My father-in-law’s birthday gift

by Sam F Posted on March 30, 2010

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We were trying to come up with a unique and special idea for my father-in-law’s birthday. He is not the kind of person who needs things – and even if you get him the typical gifts, it’s likely he won’t use them.

The idea – The “We Love You” Birthday Book

Henry has 3 siblings, 3 daughters, over 20 nieces & nephews – and many others who love him. What better gift than a photo book with personal messages from family and friends to tell you how much they love you? And of course a party to present it!

The Process

I sent around a request to all family and friends by email – asking them for a photo of them (or their whole family) and a personal note to Henry. The note could include something they fondly remember about Henry, what they appreciate about him or what they love about him. Surprisingly I got 100% response rate from family members and filled a book with the most wonderful pictures and words….

The Result

With all of the photos and words, the format became clear…

  • Title Page -Henry’s 70th Birthday Book with picture and a few words
  • Pictures and Henry through the years
  • Summary of how people described Henry – this was one of the best features of the book where I pulled about 30 adjectives that people used to describe Henry and summarized them in a two page spread. This also became the foundation for a really beautiful birthday toast where I read them out loud…
  • Picture of each family or friend – followed by their personal note to Henry

Henry loved the photo book – and others enjoyed it so much, they requested copies of their own.

The Learnings in this Project

  • You are the project driver – requesting participation, reminding people and gathering the information however people feel comfortable. Many people will email you, but you may have to make a few phone-calls and have them tell you what they want you to say over the phone.
  • You will provide the inspiration – them with some inspirational questions to prompt them
  • Let the story unfold – the pictures and notes you get will ultimately dictate how to lay it out. If you drive the project and inspire people, the story will follow…

See the final results here!

Do you have gift ideas that would be meaningful for fathers? Let me know by commenting on this blog.

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  1. TonetteB Says:

    Sam,
    Your article is packed with so many great ideas! I have wanted to do a book like this for a while now with everyone sending photos & stories for a loved one but didn’t get around to it! This inspires me to do one for everyone in my family! Who wouldn’t want a book filled with heartfelt sentiments from your family & friends! I love the idea of all the words that describe your father in law in the beginning of the book! The tip to follow up is key to making this project a success! Thanks for all the helpful tips to get me started! :)

    I checked out your book in the gallery & its perfect! Congratulations on being featured! I’m so glad that other family members ordered this priceless keepsake you created for your father in law! :)

    I have created an all black and white book filled with modified quotes for my father’s birthday! It was filled with photos of him & his grandchildren! They were my favorite photos of all the grandchildren & I may have already given him some of the photos in color so I decided to make the book all black and white photos to make it unique! I tried to find photos & quotes that would match! Some of the quotes were for a daughter but I put granddaugter, if it was a father quote then I put it for a grandfather instead, or if it was a son quote & I put grandson if I needed to make it work! LOL! My father loved the book & shows it off to everyone he knows! :)

    Sam,
    Thanks again for sharing your brilliant ideas! :)

  2. TonetteB Says:

    Here’s the link to the book I created for my dad’s birthday last year who is extremely hard to buy for:

    http://community.shutterfly.com/gallery/post/start.sfly?postId=/gallery/1/post/GMGDJgyYNmjBg4aA6uPR9k

    Thanks again for inspiring me to try to get others to participate with photos, letters, & meaningful wishes to make the book even more special! It would be perfect for Father’s Day, birthday, or Christmas present! :)

  3. Joey Says:

    I love your book you made for your father-in-law. In fact it inspired me to do the same for my dad’s birthday/father’s day one year and one for my mom. These weren’t milestone birthdays but I still wanted to do this as every birthday is special and I just asked immediate family members. I’m now working on a 40th birthday book for my sister with the same idea as you had. I sent her friends a message way back in January (her 40th is the end of june) and a few have responded saying this is a great idea but i haven’t received a photo or message. I have on a few. I’ll send a letter out to family & relatives who aren’t computer savvy to send me a photo and birthday message. Another thought I had; which i saw in another blog article, is to leave a few pages blank in case some don’t make the book, they can write her a message in her book. I really enjoy the birthday messages for any type of book. Makes the book more personal. The trick is getting people to respond on time!
    Thanks Sam for this wonderful article!

  4. Tiffany M Says:

    Awesome book and birthday gift! I will file this idea away for a milestone bday (and when I have more time). Great article and tips!

  5. johng Says:

    Birthday is a special day in a year of our lifetime. It is not necessary to celebrate our special day with a huge party and by inviting hundreds of people, just to let them know we exist. Especially for kids. Birthday is a day when he feels special by the accompany of his beloved ones, like parents, brothers, sisters and the other members of the family. A small celebration can sometimes become the best party of your child. Like my little boy’s magic birthday party. I was acting as birthday magician, yeah I learn it from a Magician Brisbane. I love him for appreciating my efforts on becoming a ‘part time’ entertainer for kids.

  6. Becky Says:

    Love the photo book. I did something similar for my mom, mother-in-law and grandparents. I put together a calendar with photos of all of their family members. They loved it. Father’s day is approaching and I always panic- usually I am scrambling around at the last minute to find something. This year I have decided that I am going to put together a gift basket for my husband and his grandpa. So far I have purchased each of them a book to put in each of their baskets – Josh Karp’s latest motivational/ golf book titled, “Straight Down the Middle.” I will probably fill the baskets with something scrapbooky (probably photos of kids), candy, a tie, and other items that I know they will love.

  7. Amy G Says:

    Great book & inspiring ideas! I thought I’d also share the book I created for my dad’s 60th birthday… we took a “family fieldtrip” to his hometown to let him relive his childhood days. I documented the day by taking lots of photos, then created a keepsake photo book for him. It’s posted in the gallery at: http://community.shutterfly.com/gallery/post/start.sfly?postId=/gallery/1/post/GMGDBg1bt2bRy3Yg1Hbo3m

  8. BarbaraJ Says:

    Birthdays are a great time to creat photo books for the ones we love. This is a great idea and full of information for all of us. Thank you for sharing.

  9. ladyhihi Says:

    Awesome book and birthday gift! I will file this idea away for a milestone bday (and when I have more time). Great article and tips!

    Nederdele
    the group theory

more about Sam F

My name is Sam and I have been using Shutterfly since 2005. Since my first Mickey Mouse camera in 1970, I have been obsessed with taking photos. Now with three kids of my own, I have even more reason. In my home, I am the chief photo taker, organizer and the guy who does stuff with them. I have made many Shutterfly share sites (family, soccer, school), photo books (for self and gifts), holiday cards, birth announcements and more. I have a million ideas of what I want to do next. I love Shutterfly. Ask anyone.

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