What to Write in a Birthday Card

Send happy birthday wishes with these message ideas from Hallmark writers

By Keely Chace
Birthday wishes: what to write in a birthday card

When it comes to signing birthday cards, there are people who have no problem picking up a pen and adding a warm, personal message. Then there are the rest of us—the inspiration-challenged—who sometimes have trouble getting beyond “Happy Birthday.” Wherever you fall on that inspiration spectrum, we have ideas to help you bulk up, mix up and spice up what you write.

In this guide, Hallmark writers offer birthday-message tips and inspiration organized by what you want to say, how much you want to say, whom your card is for, and more. We also share expertise tailored to special occasions and situations, such as milestone and belated birthdays.

Just click on the appropriate category below to go straight to the birthday wishes you’re interested in, or you can read the whole guide and mix and match to create a custom message for your birthday person. Either way, we hope this little guide helps with the next birthday card you sign…and many more!

What to write in a Birthday cardHappy Birthday Wishes

When the card has already said it all or you just feel like keeping things short and sweet, a straightforward “Happy Birthday” message might be the way to go. Here are some ideas for adding a little extra warmth and personality to this mighty little wish.


  • “Happy, happy birthday, [Margie]!”
  • “Happy Birthday! I hope you get to do something fun to celebrate!”
  • “Happy Birthday and a very happy year to come!”
  • “Happy Birthday…Happy brand-new-year-of-you…”
  • “[Aaron], hope you have a happy [27th]! Love ya!”
  • “The happiest of birthdays to the [loveliest] of [daughters].”
  • “Happy birthday with lots of love,”
  • “Warmest wishes for a happy birthday,”

Writing tip: If the card already has “Happy Birthday” printed, follow it with ellipses (…) and add to the happy birthday wish.

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Wishes for the Day

A wish for a fun, memorable birthday is a nice choice whether it’s coming from across the miles or across the table at the birthday person’s favorite restaurant.


  • “Hope today’s filled with all your favorite guilty pleasures!”
  • “Eat. Drink. Drink a little more. Then take a nap. That’s what I’d suggest if you wanna have a really great birthday. :)”
  • “Hope you make your [25th] a birthday to remember!”
  • “Wishing you good friends, big laughs, spicy wings and lots of ’em on your birthday!”
  • “Hope your day is as sweet, fun and all-around amazing as you are!”
  • “Today is all yours! We hope it’s great!”

Writing tip: One Hallmark writer said she chooses her cards very carefully for each birthday person so that she doesn’t have to add much in the way of a personal message. In other words, it’s fine to let the printed message and design do most of the talking for you. Even professional writers do it!

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Wishes for the Year

Especially for close friends or family members, you might want to make a wish, not just for a happy day, but for a happy, successful next-year-of-their-life. You can keep your wish general, or include specific things the birthday person loves to do or goals he or she hopes to achieve.

More general examples

  • “Here’s to another year of living your dreams. Cheers!”
  • “Here’s wishing you another stupendous year on this planet.”
  • “You deserve everything happy. Wishing you that all year long!”
  • “Hope this year is your most laughter-, adventure-, and fun-filled yet!”
  • “Know what I think you deserve this year? Every single thing you want.”
  • “Couldn’t resist this little puppy. I hope you feel the way he looks all day long. Just tail-waggingly ecstatic to be alive in the big, beautiful world. That’s the whole kind of year I wish you.” *

More specific examples

  • “Happy [41st]! May this be the year you finally take that fishing trip to Canada! Make it happen!”
  • “Wishing you a happy birthday and another strong, healthy year! You already look amazing. I’ll be cheering you on as you keep working toward your goal.”
  • “Go forth from this birthday and prosper in your [ukulele playing]!”

Writing tip: If you often have a hard time deciding what to write, then choose a card with a fun photo or design you can comment on or a printed message that leads you naturally into your own personal message. *As an example, this personal message refers to a photo of a puppy on the card’s cover.

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A birthday is the perfect occasion to tell people they’re great, and a birthday card is an ideal vehicle for delivering admiring words. You can be more expressive in a card than in conversation—without distressing a birthday person who may be easily embarrassed by face-to-face compliments.


