Traditional Anniversary Gifts List By Year

Learn when to give gold as an anniversary gift and when to give paper.

Traditional anniversary gifts have been passed down through the ages. Though we do not know where all of the traditions originally came from, historians have traced some traditions as far back as the Middle Ages. The first actual "lists" as we know them today were not compiled until the 20th century, however.

The gifts themselves often incorporate things that were or are still associated with good luck or good fortune. Each of these gifts is centered on a material or element, and you are unlimited in how the gift expresses it. Remember that, unless your marriage is predicated on spending, you do not need to "spend more" each year. A thoughtful gift given in love can often mean more than an expensive gift given without thought. That does not mean you should spend cheaply, however; just that each year does not need to outdo the year before.

First -- Paper. Anything from a book of her favorite poetry, to tickets for his favorite sport's team, to the deed for a newly purchased house, could fit this theme.

Second -- Cotton. Clothing is an evident choice for this anniversary. Either buy your spouse something beautiful to wear, or surprise them by dressing yourself up for a night out.

Third -- Leather. Leather clothing or leather accessories make fine gifts, but even the leather interior of a new automobile could fit this anniversary.

Fourth -- Flowers. Large bouquets of her favorite flowers are the most traditional expression of this anniversary, but any gift with a floral motif would be appropriate.

Fifth -- Wood. Any number of things can be made of wood, from picture frames and clocks to cabinets and houses.

Sixth -- Sugar. This is most commonly interpreted as candy, especially gourmet boxes from specialty confectioners. It could also be a decadent dessert at the end of an elegant anniversary dinner.

Seventh -- Wool. Many people choose wool clothing or accessories for this anniversary.

Eighth -- Bronze. Many people prefer to interpret this as a bronze or copper color instead of the metal itself. The neatest suggestion I have ever come across was to give your spouse a bronze-colored tan by taking an anniversary trip to the tropics.

Ninth -- Pottery. Many like to interpret this as "china" and shop accordingly, but as china is also the twentieth anniversary item, you are better off looking at vases, plates, perhaps even pottery lessons you and your spouse can take together.

Tenth -- Tin or Aluminum. A decorative tin full of your spouse's favorite cookies or candies would fit this anniversary, as would any gadget or device with aluminum housing.

Eleventh -- Steel. Stainless steel cookware or dishware would make a fine gift, especially if you've been using the same pots and utensils you got for your wedding.

Twelfth -- Silk. Silk bed sheets or nightclothes can make the twelfth anniversary one to remember.

Thirteenth -- Lace. It is hard to shop lace for a man, but lace nightclothes on a woman can be a treat for both of you!

Fourteenth -- Ivory. This is a nearly impossible tradition to keep, as ivory is now considered illegal in most countries. However, ivory as a color--an antique shade of off-white--can be put to any number of possibilities.

Fifteenth -- Crystal. Anything from vases and dishes to decanters of fine wine could fit the crystal tradition.

After the fifteenth anniversary, tradition commonly jumps in spans of five, and, with the exception of the Twentieth, all feature precious stones or metals. Cufflinks, earrings, and necklaces are the most common ways of expressing any precious stone anniversary, though in all cases the color of the stone could also be used as a gift-buying theme.

Twentieth -- China. Most commonly the dishes, though a couple looking for a vacation could also visit the country itself.

Twenty-Fifth -- Silver. This could be any form of silver jewelry or other accessory, as well as any number of silver-plated objects and keepsakes.

Thirtieth -- Pearl.

Thirty-Fifth -- Coral.

Fortieth -- Ruby.

Forty-Fifth -- Sapphire.

Fiftieth -- Gold. The fiftieth anniversary is most often recognized with gold rings, sometimes accompanied by wedding recommitment ceremonies.

Fifty-fifth -- Emerald.

Sixtieth -- Diamond. Though often used as the seventy-fifth anniversary of stores or festivals, diamond is the sixtieth for married couples. Like the fiftieth anniversary, rings are the most common expression of this tradition.

If you are lucky enough to celebrate beyond sixty years of marriage, you should be an old hat at this gift-giving thing, and can probably choose a stunning anniversary gift without the help of tradition!

For those having trouble finding fitting gift ideas, a "modern" anniversary list also exists. Seemingly put together by shopping malls and department stores, the modern list replaces many of the materials with manufactured goods--appliances, desk sets, jewelry, watches, and clocks. Personally, I feel that the traditional anniversary list leaves more room for individual thought and expression, and is therefore the best list to use.

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