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How the 5th Wedding Anniversary Project Became a Covert Operation

How the 5th Wedding Anniversary Project Became a Covert Operation

Custom-made gifts are the perfect way to say, “I would marry you again in a heartbeat.” But what if you’re coming up on year five and you don’t have a woodshop to make your own wooden gift? You can call the CIA or you can call Ideas Run Amok!

The Wife

It was early December and a friend called me in a bit of a panic. She had just a few weeks to find the perfect wedding anniversary gift for her fifth anniversary which tradition says the gift shall be of wood.

Normally my friend would have had her gift bought and wrapped in June. Trust me, she’s that proactive which is why I like her. 😉 But she had been working night and day on a new branding launch for her company and lost track of time.

We sat down and brainstormed ideas. Remotely of course since (a) we were in the middle of a pandemic and (b) we live 2,258 miles apart! We settled on a custom sign. It would be located at their cabin in Montana, possibly hung outside, and oh by the way she needed it by the 31st of December. (This is a good friend)

Knowing that my awesome friend had enough on her plate, I said “trust me, I got this.” but we need to nail down the design quickly so that I can make it, seal it, and ship it.

With less than three weeks, time was not a luxury. Designing can take the longest time on a new project followed closely by the total time it takes to properly seal the wood. Not to mention the shipping during the holiday season … we’ll post on that lovely subject some other time.


I began immediately drafting up a few mockups for her to look at. Here are two that made the list.

This first one was okay. I liked the mountains since the sign will be in a cabin in the mountains of Montana. But the couple’s name seemed a bit bland, and the sign wasn’t very inviting.

Mockup 1 of 5th Wedding Anniversary on cedar

For the second mockup, I decided to emphasize the word “Welcome” more predominately. Nothing says "come on in" better than a big welcome!

Mockup #2 of 5th Wedding Anniversary sign

But as I looked at their names, it would be a nightmare to perfectly align the letters and painting was not an option. Not to mention the dimensions between the top swash (the “W”) and the bottom swash (the “M”) were over 18 inches. I have locally sourced beautiful - I mean absolutely, gorgeous cedar live edge slabs- but none larger than 18” wide.

Given more time, I would have designed the sign with two pieces slab where I could have poured a resin down the middle thus joining the two pieces for one large sign. But alas time was not a luxury!

Tick-tock watch the clock…

Have you ever been in a situation where you have a picture-perfect idea in your head but can’t quite put it on paper? Happens a lot for me and when it does, I take a nice, calming stroll through my wood stockpile until I find the perfect piece to complete the picture.

This piece just jumped out at me. I love how the knots protrude from the top and bottom adding character.
Cedar Live Edge Slab with knots

I decided to incorporate features that I liked from the mockups and combined them for the final design.

Cedar Live Edge Slab final design

The swashes for the word “Welcome” were modified to ensure that they would fit on the slab. I used scripted font for the couple’s name thus keeping all letters connected for the cutout. Because the font is a bit skinnier than most fonts it didn’t totally obscure the invite (welcome).
Final Sign

The sign turned out great. My friend loved it and it arrived on time. As well as the present the husband asked me to make for her.

Yes, you read that correctly. Both the husband and wife secretly reached out to me for their special gift to each other. Man, I am so good at keeping secrets I should have been a CIA operative!

The Husband

Turns out this year the husband was the one that was proactive. He found a local woodcarver in Portland that makes decorative wood boxes. He had one made to store the love letters that he writes before he hits the road for work.

The husband wanted to place a metal plaque on the inside of his Love Letterbox. We decided to engrave their wedding picture and “Forever Young, Always Together” on the plaque.
Bronze metal plaque
This picture doesn’t do it justice, but it turned out very nice and it fits perfectly in the underside of the lid, so the wife sees it every time she opens to box to read her love letters.


If you're in the market for a unique, custom-made wooden sign for your 5th wedding anniversary (or any other occasion), I'd be honored to be your secret agent. Select from our current line of designs or call for a brainstorming session and let me take care of the rest. Thanks for reading!

ps. Please don’t wait until the last minute. 😉


Material | Tools | Tips


  • Eastern red cedar live edge slab from a local sawmill in Mississippi.
  • Special laser engravable acrylic from Michigan
  • Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane


  • Adobe Illustrator (design)
  • Lightburn Software (laser)
  • 100w CO2 Laser (the beast)


Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to bend the rules.
Normally, when creating a knockout effect between two words, one of the words (usually the back word) is not cursive. But the “boxy” looking fonts diminished the inviting vibe I was looking for.

So to ensure that the back and front words blended better, I moved the front words down toward the bottom of the back word. This IMHO created a natural connection and maintained the inviting feel to the sign.

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to mix material types.
Since the sign “may” be located outside AND I didn’t want to paint the couple’s name, I used my favorite material to create the 3D effect—acrylic.

Acrylic is great for outdoor signage; it’s durable, resistant to all types of weather, and comes in a variety of colors. I only use acrylic that is manufactured for laser cutting and engraving which is safer for me but most importantly, it’s designed to provide a smoother finishing cut for you.

Together with cedar, which is an awesome wood for outdoor signage, the sign will last forever.

Again, I hope you enjoyed this little covert operation with the 5th wedding anniversary gifts. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ideas Run Amok for your custom signs and gifts.


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