gift for 40th wedding anniversary
March 21, 2010 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Is a portrait shooting with a professional photographer an appropriate 40th wedding anniversary gift?

My parents are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary next week and I would like to give an appropriate gift together with my sister. However, we do not agree on what constitutes "appropriate". We were looking at options to send them to a romantic dinner, but my father has to watch out what he eats due to cardiovascular problems, so this does not seem like a great idea. We were also considering sending them on a weekend or daytrip away, but as my parents already travel so much and go wherever they want when they want to, this again does not seem very appropriate.

I do think that sending them to a professional photographer for a professional portrait would be highly appropriate and it is something they would not normally do. Probably the last time they did anything like this would be for their wedding. However, my sister is of the opinion that this is "only for young people" and not appropriate for a 40th wedding anniversary. What do you think - is a session with a professional photographer appropriate? Any other great ideas?
posted by eurandom to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
If you're going to do a session with a photographer, don't do one of those cheesy ones where they drop a background and yell "Say cheese!" It would be better to do a more editorial type of photograph session, maybe with your parents outside, doing something, rather than just sitting there, posed.
posted by thorny at 6:30 AM on March 21, 2010

You asked for opinions and mine is .. the portrait, not so much. Unless you do something that includes you and your sister. Even then, all you end up with is a posed photo. Why not plan a special weekend trip for the whole family? Do something that includes you and your sister and any spouses and children. Seems like for a milestone anniversary like this, they are celebrating not just their union, but the family that resulted from it. Why not join in and make it something memorable that you all share? Do this, bring a camera, take lots of pictures and put them together in a nice album or scrapbook when you come home. This to me would be a whole lot more meaningful than a session with a portrait photographer.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:45 AM on March 21, 2010

It sounds like a lovely idea to have a nice photo of your parents together, but do you think they will like it? What if you set up a photo session with your parents and the rest of your immediate family (or extended family, if it wouldn't be a hassle to arrange)? Then they'd be able to enjoy pictures of the beautiful family that grew out of their 40-year marriage.

My parents are the sort who enjoy pictures of their kids, nieces, nephews over the years more than pictures of themselves, so if yours have a similar attitude, they might like having you & your sister with them. Of course, you can have the photographer take pictures of just mom & dad at the same sitting.

Whatever way you choose to have the pictures done, you might also consider including in your gift a nicely framed print of their favorite photo for them to enjoy at home. I'm not sure what your budget is, though; just thought I'd throw it out there.

Your idea is a really good one, not something just for young people! It'll be nice to have a photographic record of your family to look back on over generations.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 6:46 AM on March 21, 2010

A portrait doesn't seem to me to be something that's very "gifty". How about sending them to where they honeymooned, or had a first date, or something similarly reminiscent of the beginning of such an awesome journey together?

In fact, they could recreate some photos from where they first met. That would be fun.
posted by qwip at 6:55 AM on March 21, 2010

Do your parents already have photos of themselves displayed in their home? Particularly ones that don't also include you, your sister or other relatives?

Some people enjoy being photographed, particularly when the results are flattering, and would be very pleased to have a professional photographer capture them at their best. I know plenty of people like that, including my own mother, and if your parents are in this category then I'm sure they'd love the gift you're proposing. (Unlike you're sister, I don't think that enjoying the sensation of looking nice should be limited to those under 30)

However, other people hate nearly all photos of themselves and don't see very much point in documenting their own appearance. They find posing for photographs to be extremely stressful and the results embarrassing, and would rarely if ever display a photo of themselves in their home. I have several (extremely attractive) friends who actively cover their faces every time there's a camera aimed at them.

Of course, I don't know your parents and I have no idea which of these categories they'd fall into. Just make sure you're thinking about it from their perspective, and that you're confident they're a couple who would enjoy this experience.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:16 AM on March 21, 2010

My friends did this recently with their parents & extended family. The pictures turned out really nice. I think it is a great idea! Something like this.
posted by sararah at 8:10 AM on March 21, 2010

I agree with thorny that a more journalistic style photo session might be better, especially if you include the whole family. Many wedding photographers will do family sessions for much cheaper than weddings (usually a per-hour rate). Something like these (kid heavy, but you get the idea) or similar will probably get you some more natural smiles and memories of moments together more than a static portrait will. My grandparents did a nice portrait for their 40th, and it's ok to have now, but we look more fondly on the spontaneous photos of them at family events because of the memories. If you get a good photographer, they can help you create those memories in your/their home, at a park.

I'd recommend finding out which wedding photographers in your area do journalistic/documentary style photography and asking them for a special 2 hr. deal with your family. You should be able to get a pretty good deal since it's not high wedding season yet. If you go this route, be sure to negotiate for access to the digital images so you can print them yourself (it's cheaper that way in the long run). Some very well established photographers won't go for that, so choosing someone who's newer to the business but still has a good portfolio is probably the way to go.

Good luck!
posted by BlooPen at 9:01 AM on March 21, 2010

That's exactly what my in-laws wanted for their 40th anniversary, but it was of the entire family, not just them. I'm very glad we did it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:20 AM on March 21, 2010

I think this is a great idea, but could end up being more a gift for you and your family in some ways. My grandparents on one side of the family did this, and now we all have a beautiful shot of them in our homes. I believe they also displayed it in their home, but I don't remember.

I think that some of them alone and some of the whole family would be really nice. I think it's definitely appropriate as a gift, especially if you include the entire family so that they could have some nice shots of everyone in their home.
posted by k8lin at 10:07 AM on March 21, 2010

The idea that a portrait shoot is only for young people is kind of ridiculously laughable. I have no idea where your sister came by that particular bit of logic, but older people value photographs more, rather than less.

Whether your parents would like it, I have no idea, I don't know them. They might prefer a photojournalistic / lifestyle shoot of them in their favorite places. They might prefer a gathering of more of the family, including you and your sister, any grandkids, etc. They might not like the idea at all -- but that would be them, personally not liking it, not some generational issue.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:10 AM on March 21, 2010

I would be touched if it were me and Mrs. Plinth.
Be sure to also cover the expense of (some) prints, as that's where there the lion's share of the expense usually is.
posted by plinth at 12:24 PM on March 21, 2010

We did exactly this for my in-laws' 40th. Professionally shot pic of whole family in casual clothes (no grandchildren yet) in a local park -- big trees, grass, duck pond. MIL and FIL chose their fave to be enlarged to about 11 x 17, then we also had it professionally framed. They were thrilled with the gift.

For their 50th they had a catered dinner at a local hotel for 50 or so people. We paid for the other three members of my husband's string quartet to play (he played, too, but his service was donated, of course). Grandchildren were 4 and 7 and dressed in matching shirts. In-laws were thrilled with gift.

For their 60th last summer they had a brunch in the same hotel as the 50th for 80+ people. I provided invites, response cards, printed menus, and place cards (I was a desktop publisher in a former life). Husband and grandkids (now 14 and 17) formed trio (violin, drums, electric guitar) played classical, jazz, and Purple Haze at the brunch. Husband prepared music for traditional hymn and conducted impromptu choir singing same. In-laws were thrilled. We also gave them anniversary $600 Waterford crystal bowl. Effusive thanks from in-laws but not at all thrilled.

Hope this experience of milestone anniversary presents helps.
posted by angiep at 12:46 PM on March 21, 2010

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