What to write in a birthday card: Happy birthday wishes for everyone you care about

Birthday Card

Some people have no problem coming up with what to write in a birthday card. Just hand them a pen and they’ll effortlessly scribble down birthday wishes that prompt a sweet sigh or an appreciative hug.

Then there are those who have trouble getting beyond “Happy Birthday.” (Which leaves you with nothing to say if those words were already printed inside the card.)

If you fall on the latter end of the inspiration spectrum, we have ideas to help you write meaningful birthday messages for all your favorite people.

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What to Write in a Birthday Card

Birthday Wishes for Mom  

What you write in your mom’s birthday card depends on your relationship, but love, appreciation and upbeat wishes are usually a good bet. If she’s got a healthy sense of humor, feel free to make her laugh. 

  • Happy birthday, with heartfelt thanks my wise, wonderful, one-and-only mom.
  • You’re the best, Mom. Love you.
  • Wishing a beautiful day for my beautiful mama.
  • The more time goes by, the more grateful I am to have you for my mother.
  • Hope your birthday brings some time to relax and remember how much you’re loved.
  • I don’t say it enough, but it’s always true: I love you, and I’m so lucky you’re my mom.
  • For all the days you’ve made happy for our family and all the ways you make us smile—happy birthday with lots of love.
  • Mama, on your birthday, celebrating your strength, your passion for life and the loving way you bring change into the world.
  • Wish I could be there to celebrate with you, Mom. Have fun! Miss you!
  • Happy birthday from your favorite child. Love you!
  • Mami, happy birthday to you, the angel of all our hearts.
  • With love from the reason for most of your gray hairs.
  • Mamá, que tengas un día tan hermoso como tú, y que este nuevo año esté lleno de mucho amor, alegría y bendiciones. ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

Birthday Wishes for Dad  

Love and thanks make good birthday messages for Dad, too. Again, let your relationship be your guide, and write from the heart.

  • To my hero…my strong and loving dad.
  • Birthday and every day, it means so much to have a great dad like you.
  • I really got lucky when I got you for my dad.
  • You’ve always been a great father, and you’ve become a real friend, too. I love that…and I love you, Baba.
  • For lessons you’ve taught. For days you’ve saved. For everything. Thanks, Dad.
  • I’ve always been proud of the good man you are—and so very proud to be your [son].
  • You just keep getting stronger, wiser, funnier and more amazing every year!
  • Daddy, today the cookout is in your honor. And yes—you can still season the meat.
  • You’re more than a dad. You’re the greatest man I know.
  • Happy birthday, Dad! Hope the sun is shining and the fish are biting!
  • Papi, you are GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLS! Celebrating you and your love of life today.
  • Happy birthday to the man who taught me everything I know, from the kid who paid attention to roughly half of everything you tried to teach.
  • Dad, I hope you find a fun way to waste some time on your birthday. You have my permission!
  • Daddy, celebrating you as my rock and as a loving pillar of our community.
  • You deserve a margarita with the good tequila today. Happy birthday to a top-shelf Dad!
  • Papá, en tu cumpleaños quiero recordarte lo mucho que te quiero y te admiro. ¡Disfruta mucho tu día!

Writing tip: Even a dad who never gets mushy in person can still appreciate a warm and loving written message. Cards are a perfect vehicle for saying the heartfelt things that can be hard to say face-to-face.

Birthday Wishes for Adult Son or Daughter  

A birthday quote for your adult child is a great opportunity to let them know how you feel about the amazing human they’ve grown into.

  • When you came into our lives [30] years ago, we were amazed. We still are. 
  • Happy Birthday to a strong and brilliant [daughter] who will turn the world around!
  • [Ben], you’ve been the kind of [son] parents dream of having. We’re so proud—on your birthday and every day.
  • We still remember the first time we laid eyes on you [23] years ago. Hope you know how much we love you and how grateful we are to call you our [daughter].
  • Watching you grow up has been one of the biggest, most rewarding blessings of my life. Yes, even that first year after you got your license.  
  • [Alyssa], you’ve worked so hard to build the life you’ve dreamed. And it’s an honor to watch you shine.
  • I know being raised by a single parent was hard. I’m so grateful for the strong kid you were then, and the wonderful friend you are now.
  • Through the years you’ve made us laugh, cry, cheer, worry, smile and—maybe a few times—yell. But more than anything, you’ve made us proud.
  • We could never have imagined your tiny hands would grow to be so helpful, or that your little feet would travel the world. So in awe of the amazing person you’ve become!
  • ¡Feliz Día! Que tengas un cumpleaños muy divertido.

