Wedding anniversaries are an ideal opportunity for married couples to celebrate their love for one another and remember why they decided to marry in the first place. Historians have traced the origins of silver and golden anniversaries to medieval Germanic Europe, where silver and gold garlands were presented by the husband to the wife to celebrate the 25th and 50th years of marriage respectively.
Prior to 1937 only the first and major milestone anniversaries had materials associated with them. In 1937 the American National Retail Jewelery Association issued a more comprehensive list of representative materials for all the traditional wedding anniversaries for each year up to the 15th Anniversary and then every fifth year after that up to the 60th. This list has been continually updated by various commercial companies over recent years and today celebrants can choose between the traditional list as well as a contemporary list of anniversary themes (which provides alternative modern-day suggestions such as electrical appliances!)
Traditionally, gifts exchanged or given in the early years of marriage were practical household items to aid the couple in starting a new home together (an extension of the wedding gift). Luxury gifts tend to be given in the later years when the couple has already acquired things they need. The more cynical-minded might see the increase in gift value over time as an incentive to stay married!
The following section outlines the main wedding anniversaries, associated themes and provides some useful gift suggestions.
1st Wedding Anniversary – Paper
Traditionally the theme is paper which is supposed to symbolize the strength obtained from the interlocking fibres. The modern take on this is a clock for reasons to do with timeless, eternal love. The precious metals/gemstones associated with the first wedding anniversary are gold jewellery, pearls or peridot. The associated colour is gold or yellow and the relevant flower is the orange blossom or pansy.
Gift ideas include a photo album, commemorative newspaper, wedding day chart, personalised poem, share certificate, movie/concert ticket, photograph by a professional photographer, subscription to a favourite magazine; have a star named after a loved one or a clock.
2nd wedding anniversary – Cotton
Traditionally cotton gifts are given because cotton has always been associated with prosperity and durability. The modern gift theme is china. The relevant gemstone is Garnet, and the associated colour is red. If you are going to give flowers then the go for Cosmos (which means modesty).
Gift ideas relevant to the cotton theme include a (personalised) bathrobe, towel or tee shirt, and for china how about a (personalised) trinket box, mug or anniversary plate.
3rd Wedding Anniversary – Leather
Traditionally leather gifts are given based on the durability of this material being analogous to the durability of your marriage! The contemporary theme is crystal or glass (not so durable!)
If you are going to give your partner jewellery then opt for pearl or jade. The relevant colour theme is white or green, and associated flower is the Fuchsia (which means taste).