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20 Unique Alternatives to Traditional Birthday Cards

Photo of Tsvetelina Hinova Tsvetelina Hinova 29 August 2023
Bunch of balloons being held

It's your best friend's birthday. You've sorted out the balloons, the cake, the surprise party, and searched the best gift websites for the ultimate gift. But as you reach out to hand over the traditional birthday card, you can't help but feel something's missing. This occasion calls for something special.

That's where we step in. At Thankbox, we’re going beyond the traditional birthday card and into a world full of unique and heartfelt alternatives. 

These aren't just alternatives – they’re upgrades. They offer new, engaging ways to say “Happy Birthday” that surprise, delight, and deeply touch the people you care about most. 

Let's start exploring!

Things to consider when choosing a unique alternative

When deciding to veer off the beaten path of traditional birthday cards, there are a few factors you’ll want to consider.

Your first step is to think about the recipient's taste and preference. If they’re tech-savvy, a VR birthday greeting might blow them away. But if they appreciate old-school charm, a DIY puzzle message may hit just the right note.

Secondly, think about the environmental impact. Traditional birthday cards, especially those with plastic elements, contribute to waste. Many alternatives, like e-cards, offer a more eco-friendly way to express your wishes. 

Lastly, review the free time you have on your hands. Some alternatives may require more effort so make sure everything comes together with as few hiccups as possible.

Speaking of a sustainable future, Thankbox is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paper cards. As a carbon-negative service, we eliminate paper waste and plastic wrapping and plant one tree for every ten sales. We’ve already planted enough trees to fill over 180 tennis courts!

Take a look at Thankbox’s sustainable tree planting pledge.

Thankbox tree planting pledge

Top ten digital alternatives 

As we step into the digital world, it's no surprise that some of the unique alternatives to traditional birthday cards come with online innovations. Let's explore some of these exciting options:

1. Thankbox

Elevating the concept of e-cards, Thankbox serves as your creative canvas for crafting visually stunning greetings. This unique platform lets you and your loved ones join forces to compose a group card bursting with personalised messages, photos, videos, and GIFs. 

Birthday Thankbox

In just a few clicks, you can create a birthday ecard that’s chock-full of everything your recipient loves – whether it’s Nicolas Cage GIFs or heartfelt notes. This digital keepsake ensures an experience that’s sweeping yet intimate, ideal for milestones like celebrating a 50th birthday

2. Custom video messages

Sites like Cameo offer custom messages from celebrities, but why not take it one step further? Create custom video messages bursting with well wishes, memories, and even a little humour. 

Thankbox birthday cake icon Get everyone to send awesome birthday vibes

When everyone says (way more than!) 'happy birthday' it'll make the birthday girl or boy feel so, so special. Start in no time, send the invites for messages and marvel at how much love is shared. That's priceless.

3. Animated birthday wishes

Elevate your card game by sending a personalised ecard with birthday greetings that move, dance, and celebrate with you. From groovy dance sequences to adventurous scenes, these lively animations add an element of fun and surprise that a static card can't provide.

4. Virtual reality experiences

Give them an immersive birthday message with a VR greeting. This can be as simple as a 360-degree video message or as complex as a VR birthday party. The possibilities are endless!

5. Digital artwork

Digital art on a tablet

For those who appreciate the aesthetic side of life, consider a digital artwork that reflects the recipient's passions, hobbies, or favourite things.

6. Interactive online games

Design an online game experience that finishes with your birthday wishes. Use a platform like Roblox or Minecraft to craft this virtual adventure.

7. Personalised birthday songs

Music holds a special place in our lives, so why not create your very own personalised birthday song? This could be a funny rap, a heartfelt ballad, or an upbeat pop number (we’re thinking Harry Styles or Taylor Swift) – the sky's the limit.

If you have the musical talent to pull off this task, you might be able to go the DIY route. If not, services like Songheart can help you out.

8. Augmented reality greetings

Using apps like Artivive, a regular photo can be transformed into a 3D interactive experience. Imagine a simple group photo that triggers an avalanche of birthday wishes or even a birthday card that comes to life with animations and music.

9. Social media celebrations

Tap into the power of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok to orchestrate a public display of affection that will thrill the social-savvy recipient.

10. Podcast birthday message

If the birthday celebrant is a fan of podcasts (who isn’t?), consider recording a podcast-style birthday message. This could be a friendly monologue or a collection of anecdotes about them. Platforms like Anchor or Soundcloud can capture and share your audio message. 

Ten best of the best physical alternatives 

While digital options deliver a unique blend of convenience and creativity, physical alternatives introduce their own kind of uniqueness that you can touch. Let’s take a look:

11. Handmade craft items

hand knitting and wool

Whether it's a knitted scarf, a painted portrait, or a piece of pottery, handmade items carry a personal touch and tell a story of time and effort. Handmade items are perfect for milestones like an 18th birthday.

12. Personalised gift items 

Personalise everyday items like mugs, shirts, or jewellery with unique messages or quotes that resonate with the recipient. When they use your personalised gifts, they'll be reminded of your special bond.

13. Books with inscriptions

Gift a book you think they’ll love and inscribe a personal message inside the cover. It's a thoughtful gift and a lovely keepsake. Here’s your chance to flex your writing muscles!

14. Memory scrapbook

Memory scrapbook and dried flowers

Compile photos, tickets, and other memorabilia into a scrapbook that tells the story of their life or your relationship together, offering a trip down memory lane each time it's opened.

15. Plantable cards

These innovative and environmentally friendly plantable cards bring life to your message. Embedded with seeds, these cards can be planted after being read, turning into beautiful flowers or herbs. It's a birthday greeting that leaves a lasting, living memory.

16. DIY birthday cards

There's something incredibly special about creating a DIY birthday card. This option allows for boundless creativity and personalisation, making your birthday greeting one-of-a-kind.

17. A message in a bottle

This whimsical option adds an element of surprise and romance to your greeting. Write your message, roll it up, and seal it in a bottle. Apologies if you’ve now got the song stuck in your head!

18. Custom-engraved items 

For a lasting memento, consider a custom-engraved item like a pen, a pendant, or a keychain.

19. Birthday-themed origami

two origami birds

Origami, the traditional art of paper-folding, offers a unique and artistic way to convey your birthday wishes. From origami flowers to intricate birds, these creations carry your birthday message in a visually delightful way.

20. DIY puzzle messages

Deliver your message on a puzzle and have the birthday person piece it together. It's a fun, interactive alternative to a standard birthday card.

Say goodbye to traditional birthday cards with Thankbox

With so many digital and physical alternatives available, the days of shop-bought cards are fading. Now’s the time to embrace these unique solutions and inject creativity into birthday celebrations. And there’s no better way to do this than with Thankbox.

Thankbox blends the convenience of digital creativity with the personal touch of a handmade card. The platform lets you collaborate with friends and family to create a birthday greeting that’s fun, heartfelt, and truly unique. We also make it simple to collect money for a group gift that can then be redeemed for an egift card

So, why not give it a try for the next birthday on your calendar? Create a Thankbox today and get started!

Thankbox birthday cake icon Get everyone to send awesome birthday vibes

When everyone says (way more than!) 'happy birthday' it'll make the birthday girl or boy feel so, so special. Start in no time, send the invites for messages and marvel at how much love is shared. That's priceless.

Images: Cover | Digital artwork | Knitting | Scrapbook | Origami birds