Turning 40 is a milestone that definitely deserves its moment in the spotlight. But it’s one of those life events that’s very personal, and exactly how we want to mark the occasion is a very individual choice, too. The party animals among us might want to go big with an all-out 40th birthday shindig, while others will prefer a more low-key gathering, or will even forgo a formal celebration altogether in favour of a simple day out or unique memento.
That’s why we’ve pulled together this selection of ideas (40, in fact!) for celebrating, marking or simply acknowledging a 40th birthday. Our suggestions range from 40th birthday party themes to 40th birthday gifts for him and her that are guaranteed to become keepsakes.
So, whether you’re approaching your own big FOUR-OH, planning a surprise celebration for a loved one, or you’re in search of a 40th birthday present for that special man or woman in your life, we’ve got you covered.
1. Throw a festival-themed party
What could be more memorable than marking your 40th birthday with a festival-themed party featuring all your favourite things?
This idea is especially perfect for summer-born quadragenarians, and it can actually be a really cost-effective 40th birthday party, too – think straw bales for seating, a traditional barbecue for the food and your trusty smart speaker as DJ! You could even come up with your own festival name for the invitations. How about FortyFest, Birthdaybury, or [InsertYourName]stock?
If you’ve been invited to a festival-themed 40th and you need some 40th birthday gift inspiration, check out this retro-style customised Birthday Top 40 print. You can populate it with their favourite 40 songs of all time, top picks from their party playlist or all the songs that have been at number one in the charts on their birthday. It’s sure to be a hit!
2. See some live music
Continuing the music theme, there’s nothing quite like seeing your favourite band or musician play live. So, if they happen to be on tour in the same year you’re turning 40, consider it a sign from the universe to get those tickets booked.
3. Book a box at the theatre
Whether it’s The West End, Broadway or your local theatre, seeing a play or a musical is always a special experience – especially when shared with your favourite people. Make it even more unforgettable by booking a box and getting all glammed up for a truly unique 40th birthday celebration.
4. Turn life into art
Personalised wall art has been trending for years now, and it’s always a thoughtful gift idea for special occasions. But if you want something a bit quirky that’s personalised with more than just words, check out our 40th birthday silhouette print. We’ll create a completely unique art print featuring the birthday boy or girl doing something they love (with the addition of illustrated 40 balloons to mark the milestone). It’s a work of art they’ll gaze fondly upon forever.
5. Host a Birth-Year Party
Looking for a theme for your 40th birthday party but don’t want to spend hours searching for decorations or scouring the internet for costumes? Keep it simple by making it all about the year you were born. You could invite guests to come dressed as someone or something associated with that year, serve retro nibbles and create a playlist entirely of music from that era. If you’re hosting the party at home, add a couple of bespoke ‘made in year’ cushions for extra wow factor. Available in a gorgeous selection of colours, they’re sure to be a real talking point at your party – but better still, they’ll be a treasured addition to your home decor for years to come.
6. Take on a birthday challenge
If parties aren’t your thing but you love a challenge, why not celebrate turning 40 with some kind of achievement or project instead? You could run a marathon, take part in a triathlon or come up with your own 40-themed challenge, such as undertaking 40 dares, carrying out 40 acts of kindness or visiting 40 new places in 40 days! You could even give it a charitable twist by asking friends and family to sponsor you instead of buying gifts.
7. Volunteer for a good cause
Acts of kindness are scientifically proven to boost happiness – not just for the recipient of the act, but the giver too. If there’s a local cause close to your heart, why not get a group of friends together and volunteer to help out? It might just be your happiest birthday yet.
8. A night at the movies
If you’re a film buff, your idea of a perfect 40th birthday celebration might be your very own home-cinema event. This is a great idea if you want a family-friendly celebration that will be enjoyed by young and old alike! Bring cinema vibes to your lounge by drawing the curtains or blinds, hiring a popcorn machine and serving hotdogs (or posh dogs if that’s more your style!) before the film starts. You could even go old-school and include an interval complete with ice cream! And if you really want to give your guests the VIP treatment, check out these personalised velvet cushions.
9. Enjoy some YOU time
We hear so much about self-care these days, but so few of us actually make it a priority. Well, if ever there’s a time to change that, it’s when you’re celebrating a milestone birthday. Clear your diary, switch off your phone and savour a solo spa day or a weekend retreat – whatever it takes to properly recharge your batteries as your 40th birthday gift to yourself.
