Life can get very busy for all of us at times. That means there may be instances when you don’t get around to thanking someone for a kind gesture right away.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It Ever Too Late to Send a Belated Thank You Note or Card?
- Belated Thank You Note Etiquette Tips
- Belated Thank You Note Messages for After a Funeral or Death
- Belated Thank You Note Messages for a Wedding
- Belated Thank You Note Messages for a Birthday or Another Celebration
- Belated Thank You Note Messages for Professional Settings
- Sample Belated Thank You Notes
Don’t worry if that happens. You’re only human! More importantly, people always appreciate thank you notes and messages, even if they’re belated.
Still, you may feel you don’t know what to say when writing a belated thank you note. Keep reading if so. This blog offers belated thank you etiquette tips, as well as various examples of messages you might include in this type of note depending on the specific circumstances.
Is It Ever Too Late to Send a Belated Thank You Note or Card?
This is a fair question to ask. You might be reluctant to send a belated thank you note because you’re wondering if it’s simply too late to do it now.
There isn’t any “official” answer to whether it’s too late to send a thank you note or card. Different people will have different opinions on this subject.
However, it’s worth considering whether anyone would ever be upset to receive thanks for their gesture. Arguably, most people would prefer to be thanked late than to never receive a thank you at all.
You simply need to consider if enough time has gone by that it’s necessary to apologize for sending a belated thank you note. You may be seen as somewhat insensitive if you were to send a late thank you note or card without acknowledging that you should have reached out sooner. The main focus of your note should be on thanking the recipient, but you can let them know you’re aware you might have hurt their feelings somewhat by acknowledging the card is late.
It’s also a good idea to honestly explain the delay. Simply mentioning you know the note is late is not as meaningful as addressing the reason for sending the card or note later than is customary.
Keep in mind that if a note is particularly late, someone receiving it may find it to be a pleasant surprise. Again, there are differing views on this topic, but sending a card late is reasonable and probably advisable in most instances. It’s rarely too late to tell someone you appreciate what they did for you.
Belated Thank You Note Etiquette Tips
Proper belated thank you note etiquette can sometimes vary based on the details of the situation.
That said, in general, these tips will usually apply:
- Explain: Expressing your gratitude should be the main focus of your message. However, if you have a legitimate excuse for not thanking someone sooner, you may want to touch on it briefly.
- Provide detail: You want to make sure the recipient knows you genuinely appreciated their kind gesture. One of the best ways to show gratitude in this manner is to go into detail. Describe the gesture and how it made you feel.
- Repeat yourself: After explaining clearly and thoroughly why you feel so grateful to someone, repeat your thanks.
Belated Thank You Note Messages for After a Funeral or Death
If you’re sending out belated funeral thank you cards, consider using these messages to explain their lateness:
1. “Your call after the funeral meant so much. I’m sorry I'm just now thanking you. I hope you’ll understand.”
This example highlights the importance of thanking someone for a specific gesture. Keep in mind, most people understand that mourning a loved one’s passing is difficult. It’s unlikely they’ll be upset with you for not sending thank you notes right away.
2. “A (very belated) thank you for attending the funeral. It was incredibly kind of you to travel so far.”
A belated thank you note doesn’t need to be complicated. You can simply address the fact that the note is late, and move straight into thanking the recipient.
3. “What could have been a very difficult experience was much easier thanks to you and your incredible team. Sorry for sending this so late.”
This is the type of belated thank you note you might send to the staff of a funeral home. Odds are good they appreciate how grief can distract you from sending thank yous right away.
4. “Your help with the kids after the funeral made a tremendous difference in how they experienced that time. I should have sent this earlier, but we’ve all been adjusting to life these days.”
Someone who helped you take care of your children after the passing of a spouse deserves thanks, but they’ll also appreciate how you’ve been busy coping with a major life change.
5. “I took your advice and focused on self-care the past few months. It helped more than you can know. Thank you.”
This message simultaneously thanks someone for a specific gesture and explains why you’re sending a thank you message late.
6. “The support you offered after my father’s passing helped me through a very difficult time. My apologies for sending this so late. I’ve been busy handling his estate and I haven’t had much free time.”
It’s not uncommon to have many responsibilities after a loved one’s passing. Someone receiving a belated thank you note in these circumstances would likely understand that.
Belated Thank You Note Messages for a Wedding
Not everyone gets around to sending thank you notes right after their wedding! If you’ve waited a while to send yours, these examples will help you decide what to write.
