Holiday Card Tips and Etiquette

Holiday Card Tips and Etiquette

Nov 5th 2018

Below are some tips, ideas and suggestions about ordering and sending holiday cards, as well as a brief etiquette guide about to whom to send your cards and how to address them.

Ordering holiday cards

Holiday cards are typically available starting in August or September. We recommend you buy your cards as early as possible to avoid production delays or out-of-stock inventory.

Use last year's holiday list as a starting point. (If you don't have a list from last year, start with your address book, your wedding invitation list, a recent birthday party list, etc.) Add, subtract and edit names to get a general count as to how many holiday cards you will need this year.

Our clients tell us they often have last minute additions to their mailing list, so we suggest you order a few more cards than your original estimate. It is always less expensive to order extras with your initial order compared to placing a second order.

A great time saver is to have your return address pre-printed on your envelopes or purchase pre-printed holiday return address labels or holiday return address stamps.

Special considerations regarding photo cards

If you plan to send photo cards for the holidays - be it Christmas photo cards or Hanukkah photo cards - there are some additional questions you need to answer before placing your order.

Kids versus family photo? The debate rages on…about 50% of the photo cards show the children only (after all they are the ones that change the most from one year to the next) and 50% send a family portrait. If you plan to take a "kids only" photo, try to take the picture at a time of the day that you know your kids are going to be in a good mood. If you plan to take a family photo, it often means you need a friend, neighbor or professional to snap the picture for you.

Black and white versus color photos? This choice depends on the holiday card you select as well as the mood you wish to set. Two thoughts: black and white often appears more formal, but it can also help people focus on the people in the photo rather than the background.

Landscape versus portrait orientation? There are definitely more options for cards that are oriented landscape (i.e. longer than taller). However, for many photo cards you can flip the card vertically to be portrait oriented even though the sample is shown as a landscape. Please remember to make certain that the text on the inside of the card reflects the way the card will be opened (i.e. like a book versus a tent).

Christmas themed versus secular? If you are a mixed family, you should probably select a card that reflects your diverse family. Even if you are all Christian, you might send your holiday card to friends who are not Christian, and if so, you might consider ordering a card that downplays the Christmas portion of the holiday season.

Lastly, most photo cards are meant to accommodate a 4" x 6" photo, so be sure to have your photo processed in that size. Noteworthy does offer a limited number of holiday cards that can accommodate a 3 1/2" x 5" picture.

Getting them out the door

Writing a personal note for each card may seem daunting, but if you write a few cards each day during October and November, the task becomes a lot more manageable.

Make the process a fun, family activity. For example, ask your children to help stuff envelopes and lick stamps. Or share a cup of hot cocoa with your family as you each write a note.

Even if you are running out of time, don't fret. Most people are pleased to hear from you no matter when your card arrives. Alternatively, extend the "deadline" by skipping the Christmas card in favor of a New Year's card.

Dealing with the post office

It is a good idea to weigh your cards (including any notes and photos that you may insert into the envelope) before buying postage. The post office requires envelopes to be at least 3.5" by 5". Cards larger than 6.125" by 11.5" inches need additional postage. Same goes for cards thicker than 0.25" inches.

A great time saver is to buy your stamps online from the U.S. Postal Service at Be sure to buy holiday stamps early; sometimes they run out of special issues. Be prepared to wait a week or so for your stamps to arrive.

You should mail your holiday cards first class so they will be forwarded or returned to you if the address cannot be located. If your card contains sensitive enclosures (e.g. photos), feel free to ask the post office to hand cancel them.

Mailing holiday cards abroad

Most important: send your cards early! Allow a minimum of two weeks for delivery. Decorating the envelope with holiday stickers or drawings may delay your mail in some countries.

Make sure that the address is clearly written and correct. Include the English name of the destination country. Mark the envelope "Airmail" and be sure to include "USA" in your return address.

Etiquette for writing and sending holiday cards to family and friends

You can begin sending holiday cards as soon as Thanksgiving is over and try to personalize each card with a little note.

When signing your card for close friends and relatives, there's no need for last names. If a card is from more than one person, the person who signs it should write his or her name at the end of the list. As for the other family members, traditionally start with the father's name, then the mother's and finally the children. Alternatively, you can simply write something like "John, Mary and family."

When sending a card to a couple with two different last names, address the card to "Mary Smith and John Jones." If there are children, write "Mary Smith, John Jones and Family." When addressing cards to family and social friends, include the children's names.

Shop our holiday stationery here!