30th birthday book

21 August 2017

More than anything else, for John’s thirtieth birthday, I wanted to remind him of how loved and cherished he is, and how much his thirty years on earth have meant to the people around him. I don’t think men necessarily hear how wonderful they are as often as the ladies in their lives, even if it’s equally true, and so for this special occasion I wanted to make sure he got the message loud and clear.

birthday book

John’s birthday is in mid-July, so in late May, I sent out an email to close friends and family asking them to send me back the following by mid-June, written in the format of a letter to John:

One thing I really admire about you:
A favorite memory we share and why it stands out in my mind:
Something to look forward to in your 30s:

shutterfly book

I included both of our parents and all of our siblings, of course, as well other family members and friends from childhood, high school, college, and North Carolina. I also asked for input from our nieces and nephews via their parents, and “assisted” June and our cats with writing their own letters, too :) My letter concluded the book.

shutterfly layflat pages

Most people responded right away, and the ones that didn’t came through after a quick follow-up email, so it really wasn’t difficult to assemble the messages. Photos weren’t too hard, either, since I had done a bunch of scanning and organizing of old photos for our wedding slideshow. What took the most time was laying the book out, but even that was done in a few nights’ time (while shielding my browser from John, of course!).

custom birthday book

I chose an 8×8 book with a hard, matte photo cover and layflat pages from Shutterfly. With 13 additional pages and a 50% off coupon (they are ALWAYS running promos), the total came to about $45. The book is beautiful in person – I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

photo book

John loved it, too. I think he was actually quite taken aback by it. He is a deeply private, humble person, and I think the thought of all of those people writing something nice about him was a bit overwhelming – instead of reading all of the letters in one sitting, he paged through them slowly over a few days. Mission accomplished :)

custom photo book

Have you ever surprised someone with messages like this? I think it’s always a hit (and I would love to hear your creative ideas!)!

Affiliate links are used in this post!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 21, 2017 7:55 am

I did this for my father-in-law’s 50th birthday and I’m getting ready to do it for my dad’s 50th coming up this winter! It was a big hit the first time.

Brianna Palos
August 21, 2017 8:07 am

This is an incredibly sweet and creative idea! In fact, I may steal this for my husband’s upcoming graduation from Physician Assistant school!

August 21, 2017 8:42 am

We did something similar for my dad’s 60th birthday, we called it 60 memories for 60 years (found it on Pinterest). We ended up with letters from family, friends, and even people who had worked for my dad on the farm as teenagers. My dad is also very private and humble, and he actually teared up reading it.

August 21, 2017 9:25 am

Tucking this idea away for in a few years!!

August 21, 2017 10:13 am

This is great!

A lot of my husband’s close friends weren’t able to come from Toronto and Vancouver for our wedding in SC, so I gathered silly videos, poems, letters, etc in the weeks before our wedding and showed him a little slideshow the night before. I have never seen him cry so much! Definitely mission accomplished!

August 21, 2017 12:27 pm

My husband actually did this for ME for my 30th… Best. Gift. Ever. So thoughtful and kind. I kind of still can’t believe that he was able to pull it off without me finding out about it! He was so sneaky and completely surprised me.

August 22, 2017 8:36 am

Oh my gosh, this is so sweet! I would’ve cried like a baby, but I guess John had to keep it together as a dude! ;) I love, love the relationship and marriage the two of you have! So beautiful :)

August 23, 2017 5:11 pm

That is exactly what I did for my husband’s 30th this May! ? I’m glad John also liked it.

August 24, 2017 9:45 am

What an amazing idea. I’d like to do this for my mom when she turns 60

August 24, 2017 8:45 pm

I must hear the letters from the kitties! Love this idea so much. Ari did something similar for my 30th birthday and it was so special. What a lovely gift for John!

August 24, 2017 11:35 pm

My sister organized that 30 people send me 30 numbered postcards for my thirtieth birthday! I have always loved mail, so receiving all the cards from family and friends over the month was awesome. She mailed everyone a numbered card to write on (My husband was the #1 and last card) And she lives in England, so it was quite a lot of postage!

August 28, 2017 3:55 pm

I did something similar for my dad’s 60th birthday! I encouraged his friends to send the request to people I missed and we received memories and photos from people he hadn’t spoken to in years. It turned out so well! We had so much fun going through all the memories and photos together. Love the photo book idea, it makes it so much more of a keepsake.