She's turning 30 and I don't know what to get her.
November 13, 2012 6:31 AM   Subscribe

What's a memorable gift for a woman turning 30? Any ideas?

My girlfriend is turning 30 soon and I want to give her something that she'll always remember........but I can't think of anything! Normally, I'm a great gift giver, but I'm stumped on this one. I want it to be something that she remembers when she looks back on turning 30.

She did mention an Ipad 3, but I'm looking for something more, something unique.

Any ideas?
posted by Mr_Thirdworld to Shopping (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The gifts I remember most fondly are experiences, not things. Take her out for a really, really nice multi-course dinner, or go on a mini-vacation for the weekend and stay at a cute B&B.
posted by something something at 6:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depends on what kind of stuff she likes. My most memorable birthday gift from a boyfriend was a big sauté pan that I still use all the time. This is more because I love to cook, though. What does she enjoy?
posted by k8lin at 6:42 AM on November 13, 2012

Dinner is always a winner, followed by a night crawling around some unique bars and nightspots you've never been to before. Heavy on the cocktails.

Best gift my partner ever received - it was kind of a present from each of us to the other - was when we got a rescue dog. Commitment and joy all wrapped in a hairy creature unlike any other.
posted by 0bvious at 6:43 AM on November 13, 2012

The correct gifts are, in order of attractiveness:

- An engagement ring
- A dirty weekend somewhere romantic, including a dinner booking
- A specially designed day that involves some of her favourite things and ends in dinner
- A piece of jewellery she covets but would not buy herself
- A handbag
- A toaster
posted by MuffinMan at 6:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

I think a piece of custom designed jewelry that is unique but classic - not "Trendy". Something that she can keep wearing for the next thirty years without it looking odd, but that she can always remember that she got it from you for her thirtieth birthday.
posted by corb at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2012

Heh. I'm in the same boat, more or less, with my sweetheart about to turn 30.

I'm planning a weekend of festivities for her. Three other special people in her life are flying in and she does not know about that.

I'm giving her some nice gifts, mostly focused around remembering a really great trip that we took in the past year. For part of it, we were in Paris, where she fell in love with macarons, so I'm getting her a nice framed print of macarons - a bit of household decoration but it will remind her of our terrific trip. And, I'm recording her a song. Hopefully it won't suck.

And, I'm planning a weekend-long B&B getaway for us a month later, to make up for the fact that we probably won't get much alone time on her birthday weekend.
posted by entropone at 6:49 AM on November 13, 2012

I bought myself pearl studs for my 30th: they're a classic, grown-up piece of jewelry that are nearly always situation appropriate. So if she doesn't already have a pair, and you have the budget, I'd recommend that.
posted by smirkette at 6:51 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Almost 30 here. Chiming in to agree that I would love a weekend away or a special dinner! (Cool jewelry is a bonus. Also, ask her friends for tips on her taste if you aren't sure).
posted by murfed13 at 6:53 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I turned 30 last year, and my partner got me a canoe trip through a cool company. We'd both been wanting to learn to canoe camp, and it was cool to have that experience for the first time in the year I turned 30. My birthday is in the winter so the trip wasn't for a few months afterwards, but it was fun to look forward to.

All that to say that I endorse the idea of an experience gift, particularly if there's something that she's been wanting to do or try that would make it memorable to do around this milestone birthday.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2012

I got the special dinner down already, that was a given. :) I/we can't afford to travel right now as she just got back from travelling.

@corb, I like that idea since I was thinking jewelry, but what? Where can I find something unique online?

She wears rings and loves to shop for those that asked. Sounds like every woman, I know. :P
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 7:07 AM on November 13, 2012

We booked a holiday for my 30th - I'd always wanted to go to Scandinavia, so we went. Choosing an expensive country to go on holiday to meant we didn't have to think about presents, and I avoided the oh-my-god-I'm-30 solipsism. I have a lot of stuff, so it's nice that my memory of turning 30 is the two of us taking a ferry across the archipelago and giggling about how cold it was, rather than an expensive gift.