Birthday Wishes for Spouse or Partner  

If you’re married to or dating the birthday boy or girl, this is a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship or have a little flirtatious fun.

  • Happy birthday, Beautiful.
  • I’m so grateful you came into the world because you make my world better every day. Happy birthday, Baby.
  • Hope your birthday cake is the second sweetest thing I get to taste today. Those lips, tho!
  • Happy birthday, babe. Thanks for you being you and being mine.
  • It’s your day, and I can’t wait to celebrate it with you.
  • Baby, I’m celebrating the special sweetness and deep goodness of you today. Happy birthday.
  • I hope your birthday is the happiest, my love.
  • Wish you were here for me to spoil today.
  • Beautiful. Sweet. Tasty. And I ain’t talking about the cake. Happy Birthday, Bae.
  • ¡Feliz vuelta al sol, mi vida! Haces que el mundo sea mejor, y por eso hoy te celebro.

Writing tip: Using your private pet name for the recipient can instantly make a simple message more warm and personal. Find lots more message ideas for wishing your wife a happy birthday here.

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A variety of personalizable cards are shown, with callouts that demonstrate the features that can be personalized, such as adding your own photos, videos, and inside messages.

More ways to make their day

We have lots of other ways to make their birthday card extra special—like adding photos, videos and your own message. Shop personalized cards here.

Birthday Wishes for a Friend  

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

  • Happy birthday to a friend I couldn’t live without!
  • In case I don’t tell you often enough, I’m so grateful for all you bring to my life!
  • Gettin’ old ain’t for babies. They can’t handle this much fun!
  • Girl, age can’t handle your hotness! Happy birthday, friend.
  • It just occurred to me that we really are becoming OLD friends. So glad we are.
  • Love you, sweet friend. Happy birthday.
  • In my soul, I call you sister. Happy birthday to a phenomenal woman.
  • [Elana], thanks for being there—basically, for being you.
  • Hope every little piece of this day is good, man.
  • ¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Amiga! ¡Que vengan muchos más! ¡Te quiero mucho!

Writing tip: If you’ve chosen a blank or friendship card simply because you know your friend would like it, you can easily make it a birthday card by mentioning their birthday somewhere in your personal message. 

Birthday Wishes for Siblings and More  

Love, compliments and warm wishes all work nicely for family. So do “proud of you” and “I’m glad we’re family” messages or quotes. 

  • Every year, I’m even more grateful to have a [brother] like you.
  • Celebrating today what a joy you are to be around, [Sis]!
  • Nothing feels safer than coming home to love, tradition, heritage and you, Gramma.
  • So proud of the person you are! So happy we’re family.
  • I am just so in awe of you…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!
  • [Amil], you do life big and love bigger. Love having you as a brother and celebrating your goodness.
  • Felicidades, [Hermano]. Eres muy importante para mí, y por eso en tu cumpleaños deseo que recibas mucho amor y felicidad.

Writing tip: If your card doesn’t specifically mention 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 (Pop-Pop, Aunt Suzie, etc.) or mention the relationship (sister, cousin, etc.).


Speaking of sisters, we have a whole article filled with birthday message ideas just for them!

