Entertaining, Everyday Chic

Personal & Precious: The Art of the Thank You Note

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In my most recent post we chatted about being a gracious host and a perfect house guest. A natural follow-on? Thoughts on handwritten thank you notes, both for the house guest who enjoyed the hospitality and the host who wishes to express appreciation for the requisite gift as well as for the time and effort that the guest made to be a part of the house party.

From the gesture that inspires a thank you note to the pleasure that one takes in the writing process to the knowledge that a note of gratitude may have given a lift to someone’s day, the topic of “writing a thank you note” is a subject near and dear to my heart.


“Handwriting is an imprint of the self on the page.”           -Rosemary Sassoon, British Typeface Creator

It is that most personal of gestures, a giving of yourself. In this day and age of technology, tweeting and texting, who doesn’t yearn for a return to forms of graciousness, kindness and attention that have gone by the wayside (that’s one reason that I started my website).

If you’ve ever in doubt about the merits of this custom , current research notes that writing by hand can activate your brain to remember more (reason enough in itself) and at the same time induce a sense of pleasure.

The sound of the pen as it flows across the gorgeous paper — the feel of the engraved dye embedded in the paper and leaving its indenture on the back– the just-perfect heft of card stock. And, oh, the selection of papers…all the different shapes, sizes and colors. Think of it as your stationery “wardrobe.” What an impetus to write a note!


Tip: Look for additional ways to use those handsome engraving dyes. One of my favorites is to personalize   placecards.

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Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

Light pink, scalloped deckled edge that is engraved in copper — yummy!

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I often give my book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style, as a hostess gift and had a fold-over card created to slip into the cover’s edge (along with a stamp that sports the pink hat featured on the cover).


When building our house, I found myself anticipating the day when a pen and ink sketch of Parterre could grace an ecru note card.


One of the loveliest of simple pleasures is re-reading favorite thank you notes. And what can be more soul satisfying than reading sincere, warm words from a friend before going to sleep?


Notes about “Thank You” notes.

Write as though you’re actually chatting with someone (i.e. “Just four more months ’til you’ll be here in Newport”), refrain from starting with the stock “thank you for…”
Let your personality come through; mention one or two activities that you remember well and shared with the recipient.
Length is not as important as the content; a thank you note should make the recipient feel appreciated after reading them. Even one or two sentences can mean a lot if well-chosen (and are even often more memorable and enjoyable than a labored effort). (Hint: Use a thick felt tip to really convey the impression of a “dashed off, cleverly phrased” note.)
Remember, a note is a great way to relive good memories.

A few samples to inspire you and help to make this a natural habit to which you gravitate….and actually enjoy…

Hostess to Guest: Thank-you, for food and cooking duties
Here’s hoping that your species is not endangered. Honestly, appearing laden with exotic foods, then thrilling everyone with your culinary skills, then cleaning up after yourself…who do I think I am, a guest at my own house party?? Bless you! And a million thank you’s — from all who were lucky enough to share this weekend with the quintessential house guest.

Guest to Hostess: Thank-you for the weekend, with accompanying gift
A gardening and thank you gift is FINALLY on its way to you — I’m embarrassed that you did not receive it May 20 as planned, but the store made a series of errors that scotched my good intentions. At any rate, do hope you can use it…to and from the weekend house as well as at home. We think of you often and extol the virtues of Montreal and its stellar residents to all we meet. See you soon?

There are always those wonderful, talented friends who go the extra step and make their own cards…


Guest to Hostess: Thank-you for being included in a last minute holiday get-together
Back in Boston now, but I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed being with you again after all these years. A bit of serendipity that seemed to characterize this Easter — and make it so special. Thank you so much for making me indeed feel like a family member. Bedding down with Suzanne gave me the welcome opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a 12-year-old. I was enchanted with her wit and perception! Good luck in your new and well-timed career — let’s compare notes soon.

Guest to Hostess: From a guest who did not know the hostess, but was the guest of another guest
Every moment at Parterre was a perfect delight! So much so that my work at the office this morning qualifies as a zero in efficiency; perhaps it is just as well, if I am remain employed, that the average weekend in the country is different — very. Thank you so much for including me. As fate would have it, I ran into Patsy and Charlie at lunch Tuesday. We immediately had a conversation on the wonderful time we all had over the weekend.

And don’t even get me started on monograms…collecting ideas with every thank you note that comes into my mailbox.

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Guest to Hostess: A quick note
Every time I return from The Waves, I am reminded again that there is no house to which I always go with so much pleasure and leave on Sunday with so much regret. Warmest appreciation and affection!

One of my nostalgic travel memories is of seeking out a tiny stationer in Venice that a friend had told me about, snaking my way through the narrow streets and alley ways, getting lost at least three times. But it was all worth it for the handmade textured paper with deckled edges and the old letter press imprint with our names.


And as a parting “note,” write a letter for no reason but to let someone know you are thinking of them. Be assured that this will have an appreciable impact on a friend’s day.


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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

8 thoughts on “Personal & Precious: The Art of the Thank You Note

    1. Dawn, I might suggest you start with “Papers,” here in Newport, RI. at 401-847-1777. My friend Judy Carroll owns the shop and many of those pieces came through her; she also receives my blog, so she’ll have the same images as you have to reference. Enjoy your stationery “wardrobe!” Best, Bettie

  1. Darling Bettie, I am coming to NEWPORT WITH FOUNDERS. Since I introduced you to Founders several years ago, all of Dallas has fallen in love with you. I look forward to your daily message. What inspiration! A wonderful; treat to look forward to! Can’t wait to see you. Love, Elsie

  2. Bettie- so inspired by your stationery, I just ordered new notecards today!
    Looking forward to seeing you at the flower show!

  3. I know I am drudging up a near ancient blog post, but I am dying to know where you had the pink notecards you include with your book made, specifically. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh, what a fun question to answer! They came from Paces Papers in Atlanta, the most divine stationery shop in the country.
      Tell my good friend Jackie Howard I sent you…xB

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