge the gift they gave.

Start your thank you note by expressing your gratitude. If your wedding hasn’t taken place yet, thank the giver for thinking of you. Already married? Emphasize how wonderful it was to celebrate with them! Personalize the message with a specific moment you shared, whether it was on the dance floor or sipping coffee at your morning-after brunch. And don’t forget to mention that your S.O. loved seeing them, too!

Next, reference the gift. Specifically state what they gave you (i.e. “The cheese board you sent us is absolutely beautiful!”) so they know you got the gift. But here’s where you veer from the traditional format. Usually, you should talk about how you plan to use the gift (“We can’t wait to have you over to share some of our favorite cheeses and a glass of wine.”). But since you’re planning to return the gift, just skip this sentence entirely. Whatever you do, don’t mention that you’re planning to return the gift you were given. Focus on their generosity, and leave it at that. What you do with the gift later is your business, and yours alone. If your wedding hasn’t taken place yet, wrap it up with a line about how excited you are to celebrate with them soon, then sign off. You did it!

See more: Is It Ever Okay to Email Wedding Thank-You Notes?

Need an example? Here’s a little inspiration:

Dear Aunt Jane,

It was so wonderful to celebrate our wedding with you. I’m so glad I was able to find you on the dance floor when the band started to play our favorite song! And I’m so happy you were finally able to meet Andrew in person—he’s looking forward to your famous pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving already. Thank you so much for the picture frame. It was so generous of you to give us a gift, and we really appreciate your thoughtfulness. We are looking forward to many more opportunities to celebrate with you in the future!


Erica and Andrew

Of course, the question is still what to do about the fact that you aren’t keeping the gift they gave you. We’ve all heard stories about pulling out unwanted gifts for a few days while the giver is in town (Even Emily Gilmore redecorated every time her mother-in-law came over!), but that’s no way to live. Instead, put the idea out of your mind entirely. This way you won’t feel inclined to make excuses that could get you caught in a fib. Anyway, a polite guest would never ask if they can see that gift they got you for your wedding, just for the sake of looking at it again!

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