Birthday Wishes for a Coworker  

Let your relationship guide birthday messages for co-workers. If it’s someone you’re close to, you can be casual in your message. If it’s your supervisor or someone with whom you have a relationship that’s more about work, 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 to wish you a happy birthday!
  • [Cecily], all work and no play makes us dull girls. So don’t work too hard on your birthday. Hope it’s happy!
  • Your birthday lunch is on me! (Unless we can expense it—then I’ll let someone else pay.)
  • Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for baking you the cake in the break room. Fortunately, I can totally have a slice in your honor.
  • The best thing about your cubicle is that it’s next to mine. Happy birthday, friend!
  • You’re my favorite person to ping. Hope you have a happy birthday!
  • Thanks for being such a great person to look up to. Hope your birthday is the best.
  • Here’s to zero [fire drills/urgent emails/angry customers] on your birthday.
  • You make work a lot less like work. Thanks for all you do!
  • Let’s wait to circle back to the serious stuff until AFTER we celebrate your birthday.
  • Happy birthday to the funniest member of my work fam!
  • You really GLOWED UP in that cubicle! Get it, Girl! Happy birthday.
  • Es un placer trabajar contigo. Te deseo el más feliz de los cumpleaños.

Short and Simple Birthday Wishes  

When the card has already said it all or you just feel like keeping things short and sweet, a few simple words might be the way to go.  

  • Happy, happy birthday, [Nina]!
  • I hope you get to do something fun to celebrate!
  • You deserve everything happy. Wishing you that all year long!
  • [Aaron], hope you have a happy [27th]! Love ya!
  • Warmest wishes for a happy birthday.
  • Hope today’s filled with all your favorite guilty pleasures!
  • [Devonte], hope you make your [25th] a birthday to remember!
  • [Carolina], you are living your best life! And this year, it really shows.
  • [Aliyah], happy birthday to one of my favorite people in the history of ever.
  • Warmest wishes and love on your birthday and always!
  • I see you out here looking like time is standing still! Happy birthday.
  • Have fun, post pictures and enjoy every minute of your day!
  • Let’s get you good and celebrated, girl!
  • So grateful God put you on this earth and in my life.
  • Wishing you a happy birthday and a year that’s blessed.
  • Keep vibin’ and thrivin’, Queen! Here’s to another blessed birthday.
  • ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! Que seas muy feliz, no solo hoy, sino todos los días de tu vida.

Funny Birthday Wishes  

Sharing a laugh in a with a funny birthday quote is a great way to personalize a card for someone you know well. 

  • From one of your favorite bad influences. (Added after the card’s printed “Happy Birthday”)
  • Hope it’s happier than me at a [shoe sale]! (Or: spa, bar, coffee shop, beach.)
  • You get to be the center of attention today! Tomorrow, it’s back to me.
  • Have a [martini] for me! Or two! (Or: Substitute recipient’s favorite drink.)
  • I think this is the year you get a pony! JK. That’s never.
  • Happy birthday to you and your cat! (I know how the cat hates to be left out.)
  • How does it feel to be living proof that Black don’t crack?
  • Dibs on the presents you don’t like!
  • I hope all your wishes come true, even the weird ones.
  • Sorry, there’s no money in here.
  • Please stop aging so gracefully. It’s getting kind of boring and predictable.
  • We all know you’re just showing up to show out on your birthday! And we all co-sign.
  • Father Time texted. He just CANNOT with you.
  • ¡Feliz Cumpleaños a alguien increíble, divertido, inteligente… Bueno, creo que ya fueron muchos piropos, ¿no crees? ¡Felicidades!

Writing tip: Try to sound like you do when you’re talking. For example, if you say “like” all the time, write “like” a lot. It feels more personal when the person can hear your voice in the message!

Milestone Birthday Wishes  

Let them know what a big deal it is to have a nice, round-number birthday!

  • [50] never looked so great!
  • Happy Birthday, [Mariko]! Now that you’ve arrived here, [40] will never be the same again!
  • Turning [60] is big! Especially when you’ve made the most of each year and made such a positive difference for the people in your life, like you have. ❤️
  • [Tía], you are [50] years of fun, laughter and love. ¡Te quiero mucho!
  • [30] is the perfect age. You’re old enough to afford the good stuff and still young enough to enjoy it!
  • Happy [90th] Birthday, [Nana Betty]! You’re an amazing [woman] and we love you so much!
  • Happy birthday, Bae! Look who’s making [40] look fly!
  • Hoy es una ocasión muy especial. Hoy cumples [50] años, y celebramos el regalo que es tu vida. ¡Muchas felicidades!

