Birthday Wall of Honor is a Favorite Family Tradition

One of our family’s favorite traditions started with a 40th birthday, party invitations, and a blank wall.

Six photos in a grid that honor the birthday person in our family.

I was throwing a birthday bash for my hubby, James, and I’d planned original invitations (you know, a made-of-paper, put-in-the-mail-with-a-stamp kind of thing) with a nod to artist Andy Warhol: six prints of the same photo, each in different, contrasting colors, lined up in a grid. As per the norm for this couple, I’m vision and James is execution, so he created the appropriate images with a lot of “No, I see them looking like this…” and “Try this color…” direction. The results were fabulous; the invitations, perfect. Teamwork on three!

Now, we’d moved into a much larger, beautiful new house with lots of wall space for art.

Really big wall space.  And multiple really big walls.

One particular wall, just outside the kitchen, was bothersomely blank.

As the party loomed, I had another idea–why not hang those amazingly colored, fun photos from those super cool invitations as party decoration?

To match the clean lines of our house and highlight the images, I bought six simple, inexpensive matching black 8×10-inch frames, each with an ecru mat.

Disassembled picture frame with mat and photo for family Birthday Wall.
These inexpensive frames probably came from Target. I removed the stand from the back so they’d lay flat against the wall. It’s a bit of a trick to hang them (key: listen for the nail slipping into the triangle hanger). Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Voilà! Hung in two rows of three, those framed photos created an homage to hubby and Warhol in one inexpensive piece of collective art.

Six photos of the same person in a variety of colors.
Those original six photos. It’s the same photo in different colors, reproduced on plain printer paper. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Hubby may kill me for this revelation, but that party was 16 years ago. Those frames remained on that wall and we began substituting new and various photos to mark special occasions. A tradition developed–each family Birthday Boy or Girl was honored with a selection devoted purely to him or her. Part of the yearly fun was coming downstairs in the morning to discover just what photos (and in what combinations) marked your special day. Or arriving home from school or work to discover a surprise shout-out, wall-style.

Six photos arranged in a grid celebrating daughter's birthday.
Photos are changed out for birthdays. It’s always fun to pick out which images to group together to celebrate that special person (here, our daughter Liz). Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

When we moved five years ago, one of the first things installed in the new house was–you guessed it–those six simple frames. Oh, yeah; we’d considered what constituted the perfect location when we remodeled. There are, however, no longer any kids at this house; our three have all become adults, happily and productively living on their own. That doesn’t make them any less my babies; I still update the wall for birthdays. Only nowadays, I photograph the photos on the wall–meta, huh?–to text or post so that, no matter how far away, our children know Mom and Dad are celebrating them. Still.

Collection of file folders holding photos for use in Birthday Wall framesWe’ve amassed a truly staggering number of these Wall of Honor photos. They’re printed on photo-quality paper and sorted into file folders by theme. Every family member has a folder (ironically, mine is probably the slenderest); even pets have theirs, and don’t get me started on what weird treasures reside in the “RANDOM” file!

In between those special birthday dates, photos change. There’ve been all kinds of Wall of Honor iterations, celebrating whatever needs attention: long-time friends at New Year’s Eve, our new “We’re Thankful” November pig roast, group family gatherings, the current year’s holiday card. You name it, we frame it.

Fun photos of family pets with cute captions
The family photo wall is often fun; I have no idea who created these pet images, complete with captions, or why. James? Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler


I imagine that, one day, when James and I are gone, our children will fight over who inherits this family treasure (kids, SHARE; each of you take two frames and get those photos reprinted). My fond hope? That some day, I’ll walk into their homes to discover a Wall of Honor celebrating our past tradition and new memories being made.

Six photos in a grid that honor the birthday person in our family.
Happy birthday, honey! This is James’ 2017 birthday wall. He’s aged well, hasn’t he? Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

A Wall of Honor Update: Mixtiles

I just discovered Mixtiles, an app which prints photos from an Instagram account onto 8×8-inch tiles (less than 1-inch thick) that are delivered to your home. Hubby and I recently took a really wonderful selfie in Seattle, so I’m giving it a try–I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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