Dear Ms. Cards Etiquette,
I am fairly close to a business associate who is a client of my business. I’d like to send him a birthday card, but I’m not sure if I should send it to his office or his home?
– Birthday Blues in Boston
No need to be blue, Blues, this is one of the simpler etiquette questions you could be stuck with! An easy rule of thumb is to always send business associates’ cards to their offices unless one or more of the following conditions applies:
- You’ve met the associate’s spouse at a social function, such as a holiday party or barbecue. (Even then, if you were only introduced in passing, sending to the office might still be best.)
- You socialize with him/her outside of work. If you meet for a couple of drinks after work regularly, they’ve invited you to a party or social event or you attend the same church or social club.
- S/he sends cards directly to your home.
Now, if you’re going to send the card to their home, do make sure to address it appropriately! For a birthday, it’s naturally acceptable to address the card solely to the birthday boy, but assuming you’ll also be adding this person to your regular holiday card list, keep the following in mind:
Don’t send a holiday card addressed to Bob Smith if there’s also a Mrs. Smith at home. It should either be Mr. & Mrs. Bob Smith, or Bob Smith and Mary Walsh (last names in alphabetical order) if the couple doesn’t share a last name. And don’t forget to add “and Family” if the couple has children.
Sending cards to someone’s home is a bit more involved than sending it to their office, but everyone enjoys receiving mail that isn’t a bill, so just remember you’re spreading a little cheer while you’re sorting out all those salutations!
By the way…need birthday cards?