Wedding anniversary gifts, traditional and modern


There are movie scenes – and even real-life episodes – where some distressed male (and it is nearly always the man) panics because he has forgotten his wedding anniversary. Where can I get flowers at this late stage? What do I buy for a tenth anniversary?

There are two important things to remember when it comes to wedding anniversaries.

  1. Don’t forget them and
  2. Don’t forget them!

You wouldn’t forget the day you were getting married, so make it a point to celebrate the anniversary of that very special event each year. How you celebrate the anniversary depends on many factors. Can you find a babysitter? Can you book that favourite restaurant? If it’s a surprise, will it be a welcome one?

History tells all

We talk about a diamond anniversary (6oth), golden (50th) and silver (25th) and so much of it stems from traditions started hundreds of years ago. A man would crown his wife with a silver or gold wreath on their 25th or 50th anniversary. Today, like many other traditions, commercial interests have jumped aboard the bandwagon.

In 1937 the main Jewellery Association in the United States “invented” the specific gifts for every year. So, now retailers happily tell us that your first wedding anniversary requires a gift of paper; the second cotton, third leather, fourth silk and the fifth wood. That equates to a newspaper, hanky, wallet, tie and cricket bat. Easy. For your tenth anniversary the gift is tin which is where a container of baked beans does the trick.

On a more serious note, the rules about the type of gift have, in the main, been invented for commercial purposes. Obviously the 25, 50 and 60 year anniversaries are most important and tradition probably demands you follow the tradition. But for the others, use your imagination and always remember that it’s the thought that counts.


Family members and friends

Often, siblings and parents plus close friends will remember the anniversary and send you a card. If you were the bridesmaid or best man, it’s a smart move to pop the date in your calendar (or, these days, your phone) so as to remind you to make a call or do something to congratulate the happy couple.

Special gifts

Don’t feel you have to give a special gift as opposed to the traditional flowers, chocolates or bottle of wine. But many retailers offer the opportunity to make a gift personal. If that appeals you can have the names of the couple added to the gift.

Public recognition

Many couples receive a letter of congratulations from the head of state of their country on celebrating a major wedding anniversary. Often, of course, the monarch or president probably wouldn’t know you from Adam but a card or letter by snail mail is an event in itself today and makes a pleasant change from the usual bills and junk mail. Thank you, your Majesty.

Times, they are a-changin’

For those who still prefer to follow the traditional wedding anniversary gift list, not that times are changing, The conventional list of traditional anniversary gifts has a modern equivalent, but with items such as ivory and fur on both, there is still room for improvement. So, here’s a look at both lists.

 Wedding anniversary gift list (modern and traditional)

Anniversary Traditional gift Modern gift
1 Paper Clocks
2 Cotton China
3 Leather Crystal/Glass
4 Fruit/flowers Appliances
5 Wood Silverware
6 Sweets/Iron Wood
7 Wool/Copper Desk sets
8 Bronze/Pottery Linens/Lace
9 Pottery/Willow Leather
10 Tin/Aluminium Diamond jewellery
11 Steel Fashion jewellery
12 Silk/Linen Pearls
13 Lace Faux furs
14 Ivory Gold jewellery
15 Crystal Watches
20 China Platinum
25 Silver Silver
30 Pearl Diamond
35 Coral Jade
40 Ruby Ruby
45 Sapphire Sapphire
50 Gold Gold
60 Diamond Diamond
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