Forgetting a wedding anniversary is often the butt of many sitcom jokes and the subject of many men’s angst. But why bother to celebrate? Well actually there are many good reasons to celebrate a wedding anniversary:
- It’s a chance to celebrate a deepening love and commitment.
- It’s a chance to spoil each other with gifts.
- It’s a chance for a couple to take stock and reflect on their marriage.
- It’s a chance to congratulate each other on surviving the trials and tribulations of the relationship.
Where did the tradition of wedding anniversary gifts come from?
Celebrating wedding anniversaries is believed to originate in Central Europe during the Middle Ages. Back then, it was customary for a husband to present his wife with a silver wreath, or garland, after 25 years of marriage. After 50 years, she was rewarded with a gold one. It was this custom that first led to the tradition of celebrating silver and gold wedding anniversaries.
During Queen Victoria’s reign, the importance of marriage, family and the home began to grow. It was during this time that it became popular to celebrate other wedding anniversaries. The gifts given were made from different materials to symbolise the growing value of the marriage.
By the early 1920s, the anniversaries most commonly celebrated were the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, along with the traditional silver (25th) and gold (50th) anniversaries. In her book, Etiquette, published in 1922, the American writer Emily Post drew up a list of appropriate gifts for each one of those years.
Traditional vs modern gifts
Over time, other years have been included. Now, there is a gift for every year from 1 to 30, and then for every 5th year up until a 75th wedding anniversary. What’s more, the list has been updated for the modern couple. So, rather than receive fruit on our 4th anniversary, today we might receive a kitchen blender!
The modern list of wedding anniversary gifts also seems to recognise a woman’s love of diamonds. In the traditional list, diamonds were reserved for couples that reached their 60th anniversary. Today, even if the marriage only lasts a decade, you could expect to receive some diamond jewellery.
Traditional & modern anniversary gifts:
What is the significance of the different materials?
The idea is that as the marriage progresses, the materials get ever more expensive and precious. This symbolises the growing investment in each other and the deepening of love. In the traditional list, a paper gift has always been given on the first wedding anniversary. This symbolises the blank page, the fragility of a young marriage and the opportunity for writing a future together.
As the years pass, the materials become more solid and expensive until a gift of diamonds is reached on a 60th anniversary. This tradition is linked to Queen Victoria. When she celebrated 60 years on the throne, the anniversary was known as the Diamond Jubilee. This associated diamonds with 60 years and so they became the perfect gift for a long and lasting marriage.
Anniversary gift ideas
Sometimes finding the right gift can be a creative challenge. But there is help out there. The internet is a great place to source unusual and quirky gifts. There’s little need to traipse around the shops when you can buy fine china, gifts and porcelain online at competitive prices. Here are a few ideas for some of the most important anniversaries.
1st Anniversary – Paper
Photographs, luxury notebook, paper flowers, art, photo album
5th Anniversary – Wood
Plant a tree, wooden chess set, wooden jewellery box, bookends, wooden sculpture, planter, chopping board
10th Anniversary – Tin
A metal planter, a keepsake tin box, tin of coffee/biscuits, metal tankard, poker chips in a metal box
15th Anniversary – Crystal
Vase, glasses, decorative bowl, jewellery, a healing crystal
20th Anniversary – China
Vase, tea set, mug, tableware, figurine
25th Anniversary – Silver
Jewellery, picture frame, keepsake box, cufflinks, wine coaster, keyring
50th Anniversary – Gold
Jewellery, Golden Oldies music compilation, watch, sundial, a golden rose bush