7. “Thanks for attending the wedding! Your toast proved you know me well, so it probably doesn’t surprise you that it’s taken me so long to send this”
You don’t need to be dramatic when apologizing for your lateness. Depending on your relationship with the person you’re thanking, a little self-deprecating joke could be enough.
8. “I know this note is long overdue, but I want you to know it meant so much that you traveled as far as you did for our wedding!”
Again, being specific and treating every thank you note recipient as an individual is more important than apologizing profusely!
9. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the donation you made in our name for our wedding. Sorry we’re just now getting around to sending thank you notes!”
Letting someone know you delayed in sending out all wedding thank you notes (instead of just overlooking that particular person) is a good idea!
10. “Your recommendations made our honeymoon truly memorable! Sorry for the late thank you!”
A thank you note that makes someone feel their advice helped you enjoy your honeymoon to the fullest may be enough to keep them from being upset with you for sending it late.
11. “Sorry for waiting so long to thank you for attending the wedding, but we wanted every thank you note to mention our specific favorite memory of them from our special day.”
You can easily excuse a late thank you if you’re willing to take the time needed to include specific memories in every note!
12. “Thanks so much for attending our wedding and getting us our new favorite kitchen gadget! Sorry for the delay, but we’ve been too busy making delicious meals with it every night these past few months!”
Mentioning a gift a wedding guest may have bought for you (and joking that it’s kept you too busy to send thank you notes) is a cute way to excuse a belated wedding thank you.
Belated Thank You Note Messages for a Birthday or Another Celebration
The following are a few smart thank you notes (even belated ones) for someone who attended an important celebration.
13. “Sorry to send this so late! Guess I’ve been a little too preoccupied with having fun using the pencil set you bought me. Thanks for a wonderful birthday gift! Here’s something I drew with it.”
Again, briefly apologizing for sending a thank you note late, then specifically thanking someone for a gift is a smart way to make them know you truly appreciated a gesture.
14. “I may be an adult now in the eyes of God, but it turns out I still procrastinate like a kid! Thank you so much for attending my special day!”
You might send a belated thank you like this after a bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, confirmation, or similar celebration. It’s an ideal message if the recipient is the type who’d appreciate your mild use of humor.
15. “I had a wonderful time talking about your college years with you at my graduation party. Thanks for being there! Sorry to send this late. I’ve been so busy preparing for school!”
This belated thank you message works because it touches on specific details (instead of being a generic note) and offers an understandable explanation for its lateness.
16. “Leave it to me to wait until it’s almost my next birthday to thank you for being at my last!”
Keep this example in mind if you’re thanking someone who’ll get a laugh from it!
17. “I should have sent this much sooner, but I’ve been spending too much time on the course with the clubs you got me. Thanks so much!”
This thank you message after a retirement party works by touching on a gift and explaining how much fun you’ve had using it.
18. “You made my birthday so wild I forgot it happened until just now! That’s why you’re finally getting this long overdue thank you note!”
If a friend threw you a fun, eventful birthday party, and they’re the type to forgive a belated thank you if you excuse it with a joke, they might get a chuckle from this!
Belated Thank You Note Messages for Professional Settings
There are many reasons professionals send their colleagues thank you notes, thank you gift baskets, and other tokens of gratitude. If you fall behind in sending yours, these examples will help.
19. “Thank you for the internship! Sorry to send this so late. I was busy with my job search, but the experience you gave me helped me land my dream role.”
Someone you interned under will probably understand that searching for a job keeps you too busy to get around to thanking them on time. They’ll also be happy to know the internship helped you get a job.
20. “A belated thank you for all the help your consulting firm offered us. Thanks to your advice we’ve been busier than ever.”
If the reason you didn’t send a thank you note right away is because someone’s professional advice resulted in fast business growth, let them know!
21. “I should have thanked you much earlier, but I wanted to let you know I’m thriving in my new role thanks to all I learned under you.”
A former employer will likely take no issue with a late thank you note if you mention how their guidance is helping you succeed now.
22. “A very belated thank you for your advice during our crisis. It’s all resolved now, thanks in no small part to you.”
Consider this message when thanking a colleague for advice that helped you resolve a difficult situation at your company.
23. “I should have realized how valuable my experience working with you would be sooner, but now I know that I learned so much because of you.”
We don’t always immediately appreciate what we’re learning from an employer if they seem hard on us. If you later realize a supervisor was simply equipping you with valuable skills, address it in a thank you note.
24. “I hope you’re doing well at your new job! I should have sent this earlier, but you should know I really appreciate all the ways you helped me learn the ropes of this business.”
