The ultimate guide to birthday memory books for that 40th, 50th, or 60th birthday

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary for a loved one’s 40th birthday gift, a collaborative memory book could be the answer. Personal, heartfelt and unique, this unique gift celebrates a person’s life through the eyes of friends and family.

If you want to bestow the gift of love and admiration with a birthday memory book for this milestone, here are a few tips to get you started.

What Is a Birthday Memory Book?

A memory book is a type of scrapbook, filled with messages, stories, drawings and photos that celebrate a specific memory or a life more generally. They usually have themes, one of which is the celebration of an important birthday. A 40th birthday is a major milestone in any person’s life, so it’s only right that it is celebrated with a special gift that will last a lifetime. Obviously a 50th birthday or 60th birthday works as well!

Exactly what goes into a birthday memory book is entirely up to you. You can use photos in chronological order or arrange them in a way that creates a particular narrative. You can ask for friends and family to compose their own messages of well wishes. There’s even the option of adding real items, such as tickets, flowers and other mementos.

Why It’s Worth Making a Birthday Memory Book

Let’s face it: Anyone can buy a gift from a store. At this person’s age, it’s likely that the birthday honoree doesn’t need more stuff. However, it takes a deep understanding of a person to create something so intimate. A birthday memory book is something that speaks to what someone has meant in the lives of many.

Well thought-out messages let someone know just how much they’re loved by friends and family. Not only does it provide a venue for others to share their appreciation for a person, but it’s an album that can be shared across generations. The best memory books remain touching and relevant throughout the course of a lifetime.

#1 – A Traditional Scrapbook-Style Memory Book

If you have a love for arts and crafts, or if you have physical mementos you’d like to add to your book, the traditional option is probably the best for you.

Choose a Theme

The first step towards the creation of a beautiful 40th birthday scrapbook involves deciding on whether you want a theme. While this is not necessary to create an amazing collection, you’ll want to decide this upfront since it’ll be hard to change your mind later. A theme can center on a decorating style for your book (e.g., a favorite sports team or movie genre) or it can center on content (e.g., favorite memories people have about the person or funny advice for being “over the hill”).

Gather Content from Others

The best memory books include many friends, family or coworkers from multiple stages of life. You’ll want to reach out to people early to give them time to contribute. Email everyone with specific guidelines on what they should contribute (e.g., pictures, messages) and a deadline to get back to you. Send email reminders as the deadline approaches to give a gentle nudge.

Gather Memorabilia and Decorating Materials

Open that closet and search for old photos, ticket stubs, old greeting cards and drawings. Quotations and poems that speak to the person’s life also make great additions. Parents and siblings might have pictures as an embarrassingly fun blast from the past.

Unless you have them already, shop for decorating materials at your local craft store (e.g., Michaels or Hobby Lobby). You’ll need a suitable book as your “canvas”. We recommend buying albums where it’s easy to insert or remove extra pages, as it’ll be hard to predict exactly how many pages you’ll need until the end. Other scrapbooking items you’ll need include glue or tape, stickers, pens and pencils, colored paper, glitter and embellishments. Here is a great list of basic scrapbooking supplies.

Assemble and Decorate

Set aside a large space work with and begin by laying out all the content from friends and family. Arrange, decorate and assemble each page one by one. Here’s where your crafty talents come to life. As the organizer of your project, make sure you add your own note at the beginning or end of the book!

#2 – A Photo Book

A photo book is a good option if you aren’t as crafty or if much of your content is in the form of digital photos.

Choose Your Software

You can use basic word processing software to create a reasonably good digital photo memory book. However, we recommend websites (e.g., Shutterfly, Picaboo or Snapfish) , or scrapbooking applications (e.g., MyMemories or Artisan) specifically designed to help assemble photo books.

Invite Friends and Family to Contribute

Similar to traditional birthday scrapbooks, email friends and family asking them to contribute content. If people have physical contributions to your project, have them scanned into a digital file so you can upload it with the rest of the content. Alternatively, you can attach a keepsake pocket at the end of your printed book and include physical items there.

Assemble and Design

Upload the emailed content from contributors to your chosen website. Arrange the content to your liking and decorate the pages online using design templates. Most websites also offer digital embellishments and other options to customize your album.

Print, Ship and Wrap

Once you’re happy with the design and layout of your photo book, most websites can print and ship the physical version of the book to you within 2-3 weeks. Once the photo book arrives in the mail, it’s ready to be wrapped and presented!

#3 – A Memory Book w/ Messages and Stories

If you don’t have time to design a book or to organize content from a large group of people, a Newlywords birthday memory book of messages and stories (along with pictures) might be the best option for you.

Start a Collection Page

Create a webpage to make it easy to gather content from everyone. You can specify what type of content you’d like and a deadline. There are also various templates you can choose to make it easier for contributors to submit something.

Ask for Contributions

Email the collection page URL to friends and family, or invite folks directly through the website (similar to how Evite works) so that contributors receive automated reminders before the deadline.

Review, Print and Ship

Edit and approve submitted contributions. Unlike digital scrapbooks, Newlywords uses a clean and modern design for all its pages, so organizers don’t spend time decorating. Once you finalize your book, choose from receive a PDF version or having a physical book printed and shipped to you.

No matter what method you use to create your birthday memory book, it’ll be a treasure trove of love, wishes and memories that memorialize this birthday milestone. Whether it’s a 40th birthday, a 50th birthday, or a 60th birthday, it’ll be the gift of a lifetime!