Anniversary Gifts By Year: Traditional vs Modern Complete Guide

The idea of celebrating each year of a marriage is ancient (at least medieval). Victorians made lists for everything, this being one. A traditional wedding anniversary gift list set expectations for the right gift in the correct year. The Victorians also assigned meanings to their choices often with some poetic licence. Gradually the list expands to cover more years and modern wedding anniversary gifts along with colours, flowers and gemstones.

You can give a nod to tradition by wrapping your chosen gift in an appropriate coloured paper. Or go all out to find unique items that meet your requirements from this list showing how much you care.

Marriage a personal contract between two people, You can make your own traditions. Anniversary cufflinks in the years gemstone or planting an anniversary bed with specially chosen flowers. You can take this traditional anniversary wedding gift list or more modern, or mix and match between them as inspiration strikes…

Year 1: Paper Anniversary

Paper a traditional wedding gift. The fragile first year has passed or perhaps an acknowledgement that a young couple cannot afford an expensive gift on their first anniversary. Clocks the modern gift representing how fast time flies. Also, a reminder that a relationship needs time.

Choose from mother-of-pearl, pearl or peridot for an official gemstone. Mother of pearl is a beautiful inlay material in many decorative objects. Mother-of-pearl symbolic meaning is peace and harmony. Pearls are for virtue a peridot brings health and good cheer.

Yellow pansies for 1st year anniversary

Pick floral gifts from pansy, carnation and orange blossom. Pansy was referred to as thoughts’ by Shakespeare’s Hamlet quotation, as the name sounds like the French penser–to think. They have grown carnations since ancient times, and this flower always represents love. Orange blossom a traditional bridal headdress and gifts of orange blossom spark memories of their wedding day.

The colour theme for the paper wedding day is a cheerful yellow.

Year 2: Cotton Anniversary

This year’s colour is passionate red, and the gemstone is garnet. If going with the traditional gift list, then seek items made with cotton. Or, consider using a red cotton cloth to wrap your gift in a Japanese style.

A more modern outlook sets you searching for that perfect china gift. Carefully chosen flowers would include lily of the valley (perhaps as scented soap), cosmos or an old favourit– red roses.

Dark red garnet symbolises love and prized since ancient times. Sweetly scented lily of the valley (also the May lily) name means a return to happiness’. There is a Dutch tradition of planting lily of the valley bulbs in the newlywed’s gardens ensuring future happiness. Yellow cosmos smells like chocolate and speaks of great love.

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Year 3: Leather Anniversary

After three years, the couple have showed staying power. Traditional wedding anniversary gift choice is longer lasting and slightly more expensive–leather. Leather suitcases for that special trip or a more modest leather-covered journal. Modern couples can opt for crystal or glass. Hand engraved champagne flutes accompanied by the very best bubbles.

Lily and pearl gifts

If incorporating gemstones into your gift, then moonstone, pearls, crystal or jade. Moonstone can signify success, pearls are pure and loyal, a crystal is clear and true and jade is rare and lucky.

Flowers for these occasions are bright, cheerful sunflowers, glorious fuchsia. Or for the second year the modest lily of the valley. Sunflowers are for happiness and longevity. Fuchsia flowers have the hidden meaning of telling your partner you love them. Lily of the Valley is innocent and hopeful.

Colour theme white or jade or a mixture of the two.

Year 4: Linen Anniversary

The traditional gift in the UK is linen or silk; in the US it is flowers and fruit. Silk or linen more luxurious materials than humble paper and cotton but not as functional as leather. There is a hint that the couple are wealthier from their union.

A modern gift is still linen or an appliance, perhaps by now the toaster is broken, or the kettle needs replacing.

The gemstone an unusual blue topaz–a peaceful, calming stone and the state gemstone of Texas. Natural blue topaz is rare, most have been heat-treated to produce that beautiful intense blue.

Floral gifts of geraniums speak to the comfort of a shared home. Hydrangeas express appreciation for the gift of another’s understanding. Both flowers express quiet contentment of a long relationship that blends friendship and love.

Colour theme for year four is blue or green.

Traditional wooden fountain gifts

Year 5: Wood Anniversary

Traditional material for this anniversary gift is wood in all its natural beauty. The modern gift is silverware. Both materials are durable, long-lasting and attractive. The gemstone rose quartz (for love) or sapphire (for protection and insight).