If you can't afford or don't want to go away somewhere, experiences over stuff wins, I reckon.
posted by mippy at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2012

Oh - for my 26th, my SO got me a necklace from MadeByMolecules. It has a significant meaning for me because he chose serotonin - it's an unusual design but it's also signifying happiness. I have worn it every day in the four years since.
posted by mippy at 7:10 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

While I think it's kind of an economic-bracket thing, I actually had a couple discussions recently about being unmarried (and not intending to become so in the near future), in your early 30s, and the specter of that KitchenAid Mixer that pretty much everyone we know who *did* get married in their 20s put onto their registries and yet is really hard to justify just going out and buying for no reason. Obviously very specific to our situation; I also know there are plenty of people who aren't in the economic position where that's quite the same Big Deal as it is for the crowd I went to school with. But if you guys are comfortably in a LTR without marriage being on the horizon (and you're both okay with that), this might be a good time to look into one of those big grown-up household purchases, depending on her personal tastes. I know other people for whom it was something like a very nice espresso machine, or a down duvet.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:11 AM on November 13, 2012

My best friend got me a custom painting of myself as a zombie for my 30th, which I absolutely love, along with a set of vintage My Little Ponies her mom found in the attic. These are not exactly the most mainstream ides, but they meant a lot to me because of who I am, so custom stuff is always great, as is anything with a high nostalgia level.
posted by picklesthezombie at 7:14 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm also staying away from rings, saving that for something special next year. (wink)
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unique jewelry: Catbird
posted by murfed13 at 7:20 AM on November 13, 2012

Actually, riffing off picklethezombie-- I think a fabulous gift would be artwork for the home. It's one of those non-necessities that can make a really thoughtful and long lasting gift.
posted by murfed13 at 7:24 AM on November 13, 2012

I think bracelets are a good go-to piece of jewelry: they're easy to wear with anything. As for what kind of bracelet, that depends on her tastes. A couple questions for you to consider (even if you don't answer them here):

- How often does she currently wear jewelry, and how much of it?
- Does she have pieces that she wears every day/most days, or does she rotate?
- Does she wear more silver or gold? Gemstones of any sort? Unusual materials like wood, leather, or plastic?
- Is the jewelry she wears usually bold or delicate?
- What colors does she wear most often?
- Do you know her favorite artists? Favorite clothing stores? Does she have any geeky fandoms? What kind of shoes does she like to wear?

Etc., etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:28 AM on November 13, 2012

One more thing and I'll leave: if you go with jewelry, don't put it in anything that resembles a ring box. I've seen one too many birthdays go sour that way. Also, don't awkwardly scream "it's not what you think it is" as she's opening it.
posted by murfed13 at 7:33 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

One thing I did for a friend was get 30 items, things a person would like, but may not have.

-A liquid eye mask you can put in the fridge or microwave
-Bubble gum
-A pretty scarf
-Massage oil
-Nail polish
-L'Occitane hand lotion
-Mickey Mouse Watch
-High End hot chocolate
-McDonalds Arch Card
-Fancy Room Spray
-Pretty nightie
-Hilarious panties

Then I wrapped each one and put them in a huge box. I wrote a couplet for each item.

Lipid pools and oh so wise,
This will ease your clear blue eyes. (soft brown eyes, bright green eyes...)

Nothing big, nothing over the top, but everything fun.

Let me tell you, it was so fun to watch the unwrapping and she liked everything I selected. I got most of the stuff at Marshalls/Ross/TJ Maxx.

I also had fun picking out the stuff and writing the verse. It really shows that you put the time into her birthday and gave it lots and lots of thought.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you go the jewelry route, Digby and Iona has some beautiful things with a quirky twist. I love their moveable parts line and the War of 1812, though obviously it depends on her taste. Would definitely second the "put it in a different box than a ring box" idea if you go that route.

(But also the idea to go for a KitchenAid mixer if she doesn't have/likes baking is genius!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:59 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, you could get really nice diamond (or a colored stone, like emeralds) stud earrings. Kate Spade used to have some fun rough-cut lapis lazuli studs set in gold. Classic, extremely useful if she's the kind of person to wear stud earrings, etc. If she's more of a classic fashionista, you could think about a vintage Ferragamo or Hermes scarf.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:12 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just a week or so ago bought 30th birthday presents for my wife.
I couldn't think of anything really suitable, so in the end what I did was buy a load of (about 40ish) very cheap presents in an attempt to fully sum up all of her interests and personality.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:13 AM on November 13, 2012

