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Anniversary Gifts

Read on for anniversary gifts that stand out.

The recipient's unique tastes and preferences should guide decisions when choosing a memorable gift. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The recipient's unique tastes and preferences should guide decisions when choosing a memorable gift.

Those looking for the perfect anniversary gifts to give their spouses, relatives or friends can quickly get lost in a myriad of lists that claim to be the authority on what is appropriate. Indeed, certain gifts have long been used to commemorate special wedding anniversaries. Since the middle ages, many men have given their wives silver to celebrate a 25th anniversary and gold to celebrate a 50th. Queen Victoria started the tradition of giving diamonds on the 60th anniversary when she used them to commemorate the 60th year of her reign.

Giving traditional gifts is a wonderful way for spouses and their loved ones to honor the past and pay tribute to a marriage. However, wedding anniversary gifts are like any other: the thought behind them is the most important part. It's a good idea for the recipient's unique tastes and preferences to guide descisions when choosing a memorable present. Fortunately, both traditional and contemporary anniversary gift guidelines are frequently fairly broad, which allows givers plenty of leeway to think up something original.

Traditional and Modern Anniversary Gifts

Though some anniversary traditions are firmly established, others were created recently. Currently, there exists both a traditional and modern list of anniversary gifts; the chart compiled by the Chicago Public Library lays them out side by side. The traditional list was actually assembled in 1937 by the American National Retail Jewelers Association; it lays out gifts for each of the first 15 years, followed by gifts for every five years afterward. The modern version was compiled from a number of different sources to reflect evolving traditions and designates a gift for every year of marriage, from the first to the 100th.

In contrast to these expansive lists, the first and simplest anniversary gift guide was published by Emily Post in her 1922 book on etiquette. In it, she lists the following anniversaries and their corresponding gifts:

  • First: paper
  • Fifth: wood
  • 10th: tin
  • 15th: crystal
  • 20th: china


These are followed by the silver, gold and diamond anniversaries, which she places at 25, 50 and 75 years, respectively. Post herself deemphasizes the importance of early anniversary gifts and celebrations, saying that paper, wood and tin gifts are usually little more than jokes, if remembered at all. Not until the marriage has lasted 15 years are friends and family compelled to recognize the occasion with crystal.

Unique Gifts for Early Anniversaries

Instead of following these suggestions to the letter, spouses often use them as a starting point to come up with a unique and meaningful gift to commemorate their wedding day. The tradition of paper on the first anniversary, for example, can be incorporated into almost any present. Gifting tickets, which are printed on paper, is a great way for a spouse to treat his or her significant other to an event they can experience together. Husbands and wives may even print up paper coupons, redeemable for romantic favors. A framed paper printed with important dates in the couple's relationship is another sweet, thoughtful gesture.

This idea carries over to close friends and family who want to celebrate a couple's first year together. If the pair has children, a coupon offering to babysit could provide a very welcome opportunity for a special night out; more welcome, perhaps, than personalized stationery or the modern alternative, a clock. A small wedding scrapbook or favorite picture of the couple may also be appreciated.

Many sources suggest that the right gift is one the couple is likely to enjoy, regardless of how long they have been married. This could be anything from a kitchen gadget that might make their lives a little easier to a couples massage or a nice bottle of wine.

Silver, Gold and Other Advanced Anniversaries

As couples grow old together, their anniversaries take on special significance. Perhaps their union has produced children, grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. In this case, the greatest gift of all may be reuniting the entire family, along with their close friends, for a celebration. Though couples in their early years may choose to throw a party themselves, grown children or friends often plan the event later on. Martha Stewart Living suggests that a silver anniversary party include a presentation of slides and videos from special moments in the couple's life, including formal occasions like the wedding day as well as casual events like family vacations.

Couples in medieval Europe were traditionally given garlands of silver and gold to celebrate their 25th and 50th anniversary milestones, and the tradition of gifting silver and gold jewelry or other commemorative items continues to this day. For silver and gold anniversary parties, however, some couples prefer to receive no gifts at all. In this case, the guests should respect their wishes, or send a present after the event.

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