11 Milestones To Celebrate That Aren't Marriage, Birthdays Or Babies

We asked people to share the nontraditional occasions they've commemorated. From perimenopause to student loan repayment, here are the best ones.
These are the unique celebrations and private rituals people have thrown themselves to honor their unconventional milestones.
Getty/Nia Allen/Laliya Sabuni/Racheli Alkobey Peltier/Alisa Kennedy Jones/
These are the unique celebrations and private rituals people have thrown themselves to honor their unconventional milestones.

This summer, my friend and I threw a joint celebration to honour our 10 years of living in New York City. The barbecue was delicious, the playlist was impeccable, but what I remember most is how grateful I felt to see all the friends I have made in the past decade commute from different boroughs, bring their baked goods and sides, and spend the afternoon with us.

It reminded me how rare it can be as an adult to gather friends to celebrate beyond the traditional milestones of getting married, having children or turning one year older.

So I asked people to share the nontraditional milestones they commemorated and I was surprised, charmed and heartened by all the unique celebrations and private rituals people have thrown themselves. Prepare to take notes and get inspired.

A Year Of Learning A New Language

This past year, Laliya Sabuni, who is based in Phoenix, Arizona, decided to learn French with the app Duolingo. She would send her friends screenshots as she passed her 10-, 50-, 100-day milestones of her language lesson streak.

“Every day, I am pausing everything I am doing just to make sure I continue my streak...clubs, bars, work, Beyoncé renaissance concert,” Sabuni recalled. “For a year, the streak was part of my daily life routine!”

Finally she reached her one-year streak of doing language learning activities and decided to throw a party in September to mark the occasion.

“I am working hard to learn French and continuing my streak, which is basically why I wanted to throw a party,” Sabuni said. “It’s important to celebrate all accomplishments, big or small.“

Graduation From Grad School

Alli Weseman, who is based in Portland, Oregon, said some of her best celebrations have been the most mundane ones she has thrown by herself, for herself.

“I celebrated getting into grad school with a frozen pizza, a bottle of lemonade, and Netflix by myself. When I graduated from grad school this past September, I celebrated by going to Ed Sheeran’s acoustic show in Vancouver B.C. by myself,” she said. “It felt amazing not to have a big party like I had to celebrate my college graduation.”

“By having a more intimate celebration, I was able to reflect on how hard I had to worked to get my Masters degree,” Weseman continued.

The Launch Of A New Business

Nia Allen, in the above photo, is wearing the shirt she sold out of for her pop-up.
Nia Allen
Nia Allen, in the above photo, is wearing the shirt she sold out of for her pop-up.

Nia Allen, who is based in Lubbock, Texas, was supposed to open a luxury consignment store in Cleveland for Black women in February 2021 as part of her Kent State University thesis. But then COVID happened, so it became an online pop-up.

But opening a store was still a “huge” moment she wanted to celebrate, so she created T-shirts for the event that quickly sold out and had a friend curate a playlist for the occasion. She then hosted a Zoom party with around 20 of her friends the night before her online pop-up went live.

“There were several conversations about how important it was to bask in the moment but also [my friends] celebrated that this store was the first of its kind for my school and I should be proud of that,” Allen said. “Also I did this while being a full-time graduate student and a full-time mom to my son.”

“It meant the world to me because I did it. I almost gave up on my voice and perspective in the fashion industry, but it showed my voice mattered,” Allen said.


“‘Sober-versaries’ are surprisingly bittersweet, similar to birthdays. We can feel proud of how far we’ve come, and also mourn the person we once were,” said Celeste Yvonne, a recovery coach and author of “It’s Not About the Wine: The Loaded Truth Behind Mommy Wine Culture.”

On these days, “I welcome all the feelings, including the complicated ones. I reflect on how much has changed, and how much I’ve grown.“

Yvonne said she purposefully tracks her sober time because it motivates her. In the past, she’s labeled a Martinelli’s apple cider with “Happy (X) Years Sober” and kept it in the fridge in the weeks leading up to the day, while on others she’s gone to dinner with her husband, or treated herself to a massage or pedicure.

