Starting an anniversary journal is a great way to make a tradition of recording your memories together. But you can also extend the idea to birthdays, school years, and calendar years for meaningful keepsakes.
Starting an Anniversary Journal – Not Just For Wedding Anniversaries
Recently we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, and one of the traditions that we have is filling out our anniversary memory journal. It’s become something that’s really important and meaningful to me, so I decided I would share about it here. As well, I’m going to share some other ideas for starting an anniversary journal that’s for more than just wedding anniversaries.
First Anniversary – My Paper Gift
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The gift for first wedding anniversaries is traditionally paper. In the lead up to our first anniversary, I had researched this and was wracking my brain for something special that I could give to my husband that was made out of paper. Somewhere I came across the idea for an anniversary journal, and I thought was a fantastic idea.
I bought a red fabric-bound and lined journal, and set about writing out headings for various sections for our first through tenth anniversaries. (It felt like a bit too presumptuous to go further than that, even though I’m committed “till death do us part”. But I’ve since written the headlines up until our twentieth anniversary).
The headings that I used are:
- What we’ve been up to this year
- What we’re looking forward to next year
- What we’ve learned about each marriage and each other
I’ll explain what I write for each heading in just a moment.
Filling Out the Anniversary Journal – An Annual Tradition
Every year, on our anniversary, we sit down together and read back through the anniversary journal. Then we fill out the pages for the past year. To help jog our memories, I go back through my planner, and also my camera roll to try to remember as much as we can. If other things pop into our minds then we add them over the next few days.
It’s amazing the things that you think you’re going to remember forever, but don’t. Or when you try to recall the year that something happened, but you’re way off. We really enjoy have this written yearly record of all the good, best – and bad – things that happened each year. That includes the big things like a new job or buying a house, as well as the little things like having the stomach flu simultaneously, or getting a great score on Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (the best board game ever! Or at least we thought so before living through a pandemic).
It’s also just as meaningful to read about our failures, and struggles as it is to read about our triumphs, goals and entertaining moments that we’ve gone through together.
How We Write in Our Anniversary Journal
I’m going to explain what we write for each section in our anniversary journal, and provide a few examples. I am not going to share the actual filled pages of our journal because there are too many private things I don’t want to share with the world, but I will pull real life examples.
What We’ve Been Up to This Year
For this section, I generally write a little summary of our year in paragraph form. This usually hits the big highlights, including jobs, moving, travelling, getting a dog, big events we attended, accomplishments or family visits.
In this section, we use point form to note all the good things that happened that year. These can be big things like buying a house, or a small thing like setting up a bird feeder in the garden.
Here are some real examples pulled from our second anniversary:
- Oliver learning to swim
- Being debt free
- Finally having better neighbours
- Dog park shenanigans
- Puppy dreams
- Danielle learning to quilt
- Bigger TV
And a few more examples from our fifth anniversary:
In contrast to the highs, in this section we write any bad, frustrating, or sad things that happened that year. Again, they can be big things like a loved one passing away, or something small like a broken hot water heater. While it’s absolutely important to focus on the positive in life, we like to document the struggles we have overcome by working together. And sometimes they’re funny after the fact too.
Here are some real life examples from our sixth anniversary:
- Squirrels ruining most things in our garden
- Oliver being sprayed by a skunk
- Being too short to see properly at the La Machine show
- Oliver getting a puncture wound
- Rainiest year so far on record
And some more examples from our seventh anniversary:
What We’re Looking Forward to Next Year
For this section, we generally write a couple sentences (or in point form) of things that we are excited about. Maybe we have a trip planned, or we know we’ll get to see our family (who live across country). Sometimes we’re anticipating a special event like a wedding or a concert. Other things to look forward to often include work goals, projects we want to do, or something we’re saving up for.
I find it super interesting to read these sections back because sometimes those things happened or we achieved those goals. Other times, life took a different direction and they didn’t end up happening as planned. Or you know, a pandemic happens, and suddenly everything’s out the window!
What We’ve Learned About Marriage and Each Other
Most years we don’t write very much here, and we certainly don’t have a perfect-enough marriage to be experts. Sometimes it’s something about how we’re learning to communicate more clearly. The year we got a puppy and then adopted a senior dog nine months later – we wrote that we surprised ourselves by keeping living things alive, and how much we could get done as a team. And that we both tended to stress and overthink things too much 🙂
Here are our pandemic thoughts when we were also trying to decorate our new house.
