What is the Traditional Anniversary Gift?

The wedding was a complete success, the honeymoon unforgettable and your first anniversary celebration is fast approaching. How will you make your spouse feel loved and appreciated? Anniversary gifts are a great way to celebrate your growth as a couple. Giving a special gift is a great opportunity to start a tradition and provides something meaningful to look forward to each coming year.

Many couples look to follow the traditional gift list when it comes to celebrating their own anniversaries. Traditional gifts are viewed as romantic and hold sentimental value. To some, anniversaries may trigger special memories of their parents or grandparents celebrations. Many gifts exchanged by our elders have become family heirlooms as they have been handed down from generation to generation.

The traditional anniversary gift list is a great guide to use for inspiration. The important thing is that the gift you get your spouse comes from the heart and is something that can be forever cherished.

Traditional Anniversary Gift Origins

couple kissing

The tradition of couples exchanging gifts to mark an anniversary can be traced back to ancient Rome when husbands would gift their wives a silver wreath on their 25th anniversary and a gold one on their 50th, as both of these metals were considered of great value. Back then, only two anniversaries were celebrated as they were considered the most significant milestones for a married couple.

In the 1800s, the tradition evolved in the United Kingdom during the Victorian era, as more years were added to anniversary celebrations. This was influenced by Queen Victoria’s own 60th diamond jubilee celebration of her accession to the throne. It is believed the gift list was conceptualized during this time in history as its popularity grew.

The trend caught on in the United States in the twentieth century. During this time the list grew in size as anniversary years were added, evolving into the list we know today.

Traditional Anniversary Gifts By Year

The traditional anniversary gift list is comprised of items made of materials that are assigned to a specific anniversary year. Each material has a special meaning and symbolizes the journey the couple has embarked upon. The earlier years are commemorated by gifts made of materials that may not be seen of great value but have special meaning. They are speaking specifically to the bond being established in the beginning years — paper for new beginnings and wood for establishing roots.

As the years pass the materials increase in value, as well as in strength and durability. They symbolize the couple’s bond becoming stronger as the years and decades go by — rubies for passion and gold for its lasting value.

couple with photo book

Year 1: Paper

Paper is fragile and symbolizes new beginnings, just like the first year of marriage. Personalized stationery is a practical way to incorporate paper. If you want to step it up a notch consider tickets to the theater or a concert, a high quality art print to decorate your home or a sweet photo book featuring your favorite memories together.

Year 2: Cotton

Cotton is an airy and flexible material that becomes stronger overtime — the perfect symbol for the two year mark. Gift ideas include matching bathrobes, monogrammed towels, luxurious bedding or a cozy cotton blanket to snuggle together in front of the TV.

Year 3: Leather

Leather weathers some of the harshest conditions yet remains strong and beautiful even when worn out. A leather wallet or matching passport holders are a good way to represent your strengthening relationship. Add a special touch with a personalized leather journal or a smartphone leather case.

Year 4: Fruit/Flowers

Fruit and flowers represent growth, nourishment and abundance and are symbols of a relationship flourishing during the first four years of marriage. Traditional gifts include sending a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a delicious fruit basket. If you want something that lasts a bit longer a refreshing fragrance with fruity undertones or flower scented candles are good options.

boyfriend gifting flowers

Year 5: Wood

Trees have deep roots that grow strong to solidify their place in the universe. Five years of marriage is a big milestone for couples that are growing stronger and developing roots together. Gift ideas include a wooden keepsake box, a wooden sculpture or wood wall art to display your favorite pictures in your home.

Year 6: Iron

Iron is a strong metal that comes from nature, representing how a couple’s bond is becoming stronger with each passing year. Gift ideas include wrought iron decorations for the home, iron cufflinks and an elegant brooch.

Year 7: Wool/Copper

Copper and wool both generate heat and represent the security, warmth and comfort seven years brings to a marriage. You can combine these materials with a wool blanket and Moscow mule mugs to enjoy as you cozy up and watch your favorite show together.

Year 8: Pottery

Pottery represents the transformation of a raw material that is molded and worked into a strong object, a fitting symbolism for eight years of marriage. A pottery class could be a fun way to work together to create something a couple can enjoy and display at home.

couple at pottery class

Year 9: Willow

Willow is a natural material that is flexible and adaptable, qualities that a couple shares as they reach this anniversary. Ideas include a willow basket or furniture.

Year 10: Tin/Aluminum

Tin is used to protect precious things from outside elements, as it is durable and doesn’t rust. Aluminum can be hammered or pressed into different shapes without breaking or cracking. These materials symbolize the strength to protect each other. A tin martini shaker set is a good gift for couples who like to entertain. Aluminum cooking utensils or engraved goblets would work well for couples who enjoy cooking and wine.

Year 11: Steel

Steel is one of the strongest metals and represents the unbreakable spirit of a that a couple’s bond is at the eleventh year anniversary mark as they they begin the second decade of marriage. Gift ideas include stainless steel cookware, kitchenware, a monogrammed flask, or a travel mug.

Year 12: Silk/Linen

Silk and linen both represent comfort and a bit of luxury. Couples celebrating twelve years together are comfortable with each other and able to enjoy the finer things in life. Popular gift items include silk or linen bedding, garments like a silk scarf or a personalized linen pillow for your home.

