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Anniversary Gifts with a Twist

Ashley Evanson - June 30, 2009

Wedding anniversaries are the perfect opportunity for married couples to express and celebrate their love for each other. Tradition goes that for each anniversary there is a specific material to be given—increasing in strength and value—which symbolizes the dedication and investment of the relationship. Not to mention, legend has it that corresponding certain substances with a specific number of years brings luck.

No one knows exactly how the traditional anniversary gift list came to be, but we do know it contains some origins that go all the way back to medieval Europe. Historians say that in Germany it was tradition for a husband to present a silver garland to his wife on their 25th wedding anniversary representing the harmony needed for so many years of marriage, and then a gold garland on their 50th - hence the popular terms "silver" and "golden anniversary."

In the Victorian Era the tradition became a little more precise. Because Victorians were fond of classifying and cataloguing, they began to make a more detailed list of anniversary gifts, although no one is sure exactly who started it and when. One gift known for sure to have come from the Victorian Era is that of diamonds for the 60th year of marriage. Queen Victoria of the English Empire celebrated her 60th anniversary of accession to the throne in 1897. The event was known as the Diamond Jubilee, and the anniversary theme stuck.

Then in 1922, Emily Post listed the "eight anniversaries known to all" in her Blue Book of Social Usage - the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th. She went on to acknowledge the modern trend of celebrating additional anniversaries, and presented a new list of gifts for the first fifteen years and every five after that.

Traditionally, gifts given in the early years of marriage are more practical and seen as a sort of extension of wedding gifts, with those given in later years as being more luxury gifts. However, a lot of the traditional materials are a bit out of date and couples don't exactly need - or want - something made from, say, tin. Without throwing tradition out the window, you can still follow the anniversary guide and find ways to modernize your gifts. Here are some suggestions.

The First Anniversary: Paper

Paper is given for the first year of marriage because it represents the fragility of the relationship. But it also can by symbolic of your strength as a couple, just as paper has a subtle strength from its individual, interlaced threads. Its inexpensive quality reflects what most newlywed couples can afford, and is thus appropriate. But instead of the traditional stationary set, try something fresh. There are lots of things made out of paper that can say "I love you."

  • Plan a romantic picnic using paper plates and cups. Make it a date by preparing the meal together, planning activities for the picnic like reading or flying kites, and bring along a CD for some music.
  • Mail a postcard to your spouse with a scene of where the two of you will visit for your anniversary.
  • Tickets to a concert or sports event can be a fun way to celebrate. You can even tuck the tickets into the day's newspaper next to the entertainment or sports section for more effect.
  • Board games and puzzles are a great gift and give you something inexpensive and fun to do together or with friends.
The Second Anniversary: Cotton
  • A rope hammock in the backyard can be a place for the two of you to relax together. Not to mention, it's a gift that will last through the years, giving you plenty of opportunities to spend a quiet afternoon together.
The Third Anniversary: Leather
  • Give your spouse a pair of leather gloves made for their favorite hobby. For example, get him a pair of leather golfing or driving gloves, or give her a pair of gardening gloves. And don't forget to throw in a voucher for an afternoon date to do that hobby together.
The Fourth Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers
  • When your spouse gets home, have a trail of rose petals leading them up to the door. Prepare chocolate covered strawberries or a fruit salad.
The Fifth Anniversary: Wood

The bond of marriage after five years is represented by wood - it is strong and long-lasting. The tree is a universal symbol for life and many cultures associate it with the life of a couple. In parts of India when two people marry, a pair of trees is joined in a symbolic wedding so that vitality and life are transferred to the couple. A tree also has roots, symbolic of a married couple's growing strength and durability. And lastly, by this point in the marriage, many couples have started to have children and are beginning family trees of their own. It's very symbolic for the couple to give the gift of a tree on this wedding anniversary.

  • Plant and nurture a tree together; it is emblematic of nurturing your own relationship. By planting a fruit tree, you can watch how the fruits of your labors grow and produce something beautiful.
Trees with symbolism include the oak tree, which represents solidity; a red maple, representing passion; and the flowering crab tree, which represents eternal love.

