A card and a present are a customary way to mark 12 more months together as a married couple, but many followers of tradition choose their particular anniversary gifts by year. Not every single year has a traditional anniversary gift – the first decade of marriage does, but thereafter, the milestones are spread out every five-ten years with a specific material linked to each one.
Do you follow the American or British version of ‘the list’?
Both lists have plenty of gifts in common that date back to 1937 – when there were just eight years with gifts attached to them. In fact, the association of 50 years with gold and 25 years with silver can be traced back to the Roman Empire.
Differences include, paper being first on the list in the US, followed by cotton, but the British list is the reverse, and fourth anniversaries being a time for fruit and flowers in American, but in the United Kingdom, it’s for linen or silk.
Later, the American National Retail Jeweler Association added more anniversary years and gifts to the list and later still, the Chicago Public Library published an alternative approach of modern anniversary gifts. This contemporary list saw clocks, electrical appliances and even musical instruments being deemed appropriate wedding anniversary presents for the new age.
It’s the traditional roster of presents, specifically to the American list, which is widely regarded as the one that most couples follow. Though what exactly are the anniversary years that you should be celebrating with the pre-defined ‘marriage material’ gifts? Read on to find out.
1st Anniversary Gift: Paper
Traditional wedding anniversary gifts are there to represent the strength of the marriage at that point in time. As the years go by, the more resilient the material becomes. Though the other school of thought is about how easy the material would be to acquire and its relative worth. In other words, the later the year, the more expensive and valuable the material. The first wedding anniversary gift of paper however has hidden symbolic meaning – a fresh state, a blank slate, a clean page for you to start your story together.
2nd Anniversary Gift: Cotton
Similar to paper, the second wedding anniversary year represents cotton, which is said to show how your lives have become more and more intertwined and stronger as one. For the interiors lover, cotton is doubly a cause for celebration as it paves the way for beautiful textile gifts, from bedding to cushions and throws.
3rd Anniversary Gift: Leather
Leather anniversary gift ideas often take the form of wallets and handbags, but don’t forget home accessories like photo frames, cufflink trays and jewellery boxes. These can have real sentimentality attached to them if you write in your anniversary card that it’s a special place to display photos, or store the cufflinks from your wedding day and wedding bands if you take them off at the end of each day.
4th Anniversary Gift: Fruit/Flowers
Less fruit baskets and more along the lines of extravagant bouquets or multiple posies of flowers and home accessories to spread around the home. By choosing artificial flowers or floral home decor, your wedding anniversary gift becomes one that will never wilt so you can have it and hold it for years and years to come.
5th Anniversary Gift: Wood
Wood is one of the wedding gifts by year that has strong symbolism too. By the time you reach the five-year mark, wood is meant to show the deep roots that have given your relationship its strength. Lots of couples see this as a time to invest in pieces of classic wooden pieces that they hope to treasure for a lifetime.
6th Anniversary Gift: Candy/Iron
The British and American split for year six on the wedding anniversary gift list is an unusual one. On the one hand there’s candy (or sugar), which supposedly denotes your life becoming sweeter by the year. But on the other, there’s iron, which is yet another symbol for the solidarity of your union. Beautiful sculptures and sophisticated lighting such as lamps or ceiling lights are all gift ideas to take note of.
7th Anniversary Gift: Copper/Wool
Two other gifts seemingly at odds with one another but there is a bond between them. The quality that copper and wool both share which make them a fitting choice for seven years down the line is their ability for producing heat and insulating it. The metaphor being that at this stage, your marriage is deemed to be at a stage of comfort and tenderness. The tradition may sound outdated, but the materials are very much on-trend, with copper still being a favourite metallic finish and wool never falling out of fabric favour.
8th Anniversary Gift: Bronze
This is a year for art, for ornaments, for statues and for keepsakes. Present your loved one with a bronze accessory for your home and it will always remind you both of its hidden meaning that only the two of you will know.