A warning that the KitchenAid mixer could potentially backfire - particularly for a big birthday. There's a certain moment when you stop getting purely beautiful moments and start getting practical presents, and that transition may ultimately be good, but it's kind of a shocker all the same. Combining it with the thirtieth birthday might be hard.
posted by corb at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it's really taste-dependent, though. I would be pretty horrified if someone bought me a Hermes scarf, as a) it's HOW MUCH for a piece of material, what if I spill mayonnaise on it, and b) I don;'t wear that kind of scarf and it would make me sad to receive something pretty but not useful to me. I also wouldn't be a big fan of diamonds, as they're not very interesting to me and seem to be popular thanks to being really well-marketed as a luxury product. But I'm aware that's an unusual opinion and a lot of people love them. I would rather have received a sewing machine or Kindle, if I didn't have them.

Having said that, since turning 30 I've started seeing the point of scented candles.
posted by mippy at 8:57 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my boyfriend turned 30, in his card I included a list of 30 things I love about him. Cheesy, yes, but he really liked it - made him feel special.

Whatever you decide to give her/do for her, I'd also write her a love letter or a list of 30 things you love about her, something heartfelt. On nice paper. It'll become a keepsake, something she may hold onto for years to come.
posted by ergo at 9:24 AM on November 13, 2012

You might try Etsy, both for unusual jewelry and/or for keepsake gifts. I'm particularly amazed by the ones that use papercraft (you could involve texts that matter to you, and end up with some art that she would keep and remember), but you could pick something that seems to reflect her tastes -- driftwood, wine barrels, beach pebbles, satin ribbon -- and get more options than you can sort through.
posted by acm at 9:31 AM on November 13, 2012

For my 30th birthday my boyfriend (now fiance) didn't give me anything, but he threw me the most amazing glow-in-the-dark party ever! He special ordered blinking light-up cups for everyone and replaced all the lightbulbs in the house with black light lightbulbs. All the guests wore white and there were glowsticks and basically everything was just GLOWING! And then to top it off, one of my friends brought me fireworks as my gift that we set off in the yard that night. It was one of the most amazing nights ever, and it showed me how well he knows me because I really love glow in the dark and glow sticks and all that kind of stuff. I always have, and he knew that so he decided to give me my ultimate dream of an entire night of glowy things. Best present ever.

So my suggestion is to nail down your girlfriends biggest guiltiest pleasure and then take it to the MAX.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh yea, one friend threw another a "this is your life" type surprise 30th bday party that involved a very elaborate scavenger hunt for all of her friends. Definitely not my cup of tea, but she dug it.
posted by murfed13 at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2012

She wears rings and loves to shop for those that asked. Sounds like every woman, I know. :P

Eh, not really.

If you're looking for jewelry, call a friend of hers or her mother or her sister or someone and ask for help! If you're not the sort of person who has an eye for these things, don't be too proud to ask for help.

I think jewelry is a great gift for "special occaisions" because it lasts a long time. Does your girlfriend wear necklaces or bracelets? I agree that a ring box might be a weird, confusing gift now, especially if you're planning on proposing in the near future.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2012

Agree that if there's any chance she wants to be married or is thinking it's on the cards, giving her a ring box that doesn't have an engagement ring in it could backfire spectacularly. Ask me how I know. A custom made zombie painting on the other hand (My, what I would give for that!) of something similarly unique to her tastes would be amazing.
posted by Jubey at 3:09 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hot air balloon ride
Semi-Precious (Sapphire / Emerald / Ruby) earrings / bracelet / necklace. You could pick her birthstone, make sure its in the same gold / silver that she usually wears to match her other jewellery.
Weekend away somewhere romantic including dinner & a massage (from you!).
Kitchen-aid mixer is a brilliant idea if she loves cooking & doesn't have one.
Make sure you throw some yummy french champagne into the mix on the day.

I also think if you go for the weekend or night away you still need to get her something of a keepsake gift.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:20 PM on November 13, 2012

I heard she'd like an iPad 3.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:06 PM on November 13, 2012

Good ideas all round. I think earrings of some sort and a written something are the best ideas yet.
posted by Mr_Thirdworld at 7:10 PM on November 14, 2012

I was given a walking stick for my 30th. It still makes me smile.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2012

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