Congratulations… you’re married! And, unless you, as a couple, have decided to opt out, you have now added another annual gift giving occasion – anniversary gifts.
Evidence of anniversary gifts dates to 18th century Germany; however, gifts were only given at major milestones — silver for the 25th anniversary and gold for the 50th — and likely, only by the upper classes.
Anniversary gifts grew in popularity during the Victorian era, when marriage became more about love matches and less about securing borders and financial alliances, as a way to acknowledge a couple’s commitment to the work required to make said marriage successful. Furthermore, several books from this period include lists of appropriate gifts by year, namely one (paper), five (wood), 10 (tin), 25 (silver), 50 (gold) and 75 (diamond).
The exhaustive lists that we know today originated in the 1900s. 1910’s The Standard Home Reference Library expanded previous lists to include the first five years of marriage (paper, straw, candy, leather, wood) and numerous other years. Others appeared in Emily Post’s etiquette books, and in the 1930s, the American National Retail Jewelers Association got in on the anniversary gift action to sell more stuff and to establish yet another list of appropriate gifts – those of the sparkly variety.
These suggested gifts, which have changed over time, are designed to symbolize marriage’s stability and durability; and therefore, increase in price and rarity as the years go by. Alas, nothing says lifelong commitment like something described as “stable and durable.”
So, you could go traditional… or modern… or you could gift quirky. Quirky is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “unusual in especially an interesting or appealing way.” I would rather give and receive gifts that fall into that category. Read on for my delightfully quirky anniversary gift suggestions for the first 10 years.
1st Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Paper
- Modern: Clocks
- Quirky: Passports or Travel Photobooks
I love the idea of gifting each other passports. I applaud travel for many reasons, but mainly because I believe it makes us kinder and better humans. Travel, especially abroad, is not only full of amazing experiences but is also a way to really (really) get to know each other, which is important for any successful marriage.
If you have passports and have traveled together, turn the best of your hundreds of photos into a photobook. This is a great conversation starter, a way to reminiscence about your adventures, and a tradition that can be continued for many years and trips to come.
2nd Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Cotton
- Modern: China
- Quirky: Pillowtop Hammock* or Chinese Cookbook
Lounging in a hammock on a warm, sunny day is amazingly relaxing. I recommend getting one of the pillowtop variety with a sturdy steel stand. Just add nibbles and umbrella drinks for an instant staycation. Extra points for getting one that holds both of you (see sturdy steel stand above).
If cooking is a passion, consider gifting a cookbook of authentic Chinese recipes. Pick out a few to make together and plan a shopping trip to the closest Asian market for supplies. Or, if you have an unlimited budget, a trip to China will get you another stamp on those passports.
3rd Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Leather
- Modern: Crystal
- Quirky: Custom Leather Sneakers
Lots of sneaker companies offer custom products and/or unique, artist-curated designs. One of my favorite brands is Bucketfeet (www.bucketfeet.com), which collaborates with a global community of artists to design handmade-to-order shoes, spark conversations and create a brighter world. Go for matching shoes, cohesive colors and/or create something that captures each other’s personalities. Together, spend an afternoon designing or selecting the perfect pairs, and then wear them out on a date night or weekend trip.
4th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Fruit or Flowers
- Modern: Appliances
- Quirky: Wine / Beer Fridge* or Star Wars-themed Instant Pot
A wine fridge checks off both the fruit and appliance requirements – or if you prefer, a beer fridge – and keeps your bottles at the perfect temperature and ready to serve. Extra points for filling said fridge with your partner’s favorites.
Alternatively, if you are both Star Wars fans, the new Star Wars-themed Instant Pots (available at Williams Sonoma in a variety of characters), are fun and functional and perhaps, sturdy and durable.
5th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Wood
- Modern: Silverware
- Quirky: Craft Bourbon Tasting*
Bourbon, which originated in Kentucky, is uniquely American. To be classified as bourbon, the grain mash must be distilled from at least 51 percent corn and the spirit aged in new charred oak barrels. Research the best bourbons available and select a few to sample with your partner. Two of my picks are Four Roses Single Barrel and Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Extra points for planning a trip to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail for an authentic tasting experience.
6th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Candy or Iron
- Modern: Wood
- Quirky: Fire Pit
Building an old-fashioned fire pit together or picking out one of the metal variety is a great way to ensure cozy nights by a crackling wood fire. Extra points for picking up a set of marshmallow roasting sticks and planning a gourmet s’mores bar.
7th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Wood or Copper
- Modern: Desk Sets
- Quirky: MasterClass Subscription*
Why sit at a desk when you can learn online? MasterClass (www.masterclass.com) offers lessons from experts on a variety of topics – culinary arts, film and television, writing, music and entertainment, science, sports and games, fashion and photography, leadership and more. Gift one class or an unlimited subscription.
8th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Bronze or Pottery
- Modern: Linens or Lace
- Quirky: Bamboo Sheets
So soft, so comfy… you may find it difficult to leave the bed. Bamboo sheets are luxurious and sustainable. And, if you take care of them, alas, durable – maybe those original anniversary gift list makers were on to something after all.
9th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Pottery or Willow
- Modern: Leather
- Quirky: Popcorn of the Month Subscription* or Savannah Getaway
“Willow” made me think of the 1988 movie of the same name, and movies require popcorn. Make the fun last all year with a monthly subscription from the Popcorn Factory (www.thepopcornfactory.com). Extra points for planning a movie night to accompany each delivery.
Not a fan of popcorn? Plan a trip to Savannah, Georgia! Stay in the historic district and stroll down streets and through parks lined with weeping willow. Enjoy vibrant restaurants, an abundance of antiques, and the eclectic art scene associated with the Savannah College of Art and Design. At six hours away from the High Country, Savannah is a quick and easy romantic destination.
10th Wedding Anniversary
- Traditional: Tin or Aluminum
- Modern: Diamond Jewelry
- Quirky: Original Art
Yes, diamonds are timeless, but so is original art. Visit local galleries together or commission a favorite artist. Photography, sculpture, a painting, even yard art… the search is half the fun. The only rule is to find a piece that you both love now and will continue to love and appreciate for the next 10 years of marriage and beyond.