8 tips for Christmas card etiquette

During the holiday season, nothing spreads cheer faster than Christmas cards. Choosing the perfect Christmas card idea requires a little creativity, but sending greetings is all about planning and following a few simple etiquette rules. Whether it’s your first year sending personalized cards as a married couple, or you’re looking to change up your routine, we’ll answer the most common questions about sending, addressing Christmas cards, and modern etiquette to set you up for a happy holiday season.

Who should you send Christmas cards to?

Send Christmas cards to anyone you want to wish “Happy Holidays.” Family members, close friends, and coworkers (who you also know socially) often make the list. But this year especially, don’t forget to send a Christmas card to the older people on your list, or even those who aren’t normally on your list who might not receive much mail. They’ll be delighted to receive a Christmas card with your family photos.

When it comes to crafting your holiday card list, don’t procrastinate. You’re more likely to forget someone from your Christmas card list when you make it last minute. Save yourself the stress and set aside time to work on your list before starting to send. If you make your list using your Paperless Post address book, not only can you pull contacts from past events, but you’ll have a list ready to go year after year. Make updates throughout the year, and by the time holiday rolls around, your list will always be ready to go.

When should you send out printed Christmas cards?

Deciding when to send out Christmas cards relies on when you choose to order them. The earlier you order your holiday cards, the less stressful the experience will be. It does pay to plan ahead, and don’t you want to be the first on the mantle?

To guarantee a timely arrival, you should order your printed Christmas cards four to six weeks before Thanksgiving, which ensures you won’t run into any rush fees and allows a bit of padding for any unexpected delays. Once your order of printed Christmas cards arrives, plan to send them out the first week of December.

When should you send out digital Christmas cards?

If you missed the order window for printed Christmas greetings, send digital! Unlike printed Christmas cards, digital Christmas cards require a lot less planning. You don’t have to wait for your printed order to arrive, so the only deadline on your mind should be when to send. You can start sending digital cards anytime after Thanksgiving at the start of the Christmas season, up to Christmas Eve.

Sending digital holiday cards is also great in case anyone slips your mind, or you want to reciprocate someone else’s Christmas card that wasn’t on your original list. There’s no fuss; simply send another card in just a few clicks.

If, however, the holidays pass you by, don’t sweat it. You can always send a New Year’s card wishing loved ones a “Happy New Year.” Send between Christmas and the second week in January, and pretend it was part of your plan. We won’t tell.

What about business holiday cards?

professional holiday card etiquette

“Sparkling Tartan” by Paperless Post.

You have a little extra time to send business greetings cards since professional holiday greetings include more of a neutral greeting such as “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” For professional and business holiday cards, you should plan to send between Thanksgiving and the new year.

Make sure to follow proper etiquette with professional holiday greeting cards, as they reflect your business. Use your client’s and associate’s office address rather than their home address, and use the proper titles for business associates and acquaintances.

Is it okay to remove someone from your Christmas list?

The basic rule of Christmas card etiquette is that you can send holiday cards to anyone, but you don’t have to send them to everyone. While we would argue this is the year we need holiday cheer the most, if you feel like sending your season’s greetings to a smaller group, go right ahead.

If you’re going to see someone between Thanksgiving and New Year’s at a holiday party, you can wish them a “Happy Holiday” in person. If you don’t have a friend’s new address, it’s okay to remove them from your list. Or, better yet, send them a digital card if you have their email.

How do you sign a Christmas card from a family?

If you’re sending solo or as newlyweds, simply sign your cards with your names. But it can get tricky when you throw kids in the mix. You can either list the parents’ names and then the children’s names or list each family member in order. As a personal touch, include the ages of each kid next to their name.

If you’re sending printed cards, you can sign your name by hand below the printed names. For a dose of adorable, have your kids sign their name below for a sweet personal touch. What better way to warm their hearts?

You can add an extra personal note or drop a longer Christmas letter into the envelope for the cards you’re sending to close friends and family. If you’re sending a photo card design, add your personal note or sign on the back. Get more inspiration on what to write in a holiday card with our guide.

Should you send printed or digital Christmas cards?

holiday card etiquette for photo cards

“Very Merry” by Paperless Post.

In regards to Christmas card etiquette, there’s no right or wrong way to send Christmas cards, and both printed and digital can get loved ones in the holiday spirit. We’ll leave that decision up to you, but here are the best of each:

Printed Christmas cards

Buying stamps supports the USPS. Your snail mail goes a long way!

You can display printed invitations on the fridge or mantle

Include embellishments such as gold foil

Digital Christmas cards

Fast and easy: perfect for last-minute sending

Eco-friendly: send a greeting and save a tree

The most affordable Christmas cards: send more for less

No need to track down everyone’s physical address

How do you address Christmas cards?

How you address each Christmas card relies on what type of household it is. Addressing Christmas cards for a family will differ from how you’ll address a card to a single person or couple. As a general rule of thumb, once kids leave the house, it’s time for their own card. Send and address their card individually. Here are a few examples of how to address Christmas cards:

For families with children: Use family titles like “The Clark Family,” or list parents on the first line and kids’ names on the second line.

The Clark Family

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624


Andrew & Jessica

Benji, Luke, & Sarah

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624

For close friends and family: Use informal titles for close friends and family.

Jane Doe 

4596 Maryland Avenue, 

Pinellas, Florida 34624

If you’re sending printed cards, it’s also a good idea to include a return address, so recipients know your address. You can hand address this on the envelope or invest in an ink stamp to save your wrist from a few hours of work.

Paperless Post Christmas cards


Ready to start sending your own Christmas cards? Browse our selection of digital and printed Christmas cards to get started.

Feeling inspired to get into the Christmas spirit? We have a guide on throwing your best holiday party that covers everything from when to host to how to send guests home.

Hero image: “Evergreen Nativity” by Rifle Paper Co.