  • “Another year older, and you just keep getting stronger, wiser, funnier and more amazing all around!”
  • “Here’s to another year of wonderful you.”
  • “You’re one tough cookie. Celebrating you!”
  • “Celebrating another wild and wonderful year of you.”
  • “You should be getting paid for how good you look. Seriously.”
  • “You could run circles around most people half your age, but you’re way too nice to show them up like that.”
  • “Don’t think about anything today but having a good time—and of course, soaking up the compliments that will be coming from everybody. You deserve them!”
  • “Every time I get down about the world, I remember there are people like you, going around being good in the world and counteracting the dark forces. You should be on a sci-fi show or something, being the super-powered opposite of evil. Happy Birthday and long may you shine!”

Writing tip: One Hallmark writer said he likes to imagine he’s toasting the birthday person when he’s signing the card. Consider lifting your imaginary glass to see what warm compliments and big wishes come to mind!

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Love & Gratitude

Birthdays are for reminding the important people in our lives that we love them and are super-grateful that, on this day years ago, they were born. This will probably come naturally when it’s your mom or your significant other celebrating a birthday. But even if it’s the brother you normally punch in the arm to let him know you love him, make his birthday the one day a year when you put it in writing.


  • “Happy Birthday to one of my favorite people in the history of ever.”
  • “Thanks for being here, for being you.”
  • “I’m so glad you’re on this earth.”
  • “I hope you feel loved and appreciated today. Because you are.”
  • “Thanks for being wonderful. Thanks for being you.”
  • “With love that will never stop growing,”
  • “Love you oodles and oodles.”
  • “With warmest wishes and love on your birthday and always,”

Writing tip: One Hallmark writer has adopted her mother’s custom of signing her cards to her children and grandchildren with “Oceans of love,”. Consider creating a signature closing that you always use in cards to your special people.

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Let's Celebrate

The birthday person should live a little on their day, right? You can use your personal message to encourage them to let their hair down—or to let them know you look forward to letting your hair down alongside them!


  • “So happy to be celebrating your [28th] with you!”
  • “Woot! Woot! Thanks for giving me an excuse to eat cake and drink martinis!”
  • “Do any damn thing you want to today!”
  • "Can’t wait to celebrate with you and ‘Rita’! (Salt or no salt for you?)”
  • “Go a little wild on your birthday! You have my blessing.”
  • “Here’s to you on your birthday, [Alex]! I hope you’re doing it up big!”

Writing tip: Are you the artistic type? Even if the best you can do is a stick person in a party hat, an original drawing somewhere in the signature space can add a fun, personal touch to your birthday wish.

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Sharing Wisdom

If you’re a little (or a lot) older than the birthday person and care to share what you’ve learned through the years, then, by all means, let the wisdom pour forth from your pen!


  • “It’s hard to believe you’re turning [20]! Be smart, be safe, have fun, take pictures, and enjoy every minute of this exciting time in your life!”
  • “Just remember birthdays aren’t about numbers. Birthdays are about our chance to celebrate you and tell you how much we love you! Have a great one!”
  • “I hope you enjoy being [40]! That was a while ago for me, but I do remember this: It was great…and it just kept getting better from there. On your birthday, that’s what I’m wishing for you, too.”
  • “Time to celebrate! We can still dance the night away at our age—we just need to invest in some gel insoles first.”
  • “Wishing you a happy birthday and a year of being good to yourself, embracing life’s joys and realizing that the best is truly yet to come!”

Writing tip: You could also share your wisdom in list form: “Five things I’ve learned about growing older…”

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Sharing Laughs

Birthdays and laughter go together like frosting and sprinkles! If you know the birthday person pretty well, then inside jokes, lighthearted wishes and good-natured teasing are all fair game.


  • “I think you’re officially vintage now!”
  • “Welcome to the age of ear hair!”
  • “Happy act-your-shoe-size day!”
  • “Happy Birthday to a [brother] who always keeps me laughing (about 99% WITH you and 1% AT you).”
  • “Remember: Middle-age memory = No regrets.”
  • “Party ’til you’re pooped! (At our age, it shouldn’t take long.)”
  • “I hope your birthday spanking is delivered by a combination of [Matt Damon, George Clooney and Brad Pitt]. If you’re not into spanking, forget I said anything. Just have a very happy birthday!”
  • “A wise poet once said, ‘What is time? All is meaningless, especially how many candles on thy cake. Age and numbers can biteth me!’ OK, maybe that was me instead of a wise poet.”

