One thing that always frustrates me is when someone gives me a Hallmark greeting card along with a gift. Not only does one generally cost $3 to $4, the sentiment inside is often rather impersonal, merely the best fit of the choices one might find in the card aisle at a Hallmark store.
Unfortunately, many people believe that a Hallmark prewritten greeting card is the way to show someone they care and thus they spend fifteen minutes milling through tons of cards finding “just the right one” to send, when in fact it takes less time and less money just to make one yourself.
I’ve mentioned the idea of making your own greeting cards in the past, but many readers scoffed, believing it to be a waste of time. I argue that it actually takes less time and is more thoughtful than merely sending a card selected at Hallmark. Let’s take a look and see how you can make one.
Step One: Get some cheap blank cards at a dollar store.
I like to get boxes that have some variety and usually have quaint pictures on the front, usually nature scenes or a small, simple design. On the inside, I like them to be completely blank. You can usually find boxes of cards like this for just a dollar or two at a discount store. Don’t be afraid to shop around – wait for the right cards that match your personal taste and aesthetic.
Step Two: Find some appropriate poetry, lyrics, or other materials that match the occasion and person.
Whenever I hear a piece of poetry or a song lyric or a quote that makes me think vividly of someone else, I try to make sure to write it down and save it for later use on a card for that person. For example, here’s a lyric quote from Iron and Wine’s 2004 album Our Endless Numbered Days that I’ve been saving to use in such a card for my own wife.
Love is a dress that you made long to hide your knees
Love to say this to your face
I’ll love you only
For your days and excitement
What will you keep for to wear?
Someday drawing you different
May I be weaving in your hair?
Love and some verses you hear
Say what you can say
Love to say this in your ear
I’ll love you that way
From your changing contentments
What will you choose for to share?
Someday drawing you different,
May I be weaved in your hair?
Love and Some Verses, Iron and Wine
Something about the lyrics makes me think of my wife in a very deep, personal fashion. When I’m feeling more unusual, I might use something like:
Starfish and coffee
Maple syrup and jam
Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine
And a side order of ham
If you set your mind free, honey
Maybe you’d understand
Starfish and coffee
Maple syrup and jam
Starfish and Coffee, Prince
Don’t worry about finding the “perfect” sentiment – there is no such thing. Instead, just find something that personally evokes the person you’re writing for. For example, that Prince lyric makes me think of my wife immediately, and thus even though it’s quirky and might seem a bit imperfect, that’s what makes it perfect. It’s a perfect match for the beauty I see in her and our relationship – maybe it’s not the normal, plain sentiment she might expect, but it has something more than that. It’s a mix of who I am and who she is, and just like life, that mix isn’t perfect, but it does ring true.
If you’re particularly creative, you can attempt your own poetry, which I sometimes do. I usually try to draft it electronically, get it the way I like it, then transcribe it.
Step Three: Write that poetry in your own hand on the inside of the card.
Speaking of transcription, a big part of what makes this simple card work is that the material inside is written in your own handwriting. You might find just the perfect lyric or sentiment online, but copying the words in your own shaky penmanship makes the message much more personal and sentimental.
The few minutes it takes you to transcribe a simple poem or lyric in your own hand is the difference between a boring card that will be quickly forgotten and something personal that will be remembered and perhaps treasured.
Step Four: Add your own personal signature and message.
End the card with a simple note stating the occasion and a nice sentiment, followed by your signature, and your card is complete. It’s intimate, personal, and costs you a fraction of what the Hallmark special costs.
The next time you’re faced with a situation where it’s appropriate to give someone a card expressing a sentiment, consider this plan instead of the Hallmark plan. You’ll save yourself a few bucks and create something far more meaningful along the way.