Starting an Anniversary Journal – To Celebrate Things Other Than Marriage
As I was thinking about writing about our anniversary journal, I realized that this concept can be applied to many other scenarios besides years of marriage. I’ll share some of my other ideas and how I would tweak the headings for each one as a jumping off point.
A Memory Journal for a Calendar Year
This concept can apply to any individual, couple, or family to record memories that happened during any calendar year – 2021 for example. It could be a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day tradition to fill it out together. I would keep most of the headings the same – a summary of the year, the highs and lows, and what you’re looking forward to next year. The last heading could be changed to things you’ve learned that year – anything from swimming to ways to take care of your mental health.
A Birthday Memory Journal
Instead of using the calendar year to mark the time to write in your memory journal, use your birthday. I think the headings could be the same as the calendar year ideas. This would be a great idea to fill out for a child as they grow, and to be able to gift to them when they graduate or move out. You can also have a separate journal for each child in the family so they can keep their own book as adults.
I’m imagining highs like dance lessons, sleepovers at Grandma’s house, and a trip to the zoo. Lows might be a broken arm, their best friend moving away, or a pet hamster passing away.
This version of a memory journal is similar to a typical baby book, but could continue all the way into adulthood. And rather than filling it out completely for your children as a parent, once they got old enough they can participate in deciding what were good and bad moments about the past year.
School Year Memory Journal
If you have children, an alternative to a birthday memory journal is a school year memory journal. I would likely keep the headings similar, though you could add in things like My Teacher This Year, Name of School Attended, Best Friends This Year, etc.
Again, this would be a great gift to give to your child as they graduate high school. They could even continue it into college/university years.
I’m imagining highs like building a volcano in science class, performing in a class play, winning third place in the 100m race, or being in the same class as my best friend. Lows might include things like field trip to the museum getting cancelled, getting the stomach flu twice, finding division confusing, or forgetting to study for my spelling test a few times.
Starting an Anniversary Journal – Is It Too Late To Start?
Of course it’s great to start an anniversary/birthday/school year journal on the first anniversary/birthday/school year. However, you needn’t feel that it’s too late to start at any time. I absolutely think that any amount of memory and record keeping is better than none.
For example, I wrote in a previous blog post about how I’ve been using HP Sprocket photos in my planners as a visual record of my craft projects and special memories for a few years now. I absolutely love this and of course I wish I had started something like that years ago. But I can’t go back in time. So I am grateful for the years that I have been doing it instead. And you can absolutely begin now, even if you’re past the halfway point!
Ideas for Starting an Anniversary Journal – and Free Template!
I prefer to handwrite on blank journal pages for our anniversary book, as I like the feel of a handwritten diary with personal thoughts. As well, my husband will go in and write witty things beside what I’ve written, and seeing his separate writing and thoughts makes me smile. Because the pages of the journal are blank, if I ever want to change the headings as time goes on, I’m not restricted in any way.
The journal that we’re using for our anniversary journal is a Semikolon linen-bound journal.
A couple others I like are:
Leuchtturm lined hardcover journal – I love using Leuchtturm dotted journals as a bullet journal, but this one is lined.
Moleskine lined hardcover journal – Moleskine makes great quality products.
Most of these kinds of journals come in a wide variety of colours.
Another alternative is to use a printable page with the headings and sections to fill in as a template. This might be a good idea when letting children help fill out the pages. I’ve designed a free printable template for an anniversary page with the same headings I use that you can find at the bottom of this blog post. If I was using these, I would print out enough for many years and put each one in a page protector in a binder. It would be easy to add in photos, or pieces of schoolwork as well if doing a School Year Memory Journal instead.
If I were doing my journal in a binder, I would also get a white view binder and then make a nice printable cover page to stick in the front pocket to personalize the binder. Page protectors will keep the pages looking nice for longer and prevent them from ripping out of the binder.
I’ve never added photos to our anniversary journal, but that’s something you might choose to do. I think that adding small Sprocket photos to the journal would work well because they have a sticky backing. I could definitely see adding a photo from one of the best memories of the year.
Free Template for Starting an Anniversary Journal
If you’d like to start an anniversary journal quickly and easily, get your free copy of the printable template here. Then start recording those special memories!
I want to hear from you. Do you already record memories in special ways? How do you like to do it? Would you start a yearly tradition of filling out memories every year?
All the best,