Looking for a birthday gift for your significant other? Look no further. This "Year of Dates" gift idea will be fun to plan, fun to give, and fun to use.
I believe very strongly in meaningful gifts. Gifts of time spent together are infinitely preferable to me than anything wrapped with a bow. I love tickets to concerts or plays, promises of dinners cooked or new restaurants tried; anything to spend time with the gift giver.
One of the best gift ideas I have ever heard of is the "Year of Dates." On the birthday of your significant other, present them with a binder filled with details of the monthly dates you will enjoy together over the course of the next year. Plan one date per month, include all of the details, and pre-purchase tickets or needed items whenever possible.
This idea also makes a wonderful Christmas present, and can be expanded to be a gift for anyone--a year of girls' nights? A year of mother-daughter days? A year of family outings? What better way to celebrate those you care about than to spend a day with them, trying something new or enjoying a favorite activity, every month for the next year?
A few years back, I fell in love with this idea and gave it to my husband (then boyfriend) as a Christmas gift. I typed up an outline of each month's date, and included a basket containing the essentials for the activities ahead. Each month, we picked a day to enjoy our event, and I took pictures and put them into a scrapbook behind the page outlining the date. At the end of the year, we had a whole host of new memories and a lovely keepsake book to remember them by.
We liked the idea so much that for the next Christmas, we came up with twelve date categories, randomly selected six each, and then randomly assigned ourselves six months each. We then each planned six date nights for our respective months, and enjoyed another year of dates, this time with both of us contributing.
I would recommend this idea to anyone and everyone. My family and I actually have started to do something similar for our Christmas gifts to each other. Instead of purchasing physical gifts, we each plan an activity for the whole group to enjoy together. We present the activities to each other on Christmas by way of a series of puzzles or treasure hunts. It's a great time, full of silliness and laughter. And then we get to go out and have a good time for each of the events we have planned. Living in the moment, spending time, and enjoy the company of our loved ones is so, so much better than checking items off a Christmas list.
If you think that the year of dates or "event gifts" are for you, here are some suggestions for events themed to each month of the year. I've included one well-suited to couples and one better suited to families for each month.
Significant Other: Buy a bottle of champagne and a box of fancy chocolates. Turn up some jazz and enjoy a classy night in by candlelight.
Family: Plan a skating trip for the family. Rent skates if you need to, and enjoy the rink until you're too cold, then turn in for hot chocolate and board games!
Significant Other: In the spirit of Valentine's Day, watch a romantic film (check out my list of the best Valentine's Day movies here) and make your sweetie's favorite dinner. Crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy some chocolate fondue for dessert (recipe and inspiration here).
Family: Paint and sip! These fun venues are popping up all over, so find one in your area and head out for a night of creativity and vino!
Significant Other: Brunch and window shopping! Head out for brunch at a new place in town that you've never tried before. Then, spend the afternoon window shopping at your local mall or downtown area. Try to find the most ridiculous article of clothing you can. Buy it if you are so inclined.
Family: In the spirit of March Madness, break out your basketball and have a HORSE tournament in the driveway. If you're somewhere where the weather isn't so nice, watch Hoosiers instead.
Significant Other: As the weather improves, it's time to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Challenge your significant other to a series of outdoor challenges at a local park. See who can swing the highest, who can run backwards the fastest, and who can climb highest on the jungle gym. Then, celebrate with a picnic lunch. Wine coolers, anyone?
Family: The above date would be pretty good for the whole family, actually. Much more competitive!
Significant Other: Find a local theater or school producing a play, and check it out. Go out for a drink afterward, and walk home holding hands.
Family: Head to a museum! Many local museums have free or reduced admission at particular times of the month, or you may be able to rent a pass from your town's library.
Significant Other: If you are near a lake or ocean, take a boat ride. There's nothing like a brunch or sunset cruise to get the romance flowing.
Family: Challenge yourselves to a round of mini golf! The winner has to eat an ice cream cone made up of one flavor picked by each other family member.
Significant Other: Head to a water park! Indulge your inner child and get pizza or chicken fingers at the park for lunch.
Family: Go to the beach and set up camp for the day. Bring water toys, books, and a picnic. Settle under an umbrella if the sun gets too hot, but don't leave the beach until the sun sets--this is a great bonding exercise.
Significant Other: Give your local brewery or distillery a try. Many offer free or inexpensive tours. Have some drinks after your tour and then go for a walk around town. Grab dinner at a restaurant you've never tried before.
Family: Go on a nature walk scavenger hunt. Come up with a list of things you might see in the woods and compete to find everything first. The winner gets to pick the restaurant for dinner.
Significant Other: Have a movie night! Pick a favorite movie and make cuisine that goes along with it. (For instance, my husband and I had a Gone with the Wind night and made southern food, and a Casablanca night and made Moroccan food.)
Family: Back to school! Go to the school where you went as a child and play kickball. Bring a picnic and enjoy the day together.
Significant Other: Have a video game tournament. Break out the old Nintendo if you have it and see whose skills have held up. Make some nachos to munch while you play. (This is better if you are playing an Xbox, because the addition of Mexican food makes your event "MexBox.")
Family: Go apple picking together. When you're done, make an apple pie, and then enjoy it!
Significant Other: Have a cook-off to prepare for Thanksgiving. Pick a series of seemingly unrelated ingredients and challenge each other to make the most original meal with them (a la Chopped.) Then, eat everything (or if it's awful, order Chinese).
Family: Pizza party! Buy pizza crusts and toppings and make several pizzas together. Enjoy them with a favorite movie. Bonus points if you make art with your toppings!
Significant Other: Go to a hockey game! No better way to enjoy cold weather than to go somewhere cold (ha).
Family: Bake Christmas cookies together. Give prizes for Most Original Shape, Best Decorated, and Tastiest.
If you've ever done a year of dates or a similar event gift with your family, significant other, or friends, how did you like it? What did you do? I hope you all enjoy every minute. Remember, the gift of time is the most precious one you can give.