Friday, April 29, 2011

Wedding Hats

If there is one thing that Americans love more than the Royal Wedding, it's the Royal Wedding Hats.
Because frankly, many Americans are not that into the idea of Royalty.  We just...meh.  Some people love the royal wedding, some people hate it, but I suspect that most were more like myself in which we watched with a faint curiosity because we wanted to know what Kate would wear, and quite possibly hoped there would be a parade of Corgis.   That one was just me?  Okay.  
Let me be clear: the King's Speech was an excellent movie.  And the corgis are still the best part.
But many of us are fascinated by the British and their hats.  I mean, we don't really get royalty, but we do get hats.  And some of them are fantastic and some of them are just nutty.  But as an American who married a British man, I was sorely disappointed in the lack of hats at our own wedding.  I know, it is unreasonable to expect people to transport hats across the pond just to wear to our wedding, but didn't they know how excited I was to see behatted wedding guests?  
The closest anyone came was our good friend Sue, who sported a feather fascinator:
(Obviously, by Prema Photographic.)
And my own grandmother, who does not leave the house without a hat, regardless of the occasion, so long as she will be going outside. If we're together, I also get handed a hat.

Fortunately, we were prepared for the possibility that our guests might not all choose to wear their own hats, and provided them.
  
So the moral of this story is that if you get married in England, and are royalty, many fabulous people will wear hats to your wedding.  And if you are a commoner marrying another commoner in the United States, no matter how many British people come, they may very well leave their hats at home.  But, if you provide hats, people will wear them around your wedding.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weddings and Relationships

Since I'm the youngest of 14 cousins, I've watched weddings change, or ruin, relationships over the years. And while it seems horrible to say "his wedding ruined our relationship," it's rarely actually the case. And even when it is the case, it's because the wedding brought out harsh truths about your relationships that you didn't want to admit.

I have a friend whose friendship was ruined over him being a groomsman in his friend's wedding and there being a lack of communication over the groomsman's obligations and about other things, but was ultimately an argument over what each friend expected from each other socially, emotionally, and their relationships with each other's significant others. I'm not sure whose "fault" it was that what happened, happened. But I do know it's super awkward to still be friends with both of them.

The reality of weddings is that they are complicated and for some reason, they bring out the worst parts of the people we love the most. Whether it's a pissing contest between the parents over who has more money/friends/status or it's a brou-ha-ha about how much rap music you want to play at the reception, they can really bring out the terrible parts of people.

My point here is simply that if your wedding is a catalyst for a changed relationship between two people, it is not your fault for having a wedding. There is nothing you did that could cause that - all it caused was these two people to realize something about themselves that makes their relationship different. You will also find out things about yourself that you might not have known before your wedding.* These things might change the dynamic of your relationships with others. But if it is time to end a friendship, it's time. If'it's family, you'll still have to see the person, but you don't have to like them.  Don't avoid the inevitable because you blame it on your wedding - that's not fair to your wedding, and it will mar your wedding in your rearview mirror.

How have weddings changed relationships in your life?

* I found I'm not afraid to be selfish or bossy and I'm not ashamed of myself for either of those things. I'm a little ashamed that I'm not ashamed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Church

I was talking to a friend last week about going to church, and he was saying that his wife is interested in finding another church than the faith she was raised.  He was saying he doesn't particularly care to go to church at all, and I suggested he just stay home like thousands of men across America do, and let his wife do the churching for the both of them.

I say this, in all seriousness, because it is how we do things in our household.  Mark comes to church with me sometimes, but often, I go alone.  Frankly, I prefer to go alone.  It's me-time.  I've been going to church alone since high school, when my parents told me I could stop and I said, "no thanks, I'll keep going."  I've always assumed that, like my family, I will take our children to Sunday school and Mark will stay at home and do the laundry (much like now) or do the dishes.  (I don't go to church just to get out of doing housework, but it's a bonus.)  Growing up, I went to church or Sunday school with my mom and my sister and my Dad stayed home and made lunch for us and my grandparents, who often came over after church for lunch.

