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A box of Open When Letters is one of the most timeless homemade gifts you can give your long-distance boyfriend.
When my husband and I were dating long-distance, I gave him Open When Letters two different times, and he loved them. In fact, I actually made the letters a second time at his request.
If you’ve ever wondered what Open When Letters are or how to write Open When Letters for your long-distance boyfriend — or if you’re searching for new Open When Letter ideas — you’ve come to the right place. This guide will cover:
- The Basics of Open When Letters
- Step-By-Step Guide for Writing Your Letters
- Where to Find Ideas for Your Letters
- The Best Open When Letter Ideas
- The Worst Open When Letter Ideas
- How to Write Open When Letters for the Five Love Languages
- Essential Supplies List
- Bonus: A Simpler (But Still Sweet) Idea
The Basics of Open When Letters
Open When Letters are a collection of pre-written notes that you give to a loved one to open at their discretion. The outside of each envelope begins with the phrase “Open When…” followed by a situation, such as “Open when you miss me.”
Open When Letters are a sweet way to show someone you care. It’s a “gift that keeps on giving.”
Anyone can write Open When Letters for friends, family, and significant others. Since Dating at a Distance focuses on equipping women in Christian long-distance relationships, though, in this guide we’ll assume that you’re writing these for your long-distance boyfriend.
Open When Letters are most useful in one or more of the following scenarios:
1. You won’t be seeing each other for an extended amount of time
2. You anticipate periods of blocked communication (perhaps one of you is in the military)
3. You want to save on postage and shipping costs by giving letters in bulk
You can give your long-distance boyfriend the completed letters as a gift for his birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. If you’re planning ahead, you can give him the letters before he leaves. Or, like me, you can surprise him with a box full of letters at a random time.
The rules for Open When Letters are fairly self-explanatory. Some people write instructions for opening the letters on the box itself, and others just explain the general concept of the letters to their boyfriend. You can outline whatever rules you want, but Shutterfly suggests these rules as a guide:
1. No early peeking
2. Only open the letter when it applies.
3. Don’t show the letters to others.
4. Try not to open more than (X) letters a week.
5. Save the letters.
The letters are a gift for your long-distance boyfriend, though, so you shouldn’t give them with too many strings attached. The goal is to make him feel loved. Give him the freedom to open the letters when he wants.
Try Open When Emails for a short and sweet twist on classic letter writing.
Step-By-Step Guide for Writing Open When Letters For Your Long-Distance Boyfriend
The more elaborate your letters, the longer it will take to assemble them. I’d recommend working on this project for several days. Here’s how to write Open When Letters:
Step 1: Brainstorm
Create a list of phrases that begin with “Open when…” and plan a thoughtful note or gift to go with each one.
Step 2: Gather supplies
You’ll need envelopes, paper, a box, and small gifts. You can buy a decorated kit or make your own letters and gifts.
Step 3: Write and create
Keep your notes short and sweet. Make sure you don’t include time-sensitive information.
Step 4: Give the letters
Mail or hand-deliver your box filled with Open When letters, and see your boyfriend’s smile!
Where to Find Ideas for Your Letters
Creating Open When Letters sounds easy until you actually sit down to write them. Suddenly, you have no clue what topics to choose for your letters, let alone what to put inside them!
To help you out, I wrote a list of 32 fully-developed open when letter ideas with in-depth examples. Each idea for a phrase is followed by an example of what you could write or put inside of your Open When Letters.
The best part is that those 32 ideas are available on ready-to-print envelope labels on our Etsy shop — AND you can get 30% off when you use the coupon code OPENWHEN at check-out.
Save time by printing and applying these affordable Open When Letter labels (pictured below).
Jo, My Gosh!, LongDistanced, and Shari’s Berries also offer extensive lists of Open When Letter ideas for all kinds of situations.
The Best Open When Letter Ideas
Not all Open When Letter ideas are created equal. Some are amazing, some are okay, and some are downright awful. How much your boyfriend appreciates the letters all depends on your relationship and how you execute the idea.
But since you won’t really know until you try, I wanted to share the best (and worst) ideas I used in my letters. Hopefully, you can learn from my wins and losses. As the recipient of the letters, my husband attests to the accuracy of these two lists.
1. Open when you need to remember I love you.
I wrote one letter of “I love you!” on nine cards. For nine days in a row, I took a photo of myself holding up a letter in different locations. I then assembled them in a collage and printed the photo.