Writing tip: You have to know people pretty well to poke fun at them in a card. If you’re not sure, then stick with more general humor that makes light of something other than the birthday person’s age, personality or appearance.

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Sharing Faith

If your faith is a natural part of the way you look at life and relationships, then write from the heart and let it show in the way you sign a birthday card.


  • “God bless you on your birthday.”
  • “So grateful that God put you on this earth and in my life.”
  • “Wishing you a happy birthday and a year that’s blessed.”
  • “Happy Birthday to a [son] who is such a blessing to us every day.”
  • “Lifting you up in prayer on your birthday. Asking God to give you a sweet day and a year filled with joy.”
  • “I am not that good of a Christian, but when I see someone like you, providing a living example, it really helps. I think God wanted me to get to know someone like you, so I could see how it’s done day by day. You are such an inspiration to me. Thanks for being my friend.”

Writing tip: Unless you have reason to believe the recipient would be offended, there’s no need to shy away from mentioning God, prayers or blessings in what you write.

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Sharing Memories

Show the birthday person how well you know them by sharing a highlight from the past year of their life…or a story from way back when.


  • “There are a lot of highlights from your year of being [33], but if I had to choose just one, it would definitely be [your one-handed cartwheel when you spoke at chapel]! So awesome! Wishing you many more moments like that as a [strong, acrobatic woman of 34]!”
  • “Wow! So much has happened for you since your last birthday. You [moved to a great new house, finished your M.B.A. and became a dad to the world’s most adorable baby]. You’re officially on a roll, birthday [boy]! Hope the next year of your life is just as eventful and happy!”
  • “Remember how over the moon you were on your [6th] birthday when [Dad wheeled in your new blue bike]? I hope this birthday finds you smiling just as big.”
  • “I’m thinking about your last birthday. I seriously recommend celebrating any way but THAT!”
  • “Hope your birthday is as fun as those middle-school slumber parties back in the day! Minus [Kristi Sears’ screaming]. Plus [wine].”

Writing tip: When sharing a memory, you can open up a conversation by asking if the birthday person remembers the story or event quite like you do. It can be fun to discover details you, or they, weren’t even aware of.

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Sharing Quotes

If you have some favorite words about living well or growing older, why not quote them when you sign a birthday card? The quote doesn’t have to relate specifically to birthdays or aging. Anything you think would be fun, inspiring or meaningful for the birthday person is a good bet!


  • ‘I celebrate myself and sing myself’
    — Walt Whitman
    It’s your birthday—party like Walt would!”
  • ‘I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.’
    — Coco Chanel
    Stay young at heart! Happy Birthday!”
  • ‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be…’
    — Robert Browning
    How I love growing older with you.”
  • ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream…’
    — C.S. Lewis
    From one dreamer to another, Happy Birthday!”

Writing tip: You can draw quotations from favorite books, poetry, songs, movie dialogue and more. Pinterest is another good source. Search “quotes” or “quotations”…or, if you’re in a hurry, check out my Good Words board.

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Milestone Birthday

The milestone birthday person might not wake up feeling like this birthday is particularly special or different from any other. So, it’s your job to let him or her know what a big deal it is to have a nice, round-number birthday!


  • “[50] never looked so great!”
  • “Happy Birthday, [Jared]! Now that you’ve arrived here, [40] will never be the same again!”
  • “Turning [60] is big! Especially when it’s someone like you, who has made the most of each year and made such a positive difference for the people in your life.”
  • “[30] is quite possibly the perfect age. You’re old enough to afford the good shoes and still young enough to kick up your heels!”
  • “Happy [90th] Birthday, [Nana Betty]! Today, we’re celebrating the amazing [woman] you are, honoring the life you’ve lived and, just like always, loving you so much!”

Writing tip: Ages 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95 and 100 are traditionally considered milestones. Cards specific to these birthdays will feature the age number prominently in their design, but you can make any card a milestone card (or any birthday a milestone birthday) by writing that shiny new age number somewhere in your personal message.