Anyway, my friend said that his wife gets annoyed by the women-at-church family dynamic, and she doesn't want to be one of those women who goes to church alone or with the kids.  I can understand this perspective, I suppose, but it seems to me that if only one person in a relationship enjoys an activity, and the other does it, only the person who enjoys it should do it.  However, there are people who view church not as enjoyable, but as an obligation.  This makes church much more like dinner with the in-laws, and therefore it seems more fair that both partners should have to suffer through. Let's review that I'm a Unitarian, and our sermons are fun, do not make you feel guilty, and there is no communion or anything else to make a person who doesn't "belong" feel awkward.  So if you feel differently about church, please share in the comments!  I'm very curious about the churchgoing activities and desires of others.

As we've been married, I don't go to church as often as I would like, but this is mostly because in the winter months, my churchgoing gets replaced by the Church of Hockey.  I have women's leagues games on Sunday, often around the same time as the only service at my church here in Baltimore.  I also still don't really feel at home here in Baltimore.  The church is just different.  My lack of churchgoing has nothing to do with my husband not supporting my churchgoing, or anything but my own busyness or laziness.  All of that will be changing pretty soon though, because my sister bought a house.

My sister bought a house that is about a mile from my home church.  My home church, where I still feel like I belong.  My home church, which has 9am and 10:45am services.  My home church, which is about 3 miles from my parents house.  My home church, that my grandmother goes to.  My home church, where I know the ministers and the Sunday School teachers and the kids I grew up with.  So what better excuse could there be for returning to my home church than to get to go to church (hopefully with my Mom) and then having lunch with (or watch Redskins games with) my big sister and my Mom?  I'm obviously really excited about this plan, and I don't mind telling you: it never even occurred to me that Mark might want to come with me.  I assume he'll either come down and hang out with my BIL, or stay home and do the laundry.  (Last Friday, I overloaded the washer and also melted the detergent cup.  Then the dryer didn't dry everything properly and it got left for the weekend because I didn't notice.  I am not going to be encouraged to do the laundry ever again.)

I feel like it would be easy to look at this dynamic and say that church is for women, and women go to church and get mad at their husbands for not going; but I think for a lot of women, church creates an opportunity to build communities with other women.  I think that some women, like me, relish the space that church creates for them; but other women, like my friend, worry about being forced into a gender role or gender-based dynamic that they aren't comfortable with.  But the question remains: how do we fight stereotypes when one of us really doesn't want to do something?  Do you suck it up and spend an hour a week at church because it matters to your partner?  Do you use church as a negotiating tactic or bargaining chip?  Or do you just go it alone, or with other members of your own family/faith community, like I do?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mythbusters: Affordable Alterations

At my in laws recently, my SIL tried on her wedding dress so we could play with accessories and veils.  We had talked earlier about what she would do about alterations, and I was passing on everything I had learned in my alterations ordeal, as well as that of my sister's - it's going to be expensive, it will be worth it, but go to somebody you trust and like.

I think the most important thing to know is: you do not have to use the seamstress at the bridal shop you get your dress from.  The second most important thing to know is: you do not have to use the first seamstress you go to.  Especially if you are up front about "finding out what the alterations will cost" or "coming in for a consultation."

As she was trying on her dress, which is a sample dress that she got at the end of the summer, there were a few bits where the beading is coming lose as well.  My MIL was saying that she could take care of x or y on the dress, and I was shaking my head.  I realized later that I acted exactly the way that other people acted when I talked about hemming my dress myself or taking care of the broken buttons on the back myself.  I also recognize now that I'm on the other side that there is a reason for that.

I think there is a lot to be said for consistency, and a lot to be said for hiring a professional for certain things.  I'm a darn good seamstress when it comes to the usher's ties or baby bibs or halloween costumes.  And while I could have attempted to alter my wedding dress myself, I know now that I would never ever in a million years done the job my seamstress did on it.

Alterations are expensive, no doubt about it.  I paid $50 just to get a regular dress hemmed recently, and I could not have imagined that it would cost that much.  The advice I can give you to lower the cost of your alterations is this: buy a cheaper dress.

That's it.  I'm sorry.  Even my sister, whose wedding dress fit her almost perfectly, wound up paying over $300 for the hem and a few alterations to the strap/bust of the dress.  (If you are in that position though, look for a seamstress who caps the cost of their alterations.  Usually around $250 or $300.)  I paid more than the cost of my dress to get it to fit perfectly.