A colour themed celebration can incorporate turquoise, blue or pink. The fifth year’s flower symbol the virtuous daisy whose modest beauty speaks (in flower language) of loyalty and faith. The daisy comes in many shapes, sizes, some cultivated varieties have stunning colours.

Year 6: Sweet Anniversary

In the UK we celebrate this with sugar and in the US with iron. The modern wedding anniversary gift is an object made from iron or wood. You can be creative with sugar–body scrubs and a day at the spa, but wood and iron are used in plenty of unique gifts.

Amethyst was once as rare and prized as diamonds, and its purple colour made it a favoured royal jewel. In crystal language, it’s a protective stone in ancient times believed to prevent drunkenness.

The colour choices are purple, white and turquoise. The flower is the exotic and sensuous calla lily.

Year 7: Woollen Anniversary

In the US the traditional gift is copper, and in the UK it is wool. In a cold, wet climate like the UK wool fabric for warmth and waterproofing is ideal. The modern wedding anniversary gift for year seven is something made from brass or a desk set.

Gemstone, onyx, usually carved in large pieces but also when polished a beautiful gemstone. The colour theme is yellow or off white. If you want to say it with flowers, you pick freesias, beautifully scented with the hidden meaning of friendship and thoughtfulness.

5th year wedding anniversary wooden heart

Year 8: Salt Anniversary

Salt the traditional wedding anniversary gift in the UK perhaps from King Lear when Cordelia says her love is like that of fresh meat for salt. US tradition is for a gift made from bronze or pottery or the modern anniversary gift list gives linen and lace.

The colour theme is bronze, with the gemstone tourmaline, another soothing and calming stone. Floral gifts include clematis and lilac. In the language of flowers, clematis denotes ingenuity and lilac first love.

Year 9: Copper Anniversary

The modern anniversary gift is leather, and the traditional is copper (UK) or willow (US). Copper and leather items both gain a soft glow with age and careful polishing. A reminder that couples work at their relationship over time for it to shine.

The colour theme is warm earthy terracotta. Glorious blue lapis lazuli gemstone used in powder form to produce an intense blue pigment in art masterpieces. The flower ranges from the peaceful poppy to the colourful bird of paradise.

Year 10: Tin Anniversary

Tin the gift of choice for traditionalist (or Aluminium in the US), but the modern gift suggestion is diamonds. Tin is durable, but also flexible both excellent qualities for a long marriage. Or, like the tin man–everything is better with a loving heart.

The colour theme is silver or blue, the listed gemstone is a crystal or green tourmaline. The dancing daffodils flower meaning honesty and forgiveness.

Year 11: Steel Anniversary

A traditional gift of steel or a modern offering of jewellery. The colour theme and the gemstone match, turquoise. The flower is the tulip, whose message is perfect love. Red tulips are for passionate love, yellow for cheerfulness, white is pure, and cream is eternal.

You can send mixed signals with variegated blooms, but the hidden message is–you have beautiful eyes. An alternative flower the short-lived Morning Glory with its subtle reminder to treasure every moment.

Year 12: Silk Anniversary

The traditionalists repeat the anniversary gift choice of year four, linen or silk while the modernists prefer pearls. The gemstone is jade, and the colour theme is an oyster white. The soft and beautiful peony representing romance and quiet joy the flower choice at this anniversary.

Pearls need wearing to keep their lustre and jade is lucky. Twin ingredients for a successful marriage, good fortune and close contact.

Year 13: Lace Anniversary

The traditional wedding anniversary gift is lace, but the modern gift giver can choose general textiles or fur. Synthetic furs can imitate an animal pelt or be unique in using iridescent colours and combinations not found in the animal kingdom.

This gemstone is Citrine, a warm yellow stone speaking of sunshine and optimism. The colour theme for year 13 is white, there is a choice of sweet violets or bold chrysanthemums for flowers.

Year 14: Ivory Anniversary

They ban the traditional gift of ivory to protect endangered species from poachers. Tagua nut carvings an excellent alternative, tagua nuts known as vegetarian ivory. The modern wedding anniversary gift of gold jewellery gives many options.

The year’s colour is ivory, and the gemstone is an opal, a beautiful stone with sparkles. Dahlia flowers symbolise elegance and dignity. Its meaning being commitment to another person making it an excellent anniversary flower.

