Open When Letters: Rules, Topics, How to Write & Examples


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When we send a letter, we usually want the recipient to open and read it right away. But “Open When Letters” are a little bit different. Instead of opening your letter as soon as it’s in their hands, your loved one waits to open the letter at a certain time. 

Jump ahead to these sections: 

Open When Letters are a perfect tool for supporting someone or just staying in touch with someone who’s far away. And whether someone you love is going through a hard time, or you just want to send a more interactive type of letter, an Open When Letter is worth trying out. 

Keep reading if you want to learn more about Open When Letters, when you might want to use them, and how to write the perfect letter to support someone you care about. 

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What’s an Open When Letter?

Text of what an Open When Letter is with an image of envelopes in the background

And Open When Letter is a letter you give someone to open and read at some point later on. You specify when you want your letter recipient to open the letter. 

For example, you might give your significant other an “Open When You Miss Me” letter or give your best friend an “Open When You Need a Laugh” letter. 

Open When Letters let you offer support to the people you love in the future when you might not be there in person. You can give someone just a single Open When Letter, or you can give them a set of Open When Letters if you think they’ll need more support. 

Open When Letters are helpful in many situations, including long-distance relationships and whenever someone moves away. They’re a great way to care for someone from afar

Open When Letters can also be to yourself, for you to open at some date or time in the future. You can even include some items with the Open When Letter, turning into a miniature time capsule

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What Are the Rules for Open When Letters?

In order for Open When Letters to work, all of the parties involved have to follow some simple rules. When you send or give your Open When Letter to a loved one, make sure they know the rules. You can even write them down on the outside of the envelope containing your Open When Letter. 

Here are the rules for Open When Letters: 

  • Only open when the letter really applies. 
  • Only open one letter at a time (if you give multiple letters). 
  • Don’t throw the letters away. You can read through them again after you run out of new letters!
  • Open the letters when you’re alone. 
  • Don’t peek!

Open When Letter Topic Ideas

So when should your friend, mother, father, sibling, significant other, or future self open their Open When Letter? It’s best to avoid specific dates, including birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. For those special dates, you can usually mail a letter or card instead. 

After all, you know which day, exactly, those events are going to occur. The exception is if you’re writing a letter to your future self to open on your 40th birthday or on some future date. 

The purpose of an Open When Letter is for your loved one to open the letter at a moment’s notice, whenever they want a boost of support. 

Here are some ideas for Open When Letter topics. 

  • Open when you need some encouragement. 
  • Open when you miss me. 
  • Open when you’re having an awesome day. 
  • Open when you’ve had a terrible day. 
  • Open when you feel like crying. 
  • Open when you turn 40. 
  • Open when you ace your first exam. 
  • Open when you get there. 
  • Open when you need a hug. 
  • Open when you need a kiss. 
  • Open when you’re sick. 
  • Open when you’re stressed. 
  • Open when you feel like giving up.
  • Open when you're mad at me.

How to Write a Great Open When Letter

Steps to write an Open When Letter with an image of papers and envelopes in the background

Writing an Open When Letter might sound like something you want to try, but you may not know how to begin. 

If you want to write the perfect Open When Letter to give your loved one, consider the ideas below. 

Step 1: Choose your “Open When”

To write an Open When Letter, you first need to decide when you want your loved one to open the letter. Do you want them to know you support them when they’re sad, homesick, or feeling alone? Look through the topics described in the section above and decide on one that suits your situation, or think of your own. 

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Step 2: Offer encouragement

Whether you’re writing a letter for someone who needs support, someone who’s having a great day, or to yourself, encouraging words should always be part of your Open When Letter. Let your loved one know how much they inspire you with their bravery in moving far away or remind your future self how far you’ve made it. 

If you’re writing an Open When You’re Having a Great Day letter or similar, let your recipient know that they earned it, and encourage them to keep it up. 

