How to address an envelope

You’ve chosen the perfect birthday card but not sure how to address an envelope? Here’s everything you need to know about sending cards to loved ones in the UK.

I’ve been a stationer for 12 years, popping cards and parcels in the post is something I do most days. I know that sending snail mail can be a little confusing, especially if it’s not something you do very often so you may have some questions like…Where should the stamp go? Is there a correct way to address an envelope? Can cards go straight in a letterbox?

Birthday card being posted in red letterbox UK

If you’re sending a something special like a birthday card to a loved one, all you want is for it to arrive safely. So, here are some helpful tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, to help make posting your greeting cards within the UK a doddle.

How to address a birthday card envelope

Let’s get straight to it. Addressing envelopes isn’t complicated, but there are a few things you can do to make the Posties life a little easier and help ensure your mail is delivered without any hiccups.

How to address an envelope illustrated guide for posting UK cards

Here are a few simple tips for addressing your envelopes -

  1. Aim to write the recipients address in the centre of the envelope.
  2. Use full names and a complete address including the postcode. Start with the name and list each part of the address on a new line underneath.
  3. The last line of the address should be the postcode, written in block capitals.
  4. Make sure to write the address large and neat enough so it can be read clearly by those who are not familiar with your handwriting.
  5. Always place the stamp in the top right corner of the envelope.
  6. Leave the top on the envelope, left of the stamp clear. The Royal Mail use this area for post marks so anything important written in this section may be covered up.

You can use this guide when sending all post within the UK including greeting cards, standard letters and parcels too.

Tip – When addressing envelopes choose a ballpoint or any waterproof pen. Water based pens like felt tips and cartridge ink pens can easily smudge and worse still, completely run if wet – thanks to the British weather… not ideal for the Postie who’s left deciphering a Rorschach where the address should be!

Which stamp do I need for greeting cards?

You can send birthday cards with a 1st Class or 2nd Class stamp. The Royal Mail estimates 1-2 days for 1st Class and 2-4 days for 2nd Class, although this should always be used as a guide not a guarantee! If your card is particularly large, bulky or heavy you may need a ‘large letter’ stamp but in most cases a standard ‘letter’ stamp is all you’ll need. Stamps can be bought from your local Post Office, on the Royal Mail website, as well as newsagents, corner shops and supermarkets.

Royal Mail UK Postage Stamps Illustration

Tip – You can buy stamps in books of four or more. I try to always keep a book in the kitchen drawer and a spare book in my purse, so I’m prepared for those inevitable last-minute panics when you realise a birthday is fast approaching!

Envelope sizes

Your greeting card should come with an envelope and if you’re posting a birthday card to friends and family within the UK there are three things to consider - the size, thickness and weight of the sealed envelope.

All three of these measurements determine if you need a ‘letter’ or ‘large letter’ stamp. In most cases a ‘letter’ stamp will be perfect for posting most cards but remember adding anything else inside the envelope may add weight or thickness to the overall size. You can check with the Royal Mail for the latest size and weight guidelines here.

Tip – If you’ve chosen a birthday card that comes with a dark envelope remember that most regular pens won’t show up. You might need to use a white or silver gel pen for better readability or maybe try a paper sticker to create a clear space to write the address as normal.

Bonus Tip – Remember to always secure the envelope either by using the seal provided or with a spot of water-based glue. Envelopes pass through various sorting machines along the way and any loose flaps could get caught in the moving parts. Sealing the envelope shut will help your thoughtful card arrive in one piece!

Where to post a birthday card

If you’ve got the right stamp, greeting cards can be popped straight into your nearest post box. You’ll find pillar boxes and/or wall mounted boxes dotted around your local area, often in prominent locations or along the main Highstreet. As well as the Post Office, you can often find letterboxes at supermarkets too.

Royal Mail red postbox for sending birthday cards

Each post box has a small tab just below the slot letting you know when the next collection will be including the day and the time. If you’ve missed the collection for that day, there will also be information of where the nearest late collection is – as there might still be time to catch today’s post!

Tip – If you have any worries that the card won’t arrive safely, write your own address on the flap. Adding a clearly labelled ‘return address’ on the back of the envelope will help the card find its way back to you if there were any problems with delivery.

Recycle your envelopes

And a bonus tip when it comes to sending and receiving greeting cards is that like most paper, envelopes can be recycled. Lots of councils now have household collections for everyday paper waste so you can pop all those used envelopes straight into the appropriate bin. Paper can also be taken to your local recycling centre or dropped off at paper banks usually tucked away at the back of supermarket car parks.

Recycling envelopes is such an easy way for us to be more sustainable and kinder to our environment because paper can be recycled several times and made into more paper! Our own kraft envelopes are made from recycled paper so they are perfect for chucking back into the recycling process to lengthen the papers lifespan even longer – amazing!

Tip – If you like using adhesive tape to seal your envelopes for a little extra security, stock up on washi tapes. Made from paper, washi tape is a brilliant eco-friendly alternative. Available in a huge choice of colours and patterns, your envelopes will look cute, are plastic free and can still be recycled. 

Post those cards with confidence

Sending snail mail is such a personal and thoughtful gesture especially in our digitally focussed lives. Receiving a card will always make your loved one feel special so we really don’t want them getting lost in the post! Use our ‘how to’ guide and address those envelopes with confidence and ensure birthday cards, thank you notes, and those Christmas greetings are delivered safe and sound to friends and family.

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