Sunday, July 03, 2011

Wedding Gift Idea: A Year of Monthly Date Nights

One year ago, my brother Matt married the lovely Miss Janille Wood. About a week and a half later, at our family reunion in Hot Springs, Arkansas, we gave the new couple our family's wedding gift to them, A Year of Monthly Date Nights! Now that Matt and Janille have been married for a year and have opened and (hopefully) used all their monthly date night packages, I can share more details about this gift -- you know, just in case anyone out there is looking for creative and meaningful wedding gift ideas!

Basically, this gift was a take-off of the "date-night-in-a-box" idea, but instead of giving the couple just one Date Night, we decided to give them 12, one for each month of their first year of marriage. This is a great gift for a young couple, just starting out, both still in school, who might not be able to afford expensive dates on top of their bills and other expenses. It also encourages the habit of continuing to "date" your spouse after the wedding, which is so important to maintaining a healthy relationship (but so much harder to do when careers and families are growing)!

Rusty was the creative genius behind this gift idea. Then, together, we came up with the 12 monthly "themes," and we tried to keep them seasonal as much as possible. For example, we assigned the "outdoorsy" type dates to spring and summer months. The date night for the month of December was assigned a Christmas theme. We came up with some ideas of what should be included in each month's package. When my mom and my sister decided that they wanted to help out with this gift, we just asked them how many months they wanted, and then we assigned them some from our list and gave them ideas of what to include, but basically told them just to stick with the theme and be creative. So, this gift also works well as a "group gift" (and it's certainly more economical if you do it that way).

Matt and Janille received two large reusable Walmart shopping bags (you could also use a laundry basket, Rubbermaid tub, or any other large container) containing 12 individually-wrapped packages, each labeled with a month of the year. They were instructed to open one package per month, beginning in August, the month after their wedding. Here are the 12 themes we used, and some examples of things you could include in each package. You could certainly alter this by adding and subtracting themes to fit the tastes and personalities of the couple.
  • Movie In -- a DVD, microwave popcorn or other snacks, packets of hot chocolate
  • Dinner Out -- gift certificate to one of their favorite restaurants
  • Dinner In -- a cookbook like this one, elegant tablecloth or placemats, candles and candlestick holders
  • Picnic -- a picnic blanket, a picnic basket, a book of poetry like this one for reading aloud, gift certificates to Subway or other sandwich shop
  • Disc Golf -- disc golf discs, print-out of locations of disc golf courses in their area
  • Hiking -- sunscreen, insect repellent, stainless steel water bottles, trail mix, a hiking book like this one
  • Movie Out -- gift certificate to a movie theater
  • S'mores / Camping -- fixin's for s'mores (marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate), barbeque skewers, fire starters, camping gear (If the couple lives in a home with a fireplace, you could treat this like a "cozy up in front of a crackling fire night," or you could do an outdoor camping package. Depending on what they already have, this could include anything from a cozy two-man tent to a campstove and dishes to a nice cast-iron dutch oven with a cookbook -- lots of possibilities here!)
  • Game Night -- board game (or could be a card game or even a game for a Wii, Nintendo, or X-box if the couple has one of these and enjoys playing together)
  • Spa Night -- romantic candles, music, bubble bath, massage oil, etc.
  • Christmas -- Christmas decorations or basic ornament set (a young couple just starting out is not likely to have much), a book like this one, a CD of Christmas music (Basically, the idea behind December's date night is to encourage them to begin thinking about creating their own holiday traditions -- whether that's baking cookies together or making their own Christmas cards or ornaments for the tree or reading a special story together. So this could go in a hundred different directions based on the couples tastes and preferences. There are lots of awesome Christmas idea books out there!)
  • 1st Anniversary -- This will be the last package they will open, and the idea is to encourage them to take some time to reflect back on their first year together and create an "anniversary tradition," whether that's taking a special trip somewhere or buying a gift together or just watching their wedding video and looking through their pictures. We included this keepsake book in our package. (Rusty's mom gave us one of these for our wedding years ago, and it has become one of our favorite memory books. It has a space for a picture each year as well as a place to record where you lived, and any memorable moments. We also write down where and how we celebrated our anniversary that year and the gifts we gave each other.)
And there you have it... a Year of Monthly Date Nights. It's the gift that just keeps on giving

Photo credit: Ben Earwicker of Garrison Photography