“I will often celebrate with sparkling cider…a drink my whole family can share with me. And we toast my sobriety together, because it’s a gift to us all,” she said.

Passing The Bar Exam

After studying law and pursuing a career as a writer in Nigeria, Atoke, who asked not to share her full name for privacy, decided to go back to law and get her license to practice it in Canada when she turned 40.

“I wasn’t sure how legal education at 40 was going to be ― new country, new substance, new everything. But I was willing to try,” she said. “And it was so important to me to know that my family and my friends and my boss supported me every step of the way. With every exam I passed, there was someone sending me gifts and messages to say ‘You’ve got this.’“

Atoke passed all the Ontario bar exams in one sitting and celebrated the milestone last weekend with her friend who had also moved to Toronto from Nigeria and had passed her bar exams.

“We sat in my room, ate KFC chicken and drank champagne. It seems so low-budget but we were so happy just us and just so impressed by our achievements. It was a great experience,” Atoke said.

Completing 12 Rounds Of Chemotherapy

Racheli Alkobey Peltier arranges annual scavenger hunts with 12 quests for her friends to commemorate her 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
Racheli Alkobey Peltier
Racheli Alkobey Peltier arranges annual scavenger hunts with 12 quests for her friends to commemorate her 12 rounds of chemotherapy.

Racheli Alkobey Peltier, got diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma when she was 21 and finished treatment for it on November 12, 2015. Every year since then, around that date, she gathers her friends to do “12 quests for 12 rounds of chemo.”

“We break up into teams, and we do a scavenger hunt around an area that I’ve chosen for that year. And there’s 12 tasks that we have to complete to commemorate the 12 rounds of chemo,” Alkobey Peltier said. She will pick the location and handle the invites as her husband helps to plan the quests.

Alkobey Peltier said she also commemorates the day she discovered her cancer diagnosis.

After finding out about her diagnosis, she kept her bowling plans. One of her friends bought a whole round of lemon drops for everybody. “My toast when we took the lemon drop shot was ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’ And that sort of ended up becoming my mantra for my entire treatment,” Alkobey Peltier said. And now she honors that with bowling and a lemon drop shot when that date comes.

“Sometimes it’s with two other people, or sometimes it’s with a group of 10, whatever it might be, but I will always bowl and always make sure to get lemon drops and do that toast,” she said.

Both dates hold special meaning. For her, diagnosis day is “the day that I was finally told what was wrong with me so that I can begin the process to heal. But it’s not a happy day,” while “the end of chemo is ‘Oh my gosh, my life can begin again.’”

“Everybody has a birthday, but these nontraditional things that we’ve been through and that have really upended our lives in some way to me feels much more special,” Alkobey Peltier said about why she maintains these traditions.

Job Promotions Or Other Career Successes

A while back, Stacy Oden, of Charleston, West Virginia, decided to gather her friends for a “Congrats/Level Up” dinner.

She had just gotten promoted and her friends were also coming up on major events like getting accepted into grad school, moving away, finishing nursing school, starting a business and motherhood. Oden said she and her friends met at a hibachi restaurant like they used to when they were teens.

Oden custom-made everyone a wine glass. “The wine glasses had their name written in my best penmanship and I used gold glass marker to create a sophisticated but subtle design...at top,” Oden said. “We went around the table talking about what we were proud of...then had a glass to toast to ourselves for later.”

“For me, it was a chance to give one another our flowers,” she recalled. “We’ve been able to meet up here and there since then, but that dinner was a turning point for so many of us who may have moved, graduated, separated or elevated.”

