First Anniversary Gift Ideas: 14 Ways to Surprise with Paper


First Anniversary Gift Ideas: Paper

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The first anniversary gift is traditionally something made of paper. The obvious choice is a nice notebook or personalized stationery, but who wants an obvious gift? These 14 first anniversary gift ideas make the tradition a bit more fun for the modern age. The theme of a paper gift offers plenty of playful and romantic ideas for those willing to think creatively.

Here are a few favorites that are sure to leave your spouse looking forward to another great year!

1. Photo Books: Personal & Easy

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Pocket Sized Photo Albums

These pocket sized photo albums are made from Instagram shots. Photo credit: Social Print Studio

The days of tacky photo albums are long gone. It's now easier than ever to create a meaningful album from your honeymoon or your favorite photos together. With Social Print Studio you can use photos from Instagram to create mini-books, square prints, and even posters. For the more traditional hard cover photo book, Pinhole Press has lots of modern and tasteful templates to chose from. It's perfect for starting that wedding album you never got around to creating.


2. Tickets: Grab a Show or Fly to Another Country

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Event Tickets

Take the opportunity to go to a special concert together.

Go do something together. Have a new experience! You can gift a paper ticket to a concert, a sporting event, a play, a hot air balloon ride, or just about anything else for that all important first anniversary gift. The possibilities are endless. You can even splurge and get a plane ticket and surprise your partner with a spontaneous trip.

Just make sure to print out the ticket on paper. If it doesn't come with an official printable ticket, you can make one yourself.


3. Tiny Letters: A Unique Mini-Surprise

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Tiny Letters

A tiny letter packed with lots of love.

How often do we take the time to really tell our significant other how much they mean to us? Use the occasion of your first anniversary to reveal heartfelt feelings or write a poem in a magical Tiny Letter from the World's Smallest Post Service. These diminutive letters really make a big impact. Magnifying glass included! Guaranteed to to elicit plenty of oohs and aahs.


4. Art Prints: Bring Your New Home to Life

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Special Art Prints

Support a local artist and find a great gift for your sweetie. Photo credit: 3 Fish Studios

If you are also celebrating your first year living together, a piece of art is a great way to add to your new home. Since this is an anniversary gift, try to choose subject matter that has personal meaning to your relationship.  There are countless websites devoted to selling posters and wall art, but we like to support local artists when we can. Here in the Bay Area 3 Fish Studios offers beautiful and affordable linocuts and poster prints. If you can't find someone local, Minted supports independent artists while offering different size and framing options.


5. Tandem Activity Book: Spend Time Together

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Tandem Activity Book

Set your phones aside and settle in for hours of fun, just the two of you.

Leafcutter's Tandem Activity Book is a great tech-free date night idea. The 78 prompts are sure to make a fun night at home. The completed book can then be kept as a journal of memories, to be reflected upon for years to come.

Make it a complete gift set by adding a set of colorful Micro-Line pens or IceyDesigns' lovely engraved pencils. Maybe a bottle of wine too?


6. Paper Flowers: Don't Add Water

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Paper Flowers

Forever flowers make a thoughtful and surprising gift. Photo Credit: A Paper Event

Flowers are often a default gift option for anniversaries. The first anniversary tradition is the perfect chance to give her some nice flowers that won't wilt made by Etsy seller A Paper Event. They'll serve as an everyday reminder of your love for many many days.

In fact, Etsy is full of talented sellers who make a wide variety of paper blooms by hand. Be sure to check out our favorites:

7. Custom Portrait: Personalized Art for Two

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Custom Illustrated Portrait

A custom family portrait is sure to be cherished forever. Photo credit: Ana Mikulic

For the artistically inclined, a hand drawn custom family portrait is a guaranteed hit. If you're a risk-taker, go ahead and draw something yourself. If stick figures are the best you can muster, then check out this custom illustrated portrait service by Etsy artist Ana Mikulic. She's in Australia but works quickly and can get your portrait to you in 2-3 weeks. She also gives you a high resolution digital file at no charge. We love her slightly silly cartoonish style.

