A complete guide to wedding anniversaries

ogham-wedding-rings (2)

A Complete Guide to Wedding Anniversaries

This month I celebrated my wedding anniversary. Since I make all my own jewellery my husband doesn't have the option of buying me this as an anniversary gift! So I was wondering what would be the traditional gift for eight years of marriage? From the research I've done I discovered it was salt! Thankfully they have updated the list to some better options :) So we've compiled a complete guide to wedding anniversaries, gifts, flowers and of course gemstones!

A wedding anniversary is a heartfelt way to both remember the day a couple officially began their lives together and to reflect on all they have built and experienced together since then. While they are often very personal affairs, the more years that pass, the bigger the occasion becomes with extended families coming together to celebrate. Over the years, various names, gemstones and gifts have been attributed to different anniversaries, with landmark years (20, 25, 50, etc.) given special attention.

Wedding anniversaries have been celebrated since ancient Roman times. Husbands gifted their wives with a silver wreath, called a vicennalia, on their 25th anniversary, and gold one on their 50th anniversary. The wreath was worn like a crown on the lady's head. Germany had a vary similar tradition that most likely links back to the Romans; the wife is presented with a silver wreath on the 25th anniversary by friends and family, and a gold on the 50th.

While every couple may have their own personal traditions they take part in on each anniversary (such as revisiting the site where the marriage ceremony took place or having a special meal to celebrate, etc.) for the most part the only worldwide tradition is giving gifts. This tradition of giving gifts has most likely always been around, but became commercialised during the 20th century, to such a point that there is now a designated gift or material for almost each year of marriage. Current gift conventions originated in 1937, when the American National Retail Jeweler Association expanded on a list that had already been in place before. In the old list, only the 1st, 5th, 19th, 15th, 20th, 25th 50th and 75th years were celebrated. The Association expanded it to include a gift for every year up until the 25th year, and then every 5 years afterwards.

Wedding anniversaries are now often officially recognised by State governments. In Commonwealth countries, the Queen will send a congratulatory message on request for 60th, 65th, 70th and any anniversary after that. In Canada, the Governor General is somewhat more generous, and will send good wishes for the 50th anniversary and every 5th year thereafter. In Australia, the congratulations come on the 50th year and every subsequent anniversary, and the situation is the same in the United States.

Ladies mens silver Claddagh wedding rings
Silver Ladies and Gents wedding rings from Claddagh Design

UK Traditional Gifts and Materials

Year 1: Traditionally the gift in the first year of marriage was made from cotton. These days, a clock (or watch) is more common.

Year 2: In previous decades the gift given was paper, although the modern version is china.

Year 3: The third year was the leather anniversary. Today, gifts given are made from glass.

Year 4: On year 4, fruit and flowers were common. Nowadays the much less romantic gift of electrical appliances is given!

Year 5: Year 5 was the wooden anniversary. Traditionally, the husband would present his wife with the wood and cut it on the day of the anniversary, and spend the next two quarters of the year creating the gift from the wood. Men seem to be lacking in carpentry skills in modern times however and usually opt for silverware instead.

Year 6: Sugar was the traditional gift, but just to confuse matters even more, wooden objects are now the common choice.

Year 7: Woollen objects (usually clothing) were the traditional gift. Desk sets or pen and pencil sets are the norm today.

Year 8: The somewhat odd gift of salt was given on the 8th year. Thankfully, the modern counterpart is entirely different, usually linen or lace.

Year 9: Copper was traditionally given on the 9th year, however, leather goods are now more common (even though leather was the designated gift for year 3).

Year 10: The 10th year of marriage was marked with gifts of tin. Modern brides may not take kindly to that however, so diamond jewellery is now the usual gift.

Year 11: Fashion jewellery and accessories is the modern gift for an 11th wedding anniversary.

Year 12: Traditionally silk and fine linen was given for year 12. Now, it's pearls or coloured gems.

Year 13: Textiles and furs are the usual gift for a 13th anniversary,

Year 14: For a 14th wedding anniversary, gold jewellery is the designated gift.

Year 15: Crystal was traditionally given on the 15th year, but watches are more common now.

Year 16: Silver holloware is given on Year 16 (i.e jugs, bowls, vases, etc.)

Year 17: Furniture is given on the 17th anniversary. How romantic!

Year 18: On the 18th year, porcelain is typically given as a gift.

Year 19: Bronze is the gift of choice for 19 years of marriage.

Year 20: China was the traditional gift for the 20 year milestone, but this has now been eclipsed by platinum.

Year 21: Brass or nickel is given for 21 years of marriage.

Year 22: On Year 22, objects made from copper are supposed to be given.

Year 23: Year 23 is given to silver plate objects – not actual plates made of silver, but jewellery or other things plated in silver. Although a silver plate probably wouldn't go amiss either!

Year 24: An usual gift to receive should you reach 24 years of marriage is a musical instrument. There are no specifications given as to which particular instrument, so you could end up with a small harmonica or great big cello!

Year 25: The 25th wedding anniversary is now and always has been the silver anniversary.

Year 30: While the 30th anniversary was previously the pearl anniversary, this is increasingly changing to diamond.