9th Anniversary Gift: Pottery
Flexible and mouldable as well as being admired for its beauty – pottery is therefore a well-suited gift to celebrate close to a decade of marriage. Why not blend two anniversary gifts in one and choose a hand-thrown vase for displaying the faux flowers from five years ago on anniversary number four?
10th Anniversary Gift: Tin/Aluminium
This gift is sometimes considered a strange anniversary present, but it’s yet another material with a beautiful backstory. It’s what was historically used to preserve things and can stop corrosion from setting in if another metal has a tin/aluminium coating. In other words, it’s a life-prolonging material. Understand its metaphorical meaning and it quickly becomes a lovely way to look forward to the next decade together.
20th Anniversary Gift: China
Precious, fragile and deserving of much care, china is understandably a material that suits an anniversary gift. This is a lovely time to invest in new serveware and crockery, especially if any wedding china that you’ve treasured over the years is more than ready to retire. Instead of feeling sad about replacing it, you’re instead attaching a new emotional connection to it that’s still about celebrating your wedding day.
25th Anniversary Gift: Silver
When you reach the 25th year of marriage, the wedding anniversary presents start to step up their precious material game. It starts with silver. The intention is for any gifts to be solid silver or silver-plated, but you can still make a meaningful gesture with items that have a silvered finish to them. Silver-plated photo frames with an image from your wedding day is a beautiful gift to give to the happy couple.
30th Anniversary Gift: Pearl
Understated and hard to come by, pearls are one of the finest ways to communicate how precious something is. If a pearl piece of jewellery is out of budget or not to their liking, consider pieces with a pearlescent finish. Decor with shell finishes or iridescent threads in a fabric that produce the same colour and sheen as the mesmerising exterior of a pearl itself are two areas to consider if you’re buying for an interiors enthusiast.
35th Anniversary Gift: Coral
Similar to pearl, coral is a much-overlooked precious material. Your gift doesn’t necessarily need to be something made of coral. Presents that reflect the distinctive pink-peach hues or the organic shapes of coral forms beneath the ocean will carry the same message of rarity and beauty.
40th Anniversary Gift: Ruby
Forty years mark the start of a series of precious stones as wedding anniversary presents. In the world of interiors, look out for any ornaments with ruby aspects to them, whether that’s a beautifully scented candle in a ruby coloured decorative box or a glamorous set of napkin rings.
45th Anniversary Gift: Sapphire
Sapphires come in a variety of colours – save for red – though it is the mysterious and majestic royal blue sapphire that most people associate with the 45th wedding anniversary. The only stone that is stronger is diamond, making it near indestructible – a powerful meaning to convey to your other half. There are mystical meanings attached to sapphire to, such as peace contentment and deep wisdom as well as the ability to communicate those feelings to others.
50th Anniversary Gift: Gold
And then to one of the most iconic wedding anniversary materials of all – gold. Famous for many reasons, including its place in signifying 50 years throughout history and the fact that it’s a milestone few people get to reach, be it the queen’s jubilee or a wedding anniversary. Gold is a symbol for prosperity and strength, and its opulent finish is well-received in interior design from gold plated serveware to golden lacquered home accessories.
55th Anniversary Gift: Emerald
Emerald – a stone that speaks of growth and tranquility. The colour green is known for being the most calming hue on the colour wheel, but it also is a symbol for healing. At this point in your marriage, you’re likely to have been through many trialling times and by giving the gift of something emerald-related, it reminds you of the salve that your marriage has been. Yet another of emerald’s hidden meanings is one of eternity, which perfectly suits the celebration of more than half a century together.
60th Anniversary Gift: Diamond
And finally to diamond – the pinnacle of the wedding anniversary gifts by year. Choosing a present to encapsulate what more than six decades of time as a couple means is near impossible, but a diamond is certainly a good source. It represents the invincible nature of your marriage. While most people will happily accept a true diamond gift, you may want to choose something that you can be part of your interior or to buy a gift that reflects the diamond tradition without investing in the stone itself for parents or grandparents. So seek out something that shines bright, that’s timeless and everlasting, and that will pick up the light beautifully, just as the stone itself does.