Give The Gift Of Love
by Sara Whatley
Paper hearts, cotton robes, leather shoes… whatever gift you give your loved one on your wedding anniversary, do you stick to the traditional list, or do it your own way?
This November my husband and I will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary. The big day itself is still so fresh in my mind it seems like only yesterday, but as the anniversary gets nearer, all the small details are flooding keenly back: making paper pompoms, organising the catering, searching for vintage tureens, flowers, music, seating plans, photography, the car, decorating the hall, making the invites, table favours….. an apparently endless list which only ever seemed to get longer! And then the day itself, well I simply loved every second of it, and I enjoyed myself more than I thought possible.
Saying that, I am very glad I don’t have to do it all again this year! This year I can kick back and relax as we celebrate our first wonderful year together as husband and wife, hopefully while in the lap of luxury at a spa.
Of course, I shall be getting my beloved a gift, and as I would like it to be traditional I will be looking to the anniversary ‘gift list’ for inspiration. But where does this list come from?
Looking at the traditional anniversary gift list, the first thing I noticed is that on the whole, the materials and elements get harder as the years go on, starting with paper or cotton and ending with diamond, one of the hardest elements on earth. A cynical old married couple might say that this is representational of the marriage getting harder over the years, but to a newly married like me I see it as a representation of the marriage solidifying as the years roll by.
Historically, it is suggested that the traditions for wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, or some say the Medieval Germans. On a 25th wedding anniversary the husband would crown his wife with a silver wreath, and a gold one on their 50th anniversary. This is now represented as a silver gift at 25 years, and a ‘golden wedding anniversary’ for 50 years.
During and just before the 20th century, commercial industries saw how popular it was to celebrate anniversaries, and quickly created the other anniversary gifts. Victorians loved to celebrate their wedding anniversaries lavishly, with parties, feasts and gifts, and as a result of this, gift-giving thrived.
It is thought that the ‘list’ made its way over to America, and as such we share very similar gifts, although sometimes swapped around by a year. For example, some lists say the first anniversary gift in the UK is cotton, and paper is for the second anniversary, which is then switched around in the US with paper first and then cotton. However, it seems that paper for the first anniversary is better known than cotton in both the UK and the US.
It might have been that only the five and ten year anniversaries were celebrated with gifts at first, with the additional gifts being added later by firms such as jewellers. It was too good an opportunity for them to let slide, after all, what husband or wife would not appreciate having a piece of diamond encrusted jewellery given to them?
Although the gifts for associated years vary from country to country, there is a general consensus that the fifth anniversary is wood, tenth is tin, 15th crystal, 20th china, 25th silver, 30th pearl, 40th ruby, 50th gold, 60th diamond and 70th platinum.
Many people do honour this traditional Victorian gift list, especially for the five and ten year markers. But equally, it is just as popular to celebrate with a lavish night out on the town, or a cosy weekend away. Whatever you do, don’t feel bound by customs!
If you do fancy sticking to the list but want to make it a bit more individual, it’s time to think outside the box. Why not make a paper trail to a favourite restaurant, invest in a weaving course, saddle up and ride a horse, volunteer for fruit picking at vineyards and orchards or whittle your loved one a wooden spoon. Further down the line you could enjoy a golden sunrise or sunset in a hot air balloon ride or go star gazing to see the natural diamonds of the sky.
However you celebrate your anniversary, be it your first, fifth or 50th, the most important thing is to enjoy some quality time together, and remember why you got married in the first place – love.
Traditional anniversary gifts in the UK
- 1 Paper
- 2 Cotton
- 3 Leather
- 4 Fruit and flowers
- 5 Wood
- 6 Sugar
- 7 Wool
- 8 Salt
- 9 Copper
- 10 Tin
- 11 Steel
- 12 Silk, linen
- 13 Lace
- 14 Ivory
- 15 Crystal
- 20 China
- 25 Silver
- 30 Pearl
- 35 Coral
- 40 Ruby
- 45 Sapphire
- 50 Gold
- 55 Emerald
- 60 Diamond
- 70 Platinum