I knew I would be paying a lot in alterations, so I looked for a dress without beading, because beading is one of the things that can make alterations more expensive and more complicated.  Another trick is to find a used dress that has already been altered to something near your height, so you can just wear taller or shorter shoes.    You can also sometimes order a dress in a particular length, so that you don't have to get it altered (but might find that after ordering the dress in that length, it's still too long and you have to get it hemmed anyway.)  If you are buying a dress off-the-rack as a sample, etc. in the store, talk to the seamstress there and demand a price quote from her.  If you are thinking about buying the dress that day, there is NO reason why the seamstress cannot actually tell you what she would charge for the alterations - it's not a matter of waiting until the dress comes in, etc.  That is your dress.

Also, don't immediately write off the cost of getting a dress custom made.  This is actually something I wish I had explored more - if I'd gotten a dress custom made, it probably would have cost close to what mine did in original costs + alterations.

Anyone have tips on what to look for in a dress that would cut down the cost of alterations?  Any ideas for ways to save money when getting the dress altered?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why are all bridesmaids gifts monogrammed?

Seriously.  You go to The Knot or Weddingbee's "bridesmaid shop" and everything is monogrammed.  For that one day that your bridesmaids are all in the same room and might ::gasp:: mix up their tote bags.  And if I was going to get my bridesmaids a monogrammed tote bag, it would be something sturdy from LL Bean.

I often see people bemoaning "why are bridesmaids gifts are so hard?"  Uh, because they are your best friends, they have done a lot for you, and no freakin' tote bag can ever possibly thank them for everything they did.  Even if it is monogrammed.  So let go of the idea that your bridesmaid gift will be "enough", and settle for the idea of "nice".

What might make for good bridesmaid gifts?  I know at least one of my bridesmaids uses the clutch I got her, so I'm calling the Coach Wristlet a win. The other thing I thought about getting all of my girls was diamond stud earrings - they are infinitely practical and not terribly expensive.  For our wedding, I wore the small diamond studs that my husband got me for Valentine's Day my first year of law school, which according to him were, "surprisingly not that expensive."

But what if you didn't budget very much for bridesmaid gifts?  (Which was probably a mistake, btw.  I would recommend budgeting something around $100 for bridesmaid gifts.  You can knock it down later, if you really need to make room.)  A lot of people recommend things like flip-flops or pashminas so they can be comfortable at your wedding.  If you go for flip flops, get a good brand, like Reefs, in a color specific to each girl so they can wear them again and again.

One idea I wanted to do, but didn't have a chance to get my act together for (also, ran out of $) was to put a gift card into each wristlet.  This is also an idea you can achieve for less - for example, I might get one of these fun Fossil coin purses, which are around $14-20 and nice.  I started carrying a coin purse again recently and it's fantastic for carrying around cash, or a more streamlined version of my wallet:




You can fill the coin purse with gift cards that are specific to each bridesmaid, and this is also an easy way to give a slightly nicer gift to your maid-of-honor, or to a bridesmaid who has really gone above and beyond, without everybody else knowing.

What did you get your maids?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Space in our Togetherness

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness, 
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you."
We picked this reading by Khalil Gibran for our ceremony for a few reasons, one being that it fit with giving our wedding party each a line of it, but the other being that we agreed with it.  We believe very strongly in having space to ourselves, in not doing everything together, in honoring each others interests without needing to be a part of them.  

The past few weeks, we've been doing our own thing.  Mark's been traveling, I've been trying to get more involved in both the legal and crafting community, which means that we have been passing a bit like ships in the night.  It's nice, to have these spaces, to be able to pursue our own interests, and to have the support of each other, but we also miss each other.  

So we've found ways to honor the spaces and also come together.  We've planned date nights and gotten home early, given each other rides just to talk to each other, scheduled time to call each other, and done all the other little things we've gotten used to over the last seven years to keep our relationship strong during rough patches.  Over the seven years we've been together, we've had a long distance relationship three separate times, so we've gotten the hang of spaces in our togetherness.  (I imagine that true LDR couples have also got this down.)  

I imagine that over the years, there will be times when we see far too much of each other, and times when, like now, we don't see nearly enough of each other.  The trick is going to be to keep being able to navigate th spaces in our togetherness, and to ensure that we continue to have spaces.  I have seen what happens to marriages when either two people have too much space, or too little, and both are extremely hard to recover from, and not let fester and rot your relationship.  

