Unique and Eco-Friendly Paper Gifts for Your First Anniversary

by - Thursday, February 08, 2018

first anniversary paper cut out gift
from Sarah Trumbauer

Anniversaries get a bad rep for being obligatory, forgotten, and a burden. Phooey on all of that. After a year of marriage, you already know that sometimes life is exciting and memorable, and sometimes it is sort of banal and forgettable. Because of that, I try to really put lots of energy and thought into anniversaries, so every year together begins and ends with creativity, fun, and something unexpected.

That doesn't mean it has to be expensive or wasteful. As you stand at the very beginning of a long and wonderful life together, I know you want it to be happy too. The more we can all take care of the environment with how we spend our money, the more we can preserve the beauty around us through all of our years. Some of the more regularly used gifts are both super lame and pretty wasteful (toilet paper, really?), but I think we can do better.

So I prioritize these things when I gift-
- Experience Gifts. We have enough stuff. Making memories is better.
- Make Something. You don't have to be crafty. Make coupons. Make a small photo album. Make a frame for your wedding invites. Get creative- it will mean more.
- Recycled, Reused, and Secondhand Gifts. A past gives a gift history and meaning. Also, a smaller footprint and no waste.
-Local. The shorter the distance your stuff travels, the less fossil fuels it wastes. Simple, ethical, and community-building.

The best thing about anniversaries? They get themes! Paper is the traditional first anniversary material. I read that it means strength, but I think that is only true in Rock Paper Scissors. Embracing the arbitrariness of the themes is part of the fun. Why paper? Who cares. Let's go for it. The "modern" alternative is clocks. Added bonus- you can find so many experience, handmade, and green gifts around the theme of paper!

So, here are a bunch of my best ideas for your first anniversary. Make it amazing, because the only way to make your marriage romantic, exciting, surprising, enthusiastic, or joyful is to actively make it that way yourself. Make it green, because you have so much future to enjoy, and it would be nice to enjoy clean air and water while you're at it. Let's do this-

Paper Experience Gifts


 The ideas for this gift are basically endless, and it means you have so many options for making your partner happy AND setting yourself up for a new cool memory with them. Baseball tickets, theater tickets, movie tickets, museum tickets, tickets for a weekend away, tickets to take the train somewhere, hockey tickets, comicon tickets, whedoncon tickets, cheesefactory tour tickets. What is your partner into? What is something that they have on their bucket list that you can help them achieve?

Buying an experience gift makes so much sense. You really just finally got through all of your wedding gifts, and do you really need more stuff in your home? Plus, early in your marriage is a great time to do these things- want a life with some spontaneity and adventure? Here's your chance to get it started. In retrospect, I can't believe I bought anything else when this paper idea is just so stinking good.

Reflect on the Past, Present, and Future

Every year, we look through our wedding photos, chat about the day, and point out just how tragic my bangs looked by the last dance. It isn't anything overly wrought with emotion (The Boy does not do wrought), but it is fun. In a few years, our kids might be interested too, and that will be really fun. 

We also have an anniversary journal, like this one from Uncommon Goods. We write in it every year and add one picture. Every year, it is fun to go back and read it, but I honestly think you could use any notebook you like to the same purpose. It's the going back and reading that makes it fun.

Romantic Paper Gifts

first anniversary paper cut-out
from DreamPapercut

Wedding-Inspired Art

Depending on your personalities (and how your guests gifted), an art piece of one of your wedding photos might be really special. You end up with a lot of wedding pictures, but a  special piece of art might be a nice edition to your room as something just for you. Etsy, of course, has tons. Some of these might make good inspiration so you can make something yourself, or you can buy something- just poke around and you will find something good.

from abgraham

first anniversary gift personalized drawing of wedding dresses
from HenryJamesCo

first anniversary gift personalized silhouette picture with song lyrics
from BloomingDoorDecor

Find something your style as a pair. Write a nice note. They will be thrilled. Way to go, wedded person.

A Love Letter

 Really think on it, and write your partner a letter worth keeping for the rest of their lives. You can write it on a napkin- it doesn't matter! Have the courage to pour your heart out, even though you don't have to.

Write Letters to the Future

 If you are trying to do something special without breaking the bank, how about writing short letters for the next 10 anniversaries? Write what you think you will be doing then, so you can laugh about it later, or write about your favorite memories of the first year so you two can reminisce. 

Finish your Paperwork

 The Boy gave me an amazing first wedding gift by finishing some official business. Some people change their name, but some don't. If it is something you did or want to do, this can make for a truly romantic and bonding gift. Never thought you would hear that about paperwork, did you?

You could also pay for your passports, which is both practical and pretty romantic.