The Sixth Anniversary: Iron

  • Give your spouse a gift that helps with his or her "Iron Chef" skills. Sign up for a cooking class together and learn to cook a special dish for one another. You can even buy your spouse a recipe book and mark some of the recipes you'd like to make together.
The Seventh Anniversary: Wool
  • A wool blanket is perfect for snuggling up together on a special cabin getaway. And if you can't make it to a cabin, you can even spend a romantic evening snuggled up at home, watching movies and chatting.
The Eighth Anniversary: Bronze
  • Nothing says "I love you" like a beach vacation for the two of you. Give your spouse a bottle of bronzing lotion and sandals to use on the beach.
The Ninth Anniversary: Pottery
  • Together, go to a home furniture store like Pottery Barn and pick out a new timepiece for your home.
The Tenth Anniversary: Tin

After a decade of marriage, a couple is more flexible and their relationship is not as breakable. Tin is a perfect symbol of the malleability of a good relationship. It also can have a metaphorical meaning - tin is weaker when standing alone, but when combined with another metal, it is strengthened and is able to hold up better.

  • Tin by itself is not used to make many things any more, but who could forget nostalgic luncheon tins? Pack a delicious meal in some spiffy tins and go to a concert in the park together. And don't forget to bring a bottle of sparkling cider to celebrate your decade!
The Eleventh Anniversary: Steel
  • For those buns of steel you both want, sign the two of you up for a gym membership. If you already have one, give yourselves a couple sessions with a personal trainer.
The Twelfth Anniversary: Silk
  • Fold a pair of silk pajamas on the bed and tuck a note into the pocket telling your spouse to pack the new gift for a night together at a nice hotel downtown. Or try a silk tie for him, silk sheets, or a silk scarf for her.
The Thirteenth Anniversary: Lace
  • Give your spouse lavender and lace - two beautiful and romantic plants. Buy a silver lace vine and lavender bushes, along with a shiny new spade for your spouse. And make sure to plant them together!
The Fourteenth Anniversary: Ivory
  • Have dinner at a classy restaurant that has live piano music and secretly tip the pianist to tickle the ivories with "your" song.
The Fifteenth Anniversary: Crystal
  • A bag of bath salts and crystals is perfect for ultimate relaxation. Tie a note to the bag telling your spouse to get ready for a day of pampering at a spa.
The Twentieth Anniversary: China
  • Because most couples either already have a set of china or have no need for one, try something a little more imaginative. Cook a nice Chinese meal that ends with fortune cookies, each stuffed with a personalized message that gives clues to the true anniversary gift.
The Twenty-fifth Anniversary: Silver

This flexible, yet durable, metal is symbolic of wisdom and peace - attributes couples have no doubt started to acquire after twenty-five years of marriage. By now, they've learned from their past, gaining new insights on the world and each other, and have found peace with themselves and their differences as husband and wife.

  • Celebrate the occasion with a silver screen-themed jubilee. The silver screen era was Hollywood's most glamorous and lavish period, so what better way to commemorate your marriage than star in your own silver screen production? Decorate everything in silver, using movie tickets and other movie memorabilia. Invite friends and family to enjoy a film with pictures and clips of the two of you from over the years.
The Thirtieth Anniversary: Pearl
  • The world is your oyster - your kids already have moved or are close to moving out, you're established, and the world is yours for the taking. It's finally time to do that one thing your spouse and you have always wanted to do. Whether it's a home improvement project, a class, music lessons, or a trip around the world, give your sweetheart the gift you've dreamed up together.
The Thirty-fifth Anniversary: Coral
  • Take a day out on the town and visit the best aquarium in your area. Afterward, take your sweetheart to a nice seafood dinner.
  • If this year allows for a getaway, give your spouse a disposable underwater camera so they can take pictures of flashy fish and coral while snorkeling on your tropical vacation.
The Fortieth Anniversary: Ruby
  • Make them a memory book full of pictures from your wedding, with your family, and from over the years. You can even include stories you've gathered from friends and family. Put it in a ruby red album with a red color theme.
The Forty-fifth Anniversary: Sapphire
  • Staying young at heart is important, so for this anniversary be adventurous and take a ride in a hot air balloon through beautiful sapphire skies.
The Fiftieth Anniversary: Gold

Gold is one of the most valued precious metals. It represents perfection, as well as a couple's goal to obtain perfection as husband and wife. It's a timeless metal, just like your marriage after fifty beautiful years together.

  • Host a gold-themed party with friends and family. By now, you probably have grown children and grandchildren and friendships that have lasted over the years, and your 50th wedding anniversary will be a grand celebration, honoring you and your spouse's golden years together.

© LDS Living, Inc., July/August 2009; Photo by marija jure./demoded.com