How do you honor spaces in your togetherness, and how do you make sure to come together when the distance feels very far apart?  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Papa don't preach

But I'm keeping my name.  Both of them.


For now.


It started when I went to fill out my "new" name on my driver's license form.  I wrote it, and it bugged me, and so I put the paperwork away.  Then the badging form I had to fill out to be allowed into the courthouse needed a last name.  So I put mine on it.  Then it was all the forms and paperwork I filled out to start my job.  Then the application to be a notary.  Then the form to renew my passport.

On all of these things, I put my "maiden" name.  Which I keep getting asked if it's my "married" name.  To which I would like to say, "eff you, it's my name and why should it matter?"  I kept meaning to change it, and not doing it.  When I sat down to change it, I didn't want to.  And I started thinking about all of the advantages of having a crazy long name.  Like that people remember me as that girl with a crazy last name.  And I'm the only one of me.  And I share this name with my sister, and we're in this together.  And I was never really going to share my name with my husband, so why not just stay...me?

The name change decision is a process, and there is no right solution, and it evolves over time.  My current plan is to hold off on picking a last name until we have kids.  Yes, it will be annoying and a ton of paperwork.   But I'm not ready to give up such a big part of who I am.  Ultimately, I can't give you any advice on how you'll feel - but I can assure you - having different last names doesn't make us feel less married.  Or like less of a family.

My only real concern about my last name is that we've had more than a few clients come through our office who aren't mentally stable.  I'm nervous about these people going home and looking me up on the internet.  This was never really a concern of mine before, but it is now, and I'm not sure how to protect my privacy.  Suddenly there is more and more merit to the idea of going socially by my husband's last name - changing my name on Facebook, giving that name to races that we run, etc. Except that I don't want to go by his last name, never have, and it is unlikely I ever will.  So although using his name socially would be a solution, I'm not totally comfortable with it.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Creativity Funneled

The great thing about being married is you have time to do other stuff.  But if you have creative energies you directed towards the wedding and now you're going...."but what do I dooooo?" the good news is your friends will probably start having babies soon.  We recently threw a circus themed baby shower for our friends, which was great.  Because I had an excuse to take on projects I didn't do for the wedding.

Like making bunting.  Which, in case you're thinking, "maybe I should do that?!?", is annoying to make and takes a lot of time.  Don't do it.  At least not for your wedding, if you are doing any other DIY projects.  But for a circus themed baby shower, it's fun, livens up a room, and is pretty cheap. (I paid about $10-12 for this, because in the end I bought bias tape instead of making my own. I was tired.)  I made one long strand, and then smaller strands for the doorways, the dining room, and the photobooth, so I definitely got good value out of it.
You can also make super fun other things, like cupcake tags.  My friend who bakes delicious cupcakes found these on Etsy, but I think they are a cricut or other type of die on toothpicks.  This is one of those projects that, for a wedding, would be a huge pain, but for something on a smaller scale, they are adorable, fun, and not terribly time-intensive.  And if you're buying them, they are much more affordable if you only need 24 and not 175.  
 You can go crazy and theme the food too - we served corn dogs, funnel cake, punch & animal crackers, and pop rocks (leftover from another baby shower).
We also got to use our photobooth again.  Which yes, we keep set-up in the living room.  We're that cool.  

So look, your wedding isn't the only party you'll ever get to throw, and the little details get just as appreciated (maybe more) at other parties, they'll be less time-intensive, and you'll actually get to enjoy them.  At a wedding, sometimes these projects get swallowed.  But our friends walked into the living room and said, "oooh flags!"

If anybody wants a tutorial on how to make bunting, I'll write one up, but there's a lot of them out there.  I did use my serger for it, which made it a little faster and the edges were easier to iron.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Taxes

It's income tax season alright.  Mark started working on our taxes back in January, and finished his.  Then there were mine.  And my taxes are a treat, let me tell you.  For a number of reasons, including school errors, spotty work history, and the way my bank accounts are set up (read: I stopped managing money entirely while I was unemployed, and as a result forgot my login for my savings account), my taxes were complicated.

