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Is a thank-you note obligatory after a party?

After attending a party, by invitation only, is it obligatory to send a handwritten note, or will an e-mail suffice? — Luisa in Austin, Texas
Aunt Dandelion answers:

Ah, Luisa, Aunt Dandelion wishes there were more like you in the world! So many people today do not even think that any kind of thanks is required after a party or dinner.

In every social situation there is a scale of formality, ranging from casual encounters to informal occasions to the most formal of events. To be in harmony, the guest’s response should match the occasion where it lies on the scale.

If you are fortunate enough to be invited to attend a formal dinner or celebration, a formal thank-you is required. Everyone who moves, or wishes to move, in this type of society, should have a stock of thank-you notes on hand. These can be plain, monogrammed, or tastefully decorated. A gracious, handwritten note is the required standard to thank the host and hostess of a formal party.

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