10. Buy that thing you REALLY want
And when we say want, we mean WANT – not need! All too often, we feel guilty about spending money on something that’s purely about pleasure rather than practicality. No more! That handbag you’ve had your eye on for years? Add it to cart. The killer heels you’ll probably wear once in a blue moon? Go for it. You only turn 40 once and if you can’t truly treat yourself now, when can you?
11. Book a skydive…
…or a bungee jump, hot-air balloon ride or racing-car track day. Choose something memorable that will get the adrenaline going and push you out of your comfort zone. There’s nothing like it for making you feel alive!
12. Take a trip down memory lane
Many people get reflective around milestone birthdays, so why mark your 40th birthday by basking in the glow of childhood memories and treasured times? You could visit the town you grew up in, go back to somewhere you went on family holidays or even reconnect with an old friend you’ve lost touch with. Nostalgia can be really good for the soul. And if you want to create something special to capture all those precious memories, this colourful print inspired by vintage travel posters is a beautiful way to reflect on 40 years of adventures. It also makes a thoughtful gift for a well-travelled friend or family member who’s turning 40 – and we can even add a couple of lines of text to personalise it further still.
13. Book a new adventure
This one is a failsafe surprise gift for someone you love. Whether it’s a night at a spa hotel, a cheeky weekend away or a sun-soaked holiday, planning a trip as a 40th birthday gift is sure to earn you some serious brownie points! For an added element of surprise when they open their present, why not stash the tickets or booking confirmation inside their very own personalised passport cover? It’s a gorgeous keepsake that will raise a smile on every future holiday.
14. Get inked!
Not everyone’s cup of tea and definitely not a decision to make lightly, but if you’ve always fancied getting a tattoo, turning 40 is a great time to throw caution to the wind! You could choose a design that’s related to your birthday, like your star sign or birth year, or talk a friend or your partner into getting a tattoo at the same time to make the experience even more meaningful.
15. Make a photo book
Nowadays, most of our photos live in our phones. But how often do we actually look at them? Put some time aside to go through the snaps you have stored and get your favourites printed into a photo book that you’ll love flicking through. This is an especially lovely gift idea for a friend or partner for their 40th birthday. If you’ve got some time on your hands and love a project, you could even attempt to include a photo from every year of their life so far!
16. Get some professional photos taken
Having a professional photographer take your photo is a world away from snapping a quick selfie on your iPhone. A good photographer will get to know you and your personality and take shots that really capture the essence of you – what better way to celebrate you at 40? You can even go for a themed shoot if that’s more up your street. With a quick Google you’ll find photographers who offer all kinds of unique ideas, such as boudoir shoots, 1950s-inspired shoots and even 40th birthday cake-smash shoots for grown-ups!
17. Get a glow-up
Many people crave change in their 40s, and often we feel braver than we’ve ever been when it comes to our appearance. Whether it’s a dramatic haircut or colour transformation, booking a personal trainer to help you achieve your fitness goals or seeking professional makeup or styling tips, there’s no time like the present.
18. Learn something new
Heading into your 40s is a fabulous time to acquire a new skill or take up a hobby. It could be something you’ve always wanted to learn, or something you’ve never even considered before. From pole dancing to Polish, you’ll probably find classes and courses galore right on your doorstep.
19. Make something!
Whether you’re creative by nature or not, getting crafty can be such fun, and it’s a brilliant way to make a 40th birthday keepsake. There’s no end of classes and workshops out there, with options ranging from millinery to floristry and everything in between. Get your friends to join you and you can turn learning a new skill into a party! And who knows, you might even discover a hidden talent…
20. Night at the Museum
Make like Ben Stiller and spend the night at a museum! The British Museum offers several themed ‘sleepovers’ throughout the year, and you might even find your local museum does a similar thing. This is a particularly brilliant idea if you’re looking for something unique and memorable to do with the kids to celebrate your 40th birthday.
21. Give them the moon
If you know someone who’s turning 40 and into all things celestial, the sky’s the limit (see what we did there?) when it comes to gift ideas! You could arrange a stargazing experience, book them onto an astronomy course or even name a star in their honour. And if they also happen to love cool wall art, this stunning silver full moon artwork is out of this world.
22. Dinner-party safari
Remove the need for one person to take on the role of dinner-party host by getting a group of friends together and moving to a different house for each course. It’s super fun and means you share the load – it’s also a fantastic way to celebrate together if you’re turning 40 at the same time as close friends.