Paying Off Student Loans

When Em Daugherty finally finished paying her student loans in August 2022, she celebrated with cake that read “bye bye student loans.” She posted a TikTok about her experience:


Today felt like a big deal so we celebrated with cake 🎂 #debtfree #studentloans #financialfreedom #portland #cake

♬ original sound - audiomack

“I wanted to celebrate a big milestone of paying off my loans because in my mind it was just as big of a deal, if not bigger, than a birthday or large celebration,” the Portland, Oregon-based digital creator said. “I worked two jobs to be debt-free, and finally reaching that goal was an accomplishment I wanted to commemorate with my family and friends.”

The Treatment Of A Medical Diagnosis

Since she was 16, Annette Ejiofor, of Toronto, Canada, has been dealing with “extremely painful periods.” In 2022, she finally got the confirmation from a doctor that the painful periods, back pain, hot flashes she was getting were due to endometriosis.

As part of addressing the pain, Ejiofor starting taking a new medication and got breast reduction surgery a month ago. She said afterwards, her entire body felt relief.

“This is the conclusion of a near-lifelong pain I have been dealing with and it’s a massive milestone,” she said.

How did she celebrate? “I went to Red Lobster and got some crab legs,” Ejiofor said.

Knowing Someone For Half Of Your Life

Dineen Cortesi, of Wappingers Falls, New York, said she met her husband Charles in her early 20s and “at some point we realised that we would reach a time that we have been together longer than we had not,” she said.

So they decided to celebrate that occasion.

“We marked our calendars with two dates that we called ‘half my life day,’” Cortesi said. “My day came first during the year I turned 42, and my husband’s was during the year he turned 46.”

“As far as the actual celebration, both dates were private celebrations between the two of us consisting of a special meal and exchange of cards with love notes highlighting our gratitude to each other for dedicating so much...to our relationship,” Cortesi added.

Entering Perimenopause

Alisa Kennedy Jones threw a "Bridgerton"-themed perimenopause party for herself and friends.
Alisa Kennedy Jones
Alisa Kennedy Jones threw a "Bridgerton"-themed perimenopause party for herself and friends.

“Looking back on one’s life and finding a way to tell a good yarn about it is the best, so why not do it with a party honouring this massive change you’re going through — because menopause is a full-body, all-systems, fix-the-plane-while-you’re-flying cellular transformation,” said Alisa Kennedy Jones about why she threw herself a perimenopause party.

Jones, who is based in San Francisco, said a boss had brought up the idea that between the mother and the “crone” phases that woman get associated with, there can be a highly generative, creative phase that is an “empress phase” or “empress age.”

“This really sparked my imagination about the potential for what this stage of life could be. And it also struck me as Bridgerton-esque,” she said.

The “Bridgerton” fictional series by Julia Quinn takes place in the Regency era of England. Jones had friends who worked in costuming, so “we had access to some crazy dresses, which it turns out are very hard to maneuver in as a group.” Beyond dressing up in their ballroom best for Jones’ afternoon party, the friends had a “high tea style” menu and a pink champagne fountain while they discussed topics ranging from what made them feel wiser to hormone replacement therapy and hacks for “hot flash nightmares at work.“

Jones also got the group to do an “Empress Oath.”

“I was like, ‘Let’s collaboratively write an oath of solidarity that we keep so that we remember to support each other throughout this shift,’ because I think a lot of women find themselves becoming rather invisible and isolated at this stage of life,” she said. “I really do see it as a rite of passage to a different era and you can either disappear or you can reemerge.”

“One of the things, we envisioned as a group was a ‘mom-mune,‘” Jones continued. “If we were going to grow older together, how would we support each other through the transitions of divorce and losing partners? So the dream of a big old ‘Golden Girls’ life in a house in the south of France was appealing. It’s a dream, but as a group, I feel like writing and swearing our oath to each other made us closer.”

Use these celebrations as a starting point, and let your imagination fill in the rest.

Once you move beyond the traditional markers of personal success like marriage, birthdays and babies, you’ll start to notice more of the big and small accomplishments that make life worth living. Your next occasion can be sooner than you think.