It’s never too late to thank a former boss who’s since moved on to a job with another company!
25. “Thanks for recommending me! I’ve been learning so much at my new position that I definitely waited too long before sending this. Sorry, and thanks again!”
This is a simple but effective way to thank someone for recommending you to an employer. It’s another example that demonstrates how thanking someone, briefly explaining why you waited so long to do so, and then thanking them again is often the best format for a belated thank you note.
Sample Belated Thank You Notes
The above messages might inspire you to begin crafting a thank you note. However, if you’re still not sure how to put your thoughts into words, the following longer examples may help:
For a gift or money
“Thank you for your generous gift! I know I should have sent this note earlier, and I apologize. I was caught up in certain personal issues when I received your gift, and truthfully, I was focused on what was happening in my own life and not enough on being a considerate person at the time. For that, I apologize.
I want you to know the gift was nevertheless very meaningful. You went out of your way to show you were thinking of me. Even though I’m late in saying it, I’d like you to know it meant a lot at a time in my life when it was helpful to know there are people in my life who care. I’ll surely be thinking of how to best return your kindness as soon as possible.”
For someone’s time or help
“Hi! I know I’m sending this note much later than I should be, but I figured, well, better late than never. I’m very sorry for not reaching out sooner. It’s not because your gesture was unappreciated. I simply became too distracted with other priorities that weren’t more important than getting in touch with you.
Anyway, I’m writing because you helped me with an important task that I’d have been unable to handle on my own. It was incredibly kind of you to be so generous with your time. I know you have a busy life of your own. Rather than bring that up, you decided to step in and lend a hand to a friend without asking for anything in return. That you never mentioned how long I’ve waited to say thank you shows how selfless you are. Thanks so much.”
For an interview
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview with your company. Even if you choose to hire someone else, I appreciate that you set aside time to see me.
I would also like to address that I’m sending this note a little later than I would have liked. I apologize. Although I would prefer not to go into specifics, as this is a somewhat private matter, I do wish to explain that an urgent personal issue arose in my life very shortly after the interview.
That issue has been resolved and would not interfere with my professional duties should you offer me the position. At the time, the matter required my full attention, and I neglected to send a thank you note until just now. Once more, I appreciate being given the chance to interview with the company, and I apologize for the lateness of this note.”
For their presence
So, as I hope you know, you were there for me at a very challenging time in my life. Having people around played a major role in helping me overcome what was genuinely a struggle. Thank you so much for your support. Please know it truly allowed me to look to the future with a sense of optimism.
Although you haven’t mentioned it, I imagine you also know this is a very belated thank you note. I feel terrible that I haven’t reached out to thank you sooner. You deserved to know how much I appreciated your presence much earlier than now.
I can’t say I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why this is as late as it is. Knowing you, I can say I feel confident you understand that it took me some time to cope with the situation. Because of that, I didn’t express my thanks earlier enough.”
For after a wedding
“Hi! We’d both like to thank you very much for your presence at our wedding. It was an unforgettable day, one made all the more special because close family like you were there to surround us and help us celebrate.
So, elephant in the room: couples usually send out thank you notes after a wedding much sooner. Our deepest apologies. While the main point we’d like to convey is that we should have definitely thanked you earlier, the truth is, we got caught up with starting our life together and didn’t get around to sending thank you notes until now.
Just know you’re not the only one receiving a very late note! We dropped the ball on this one, but again, it was a genuine thrill to see you at our wedding, and we can’t wait for the next time when we’re all together like that.”
For after a funeral
Thank you sincerely for attending the funeral of our grandfather. Losing him was a challenging experience for all of us. However, the supportive presence of friends like you made the experience much easier to bear than it otherwise would have been.
We particularly wish to thank you for traveling so far to attend the funeral at such short notice. That must not have been easy, although you never once called attention to it. Instead, your entire focus was on supporting us when we needed it deeply.
Finally, we want to address that we’re sending this note rather late. Without going into unnecessary detail, it turned out that resolving certain matters regarding our grandfather’s estate after his passing ended up being a more complex process than we had anticipated. Please accept our deepest apologies. We hope you understand, and again, we would like you to know your presence was significant.”
Belated Thank You Notes: Better Late Than Never!
While you may feel a little embarrassed to send a belated thank you note, you don’t have to. You simply need to use the right phrasing. Hopefully, these examples helped you determine what that phrasing might be.
If you're looking for more thank you tips, read our guides on appreciation gifts and different ways to say thank you.