Wedding Anniversary Traditional Gift Chart

While many couples are forging their own paths when it comes to weddings, many others like to adhere to tradition, to indulge in something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  There is a great deal of ritual and rite in gift-giving as well.  While any gift in honor of an anniversary is certain to be appreciated, there are gifts that are traditionally given for specific anniversaries.  Early anniversary gifts have always been intended to help the couple establish their home, while subsequent years' gifts are meant to help them enjoy it even more.  What are traditional gifts – and can you go with your own anniversary gift basket or do you have to stick to this guide?

Anniversary Traditional Modern
1st Paper Clocks
2nd Cotton China
3rd Leather Crystal or glass
4th Fruit or flowers Appliances
5th Wood Silverware
6th Candy or Iron Wood
7th Wool or Copper Desk Sets
8th Bronze Linens or Lace
9th Pottery Leather
10th Tin or Aluminum Diamond Jewelry
11th Steel Fashion Jewelry
12th Silk Pearls
13th Lace Textiles or Furs
14th Ivory Gold Jewelry
15th Crystal Watches
20th China Platinum
25th Silver Silver
30th Pearl Diamond
35th Coral Jade
40th Ruby Ruby
45th Sapphire Sapphire
50th Gold Gold
55th Emerald Emerald

Few couples are married for over 55 years, but if you know such a lucky bride and groom, get them anything they want!

Traditional gift lists originated in the Middle Ages when couples who had been married for 25 years celebrated with silver gifts. This is, of course, why we call this the Silver Anniversary.  Likewise, they gave each other gifts of gold for their 50th, or Golden, Anniversary.  The significance of the gifts were probably symbolic of the relationship, but also intended to bring luck to the couple.  Only “major” anniversaries – 1st, 5th, 10th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th - were given corresponding gift suggestions for centuries. In 1937, however, the American National Retail Jeweler Association created a list with a gift for each year until the 20th year, and then each fifth year after that.  Modern lists add even more by suggesting a material for each year.

You will notice that the wedding gifts start humbly and then increase in substance (and cost).  This is to accommodate the budget of new couples. Traditionally, the first year has been the one in which couples purchase a house, move, and/or start a family.  This is not always the case today, and there is a wide range of newlywed budgets.  Luckily, there is also room in the list to accommodate for different budgets.

So, who do these suggestions apply to, exactly?  Are you supposed to give your new husband paper for your first anniversary – and do you want paper in return?  The gift list is intended mainly for the couple, as well as their parents, family, and close friends.  While you certainly do not have to adhere to the list, it can be helpful if you are out of ideas and need some inspiration.  And remember, this is only a starting point: you have room for creativity and contemporary style, and you can maneuver within your specific budget. How?

Here's an example:  the first anniversary is paper.  If you are contending with a low budget, as many new couples are, you can give your spouse a love letter, a picture of the two of you, a painting or piece of art that you made.  One husband made his wife, with whom he had a long-distance courtship, a book composed of the emails they had sent each other throughout that time. They were printed nicely and bound; a memento they will both treasure.  If you have a larger budget, you could buy a pair of tickets to a concert or sporting event, a first edition of a favorite book, or a gift certificate for a luxury spa day.  Suddenly paper is much more exciting and romantic, no?