One of the most popular questions I get asked is, “What is a This Is Your Life album?”
The answer to this is a little complicated as these bespoke books are completely unique to the person they are made for. The title “This Is Your Life ” book or album’, is one that I have given to cover luxurious personalised albums that tell the story of the recipient’s life. Our This Is Your Life books are usually stunning keepsakes that tell a story through messages from family and friends. However, as each book is unique, you don’t have to include messages, you can just tell the story in your own words – this can be your story that tells your tale for future generations, or someone else’s story that you want to honour and remember. As gifts they are a great way of showing people how special they are, and as a story of your own life they are a fascinating reminder for your children, grandchildren and further generations. Their own little piece of family history.
The title of these memory books are sometimes questioned because people think that they are for older generations, but this doesn’t have to be the case at all. You can create a This Is Your Life book at any stage in someone’s life, telling the story so far. This is why they make such great milestone birthday presents. And you can always continue the story with another book five or ten years later!
Whatever type of This Is Your Life book you are creating, you’ll be sure to want to include photos and illustrations that help tell the story. Finding and organising all of these can be a massive task, so with that in mind, here is the And Other Memories guide on how to create and organise material for This Is Your Life albums.
MAKE A NOTE OF KEY EVENTS IN THE PERSON'S LIFE
The first thing you are going to want to do, whether telling your own or someone else’s story, is to create a timeline. Start at the beginning, when you or they were born, and move through all the moments in their life, jotting them down in chronological order to create a timeline. Start with the birth, nursery school, primary school, secondary school, and university if relevant. Add in all the details you know. Don’t forget to add in when they met key people, such as a future spouse, the birth of children and other key events in their life. For a good This Is Your Life book, you want to include as much detail as possible so if you don’t know exact dates, make a guess, you can always try and confirm it later, or just add it with a circa mark.
LOOK AT THE TIMELINE YOU HAVE MADE AND MAKE NOTE OF ANY CONTACTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK TO GET INVOLVED
If you want to include messages from friends, or just ask people if they have any photos that you might not have yourself, you are going to need to work out who you want to contact. Go through the timeline and jot down anyone that you think is a key person to a specific time. Family, Nanny/Carer, Grandparents, School Friends, Secondary school friends, University or Work friends, Wife/Husband, Children Born, etc are some key ones you may want to include. If you know someone who spans many years of a lifetime, have a think about specific periods they may represent. When I made my Dad’s book, I contacted a childhood nanny he hadn’t been in contact with for years, who wrote about his early childhood. I also got a message from my Godfather who my Dad had known from the early years as family friends. I put a message from my Godfather at the beginning when they went to Primary School as he wrote about that time as well as later years, where another friend he had known for a similar number of years I put later on in the book as he wrote mostly about their travels after they left school.
IF YOU ARE INCLUDING MESSAGES FROM FRIENDS, TRY AND THINK OF PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVEN’T BEEN IN TOUCH WITH FOR YEARS - FOR THAT EXTRA SPECIAL MOMENT.
My Dad was so touched to see the letter from his old nanny. It was specially poignant as both his parents were deceased so it was the only account of his early years from an adult’s perspective. His sister could only comment from a contemporary child’s viewpoint. Have a think, there may be old school friends that have fallen out of touch over the years but you know you/the recipient used to know, or even colleagues. Think about everyone who might make a meaningful contribution no matter if you have their contact details or not.
GET IN CONTACT WITH THOSE YOU IDENTIFIED AND ASK THEM TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION.
Depending on how you want the book to be you can ask them to write about the specific events, or they could just write their own personal message that you would put in at that point to represent when they met. Ask for photos. If it is an someone the recipient of the book hasn’t been in contact with for a while introduce yourself and explain what you are doing. Ask them to make a contribution, be it written or just some photos, and give them a deadline. Make it a few weeks before your real deadline so that you have time to chase them if you haven’t had a response. If the book is for someone else, be stealthy and go through their address book to look for contact details. You’d be surprised how many people are still in the address book even if they haven’t been in touch for years. If you don’t have an address book, try using the internet. Social media sites like Facebook are a great place to start. But remember if the This Is Your Life book is going to be for someone else, ask the people you are contacting to keep it secret. There’s nothing worse than putting all the work in only for the surprise to be ruined by Uncle Barry!
