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The History of Wedding Anniversary Gifts

If you are approaching your wedding anniversary, and knowing an anniversary gift may be expected, you might be wondering exactly why it is we buy wedding anniversary gifts, and the history of the tradition. Wherever you’re at in your marriage journey, I still do is an ideal gift – it can be used as an anniversary diary, marriage workbook and keepsake, and Celebrate is a beautiful linen memory book to record 50 years of celebrations, you could use it for just your wedding anniversaries, or include birthdays and other special family occasions within it. 

The origin of celebrating wedding anniversaries harks back to the Middle Ages. While primarily an excuse for gift-giving, the underlying belief corresponds with bringing of luck. The practice of giving peculiar gifts on various wedding anniversaries originated in Central Europe. Among the medieval Germans it was customary for friends to present a wife with a wreath of silver when she had lived with her husband twenty-five years.

The silver symbolises the harmony that was assumed to be necessary to make so many years of marriage possible. On the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding the wife was presented with a wreath of gold. Hence arose ‘silver wedding’ and ‘golden wedding.’ This practice, borrowed from the Germans, has been elaborated upon in modern times.

The passing of another year together marks a deepening of the couple’s commitment, an accumulation of time irreplaceable. To help in celebrating these occasions are special gifts, one assigned to each anniversary and each with its own material and symbolic value. In the United States, wedding anniversary gifts begin simply, with paper and flowers, and gradually increase in substance and value. The order of gifts reflects the investment that the couple gives of themselves to each other. In Germany, by comparison, couples use a list of symbols that represent the progressive strengthening of the marriage relationship – Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field, The Meaning of Wedding Anniversaries

Although no one is exactly certain how the traditional list of symbolic anniversary gifts originated, it is likely that the Victorian Era made the custom popular. Early anniversary symbolism included only a few of the anniversaries we recognize today.

Turning to the 20th Century, Emily Post listed “eight anniversaries know to all” in her 1922 Blue Book of Social Usage. She then recognised the trend toward celebrating additional anniversaries and listed a symbolic anniversary gift for each of the first fifteen years of marriage and one for every five years after that. This is the basis for the lists we use today.

Prior to 1937, only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversary had a material associated with it. In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association issued a more comprehensive list, which associated a material for each anniversary year up to the 20th and then each fifth year after that up to the 75th, with the exception of the 65th.

Now that you know the history, take home a copy of I still do and Celebrate Memory Book and start recording all the special ways you celebrate your wedding anniversaries, to look back on together over years to come.


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