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Christmas Card Etiquette 101: Holiday Correspondence

Christmas Card Etiquette 101: Holiday Correspondence

From how to choose your stationery to what everyone gets wrong, take a class in festive correspondence

Carina Bartle
By Carina Bartle, VP Sales & Partnerships

With advanced technology and digital living, life has become simpler, hasn’t it? And, on the whole, we love technology for what it gives us. But there are some unnecessary victims of the digital age, like handwritten letters, cards and notes. These are still very much within our capacity to prevent from becoming ancient customs lost to the sands of time, and we should do our best to keep it that way. This season, start with the faithful holiday and Christmas card.

These days, it seems we rarely slow down from all the Christmas fuss and take the time to send what was once a must-do item on the festive to-do list. Maybe it feels futile because we’re so connected to everyone every single day; maybe it’s assumed that no one really appreciates a handwritten, mailed Christmas card these days; but those couldn’t be further from the truth. A personalised holiday card design, containing a thoughtful message and delivered in the pre-Christmas run does wonders to build excitement and show your loved ones that you were thinking of them.

Having delivered on elegant stationery since 1878, Dempsey & Carroll is a qualified voice when it comes to holiday and Christmas card etiquette, as well as menu cards, place settings and other on-the-day stationery. CEO Lauren Marrus offers her advice on holiday correspondence this season.

Q: Lauren, do you have any suggestions for picking a holiday stationery style?

In general, your stationery should be a reflection of your personality and style. Your holiday papers are no exception – they should be an extension of you. If you tend to like things that are more modern and edgy, I recommend choosing a holiday card featuring mixed media. This has come into fashion recently, highlighting a number of different printing techniques in one design. If you gravitate towards classic and timeless pieces, engraving is a must. 

Classic holiday colours like hunter green, cranberry, and gold engraved on ecru card stock are always popular.

Q: What are the desk essentials for holiday correspondence?

A nice fountain or rollerball pen can make all the difference. Try a few pens out before writing your holiday correspondence as it’s important to make sure you like the weight and style of the pen before you commit to writing dozens of cards. I also like to order stamps a few weeks before I send out my cards; the selection the postal service is constantly changing, so I like to stock up on some of my favourite designs when they become available. With the perfect pen and some beautiful stamps on-hand, your holiday correspondence will be easy to complete.

Christmas Card Etiquette 101 – Dempsey & Caroll stationery - Style Guide
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Q: What is one thing everyone gets wrong?

Timing can be tricky, though I don’t know if it’s something that everyone gets wrong! It’s best to get holiday cards after Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Every year it seems that the holiday season gets earlier and earlier. Wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving at the earliest to send out your cards, but try to get them all out before Christmas.

Q: What is the easiest way to organise holiday correspondence?

If the cards are coming from your family or from your team at the office, think about who should be signing each of your holiday cards. As you go through them, make a pile dedicated to each of your colleagues or family members, and add a sticky note indicating who needs to sign each one. As each person completes his/her message, he/she can check off the box with their name on the sticky note. This makes it clear to everyone involved who has completed what, and what still needs to be handled. 

Q: What is the appropriate etiquette for writing Christmas cards?

I always think handwritten is best – it can be more personal. In terms of how to address the recipient, it depends on the nature of your relationship how do you address one another when you speak, email, or text? Use that as a guide for how you write out your correspondence.

Q: How should dinner guests be invited?

An invitation by mail is lovely and can help set the tone for the dinner, though these don’t have to be completely custom. Many of our clients enjoy using fill-in invitations with some whimsical motifs. Of course, a phone call or email invitation today is also perfectly acceptable – the etiquette around this is constantly evolving!

Holiday & Christmas Card Etiquette 101 – Dempsey & Caroll - Style Guide
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Q: How should one respond to a dinner invitation?

Traditionally, it was expected that if someone received an invitation to a dinner, party or other event, they would r.s.v.p. using their personal stationery. Today, that is not necessarily the case. Call or email your host or hostess to thank them for and acknowledge their invitation. Be sure to send them a handwritten thank-you note following the dinner. Since the note may not arrive for several days, plan to call or email them the day after to quickly let them know how lovely your evening was. 

Q: What table stationery is needed on the day?

This depends on the formality of your event. I like to use place cards and menu cards on my table. Place cards help create a seamless experience for all of your guests – this way no one has to scramble for a seat. It can also create interesting dinner conversation! Seating people who do not know one another next to each other can be a fun change. I enjoy using menu cards as well to let everyone know what the meal will be. Recently, I’ve also started to put a few pieces of paper on the table addressing any food concerns. Listing which items are vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, and so on can be helpful, and will ease any guests who have allergies or dietary restrictions.

Q: How should this coordinate with your spread?

For place cards and menu cards, your table stationery can be placed on the dining table itself. If you are serving the meal buffet-style, it’s helpful to list anything about the specific dish, if it’s nut-free, gluten-free, etc. directly next to the serving dish. 

Q: How should one thank someone for a gift they’ve received?

A handwritten note is best. Try to combine the note with a phone call, email, or text – these can be done right after receipt. Then, send a handwritten note reinforcing how thankful you are for the gift, and how you appreciate their kind gesture. We hold a post-holiday event in January on our most popular correspondence cards, which was actually born from the idea of January being thank-you note season.