Writing tip: Ages 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95 and 100 are traditionally considered milestones. Also keep in mind that milestone birthdays vary by culture. Thirteen is considered a milestone birthday for Jewish boys who become a bar mitzvah. Jewish girls are celebrated when they become a bat mitzvah at 12 or 13. Quinceañeras, when young girls turn 15, are milestone birthdays in Latinx culture. And in some eastern Asian cultures, like in China and Korea, the first 100 days of a child’s life is cause for huge celebration, as is the first birthday.

Belated Birthday Wishes  

Late really is better than never! 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!
  • This birthday wish is late, but my love is right on time.
  • You’re receiving this NOW and not on your ACTUAL birthday, because I wanted to be sure your celebration wasn’t limited to just one day. It’s so nice of me!
  • At least my happy birthday text was on time. That counts for something, right? 😁
  • I don’t know where my mind was, but I forgot your birthday…until now. At least this way I’ll stand out from the crowd when I tell you you’re amazing and awesome. 
  • This birthday wish is not late. It’s just well-aged.
  • We all have to wait for some of the best things in life—like a birthday wish from a [sister] who picked the perfect card for you and then left it sitting in a drawer, where she totally forgot about it.
  • Un poco tarde, pero espero que te la hayas pasado muy bien en tu cumpleaños. Te deseo lo mejor.

Writing tip: Cards made for belated birthdays are good for when you remember their birthday after the fact. However, if you already have the card but just didn’t get it delivered on time, send that. You can mention its lateness in your personal message or not! 

Wishes for Complicated Relationships  

Sometimes we want to send a birthday message but the timing or the relationship is complicated. Those are the times when a simple, sincere message that says just enough is ideal.

  • I hope your day is full of all the things that make you happy.
  • On your birthday, know I’m thinking about you and wishing you good things.
  • You matter to me. I hope you have a good day.
  • Wishing you a birthday that is everything you need.
  • We’ll have time to figure stuff out later—for now, I just want you to have the day you deserve.
  • Even when things are weird between us, I still care about you and wish you all the best on your birthday.
  • I hope someday things are better between us. Today, I just want to wish you a happy birthday and tell you I love you.
  • Just two words: “Happy Birthday.” OK, three more: “I love you.”
  • Our history together means I’ll always think of you on your birthday. I hope it’s a good one.
  • Espero que tu día esté lleno de todas las cosas que te hacen feliz.

Helpful tip: When you need a simple birthday card for a complicated relationship, search by “tone.” Try looking under “General Wish,” “Short and Simple” or “Simply Stated.”

Birthday Wishes for Tough Times  

Birthdays sometimes fall during times of illness, job loss, bereavement or other challenging circumstances. A birthday card with a thoughtful quote is a great way to let them know you’re still thinking of them, even during a difficult time.

  • I know you’ve had some real challenges this year. It’s been amazing to see how well you’ve 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 next one is full of better days.
  • I hope your [38th] year is gentle and sweet to you and gives you lots of reasons to smile.
  • No matter what we’ve been through, there’s one good thing we can still celebrate: you.
  • Celebrating how we came through together and how you rose above each occasion to get your glory. So proud of you.
  • You came through this year striving, strong and resilient—and we couldn’t be prouder. Happy birthday.
  • Que este nuevo año no tengas que superar retos, sino que sea uno lleno de alegres momentos. Te lo mereces. Felicidades.

Writing tip: Humor can be a great day-brightener, even during a challenging 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.

Group Card Birthday Wishes  

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

  • Celebrating you!
  • Happy day!
  • Birthday cheers!
  • Big birthday hugs!
  • Let us eat cake!
  • Have a sweet one!
  • Huzzah to you on your birthday!
  • Happy birthday & happy year!
  • Another year more wonderful!
  • You’re the best!
  • Here’s to a great birthday!
  • Wish for something good!
  • Honored to wish you a happy birthday!
  • ¡Salud! ¡Dinero! ¡Amor! 
  • Party like it’s your birthday! 
  • Co-signing your happy!
  • ¡Pásatelo súper bien!
  • Credits:
  • Additional contributions from Ellen Brenneman, Jim Cosgrove, Kevin Dilmore, Jeannie Hund, Diana Manning, Katherine Stano, Melissa Woo, Megan Haave, Melvina Young and Cindy Phillips.