The great thing about doing our taxes, nightmare that it has been, has been that it has gotten us talking more about money, about retirement, about saving and spending and how to do things.  It's gotten us to install Quicken because we weren't satisfied with the tools in Mint, and start talking more about how we want/need to be budgeting for the future.

The thing that I'm uncomfortable about when it comes to our taxes is that Mark did them.  I took Fed Income Tax, but none of it stuck with me, and I have absolutely no understanding of any tax forms whatsoever.  I think there is a class that I can take at the local community college, or maybe one of the senior centers I go to for work, which I will do at some point, but I haven't yet.  And my mom has done my taxes up until now (I'm really embarrassed to admit this, you guys, but everybody has some gaps in their knowledge, right?)

Mark, on the other hand, has filed his taxes since college.  So he did our taxes.  Which concerns me, because I think in relationships, women should play a significant role in the financial conversation, in the earning of money and the deciding how it should be used, and in the paying of taxes.  Because good lord, if we got divorced, I would have to hire an accountant since I'm such a clueless disaster.  Yes, the solution would have, should have been, sit down next to him and watch him do my taxes, but sitting on the couch and blogging was so much more fun.  (Also sometimes I made dinner while he did the taxes, which seems very 1950s of us.)  My contributions to the taxes were trying to fix the mistakes my school made in sending me the wrong forms, generating the tax statements from my bank account, and not losing my W2.  (Challenging.)

I know I'm not the only woman out there who doesn't touch the taxes, as evidenced by the fact that when I tweeted, "am making my husband do the taxes and feeling unfeminist", several fellow bloggers responded with, "if he likes it/wants to do them, let him! everybody wins!"  Which is true, although a small part of me thinks that when we hand over the tricky, challenging parts of being a grownup to our partner instead of learning how to do them, we all lose a little bit.

Who does the taxes in your house?  Do you feel like money management is a "man" thing to do?  (My mom does my parent's taxes, so I'm not sure why I think it's a man thing.  I think all my guy friends do the taxes in their relationships.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where to get ready

I think a common debate for people is where to get ready before their weddings.  A lot of people get ready at either the venue or the hotel, and would really like to get ready at the venue or the hotel close to the venue, and I think we see less and less of people getting ready at home.

We debated getting ready at home - on the one hand, it appealed to me, since I would have all my stuff here (and since I managed to forget my emergency kit and my makeup, that would have been good.)  The lighting also would have been much better for photographs.  Our apartment has a lot of character, so some pictures would have been fun here.  On the other hand, I'm very messy, and while our apartment managed to not be a total disaster zone right before the wedding, it still would have stressed me out a lot to feel like I couldn't leave stuff lying around in piles.

Ultimately, our apartment was too far away from the venue and my hair salon to get ready in it, but I do think that if you are getting married near your house, don't overlook the sake of getting ready at home - especially not because you are worried about the pictures - I think it results in some really charming, personal pictures.  My SIL is getting ready at their parents house before her wedding in August and I'm pretty psyched because I think it'll result in some really fantastic pictures.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: DINKs

With a month down at my job, I feel comfortable thinking of ourselves as DINKs (Dual-Income-No-Kids).  Truthfully, we aren't even close to DINKs.  My job is part-time and hourly, so I don't make much more than enterprising high school students who score summer jobs.  Nonetheless: it is an income, of a sort, and most importantly, it frees us up a little bit to actually, y'know, enjoy ourselves.  So what does that mean for us these days?

I always thought when we had two incomes, we would get Nice Things.  We would own a flat screen TV and furniture that didn't come free from the apartment or my grandparent's living room.  I could have a membership to a fancy gym and we could get some new toys, like a new laptop and smartphones.  I could buy expensive shoes!

One thing I learned from being unemployed though, is that half the things you think you want or need, you really don't.  As soon as you're looking at paying for X versus paying for Y, things like a flat-screen TV and a new lens for my camera just don't seem necessary.  So after being forced to reevaluate priorities in this way, we spend our money differently than I thought we would.  We're committed to making a shift towards owning less stuff (anyone who knows me is on the floor right now, laughing), which means not just buying things that we want when we want them.  We've so far instead opted to spend our new earnings on things like going out to dinner or having lunch together (since now we both work near each other).  What I noticed when I was unemployed was that I didn't really miss buying stuff (although I did miss shopping), but that I did miss doing things like going to happy hour.

