wedding anniversary gifts

All wedding anniversary by years – Origins and complete list

A wedding anniversary is an important celebration for many married couples, be it the 1st or the 60th. This is always a date that you take to remember your accomplishments, review your couple’s past and future, celebrate as a couple or, even, celebrate with family and friends.

If you are looking for wedding anniversary gifts by year for both the US and the UK, you’ve come to the right place. Just browse the wedding anniversary tables below to access our complete guides as well as our best gift recommendations, activities, quotes and much more!

The traditional wedding anniversary list is usually well known but do you know that there are several other lists?  The modern listing is quite famous too but did you hear about the flowers, gemstones, and color lists? Down the road, all these themes give you a lot of opportunities to make that day a really special day and bring that particular smile!

Before discovering all the wedding anniversary by years, let’s look at where does this tradition come from?

The origins of the wedding anniversary tradition

wedding anniversary tradition
Silver wedding anniversary of King Leopold II of Belgium and Queen Marie Henriette

The tradition of wedding anniversary gift giving seems to find its roots in the holy roman empire also known as medieval Germany. At that time, wealthy couples were commemorating only 2 important years of their marriage with a ceremony where the husband was offering wreath to his wife: a silver wreath for their 25th anniversary and a golden wreath for their 50th anniversary. This tradition seems to have stayed in Germany and german-speaking area for a while, before making its way to the UK and, then, the US.

The idea of wedding anniversary gift giving started to slowly spread to English-speaking country during the 19th century. It is only in the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, that the tradition really reached acceptance with few books and dictionaries mentioning a list of 8 commemorative years.

In 1875, “Perfect Etiquette, or, How to Behave in Society” by James Kernan, listed the following :

  • 1st year : The Paper Wedding
  • 5th year : The Wooden Wedding
  • 10th year : The Tin Wedding
  • 15th year : The Crystal Wedding
  • 20th year : The China Wedding
  • 25th year : The Silver Wedding
  • 50th year : The Golden Wedding
  • 75th year : The Diamond Wedding
wedding anniversary tradition
Extract of Perfect Etiquette, or, How to Behave in Society by James Kernan

We had to wait until the mid 20th century to see the exhaustive list that we know today under the name “Traditional Wedding Anniversary List”, appear. In 1922, Emily post’s Etiquette the blue book of social usage (1945) listed themes for the first 15 years of marriage and then a theme for every 5 years.

Later on, in 1937, the American National Retail Jewelers Association saw the opportunity for making money and issued a complete list that is today known as the “Modern Wedding Anniversary List”. That listing gives a gift topic for each marriage year up to the 50th and even to the 100th (!) with 5-20 years blank gaps.

The last accepted update of the Modern list has been released by the Chicago Public Library in 2000, this makes 2 different lists available for couples to choose from.

If you’d like to know more about the history of the wedding anniversary themes, there is this great article from the Time that you should absolutely read.

Wedding anniversary by years, the complete theme list

wedding anniversary gifts by year

Like many peoples, I am not too much into the modern list as it looks a little outdated compared to the traditional. Also, the modern themes are a purely consumerist invention, there is no intent to symbolize the growing marriage years, and only use a kind of increasing price tag every year.

Nevertheless, this “modern” list exists and can still be a great source of ideas as well as beautiful gifts. The Modern, the Traditional as well as the UK gift list are shown below, which one should you select? The choice is yours! In the end, what is important, is to bring that special smile when giving your gift!

For readability of the table, I listed the gemstones, colors and flower themes further, so do not hesitate to scroll down if this is what you are looking for.

For the US modern and traditional lists, I took the last compiled version from the Chicago Public Library as there seems to have an agreement to say that it is the last “official” attempt.

For the UK list, I compiled a list from several sources, including the Pears Cyclopaedia. If you can help me to build it, do not hesitate to leave me a comment.

