Etiquette of Retirement Thank You Notes

Updated February 21, 2017

Retirement has evolved into a celebrated rite of passage. Retirement parties range from a dinner with family to a large affair at a rented hall. Friends from near and far, as well as business contacts, send gifts and cards of appreciation. While much of the attention may come as a surprise to the guest of honour, gifts require customary notes of gratitude in return.


Grace Fox, author of "Everyday Etiquette" suggests, "Since these are happy occasion notes, the paper can be as colourful and decorative as you like, and coloured inks are acceptable as well." Choose any size or style of note cards or stationery paper that appeals to you. Computer-designed stationery should not bear printed form letters.


"To issue written thanks to guests for having attended a ceremony or party is unnecessary," according to Judith Martin, author of Miss Manners Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium, "The need to thank people for presents, in one's own words and one's own hand, remains." Every gift bearer receives a written thank-you. Consider thanking the host or hostess of the retirement party via written gratitude. Verbal acknowledgement suffices for members of your household.


Address the recipient by name. Mention the gift item. To further personalise the note, mention how you will use the gift or what specifically endears it to you. When a department at a company sends a gift, address the card to the whole division or in care of the manager or president. Colleagues post notes on a notice board or pass them around for all to see. Therefore, omit verbiage, inside jokes or personal information that you do not wish to circulate.

Unwanted Gifts

Retirement gag gifts abound. Be a good sport. If you should receive a gift that you will never use, hone in on the generosity of the giver rather than on the usefulness of the gift. When you cannot muster appreciation, acknowledge the unique nature of the gift, or emphasise gratitude for the relationship with the giver. When allergies or dietary restrictions prohibit you from enjoying food gifts, do not refuse the item. Send an appreciation note, and then open the decadent treat when houseguests visit.


Peggy Post, author of "Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business" suggests, "Like the verbal thank you, a note of thanks should be sincere and enthusiastic, and preferably sent within a day or two of receiving the gift." Belated notes take on a less enthusiastic tone. If immediate travel impedes timeliness, complete the task upon your return. In the case of a longer delay, do not refer to why the delay occurred. According to Martin, mention that you do not believe your prior thanks was sufficient in expressing your gratitude. The recipient may believe they misplaced the prior note or recall your verbal "thank you" at the party.

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