Year 13: Lace

Lace is elegant and beautiful yet delicate, representing the beauty of a lasting marriage and the importance of continuing to take good care of it. Lace garments, tablecloths or curtains are good options for this anniversary present.

couple in blanket

Year 14: Ivory

Ivory has historically been the material to celebrate the fourteenth year of marriage. In modern times, items depicting elephants have become more popular. Elephants represent good luck, strength and kindness. Elephant figurines, framed art and personalized stationery are good options to commemorate this anniversary.

Year 15: Crystal

Crystal is exquisite, of intricate workmanship and quality. A representation of the investment a couple has made in their relationship. Crystal anniversary gift ideas like vases, wine glasses bowls and paper weights are great choices.

Year 16: Silverware

There is no traditional gift noted for this anniversary year but silverware has become the gift in modern times. Popular household items like silver tableware, cutlery, serving dishes and candlesticks are outstanding options.

Year 17: Furniture

Furniture is a modern item for a 17th wedding anniversary gift. This is a good opportunity to enhance the home and acquire a piece of furniture that has been on your wish list for a long time. Gift ideas include a comfortable arm chair, an antique coffee table or a new bedrooms set.

Year 18: Porcelain

Porcelain items have become a popular material to commemorate the 18th anniversary in recent years. Figurines, serving bowls, vases and plates can freshen up the home as you and your spouse get closer to the 20th anniversary mark.

couple in field

Year 19: Bronze

Bronze has become a popular material to celebrate the 19th anniversary. Bronze gift ideas include a modern sculpture, wall motifs and candlesticks.

Year 20: China

China is elegant, fragile and beautiful, all symbols of the two decades shared by a couple who have built a life together. Beautiful china items include plates, tea sets, ornaments and vases.

Year 25: Silver

Silver has been long valued for its beauty, shine and lasting qualities — very fitting for a couple that has reached their 25th anniversary. A wedding day picture in a silver frame is a great way to capture the journey thus far. Silver housewares, an engraved silver plate or a silver charm bracelet are excellent options as well.

Year 30: Pearl

Pearls are considered one of the most precious treasures of the deep sea. Representing beauty, generosity and endurance, pearls are a lovely representation of the thirty years a couple has spent together. Gifts could be pearl cufflinks for him and a pearl necklace or earrings for her.

Year 35: Coral

Coral is formed beautifully over time in the sea, just like a thirty five year old marriage. A personalized coral print pillow that can be enjoyed by the whole family is a modern spin on this traditional anniversary gift.

gay couple embracing

Year 40: Ruby

Rubies are one of the most beautiful and precious stones on earth. A symbol of love and passion, rubies are the perfect gift for a 40th wedding anniversary. Special jewelry, like ruby cufflinks for him or a brooch to be kept close to her heart for her are beautiful sentimental gifts. Other gifts could be ruby colored garments or fine wine.

Year 45: Sapphire

Sapphires are precious stones associated with joy, prosperity, commitment and fidelity — perfect for a couple celebrating forty-five years of marriage. It is customary for couples to gift each sapphire jewelry during this important milestone. Items like rings, earring or a pendant for her, cufflinks or a tie clip for him. Sapphire blue items are also an option, like a one-of-a-kind fire-blown glass art piece.

Year 50: Gold

Also known as the Golden Wedding, the 50th wedding anniversary is a true testament of the many accomplishments the couple has achieved through their love and commitment. This anniversary should be marked with memorable gifts and celebrations. Gold is considered the most precious metal and is customary for the couple to gift each other gold jewelry. A delicate necklace for her, cufflinks for him, or new gold wedding bands for both are great gifts.

Year 55: Emerald

Emeralds are the traditional gift for the 55th wedding anniversary, signifying life, devotion, eternity and true love. Reaching this anniversary is a demonstrates the couple’s dedication to each other and the life they have built together. An emerald eternity ring would make a splendid gift. You can also consider a deep green plant, a luxurious scarf or perhaps a beautiful figurine.

Year 60: Yellow Diamond

Diamonds are the strongest and most durable natural mineral on earth. It is believed that the fire of a diamond symbolizes the constant flame of love. Yellow diamonds symbolize pure love, commitment, faithfulness, joy and happiness — all qualities that couples who have reached their 60th wedding anniversary share. Gift ideas include earrings or a pendant for her, a watch or ring for him.

Traditional vs. Modern Anniversary Gifts

The traditional anniversary gift list is a helpful guide that is long treasured by couples, but if you are looking for something different consider going modern as it’s mostly viewed as more practical and appropriate for the times we live in. The modern list includes items like electrical appliances for the 4th anniversary instead of fruit and flowers, and watches instead of crystal for the 15th. The best thing to do is to take a look at your anniversary gift options and consider the lifestyle you and your spouse share along with their likes and dislikes.

couple laughing

Traditional anniversary gifts are romantic and meaningful, they can create wonderful memories to be treasured for years to come. Keep in mind that anniversaries are special milestones to celebrate the love and harmony you have both share through life’s ups and downs.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to picking a gift and celebrating an anniversary — think quaint cocktail party or a fabulous 50th golden wedding — whichever way you choose to commemorate the special occasion will surely be appreciated.