Year 35: Coral and jade have been interchanged for years with year 35. At present, jade seems to be more popular.

Year 40: The 40th year of marriage is always celebrated with rubies.

Year 45: The lucky couple that reaches 45 years of marriage together celebrates with the gift of sapphires.

Year 50: The 50th year of marriage is known all over the world as the golden wedding anniversary.

Year 55: Year 55 is dedicated to gifts of emerald.

Year 60: Even though it has already been used in the 30th year, diamond is always dedicated to the 60th wedding anniversary too.

Year 65: Blue sapphires were traditionally given on the 65th wedding anniversary.

Year 70: The 70th wedding anniversary is the platinum anniversary.

Year 75: Diamonds and gold are common gifts for a 75th wedding anniversary.

Year 80: The unusual gift of oak was reserved for the 80th year in times past. Now, diamonds or pearls usually suffice.

Year 85: After 85 years of marriage, a glass of wine should be in order, and this was the traditional gift! These days the wife will usually be presented with her birthstone.

Year 90: Any marriage that lasts for 90 years is truly special, and as the saying goes, solid as a rock. Therefore, the traditional gift is engraved stone, usually marble or granite.

Ogham Wedding Rings

US Traditional Gifts and Materials

The modern versions of gifts given on each anniversary are the same both in the UK and US. However, the traditional versions often differ quite a bit. Here are the traditional choices for each landmark year.

Year 1: Paper

Year 2: Cotton

Year 3: Leather

Year 4: Linen or silk

Year 5: Wood

Year 6: Iron

Year 7: Wool or copper

Year 8: Bronze

Year 9: Pottery

Year 10: Tin or aluminum

Year 11: Steel

Year 12: Silk

Year 13: Lace

Year 14: Ivory

Year 15: Crystal

Year 16 – 19: None

Year 20: China

Year 21 – 24: None

Year 25: Silver

Year 30: Pearl

Year 35: Coral or jade

Year 40: Rubies

Year 45: Sapphires

Year 50: Gold

Year 55: Emerald

Year 60: Diamonds (usually yellow)

Year 65: None

Year 70: None

Year 75: Diamond or gold

Year 80: None

Year 85: Moonstone

Year 90: None


Any good husband will know that a gift should usually come with flowers. Just as there are different gifts for each year of marriage, there are different flowers to be given for each as well. The list is not as extensive as the materials and physical gifts however. If in doubt, it's probably just best to pick up some of your wife's favourite, however.

Year 1: Carnation

Year 2: Lily of the Valley

Year 3: Sunflower

Year 4: Hydrangea

Year 5: Daisy

Year 6: Calla

Year 7: Freesia

Year 8: Lilac

Year 9: Bird of Paradise

Year 10: Daffodil

Year 11: Tulip

Year 12: Peony

Year 13: Chrysanthemum

Year 14: Dahlia

Year 15: Rose

Year 20: Aster

Year 25: Iris

Year 28: Orchid

Year 30: Lily

Year 40: Gladiolus

Year 50: Yellow rose or violet

Image by Heike Rost
Image by Heike Rost


If some of the more unusual or unromantic gifts listed above don't tickle your fancy, you can always opt for the gemstone alternative. Gemstones always go down well as they're beautiful, usually come in the form of jewellery, and usually not cheap! Here is the list of designated gemstones for each milestone anniversary.

Year 1: Mother of Pearl

Year 2: Garnet

Year 3: Moonstone

Year 4: Blue Topaz

Year 5: Rose Quartz

Year 6: Amethyst

Year 7: Onyx

Year 8: Tourmaline

Year 9: Lapis Lazuli

Year 10: Crystal or Green Tourmaline

Year 11: Turquoise

Year 12: Jade

Year 13: Citrine

Year 14: Opal

Year 15: Rhodolite

Year 20: Emerald

Year 25: Tsavorite

Year 30: Pearl

Year 40: Ruby

Year 50: Gold

Year 65: Sapphire

Image by Heike Rost
Image by Heike Rost

Record Breaking Marriages

While it is always a good idea to plan for every eventuality, not all couples will manage to reach the amazing milestone of 90 years of marriage. This is especially true in today's society since couples are waiting longer to marry; the average age of a first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men. This has risen steadily over the last few years – in 1990 the stats were 23 for women and 26 for men, while in 1960 it was 20 for women and 22 for men.

There are some couples who beat the odds however. The current world record holders for the longest marriage are Karam Chand, aged 108, and his wife Katari, aged 101, who celebrated their 88th wedding anniversary in December 2013. The couple were married in a Sikh ceremony in India on December 11th 1925. They moved to Bradford, England in 1965 and have raised a total of 8 children, 27 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Not so surprisingly, the record for the shortest marriage ever is held by a Hollywood couple. Rudolph Valentino and actress Jean Acker married after a whirlwind two month romance, and Acker reportedly regretted the decision immediately after the ceremony! The marriage lasted a whole six hours. Acker locked the door to their honeymoon suite and refused to let Valentino in, and after twenty minutes of knocking, he gave up and went home!

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