Sentimental Paper Gifts

first anniversary gift personalized picture hearts and maps
From my little medley

A Map Marking Where You've Been

 Ok, this one is a much more cutesy Etsy version than what I was thinking (though you know I love it). I think if you got a big frame, matted a map and took out the glass, you could have a cool piece of art where you could chart your travels so far and for the rest of your life. I did this for my first anniversary, and I landed on these scratch off maps from Uncommon Goods (the deluxe one is on another level). I also love these maps from Kristin Douglas Art, which are ridiculously pretty and feminine.


 Pictures are also made of paper, so maybe getting those wedding or honeymoon pictures printed would be a great strategy. Or making a photo book of all your first year of marriage moments would be really fun. Some sites suggest digital frames, but no one ever actually uses those things, so I would do a beautiful print before I would go that route. My favorite site for this is Artifact Uprising, where you can make really modern photo books and prints that are printed on 100% recycled paper. 

Planting a Tree with a Time Capsule

 This would really only work if you were living in a house you planned on being where you are living a long time, but this is a pretty adorable idea if that is the case. If not, it may still be nice to go and plant a tree somewhere in honor of the first anniversary. Maybe somewhere you can return to? I know some people even plant a tree around their wedding, but this seems like a perfect activity for a first anniversary, because a tree is a love letter to the future (also, air).

first wedding anniversary gift floating bookshelf
from Salvage Repurposed

Paper Gifts for Home

A Cool Bookshelf

 I know one of my dreams still is to have a library in our house. If you are handy, maybe building your significant other a bookshelf would be super cool and memorable. If not, you could even refinish one from a secondhand store or find something really cool (but not necessarily cost-effective) on Etsy. Some of the floating shelves, like these from Salvage Repurposed (I love these too), are still affordable (and so useful). I also found lots of DIY instructions on Pinterest if you want to save money and make it yourself. You can find vintage options, wall mounts, and brand new ones (these are so gorgeous).


Yep, it's obvious, but it's still a good one! Check your nearby used bookstore and you can get more books for less money. Even Amazon sells lots of books used. You could also do cool notebooks if that is your partner's thing. Or you could find a first addition of one of their favorites.

Practical Paper Gifts

Practical gifts can be a contentious issue in a relationship- I mean, if you aren't on the same page, this is the quickest trip to a ruined anniversary. One of my favorite couples has absolutely outlawed practical gifts, but I think you can still go this route without being boring or banal.  In fact, practical gifts can be really thoughtful and cool, but it totally depends on your partner.

first wedding anniversary gift recycled paper clock shannybeebo
From Shannybeebo
first wedding anniversary gift reclaimed wood clock shannybeebo
From shannybeeboo

Paper Clocks

 I found a clock made out of paper and other beautiful ones made out of wood (its all trees, right?) I actually bought The Boy one of these, and they are even cooler looking in real life.

first wedding anniversary gift kindle
From wikipedia.org

A Reading Tablet

 Some sort of reading tablet is honestly a great idea if you have a big reader. They have been great for planes, and if you are planning to spawn, nothing is better for those midnight feedings than being able to read. A different route, but a good one.

Personalized Desk Calendar

 So cute if you put anniversaries and special holidays and stuff like that on it. Even better if you actually make it really subtle, so they can really have it there at work with no one else noticing how special it is. If you want holidays on it, Shutterfly is a good choice, if you want something cooler and more modern, check Artifact Uprising.

Paper Jewelry

Ok, if you really want to go the jewelry route, you can still do on theme! It's not what I would choose, but it is fun to look. Because, Etsy. Some of the Etsy stores even have paper anniversary themes. Here are a few I love-

first wedding anniversary gift paper necklace
Paper Anniversary Love
It's hard to believe these are even made from paper. Very elegant.

first wedding anniversary gift paper necklace
These necklaces from beccasblend look like wearing confetti, in a good way.

from paperstatement
Paper Statement makes funky paper jewelry out of old book pages. Perfect for a modern or minimalist spouse!

from VintageOoakDesigns
VintageOoakDesigns uses old book pages in the designs for their jewelry. I like the combination of modern shapes, bright colors, and vintage paper. It shouldn't work, but it does.

first anniversary paper gifts perfect experience and eco-friendly

Alright, these lists, much like your wedded bliss, are just getting started. This is going to be fun! If you want more wedding and anniversary ideas, check out the Green Wedding and Anniversary page. If you just want more gift and shopping inspiration, check out the Giant List of Shopping Lists page. 

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  1. Experience gifts are my all time favorite!! Photobooks are also a great one.

  2. Love this post. It is creative and inspires so much creativity! Appreciate you consolidating and itemizing all of the places where we can get paper gifts. 💗

  3. These are all beautiful gifts and theyre such creative paper gifts.

  4. What amazing ideas! When I think paper gifts I narrowmindedly only think of books and crafts, but tickets...so easy and perfect! The map is a great idea also.



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