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Late really is better than never! If life, memory lapse or alien abduction has interfered with the timely delivery of your card, send it anyway. You can include a sincere or humorous apology…or just frame it as your way of extending the birthday fun!


  • “So sorry these birthday wishes are late reaching you. I hope it was happy!”
  • “Happy Birthday…a little late!”
  • “You’re receiving this NOW and not on your ACTUAL birthday, because I am extremely thoughtful and wanted to be sure the celebration of YOU was not limited to just one day. That is so nice of me, right? Well, you are worth it.”
  • “At least my Happy Birthday text was on time. That counts for something, right? ☺ Happy Belated Birthday!”
  • “I don’t know where my head was but I forgot your birthday! Until now! I’m glad I finally remembered because it gives me a chance to say how great I think you are (and stand out from the vast crowd who said it on the right day!). You’re amazing and awesome, and I hope you have a great ALL YEAR.”

Writing tip: Cards made specifically for belated birthdays are good for when you remember the birthday after the fact. However, if you already have the card but just didn’t get it delivered on time, stick with what you’ve got. You can mention its lateness in your personal message—or not. It’s really your call.

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Difficult Time

Birthdays are happy occasions that sometimes fall during tough times due to illness, job loss, bereavement or other challenging circumstances. Here are some ideas for letting the birthday person know you’re still thinking of them and celebrating them even in the midst of a difficult year.


  • “I know you’ve had some real challenges this year, and it has been great to see how well you have met them.”
  • “What a year. You made it! Let’s celebrate THAT!”
  • “Life owes you some really good times. Hope they start right now.”
  • “You’ve had more than your share of challenges this year—hope this will feel like a brand-new year of better days.”
  • “I hope this next year is gentle and sweet to you and gives you lots of reasons to smile and lots of time to rest.”

Writing tip: Humor can be a great day-brightener even in the midst of a hard time. If you know the birthday person appreciates a good laugh, feel free to choose a funny card and/or add a humorous personal message.

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To Family

Chances are, your family members will be getting a lot of birthday cards from you through the years, so you can mix it up and write a longer personal message some years and a shorter message others. Love, compliments and warm wishes all work nicely for family. So do “Proud of you” and “I’m glad we’re family” messages.


  • “Happy Birthday, [Mom]. We love you so much!”
  • “Every year, I’m even more grateful to have a [brother] like you.”
  • “We still remember the first time we laid eyes on you—on this day [23] years ago. You were so beautiful right from the start, and with every year, you grow even more beautiful. Hope you know how much we love you and how grateful we are to call you our [daughter].”
  • “So proud of the person you are! So happy we’re family.”
  • “To my hero…my dad!”
  • “I am just so in awe and so proud of the person you are…and so proud to call you my [sister].”
  • “Well, [Grandpa], another year has gone by, and I still haven’t come across anyone wiser, kinder, more generous or better at [checkers] than you. You’re the best—always!”

Writing tip: If your card isn’t specific to your family relationship with the recipient, include it in your personal message. You can either address the recipient by the title you use for them (Nana, Pop-Pop, Aunt Suzie, etc.), or mention the relationship (sister, cousin, etc.) somewhere in your message.

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To Friend

Sometimes you just want to tell someone, “Thanks for being a good friend.” A birthday is a great reason to do just that.


  • “Happy Birthday to a friend I couldn’t live without!”
  • “In case I don’t tell you often enough, I really treasure your friendship. And I’m so grateful for all you bring to my life!”
  • “If life were a sitcom, you’d be the witty, glamorous friend and I’d be the dorky sidekick. And I don’t mind that at all. You really ARE all that, and I’m glad to be your friend. I hope you have a GREAT birthday.”
  • “This getting older stuff isn’t for sissies. Glad I have a friend like you to go first!”
  • “It just occurred to me that we really are becoming OLD friends. So glad we are.”
  • “Love you, my sweet friend. Happy Birthday.”

Writing tip: If you’ve chosen a blank or just-for-fun card simply because you know your friend would like it, you can easily make it a birthday card by mentioning birthday somewhere in your personal message. Friendship is flexible like that!

