First Anniversary Gift Ideas: 17 Ways to Surprise with Paper

Last Updated:  March 29, 2020

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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 anniversary gift offers plenty of playful and romantic ideas for those willing to think creatively.

Here are a few favorite paper anniversary gifts that are sure to leave your spouse looking forward to another great year!

The List! First Anniversary Gift Ideas

1. Custom “Layflat” Photo Album: Remember the Day ($149+)

Layflat paper wedding anniversary photo album
The “layflat” binding means a single photo can span more than one page.

The days of tacky photo albums are long gone. It’s now easier than ever to create an archival-quality custom photo book from your wedding day, honeymoon, or favorite social media shots. When it comes to your first anniversary gift, our recommendation is to splurge on a Layflat Premium Photo Album from Artifact Uprising.

Print and paper quality for these albums are second-to-none, they have a nice weighty feel in your hand, and perhaps best of all, they lay perfectly flat when open. Combine that with Artifact Uprising’s “make it right” guarantee and you can be confident you’ll have a paper anniversary gift that’s worthy of your first year together.

2. Tickets: Grab a Show or Fly to Another Country for Your First Anniversary

Paper Anniversary Gift Ideas: Concert Tickets
Take the opportunity to go to a special show 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 for sports events, big name concerts, and everything in between are endless with StubHub.

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. Adult Coloring Books: Keep the Calm ($15)

One Year Anniversary Gifts - Adult Coloring Books
Johanna Basford’s coloring books define the category.

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore. Lost Ocean and Secret Garden are just two of hundreds of options. Match your selection to your spouse’s favorite interests, whether it be cooking, gardening, or swearing.

Make sure they also have the right tools for the job, like this Studio Series Coloring Set.

4. Art Prints: Bring Your New Home to Life ($90+)

Fine Art Print
Support artists and find a great gift for your sweetie.

If you’re also celebrating your very first year of living together, a piece of art is a great way to add a custom touch to your new home. Since this is a paper anniversary gift, go with something wedding-related or choose a theme that has personal meaning to your relationship.

Minted supports independent artists while offering different size and framing options. You can shop their Limited Edition Art collections by theme: beach, cities & states, botanical, food, landscapes, and even bohemian.

5. Journal for 2 People: Treasure the Time Together ($14)

1st Anniversary Gift - Q&A A Day Journal
Keep the conversation going with this simple routine.

The creatively designed Our Q&A A Day: 3-Year Journal for 2 People is a great way to stay connected the whole year through. With a different question to answer each day and only enough room for a sentence or two each, this is one daily practice that will never seem like a chore. Watch your relationship evolve as your answers change from year to year!

The Big Activity Book for Couples is a bit less personal but still loads of fun!

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 as a First Anniversary Gift: Don’t Add Water ($45+)

Paper Flowers for Anniversary
Send in a photo and The Flower Craft Shop will recreate your wedding bouquet!

Flowers are often a default gift option for anniversaries so why not play up the paper anniversary theme with a subtle twist? The first anniversary tradition is the perfect chance to give her a brilliant bouquet of paper flowers made by The Flower Craft Shop. They’ll serve as an everyday reminder of a love that never wilts.

Our other favorite Etsy sellers for paper blooms include:

7. Custom Portrait: Personalized Art for Two ($50+)

First Anniversary Gift Traditional - Illustrated Portrait
These custom illustrated portraits are done in a unique cartoon style that’s sweet and refreshing.

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 from Etsy shop Discovering You.

We love Sheridan’s slightly silly cartoonish style. And best of all she has amazingly quick turn around times, usually two weeks or less!

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

8. Letters to My Love: In Your Own Words ($8)

Letters To My Love
The letters you write become a keepsake your spouse is sure to treasure forever.

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. Letterpress Vows: Personal and Elegant ($82+)

Letterpress Vows for Wedding Anniversary
Letterpress is worth the extra time and money on that special first anniversary!

Your vows may very well be the most important words you’ve ever said to each other. This custom letterpress print with deluxe pigment ink from Minted is a great way to preserve your vows for posterity. They’ll even mount and frame it for you. All you have to do is endeavor to live up to these words each and every day!

Another fun option is to have your vows or wedding song inscribed and preserved under solid glass in a custom sterling silver necklace or earrings set from online shop Paper Anniversary. If you’re shopping for him, these custom wedding vows cufflinks are your best bet. They’ll do rush production too, just in case you’re running out of time!

10. Rare Book: Comics, Cookbooks, & More

1 Year Anniversary Gifts - Comic Books
A carefully selected vintage comic book is a sure winner.

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 of their favorite novel or vintage sheet music from a favorite artist. Source a cherished comic book or out-of-print cookbook.

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. Watercolor Starter Set: Easy to Learn ($56)

Give more than a notebook. Gift an art set to inspire creativity.

A watercolor album ($17) or other art paper pad and accompanying art supplies is a nice spin on the paper notebook idea. When it comes to watercolor paints, this Kuretake set from Japan ($39) really stands out.

If your partner doesn’t draw or paint you can also include this great how-to watercoloring book ($14). And of course there’s no shame in adult coloring books.

12. Card Games: Play Together ($10+)

Playing Card Games
Put down that phone and play with paper instead.

If you are into board games, finding a card based game is a great one year anniversary 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:

If your spouse is into traditional card games with a standard deck of cards, Theory 11 produces many beautiful playing card sets including the exquisite black and gold Monarch playing cards ($12).

13. Vintage Map: Celebrate Your Place ($75+)

Rare Maps
Find an antique map of the city where you met.

An antique map of your town, the place where you met, or where you took your honeymoon would make a beautiful and meaningful first anniversary 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 Jewelry Box: Surprise! ($60+)

Never judge a book by its cover. Who knows what secrets lay within waiting to be unlocked?

Your spouse will think they’re getting just a book but when they crack the cover, surprise! It’s a handcrafted secret safe filled with whatever you decide to pre-load. This is a fun and whimsical way to play with the paper anniversary gift idea outside the rules of tradition. There are tons of books to choose from too!

15. Heart-Shaped Photo Mix ($29+)

Heart Photo Mix
Choose captioned, filters, foil-pressed, hues, or the classic look.

If you’re having trouble deciding which romantic photo of the two of you to have printed and framed, Minted’s Heart Snapshot Mix means you don’t have to choose. Personalize it with 30 casual snapshots and they’ll automatically arrange them into a fancy heart design for archival printing at whatever size you desire. They have a great selection of frames too!

16. Dreamlines Anniversary Sketch ($170+)

A custom sketch of her wedding dress…with accoutrements!

Dreamlines’ custom wedding dress sketches have surprised thousands of brides (and wives) since 2004. It’s not easy to capture a treasured memory on paper, but Nikki’s team has mastered the art form.

Fortunately, your part of the process is easy. Just select your dress style, add optional accessories, choose a delivery timeline and check out. Then submit a photo of the wedding dress and sit back while the magic happens.

17. Framed Push-Pin Travel Map ($40)

Push Pin Travel Maps
Geojango’s travel maps are made in the US and are the best reviewed on Etsy.

Scratch off maps and push-pin travel editions are showing up on walls across America. There’s now something for every wander-lusting couple. Whether you and your sweetie aspire to see the world, hike every National Park, or get a sunburn on every island in the Caribbean, there’s a map for that! Order it framed with a custom title and then sit back and let someone else do all the work for you.

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