Step 3: Recall the past

Think back to times you’ve supported your loved one successfully. Have there been times when you helped them laugh through the pain? Have you reminded them that they’re worth taking time out for self-care? 

If you’re writing a letter to your future self, think about the ways you’ve helped yourself feel better and ways other people have helped you through difficult times. Consider what you’ve appreciated hearing in similar situations in the past. 

You can use those past events by writing about them in your letter, reminding yourself or your loved one how they’ve dealt with similar things before. Or you can offer words of support that are similar to those that have helped in the past. 

Step 4: Include your sense of humor

When you’re feeling alone, or you want to share a special occasion with someone you love, humor is essential. As part of your Open When Letter, when it’s appropriate, include a joke you share with your recipient or make a lighthearted comment to make them smile. 

For example, for an “Open When You Miss Me” letter, you can include photos of the mess you made in the kitchen or some other pet peeve your loved one has about your behavior. 

For an “Open When You’re 40” letter, go online and have a photo of yourself aged up to predict what you’ll look like when you’re older. Include the aged-up photo along with your letter. When you open the letter, you can compare your looks to the technologically aged one and feel good that you “beat the odds.”  

Step 5: Remind them they’re loved

Whether it’s a happy occasion or a more difficult one, you should wrap up your letter by reminding your recipient how important they are to the people in their life. Just the act of creating an Open When Letter will show your loved one how much they mean to you. But you should also spell it out for them in the letter itself by telling them how loved they truly are.

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Step 6: Involve family and friends

If the person you’re writing to is far from home, consider asking other family members and friends to write messages, too. Fill them in on the “open when” topic so they know when the recipient will open the letter. 

Have each person write a message of congratulations, encouragement, or well-wishes, in their own words. When the recipient of the letter opens it, they’ll be excited and refreshed to know how many people love them and care for them. 

Step 7: Include some special items

In addition to a written letter, you can include some special items that relate to your Open When Letter topic. For example, for an “Open When You Miss Me” letter, you can add a handkerchief spritzed with your cologne or perfume. 

For an “Open When You Feel Homesick” letter, include something particular to your loved one’s home or hometown. 

Step 8: Write an “Open When You Receive These Letters” letter

If you’re sending multiple Open When Letters at one time, you can place one letter on top titled “Open When You Receive These Letters.” In the letter, you can offer some words of support and encouragement. Then give them the rules of your Open When Letters (see above) and explain that they have to wait to open each letter. 

Open When Letter Examples

If you need some inspiration for your Open When Letter, read through some of the examples below. 

Open When You Ace Your First Exam

You’re a genius, kid, keep it up! Here’s $50 to take yourself out to dinner. Love you and miss you so much! 

Open When You Miss Me

I miss you more! Here’s something to remind you of me while we’re apart. I can’t wait until I can see you and squeeze you again. 

Open When You’re Sick

You poor baby! Take all the time you need to rest and recuperate. I couldn’t fit chicken soup in the envelope, but here’s some soothing tea. I love you, and I’ll see you soon. 

Open When You’re Having an Awesome Day

Nothing can stop you now! Of course you’re having an awesome day—you’re an awesome person. Life here is a little less awesome because you’re gone, but my life is all the more awesome with you in it, and I can’t wait to see you again. 

Open When You Get There

Take a breath—you made it! Your first step on the road to a new life is behind you. Now it’s time to show the world what you’re made of! I know you can do it, and I’m so proud of you. 

More Than Open When Letters

If an Open When Letter just doesn’t seem like enough, you can give your loved one Open When Packages. Consider a small, flat-rate box or envelope, in which you can mail your loved one a miniature care package. You can mail one at a time, or you can send your loved one a larger box filled with the smaller Open When parcels. 

Whether you send heartfelt Open When Letters or opt for an Open When-style care package, it’s a great way to lend your support to someone you love, even when you’re far away. 

infographic of topic ideas for open when letters


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