There is one small issue that we face with this lifestyle.  Since we are friends with a large number of DINKs, and they have been DINKs for a lot longer than we have, a lot of them have much nicer stuff than we do.  So we frequently invite ourselves over to their houses to watch the Superbowl or March Madness.  We borrow their Smartphones when we are out with them and need to look something up.  We find ourselves needing to bum rides from people more now that we share a single car.  So it's a valid concern that somewhere in our mission to become more environmentally savvy and less consumer-y that we have instead simply become mooches.  We try to reign it in, to offer to drive as much as possible, to chip in for gas, to offer to host parties for occasions that don't involve around having a nice TV/cable, to always bring something to the table when we go to somebody's house.

Another issue with our friends is that somewhere along the way, they grew up and started acting like adults, and I've been in school for twenty years, so I still act like a student.  So while apparently in the real world, it's normal to just split the check six ways (which I don't mind as long as my meal wasn't $15 less than others, which has happened), and people don't really chip in for gas the way they did in college, and you cover another person's morning Starbucks order and don't think anything of it, I still don't think like that.  So along with a shift in thinking about income, I'm starting to shift how I think about my relationships with others, and more importantly, our relationships with other couples.  Not surprisingly, the relationships that are easiest to maintain are the ones that we have with my fellow students or the people I graduated from college with, who are a few years behind or are single; or surprisingly enough, our relationships with couples who are having children.  I'm not sure why this is, but it's been surprising to me how much we as a couple need to work on our relationships with other couples.

How have you navigated the murkey waters of becoming adults?  Do you share our struggle to reconcile liking Nice Things with wanting to spend money in ways you are comfortable with?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thank You Notes

We've finally got out pretty much the last of the thank-you notes, for a few late(r) gifts.  We wrote most of them immediately after the wedding, when we got home from the honeymoon.  We just started writing, and we finished about a week later.  We took the usual division of I write the ones to my guests and he writes the ones to his guests.  Here are a few tips so that you can be sure to get your thank-you notes out on time, in a classy way:

1.) Buy (or, better yet, have printed on notecards that match your invitations), pre-made thank-you notes.
2.) If you think the pre-made thank-you notes are tacky, feel free to just use them as a form.  Your guests don't actually want a heart-felt sentiment, they just want to know that you received their gift.  
3.) The exception to this rule is gifts valued at less than $50 for a couple or $25 for a single person (or people who gave you a check for that amount.)  You don't have to write them a note.  They clearly didn't worry much about you.  
4.)  If there are still people who didn't get you a gift, go ahead and write them a note saying, "we must have missed your gift in the pile, but I'm sure it's lovely, and thank you."  Or just write a note saying, "we loved seeing you at the wedding and our registry at Bed Bath & Beyond will expire soon."  You can also be extra-sneaky, and send them a thank-you note for a gift they didn't give you, because then you will get a gift so that you can correct your error.  Nobody is going to call you and say, "we didn't get you anything."  
5.) If you exchanged their gift, be sure to explain what you exchanged it for.  Everyone likes to know if what they got you is useful, so go ahead and tell them that it wasn't, but you got something that was.  
6.) If they got you something that isn't your style, or doesn't suit your house, and can't be returned, feel free to give it away or goodwill it and then tell them that it went to a good home, and you appreciate the thought but in the future they should stick to the registry.  This will keep you from getting weird stuff for your baby.
7.) Feel free to have a few glasses of wine while you write the notes, and if you spill or make a mistake, just cross it out and write around the spill.
8.) If the person got really drunk at your wedding or behaved inappropriately, it's okay to scold them in the note and then mention at the end, "the KitchenAid almost makes up for your rotten behavior, so thanks, I guess."
9.) For late gifts, feel free to add a snide comment like, "I have heard that you get a year to give a gift, but I didn't think anyone actually followed that."
10.) For monetary gifts that are above the no-thank-you limit but still not enough to buy anything useful with, you should say in the note what the money is going towards, like "thanks for the check, we'll be putting it towards some new bath towels", so that you get your point across.

Does anybody else have some tips for thank-you notes?  Feel free to share!