2. Open when you’re down to listen to Ed Sheeran.
For some odd reason, Ed Sheeran songs became the soundtrack of our dating relationship. I wrote my favorite lyrics from “Photograph” on the back of a photo of us.
3. Open when you miss my scent.
I bought a 99-cent travel shampoo bottle and filled it with my “signature” Bath & Body Works lotion. This kind of gift is a great way to show love to a long-distance boyfriend with a physical touch love language.
4. Open when it’s your friend’s birthday.
I filled a resealable plastic bag with a few balloons and birthday candles to help him support his friends.
(You’ll notice that in my experience, the best Open When Letters are really not letters at all, but crafts or inexpensive gifts.)
The Worst Open When Letter Ideas
I’ve also tested some not-so-good Open When Letters ideas. I suggest you avoid these:
1. Open when you fail a test.
This letter failed — literally — because my husband never technically failed a test in college. It remains unopened to this day.
2. Open when you need a hug.
I thought I was being cute and creative when I traced my hands on paper, cut them out, and attached them together with a long string. The idea was that he could wrap himself in a metaphorical hug from me. In reality, it made him so much sadder that I couldn’t give him a real hug.
3. Open when I’m coming to town.
In this letter, I included a bag of microwave popcorn, which is my favorite food. This is a bad example because I created it with purely selfish motives. All I succeeded in doing was creating an excuse to buy my favorite snack.
4. Open when you want to talk with someone.
The inside of this letter was just a piece of paper with my phone number. I thought it would remind him he could call me whenever, but he ended up opening it when I was attending a weekend retreat with no phone service.
How to Write Open When Letters for the Five Love Languages
The concept of the Five Love Languages has its strengths and weaknesses, but a basic understanding of your boyfriend’s love language can help you find Open When Letter ideas that are particularly special to him — letters and gifts that he’ll treasure for years to come.
Here are a few ideas for how to write Open When Letters for each love language:
Words of Affirmation: For a Words of Affirmation person, letters are the perfect medium for communicating and confirming your love. They’re also great for encouraging him in difficult situations. Learn more about how to affirm your boyfriend with your words.
Acts of Service: Create a set of coupons that he can “redeem” with you for a free meal, help with a project, or another act of service.
Quality Time: Reflect on positive memories as a couple through photographs and notes. You can also write letters that encourage him to spend quality time with his friends, including a gift card to a movie theater, trampoline park, or bowling alley.
Physical Touch: See #3 in the Best Open When Letter Ideas and #2 under the Worst Open Letter Ideas. When you’re giving your boyfriend the box of Open When Letters, a stuffed animal of significance is a wonderful initial gift.
Receiving Gifts: Just about any personalized, thoughtful gift will please someone who appreciates gifts. If choosing gifts is difficult for you, these eight tips for caring for a boyfriend with a gifts love language may help.
Essential Supplies List
You can make your Open When Letters to your boyfriend as crafty and compelling as you like. Here are my recommendations for supplies:
Cards & Envelopes: Etsy has some beautiful Open When Letter designs. But you can also write your letters on notebook paper and make envelopes using scrapbook paper and tape (this makes for some really beautiful designs)!
Markers/Pens: I absolutely love these felt tip pens, and I use them for writing anything and everything. My only regret is not buying them sooner.
Photos: Choose prints that evoke shared memories and write a message on the back. Photos also fit beautifully inside envelopes.
Gifts: Anything small that you want to give in lieu of letters. Hershey’s Kisses are a delicious, classic gift for “Open when you miss my kisses.”
A Box: You can use a shoebox, a plastic tote, or a sweet antique box if you’re feeling artsy. If you’re already apart and you don’t want to ship a box, use a large manila envelope to mail them. Stick to small letters and lightweight gifts, and make sure you add extra postage.
Bible Verses, Lyrics, and Quotes: Write down some Bible verses for long-distance relationships to encourage him or include lyrics from songs that get real about sadness.
A Simpler (But Still Sweet) Idea
Now that you know how to write Open When Letters, you know they take a lot of work and preparation. What’s more, you can’t account for every discouraging situation that your long-distance boyfriend may face. If he unexpectedly loses his job, he probably won’t have an Open When Letter ready for him, but you can be sure he’ll want encouragement.
For situations where timely, instant encouragement is necessary, I recommend writing Open When Emails instead of letters. This idea is an easy alternative that can be just as meaningful.