For the loved one you’re truly trying to wow, the best sentimental gifts are guaranteed to be the most memorable. Sure, you could give your significant other, family member, or best friend an impersonal gift set of wine glasses, bath bombs, or chocolates, but it’s the thoughtful gifts that pay tribute to meaningful moments and stand out in the long run.
The best sentimental gifts are highly specific to your recipient, celebrate an important memory—big or small—prove how important this person is to you, and show how well you know and love them. Often, these gifts are knowingly nostalgic or commemorative, including custom photo books, maps of milestones (excellent for anyone in long-distance relationships), and personalized keepsakes that might coax out tears (such as cutting boards carved with family recipes or necklaces that stow hidden messages). Some of these gift ideas even assist your loved one in capturing moments while they’re happening (or before they’ve totally faded).
Whether you’re hunting for the perfect anniversary gifts, birthday gifts, Valentine’s Day gifts, or any other special occasion, we’ve rounded up the best gifts for the sentimental someone in your life. We’ve included picks from SELF editors as well as from companies and retailers like Amazon, Uncommon Goods, Etsy, Walmart, Storyworth, and more. From “what I love about you” fill-in books to flower-press kits to services that turn your family’s stories into podcast episodes, these sentimental gift ideas are uniquely creative in their own unexpected ways.
1. Papier Love Tiles Notebook
My partner loves when I surprise him with handwritten notes, so for our anniversary, I bought a journal and wrote a note on the first page explaining that after each time we had a date or spent time together, I’d write a note in it. My goal is for it to turn into a scrapbook or diary of sorts, with notes and Polaroid photos and mementos chronicling our relationship over the next year. He cried. —Sarah Madaus, SELF commerce writer
When I graduated college, my then boyfriend gave me a tiny Moleskine notebook that he monogrammed with my nickname. In the tiniest handwriting, he composed a letter on the first and second pages, encouraging me to keep writing and being myself (amongst other very sweet things). I was studying creative nonfiction and dead set on starting my writing career in New York. It felt personal, thoughtful, and not-over-the top, and I’ll likely have it forever. —Hannah Pasternak, SELF special projects director
2. Paper Emporium Co. Custom Star Map Print
Etsy gifts are known to be custom and unique. Here’s a fun option: To memorialize the night you met, this tasteful star-map print charts how the heavens aligned on that fateful evening (and can come in a picture frame).
3. Click N Shop Goods Personalized Love Letter Necklace
They can keep your sweet words close to their hearts with these stylish necklaces that feature letter lockets that contain tiny messages from you.
4. Customy Tee Personalized Pet Sweatshirt
“One of the best gifts I’ve ever given is a personalized pet sweatshirt for my mom,” SELF associate wellness director Cathryne Keller previously wrote. “A few years ago, I would have called clothing with your cat’s face on it tacky at best, but that was before I met Christofur, our quarantine Siamese with whom we’re both deeply in love. Last Christmas, I was trying to think of a Christofur-related gift for my mom and came across an Etsy shop that makes tasteful (dare I say stylish) pet-portrait tees and sweatshirts, and I was instantly sold. I can’t believe I’m saying this—I think I’m going to add a matching sweatshirt to my wishlist this year, so I can snuggle with Christofur when we’re apart.”
5. Artifact Gift Card
If your loved one is full of stories (but is not particularly computer-adept or struggles with dexterity), this unique gift service turns their memories into podcasts. Artifact’s story guides interview your giftee and then edit the content into 20-minute podcast episodes that you can keep for years. It’s a lovely way to capture the irreplacable intimacy of a person’s voice.
Cost: Gift cards are available for a series of one to six episodes, starting at $119 for one episode. You can also choose your own amount.
6. Homesick Thank You Mom Candle
Send your mama one of Homesick’s scented candles that sweetly remind her she’s loved (and if you order through the brand’s site, you can even add a personal note on the back of the candle). If you’re shopping for someone who isn’t your mom, Homesick produces a range of celebratory, atmospheric, and geographic candles too (stamped with sentiments like “Let’s Toast,” “Spa-cation,” “Los Angeles”).
7. Knock Knock What I Love About You Fill In The Love Book
Not everyone’s a born writer, but that’s where this fun fill-in book comes in. The small book packs in 50 prompts that you can fill in to flatter your loved one while leaving enough ambiguity for you to get as cheeky as you choose (i.e., “You have the greatest taste in [blank]”; “I am kind of obsessed with your [blank]”). One of the over 60,000 Amazon shoppers who bought this wrote, “I’ve done one of these for my mom, sister, and now my husband. It made them all laugh and cry and said it was the best gift they have received.” Of note: The book comes in several versions for various people in your life (parents, teachers, BFFs, and more).
8. The Birthdate Book
If your best friend’s really into calling everyone’s zodiac sign (“That’s because he’s a Leo”), they’ll be over the moon for this customized book that’s tailor-made for their precise astrological birth chart with a detailed horoscope analysis.
9. Artifact Uprising Hardcover Photo Book
As a special gift to me, my mom printed a photo book (similar to this one) of pictures she took when she visited me in New York, as well as photos from my childhood and of my parents’ house, yard, and pets. It’s so comforting to have tangible evidence of memories we’ve shared and places of meaning. For future gifts, I’ve got my eye on this gorgeous bound book from Artifact Uprising, which lays out your photo album like a graphic designer would. —Malia Griggs, SELF commerce editor
Editor’s note: Right now, save 20% off sitewide with code PRINTYOURYEAR.
10. Desogn Custom Playing Cards
I gave my best friend a deck of cards and wrote one thing I love about her on each one, and she cried! She made me one a couple years ago, too, using a special deck, and I still pull them out whenever I feel like I need a pep talk from my bestie. I think giving this custom gift is a tradition we’ll keep going whenever we really want to get nostalgic. —Alisa Hrustic, SELF executive editor
11. Carla Rae Vintage Personalized Map Ring Dish
Remember that road trip y’all took that cemented your friendship? What about the time you lived in the same city? A perfect gift for the sentimental best friend or newlywed, this handmade trinket dish can be customized with either a zeroed in map of your special place or a meaningful photo, so that they’ll think of you every time they set their jewelry or keys in it.
12. Enjoy The Wood Personalized Recipe Notebook
For the person who goes misty-eyed when dreaming of their favorite meal, here’s a beautiful wood binder that’s engraved with their name and safely stows their most cherished recipes. You can choose the illustrations on the cover as well, including cakes, peppers, and pizza. “This book was so much better than I thought it would be! Great craftsmanship—I can easily see this becoming a family heirloom,” one Amazon reviewer writes.
13.Uncommon Goods Personalized Family Recipe Board
Another way to immortalize a meaningful meal is this handsome cutting board, which you can etch with the exact recipe card of your choice—down to the handwriting, which makes for an extra nostalgic touch for the foodie in your life.
14. Handstitched Studio Custom DIY Embroidery Kit
For a DIY gift, send your SO a custom embroidery kit that provides them with the craft tools they’ll need to stitch a sketch that you’ve worked on with the seller to create, whether it’s a picture of you two, a special place, or a pet. And if you’d rather gift a portrait that’s already stitched in, you’ll find those on Etsy too.
15. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera
In a time where you can take 45 digital photos of a single moment, delete them at will, and then let them float around in “the cloud,” there’s something to be said about having tangible photos that you can’t control in the same way. That’s why an instant camera (or a disposable camera) makes such a great gift; to capture moments it pops out pictures that cannot be edited—an aspect that makes them all the more special.
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