Year 15: Crystal Anniversary

Traditionalists will search for beautiful crystal objects, but modernists will pick out his and her watches. Red colour theme, the flower must be roses of a deep, dark, velvety red.

The gemstone is rhodolite, a pink rose coloured garnet whose meaning is inspired love’.

Year 20: China Anniversary

China is the traditional wedding anniversary gift for the twenty-year mark. Followers of the modern list will seek something made with platinum. The official gemstone is platinum (a metal not a gemstone) or emerald.

The theme being that two decades of togetherness is worthy of celebration. The colour theme is emerald green or the default white. For flowers, choose daylilies meaning “no worries” or bright colourful asters for pleasant surprises, love and contentment.

Year 25: Silver Anniversary

One word- silver, sums up the approach to this milestone wedding anniversary. The traditional and the modern both shop for a silver gift and the colour theme is also silver. They list the gemstone as silver or tsavorite, a rare green garnet.

The chosen flower is iris with it symbolising faith, hope, wisdom. If you want to keep the silver theme going with the flowers, look for Iris Sibirica (a white iris) or pure white roses.

Year 30: Pearl Anniversary

Year 30 known as the pearl wedding anniversary, the traditional wedding anniversary gift, pearls. The official gemstones is pearls. The modern wedding anniversary gift choice is diamonds. Three decades of standing together through life’s trials, worthy of celebration.

This colour theme is green. Anniversary flowers can be colourful sweetly scented sweet peas (perhaps a home-grown bunch) representing long-lasting bliss. The alternative is the lily with echoes of devotion and purity.

Year 35: Coral Anniversary

This year has no official flower, so coral-pink roses fit with this anniversary colour. The traditional gift is coral but if you prefer not to buy an animal product, then the modern gift is jade. The precious stone is an emerald.

Gift-giving can challenge but think creatively around the theme. A book with coral in the title, an object that is coral coloured or a reef diving experience.

Year 40: Ruby Anniversary

Wedding anniversary gift theme is red, ruby red because this wedding anniversary is the ruby wedding anniversary. Traditional, modern, gemstone and colour, ruby, but the flowers can be many colours. A simple nasturtium (there is a red variety) symbolising victory or showy. Beautiful gladioli for strength and admiration.

Rubies are a form of sapphire, but there deep red colour puts them in a unique class. Red is the colour of passion, and the ruby is a symbol of passionate love that has stood the test of time.

Year 45: Sapphire Anniversary

Another gemstone year, this time the sapphire, the colour is blue, and the blue iris fits in with this theme. Sapphires reputation is to protect the wearer and associated with Venus. The sapphires colour comes from impurities as otherwise, it would be a clear stone. The blue iris stands for faith and hope, painted extensively by Van Gogh.

If genuine sapphires are not suitable gifts for the happy couple, perhaps gifts wrapped in sapphire blue paper are the answer. Alternatively, pick out gifts in sapphire shades or something beautiful featuring blue irises.

Year 50: Golden Anniversary

The golden year, traditional and modern anniversary gift-givers agree that the only way is gold. Gold colour, gold gemstone and yellow roses keep the theme golden.

Again, every gift doesn’t have to be solid gold; you can get creative with the wrapping and think around the topic. Fifty golden’ gifts perhaps or a movie night with gold-themed films.

Year 55: Emerald Anniversary

After 55 years the theme is the emerald, even the calla lily that is the chosen flower has emerald tints. Calla lily is not a lily plant, but the name has stuck, the word calla comes from the Greek and means beautiful. In the western tradition, we associate emeralds with Venus, the goddess of love.

Fifty-five years is a long time and the choice of emerald reflects the evergreen nature of a long-lasting marriage.

Perhaps a trip to the Emerald Isle as a wedding anniversary gift for the happy couple or unique hand-crafted items in keeping with this green theme.

Year 60: Diamond Anniversary

Full agreement between traditionalists and modernists, the theme is diamond, and the flowers are dazzling white orchids.  Diamonds have been found on every continent and prized for their beauty and clarity. The beauty of diamonds results from a combination of heat and pressure. A marriage coming through sixty years will have withstood many stresses and challenges.

In the Chinese language of flowers, orchids symbolise many children. Orchids are one of the most prolific flowering plants and come in a range of colours but for this anniversary diamond-bright white.

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