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  • Writer's pictureJeannine Tuffin

A bespoke gift

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

The Celebration Book

A custom made book with a curated selection of photos and stories.
A curated selection of meaningful photos and stories for a very special person.

You can take on this project yourself or get it done for you. In this post I describe the process and what will be involved from the perspective of offering the design service to you.

1. Occasions

It doesn’t have to be a round or special birthday. Any birthday is special. Don’t wait. And don’t wait to collect stories either. For one Celebration Book project, one of the recipient’s dear friends, who contributed a story and photos, got diagnosed with a terminal illness just then. For another Celebration Book project one friend couldn’t contribute, as he was going through treatment. All I want to point out is, we never know what's tomorrow, let alone next month or year.

Another special way to honour someone can be a leaving present. Recently, I designed a Celebration Book for someone who was about to retire. We managed to collect stories from employees, colleagues, mentors and friends who have accompanied this person for more than 30 years. There were some amazing and funny stories to be told.

“ Jeannine at Photos and Stories has a unique skill to take your best photos and writing and present these in one of the most stunning formats that you will value for the rest of your life and ultimately become a family treasure to be passed to future generations. Her presentation skills will amaze you." L.S., Wellington

What about wedding anniversaries? What a truly unique collection of memories and reflections that could be.

Or what about your child’s 21st Birthday? Collect stories of her / his / their friends, grandparents and some funny anecdotes from family, teachers and mentors. Surely, that can be an appreciated gift your child would treasure when moving out.

Personally, I am collecting stories or wishes from caring and loving people, who are in or are passing through (teachers) my children's lives. I started with the pre-school teacher who had a big place in my daughter’s heart. By the time she turns 21, it will be a wonderful collection of stories and wishes for her.

Another way to treasure someone is as a farewell book, or tribute book, after passing away. Putting together a book like this can be a healing process for loved ones left behind.

Content page in a celebration book
A list of names can serve as a table of content.

2. Goal and Timeline

You can take on this project yourself

Goal We aim to make your special person speechless and teary. It has worked so far every single time. We want him / her / them to feel appreciated and loved. If you choose to give a Celebration Book you will be happy to invest in this project.

Are your contributors as supportive as they can be? A quality book needs to hold quality stories. Contributors need to invest time into writing their stories (otherwise you may end up paying more as an editor needs to rewrite a contributor’s story). Keep that in mind when you think about who would be in. Also, not everybody you contact will get back to you. Make sure to have about 20 contributions - no less than 10. The less the better and more appealing the stories and photos must be.

The quality of the book and the photos with the stories need to be on the same standard.

Timeline It will take longer than you think. Ideally we allow for 3 months - from our first meeting to you holding your precious present - the Celebration Book - in your hand. This allows for a careful selection of Contributors and gives them enough time to rummage in their heads for fine and funny stories.

In most projects we need to scan precious printed photos to add to the book. After that the stories will be proof-read and the book then sent to you digitally for you to read through (or shall I say ‘feel through’) and approve.

Only then, it can go into print. Good printing, binding and shipping counts for a third of the time.

A timeline looks roughly like this

Week 1 At our first meeting we will discuss ideas, goals and budget. If we both decide to work with each other, I will send you a detailed questionnaire. After evaluating your returned questionnaire, we will finalize ideas, process, list of contributors and the contract. We will choose a book company and you will purchase the book and first design services package (6 hours). Then we will send out the important First Email.

Weeks 2 - 3 I will collect emails from and follow up with the contributors. I will check text and photos for the right format and quality.

Week 4 As photos and stories are coming in, I will start uploading them and design the book. Now it is also time to contact the potential contributors again, who haven’t replied in the first round of email.

Week 5 I will keep designing the book and be in contact with contributors whose photos or stories are lacking certain details. The third (and last) round of emails to unresponsive contributors are going out this week. We may have to get more potential contributors involved (you have these names on a list already as we went through the details and questionnaire in week 1).

As soon as all contributions have reached my inbox and they are put into the book, all text will be proofread. I will finish off the design.

Week 6 You will receive the book link for revision. I will adjust your concerned areas. After your final revision and approval we will send the book into print. It can take up from 3 weeks to 6 weeks.

I will send out an email to each contributor with a photo of their individual 'page’ each, as it is important to keep them in the loop and to actually see what wonderful gift they helped to create.

Week 12 Depending on our agreement, the book will turn up at my studio, your house or the recipient’s place. I will send back all physical and scanned photos, memorabilia and stories as well as their digital copies. If you agree, I will delete all contributor’s emails and personal files from this project off my system. If you think that this was a smooth experience and the book is a great gift, please spread the word so more people will be able to enjoy such a present.

"I asked Jeannine for a great idea to give my mother for her 75th birthday.

She told me about a celebration book, which I loved straight away.

Working with Jeannine is amazing.

She is so enthusiastic and passionate about her work and love for photos and stories.

From our first meeting to discuss the project, exchanging expectations and ideas, and Jeannine giving valuable advice while putting the book together until the finished product - Jeannine was highly organized and great to communicate with, which made the whole process super easy.

The Celebration Book was received with a lot of tears - tears of joy! Thank you so much for creating such a special gift." Chrissi, Wanaka

A full spread photo in between stories.
Put personal full-spread photos in between stories.

3. Frequently Asked Questions

I got printed photos I love to use for this book project You can scan these photos at 600 dpi and email them to me or I scan these as part of the project. You will receive the printed and digital photos back, once the project is finished.

I can only think of 12 Contributors That is absolutely fine. We just want to make sure that these 12 contributors come up with deep and thoughtful stories, and not 'one-liners'. In addition, can you come up with old friends or mentors or someone the Recipient looks up to or admires?

I know 70 but can only afford for 50 Contributors Firstly, what about a shared gift, so you can share costs with other Contributors? Secondly, usually, not all approached potential Contributors will be able or willing to send photos and stories for this project. Thirdly, some will only send a short 'one-liner', which is not worth putting on a double-page. We then collect them and use one double page for all 'one-liners'.

What can I ask contributors to write about What about a story about a shared experience - something funny, or something thoughtful the Contributor loves to share with the Recipient. Or some words of appreciation and what the Contributor admires about the Recipient. What about a heartfelt 'thank you'.

Photos and stories in a celebration book
This is an example of a beautiful in-depth story that is supported by a selection of photos.

"Contributing to a birthday book of a good friend was a great pleasure

as I delved back into distant memories and old photographs. The only problem I had was to decide which of many stories to write about,

as there were quite a few. Jeannine's guidelines and samples helped me steer in the right direction.

It was definitely an enjoyable experience to add my tales to his story,

and the end result was something Jeannine should be proud of." Nick, Christchurch

4. The next Step

Do you feel like we can be a good team and put together a beautiful and meaningful Celebration Book for your special person? Go ahead and get in touch with me at or text 027 4859 580 for receiving the Questionnaire.

Let's start creating and make someone very happy.

Yours, Jeannine


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