Give the gift of tradition this year – would your other half thank you?

“I saved up for months, scoured online and went through 3 personal shoppers before finally finding these Hermes cufflinks. I was so excited to give it to him, but he insisted I open mine first. It was a paper aeroplane.”

I had to giggle at the look of disgust on Jessica’s face as she told me about her and her husband exchanging their 1st wedding anniversary presents. Ryan thought he was being incredibly romantic by following the custom of wedding anniversary gift giving, but it turned out Jess had never even heard of it. The young couple married last year and at 28-years-old, Ryan always remembered his dad giving a traditional gift to his mum each year. But is the tradition dying out now?

It’s not known exactly where the idea of assigning certain gifts to a particular year of marriage comes from. In German history, it’s said that a silver wreath would be gifted on 25 years of marriage, followed by a gold one to celebrate 50 years. These days, such milestones are still marked with silver and gold, but are typically more appreciated in the form of shiny jewellery.

wedding

Big brands used the anniversaries to market their product to be the perfect option for a special celebration.

Fun fact: did you know that diamonds weren’t the original gemstone of engagement rings? It wasn’t until 1947 that diamond engagement rings became the symbol of proposals, thanks to a huge advertising campaign by De Beers, the most prominent diamond brand in history. The campaign coined the iconic phrase, ‘A Diamond is Forever’, which revolutionised the jewellery industry.

Here’s the traditional gifting list by anniversary year:
1st: Paper | 2nd: Cotton | 3rd: Leather | 4th: Linen | 5th: Wood | 6th: Iron | 7th: Wool | 8th: Bronze
9th: Pottery | 10th: Tin | 11th: Steel | 12th: Silk | 13th: Lace | 14th: Ivory | 15th: Crystal | 20th: China
25th: Silver | 30th: Pearl | 40th: Ruby | 45th: Sapphire | 50th: Gold | 55th: Emerald | 60th: Diamond

While it might be new to some millennials, like Jess, it’s very likely that the older generation will know of it fondly. John, 86, from North Manchester, remembers putting away every spare penny from his trucker’s wage to buy his wife a silver watch on their 25th wedding anniversary. A watch that, now vintage, he still keeps by his bedside 9 years after his wife’s passing.

“Nothing else mattered but buying that watch. I walked past the jewellers every morning and knew I wanted to see it on her wrist. It was big for us to make it to 25 years, and we liked to be traditional in these things as we never did anything else traditionally!”

So, what’s the best way to keep the customs alive in 2023? If you’re anything like me, you’ll hate the idea of your gift being tossed aside, so here are some examples of how to adapt them…

Paper

A paper aeroplane may not be the best option, but why not make a scrapbook with memories of your first year of married life together? A commissioned piece of artwork personalised and printed on paper would also be fitting. A painted version of a wedding photo, perhaps? Or a poem written specifically for them. And if all else fails, remember that money is made of paper – and that rarely fails to put a smile on someone’s face!

Cotton

Arguably a little more boring, it’s still one you can enjoy. Many household items are made of the material, so treat yourselves to new cotton bedding or a super soft throw. Dress cute together in monogrammed cotton dressing gowns or matching pjs for a romantic night in!

Pottery

Pottery is a tough one; there’s not many people who’d be overjoyed to receive a clay mug – especially for 9 years of marriage. Try a local pottery class instead! Recreate the scene from Ghost (subtly) and maybe even come home with a new item that will make a precious heirloom for the kids.