Anniversary YearTraditional (UK)Traditional (US)Modern (US)
3rdLeatherLeatherCrystal or Glass
4thFruit and flowersLinen or SilkAppliance
6thSugarIronWood objects
7thWoolenWool or CopperDesk sets
8thSaltBronzeLinen or Lace
9thCopperPottery or ChinaLeather goods
10thTinTin or AluminiumDiamond
11thSteelFashion jewelry
12thSilk or Fine linenSilkPearls or colored gems
13thLaceTextiles or furs
14thIvoryIvoryGold jewelry
16thSilver holloware
21stBrass or Nickel
23rdSilver plate
24thMusical instruments
25thSilverSilverSterling Silver
26thOriginal pictures
29thNew furniture
35thCoralCoral or JadeJade
36thBone China
38thBeryl or Tourmaline
42ndImproved real estate
46thOriginal poetry tribute
48thOptics goods
65thBlue Sapphire
75thDiamond or Gold
80thOakDiamond and Pearls
85thDiamond and Sapphire
90thDiamond and Emerald
95thDiamond and Ruby
100th10-carat Diamond

Gemstones, flowers and colors by year

The above lists are well-known but did you know that similar tables also exist for gemstones, flowers and colors. These additional lists should give you more ideas for gifts, a theme for a celebration or color for a love letter.

I really like the gemstone list, even if I do not follow it myself. Since I love collecting, I think that it could be a great way to build a nice and valuable gemstones collection with a lot of history, this can also be a quite good legacy for your children or family. I built this list on the one published by the Jewelers of America as well as others ressources.

Flowers is a great list to offer a gift on a low budget, add a little attention to your “main” gifts or decorate a table for your celebration. It is also a great way to discover flowers, their world and meanings.

Last but not least, since it might be the most powerful list, the colors can give a theme to your celebration decor. This theme can also help you pick the perfect card and wrapping color or, and this is where it becomes powerful, a gift! Let’s say that this year’s theme is blue and you find no ideas in any of the other lists, you can just pick a blue colored gift!

Anniversary YearFlowersGemstonesColors
1stCarnationGoldGold or Yellow
2ndCosmos or Lily of the ValleyGarnetLinen White
3rdSunflower or FuschiaPearlBrown
4thGermanium or HydrangeaBlue TopazLime Green
6thCalla lilyAmethystWhite
7thFreesia or Jack in the PulpitOnyxOff-White
8thLilac or ClematisTourmalineBronze
9thBird of Paradise or PoppyLapis LazuliTerracotta
11thTulip or Morning GloryTurquoiseTurquoise
12thPeonyJadeOyster White
13thChrysanthemum or HollyhockCitrineAntique White
14thDahlia or OrchidsOpalOpal
15thRosesRubyIvory or Red
17thWatches or CarnelianYellow
18thCat’s Eye or Tiger’s Eye , Chrysoberyl Blue
20thAster or Day LilyEmeraldEmerald Green or White
23rdImperial TopazSilver
40thGladioliRubyRuby Red
45thSapphireSapphire Red
50thYellow Roses or VioletsGoldGold
55thAlexandriteEmerald Green
60thWhite FlowersDiamondDiamond White
65thBlue SpinelSky Blue
75thDiamondDiamond white
85thDiamond & Sapphire
90thDiamond & Emerald
95thDiamond & Ruby
100th10 carat Diamond

What to do for your wedding anniversary?

ideas for wedding anniversary

Now that the theme for a gift, flowers and colors are given, it is now time to start planning your celebration. I have plenty of ideas to develop this website and make it a unique reference for wedding anniversaries planning.

Gifts are “normal” attention but why not plan a romantic or adventurous vacation? Why not take a day off and organize an activity, a class, a game or romantic day out?

If you have a tight budget, think out of the box and always remember, the goal is to bring that particular smile to your better half, not about money or how expensive your attention is.

This post is now finished. No matter if you found what you were looking for or not, I am always looking for new ideas or comments. So do not hesitate to leave me a comment below, I’ll make sure to reply or inputs your ideas in my blog!

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