Looking for a different look? Again, Etsy is where you're most likely to find just the right artist. Be sure to check out these other talented artists doing custom illustrated portraits:

  • Sheridan Hayes - Quick turn around time (4-5 days), high-res digital file to print yourself
  • Kadie Foppiano - Sweet and colorful style, choose physical archival print or digital file
  • PaperYarnMoon - Comic strip like characters, high-res digital file to print yourself


8. Letters to My LoveLetters to Open When

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Letters To My Love

Either letter collection makes a delightful first anniversary gift.

What’s more precious than a collection of handwritten letters from the one you love? This one takes a bit of planning ahead but really pays off in the end. There are a bunch of different Letters To My... books, but two in particular are best bets for your first anniversary: Letters to My Love and Letters to Open When. Take a look at the prompts and decide which one is right for you.


9. Paper Jewelry: Handmade & Unexpected

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Paper Jewelry

This unique jewelry is handmade from paper discs. Photo credit: Paper Statement

Jewelry made of paper is a unique and unexpected twist on the paper anniversary gift. Etsy artist Dorisse creates each of her jewelry pieces out of hundreds of paper discs. They are truly remarkable.

If you wrote your own vows or have a special song, you can have those words inscribed and preserved under solid glass in this custom sterling silver necklace and earrings set from online shop Paper Anniversary. They'll do rush production too, just in case you're running out of time!


10. Rare Book: Comics, Cookbooks, Etc.

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Special Rare Book

Whatever your spouse's passion, take the time to find a special version of a book that's important to them. Track down a first edition or antique version of their favorite novel. Get their cherished comic book or cook book signed by the author.

A great place to start your first anniversary gift search is to walk into your local bookstore and ask for recommendations. Indiebound can point you to the best independent bookstores in your area.


11. Artist's Pad: More Than a Notebook

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Drawing Set

Instead of just a notebook, gift an art set to inspire creativity. Photo credit: Moleskine

A Watercolor paper or other art paper pad and accompanying art supplies is a nice spin on the paper notebook idea. There are many good art sets available for the more adventurous artist or those that want to start a new hobby. If your partner doesn't draw or paint you can also include a how-to book. Or there is no shame in adult coloring books.


12. Card Games: Play Together

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Card Games

Fancy playing cards and card based games.

If you are into board games, finding a card based game is a great gift, especially if you make it into a whole evening of fun. Here are a few of my favorite picks because they are easy to learn and lots of fun for two players: Phase 10, Mille Bornes, and Fluxx. If your spouse is in to traditional card games with a standard deck of cards, Theory 11 has lots of beautiful playing card sets including the green Monarch playing cards.


13. Vintage Map: Celebrate Your Place

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Antique Maps

Find an antique map of the city where you met. Photo credit: -- Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.

An antique map of your town, the place where you met, or where you took your honeymoon would make a beautiful and meaningful gift. Raremaps offers a wide selection of maps and price points if you are short on time. Alternatively you can do some digging at your local flea market or antique bookstore. Artist A.J. Gottberg creates heart-shaped collages from maps of important locations in your relationship. While not vintage, Lovecation Map will create a stylized map of the place where you met along with your names. You can order the map framed or as a pdf to print at home.


14. Hollow Book: Surprise Inside

First Anniversary Gift Idea: Hollow Book

Don't judge this book by its cover. Photo credit: Secret Storage Books

Your spouse will think they are getting just a book, but a hollow book filled with something like jewelry or fancy chocolates will be a welcome surprise. This is a nice way to play with the paper gift idea outside "the rules" of tradition.


Did We Miss Your Favorite First Anniversary Gift Idea?

Tell us about it in the comments and we might include your suggestion in our regular post update!


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Grew up in Los Angeles and now living the dream in Oakland. Obsessed with all things miniature, vintage and/or made of paper. The character of Buttercup (The Powerpuff Girls) was based on me.


  1. Jason

    March 20, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I took our wedding video of our first kiss and had it made into a paper flipbook from these guys. She ate it up!

  2. Anna V

    July 1, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for including our custom paper jewelry in your great collection of first anniversary gifts!

  3. Shelley Noble

    June 16, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Creative paper first anniversary gift ideas. Well done.

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