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To Child

If you don’t like to write a lot on a birthday card, then send more cards to kids, because even those who have learned to read are often too excited to sit through a very long message. Just keep it short, sweet and fun, and your card will be a hit with the birthday kid.


  • “[7] years awesome! That’s you!”
  • “All hail the birthday princess! Have a royally sweet [5th], [Ella]!”
  • “Yay! You’re [4] today! Love you, big [4]-year-old!”
  • “Happy Birthday to our new favorite [6]-year-old!”
  • “[Colette], you’re getting to be such a big [girl]! Happy [3rd] Birthday, Sweetheart. We love you!”
  • “[Elliott]! How can you be [9] already? Why, just yesterday, you were [8]. Oh, well. Have a happy one, birthday boy!”
  • “[Tyler], I’ve got a feeling you’re going to make a pretty amazing [11]-year-old. Happy Birthday!”
  • “Hope this whole exciting year of being [13] kicks off with a very fun, very happy birthday!”

Writing tip: Some adults might not want to be reminded of their new age, but kids will love seeing that you know exactly how old they are now! If it’s not already printed on the card, be sure to write the birthday kid’s age somewhere in your message.

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To Co-worker

Let your relationship guide you when signing a birthday card for a co-worker. If it’s someone you’re close to, you can be as casual in your message as you would with nonwork friends. If it’s your supervisor or someone with whom you have a relationship that’s more strictly about work, then keep your message more formal.


  • “Happy Birthday and all the best to you in the year to come!”
  • “It’s a pleasure to work with you and a joy to wish you a happy birthday!”
  • “[Karen], all work and no play makes us dull girls, so whatever you do, don’t work too hard on your birthday. Hope it’s happy!”
  • “Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for baking you that carrot cake in the break room. Fortunately, I can totally have a slice in your honor. Yum…and Happy Birthday!”
  • “You make work a lot less like work and more like a caring community. Thanks for all you do!”

Writing tip: Do resist any urge to talk shop when signing a birthday card for a co-worker. Your card is a place for official birthday business only.

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From All

Here are some ideas for when you’re the umpteenth person to sign the birthday card, and all the obvious messages (and most of the space) have already been taken.


  • “Celebrating you!”
  • “Happy day!”
  • “I salute you.”
  • “Birthday cheers!”
  • “Birthday hugs!”
  • “Let the b-day fun begin!”
  • “Let us eat cake!”
  • “Have a sweet one!”
  • “Huzzah to you on your birthday!”
  • “Be so happy.”
  • “Happy Birthday & Happy Year!”
  • “Happy wishes to you!”
  • “YES to party hats!”
  • “…and many more.”
  • “Another year more wonderful!”
  • “You’re awesome!”
  • “You’re the best!”
  • “You look great!”
  • “U look 2 good 2 B this old!”
  • “Can’t believe you’re a year older!”
  • “Here’s to you!”
  • "Here’s to a great birthday!”
  • “Make a wish!”
  • “Wish for something good!”
  • “Whatever you wish, I second that!”
  • “Party on!”
  • “Stay cool.”
  • “Stay sweet!”
  • “Honored to wish you a happy birthday!”
  • “¡Salud! ¡Dinero! ¡Amor!” (Spanish for “health, money, love”)
  • “Love you!”

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Warm Closings

A warm closing before your signature is like the bow on top of the birthday gift. Choose one of ours, or come up with one of your own.

  • Warmly,
  • Love,
  • With love,
  • Lots of love,
  • Love always,
  • Much love to you,
  • All my love,
  • Best wishes!
  • Best wishes on your birthday and always,
  • All life’s best to you,
  • Happy Birthday!
  • Wishing you happiness,
  • Warmest wishes,
  • Gratefully,
  • Blessings,
  • God bless,
  • Hugs and kisses,

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Keely Chace is a Hallmark writer and mother of two. When she isn't busy writing cards, she reads, runs, brushes up on long division and listens to lots of piano practice.

Additional contributions from Ellen Brenneman, Jim Cosgrove, Kevin Dilmore, Jeannie Hund, Diana Manning, Katherine Stano and Melissa Woo.