SEND OUT THE SAME CARDS TO CONTRIBUTORS
If you really want to get a response, it is a good idea to include stamped addressed envelopes and postcards or cards for them to fill out with your letter to the contacts. This way it makes it much easier for them to sit down and write something and quickly throw it in the post. The easier you make it for the contributor’s the more likely you are to get a response. It can also give the book a really nice uniform look if everyone writes on the same cards.
COLLATE ALL THE MESSAGES/IMAGES
Start collecting all the messages and/or photos. Arrange them in the order that you want them to go in the book. This way it will much easier to design when it comes down too it. It’s a good idea to scan each message as it comes in if you are designing the book yourself, that way you know you have it as a digital version ready for the design and print stages. Try to save the scans in relevant folders so that they are easy to access when you want them later. If you are using a design service such as And Other Memories, we can save you the hassle and do the scanning for you, Either way allow plenty of time for scanning as it takes a lot longer than you think with home machines!
CREATE SPECIAL SECTIONS FOR THINGS THAT DON'T FIT ON A PARTICULAR POINT OF THE TIMELINE SUCH AS HOLIDAYS/SPORTS/HOBBIES THAT MEAN A LOT
We’ve talked about the big moments in life, but I’m sure you will find that whoever you are making the book for, that they have some areas in their life that don’t fit on a specific point of a timeline – an example could be a regular holiday destination, a sport or team that means a lot, or another hobby. I often find that it is a good idea to create a separate section within the book for these sorts of things. In my Dad’s book, we had a collage of holiday photos from Portugal, our regular family holiday destination, as well as some special blue pages that included messages from all his Chelsea Football Club friends that he goes to the games with. We also had a special page dedicated to a story about him on another holiday where he capsized a jet-ski with his friend’s young daughter on – a memorable and very funny family moment (luckily no one was hurt!!) Pages or sections like these are a great way to cover every aspect of someone ‘s life so it is a good idea to create special folders for these when you are collating the documents too.
START DESIGNING YOUR ALBUM
Once you have gathered all the bits you need for your album it is time to start designing. I will always recommend creating a digital album that will be printed up into a beautiful book. This way pages won’t discolour and you aren’t in danger of losing any bits that may fall out over the years as is likely with more traditional scrapbooking styles. Start at the beginning telling the story of your/the recipients life, remember to include your own notes explaining what is going on and who the people are/how you know them where you have contributions in the form of messages. Depending on the size of the book include one or two people, their messages/photos per page, giving each person a title so that it’s easy to see who is where, and a little paragraph telling the story of who they are and how they fit underneath. This way the book will be meaningful to future generations too, and they will be able to read and assign people to certain roles such as Sister or Childhood friends etc.
PRINT THE ALBUM
Once the design work is finished it is time to get the book printed. Choose a company that you know will give you a quality book, and not one that will fall apart in a few years time. This Is Your Life books are so personal and mean so much to the recipients and their family, that you want to know it will last all the handling over the years and that it can be passed down to future generations.
And Other Memories books are printed by a company that is By Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, so you can be sure that they are beautifully made and will last for years to come – specially if you keep it safe in the gift box in which they come.
GIFT THE ALBUM AND THE ORIGINAL BITS
Once you have the final album back, it is time to give your bespoke album to the lucky recipient. I haven’t heard of someone being given a This Is Your Life book and not crying, so be sure to have some tissues on standby, but also to have a think about when you present it too them – it might not be the best idea in the middle of a party if all their make up is going to run. Plus you want them to be able to take it in properly! These luxurious books really are the best present you can give so enjoy that feeling of gifting something you know they will love!! As well as the book it can also be nice to hand over all the original collated messages and photos (if they haven’t had to be returned to the owners) so that they have the original pieces as well. That way they can really appreciate how much effort went into the creation of the book, but really it is just nice to keep them together!
Hopefully this has given you a good guide to what exactly a bespoke This Is Your Life album is all about and how to go about creating one. Hopefully I have given you some ideas to get you going. I’d love to hear if you’ve made your own and how it went down! Or if you are thinking about creating one for someone why not get in touch and let me help you out?!
And Other Memories “This Is Your Life” albums start at £600. This includes unlimited amends to the design, your choice of cover, printing, gift box, and delivery.