23. ‘Potluck’ dinner party
If you like the idea of a unique dinner party but don’t fancy the safari, you could always host the evening but ask your guests to bring a dish each. Give them a brief, or keep it fun with a ‘potluck’ theme (aka ‘you get what you’re given’!).
24. Murder mystery night
Love a Whodunnit? A murder mystery night could be right up your street. You can opt for an organised event at a venue, or buy a DIY kit and play host-come-detective.
25. Go wine tasting
There are many great vineyards around the UK that offer tasting experiences, but of course for a birthday this special you could absolutely justify heading to the famous vineyards of France, or even somewhere further afield! If you’d prefer to keep it as close to home as it’s possible to get, you could even arrange for a sommelier to come to you. It makes for a great night in with the girls or guys, or an entertaining interlude during a dinner party.
26. Private dining
If you love life’s luxuries, there’s not much that can beat having a chef create a fine-dining experience, just for you. Book a chef to come to your home, or check out the private dining offerings at your favourite eateries.
27. Take a cookery course
Some of the most renowned restaurants in the country offer cooking and dining experiences, where you take part in a hands-on cookery lesson and then sit down to enjoy your culinary masterpieces. You learn new skills AND enjoy a delicious meal – it’s a win/win!
28. High tea It’s a classic for a reason!
High tea or afternoon tea is a quintessentially British way to mark a special occasion like a 40th birthday, and there are many ways you can tailor it to suit your taste. Opt for sophistication by booking at a prestigious hotel, or choose a more laid-back affair with a rustic cream tea in a picturesque village tea room.
29. Make a bucket list
Milestone birthdays like this are a great time to put plans to paper! Why not get your besties to help you come up with a bucket list of 40 things you want to do in your 40s? Our luxury personalised milestone notebook is a perfect place to capture all the ideas and keep track of your plans , and you can even use it to journal about your adventures – you’ll love reading it back in the future.
30. Place your bets
Never experienced a day at the races or the thrill of a casino? See in your 40th by ticking it off your list. Maybe the odds will be stacked in your favour – it is your birthday, after all.
31. Pizza and games night
A family-friendly idea that’s perfect for winter birthdays. Invite each of your guests to bring their favourite board or card game, order in some pizza and let the games begin!
32. Picnic in the park
For a summery twist on games night, simply pack up a picnic and head to your local park for a day of eating, drinking and playing rounders and outdoor games (Giant Jenga is always a hit).
If you love belting out a power ballad in the shower, maybe it’s time to step into the limelight with a 40th birthday karaoke night! You can hire the equipment to use at home, or book a booth for you and your friends at a local karaoke bar. Just don’t hog the mic all night.
34. Tiki garden bar
Tiki bars are having a definite moment right now, and it’s easier than you think to recreate the theme in your own backyard. The magic ingredients are exotic cocktails, tropical garlands and colourful glassware.
35. Go camping (or glamping)
A camping trip with special friends can be such an enjoyable experience. There’s something about stripping away the faff and enjoying the simplicity of togetherness in the great outdoors that always creates treasured memories. If you’re a reluctant camper, try glamping instead!
36. Ride a rollercoaster
If you’re a thrill seeker, what better place to turn 40 than at a theme park full of white-knuckle rides?
37. Laugh till it hurts
Have a look at the comedy nights near you and take your pick. Going to see a comedian you’ve never seen before could go either way, but that’s all part of the fun – and when it’s good, it’s sooooo good.
38. Book a fortune teller
If a bit of woo is a bit of you, incorporate it into your big day by booking a psychic or tarot-card reader to come to your home and tell you and your friends what the next 40 years has in store.
39. Climb a mountain
Or just a big hill! Heading out on a hike with a summit to conquer gives you a real sense of awe and achievement – especially if there are incredible views to take in at the top. Combine it with a hearty pub lunch or post-walk drinks and you’ve got yourself a 40th birthday to remember.
40. Throw a Ruby Jubilee
This one is definitely for the extroverts out there! Treat yourself like royalty and throw a Ruby Jubilee party! Rubies are traditionally associated with 40 years, and it’s a 40th birthday theme you can have a lot of fun with. If you like the idea but you’re more low-key, you could pare it back with by hosting a simpler ‘Ruby Murray’ (curry) night.
Whether you’re planning your own 40th birthday or surprising your bestie or partner, we hope we’ve given you some food for thought! Remember, the most important element of a 40th birthday celebration is to make sure it’s something you (or the birthday boy or girl) will absolutely love doing. Have fun and enjoy the planning.