WEDDING ANNIVERSARY GUIDE
THE ONLY GUIDE YOU'LL EVER NEED
Welcome and enjoy our ultimate guide to Anniversary Gifts. From wow-worthy traditional to modern to alternative to unique anniversary gift ideas you will absolutely love!
WEDDING ANNIVERSARY GIFTS INTRODUCTION
Are you curious about anniversary gifts and unsure where to start? If so, you’re not alone: this is one of the most common questions we hear from longtime customers stopping by our San Francisco shop to ask for our advice. Now, we’ve compiled our decades of experience into this free guide to provide you with everything you need to know about wedding anniversary gifts - and let us know if we forgot something, we would love to add it for you.
TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY GIFTS
In these sections, you’ll find lists of traditional and contemporary anniversary gifts. In addition to the themes, we’ve also provided information on regional variations, the purpose behind the traditions, and gift suggestions.
ALTERNATIVE ANNIVERSARY GIFTS
If your significant other prefers to stray from the beaten path, you may find our list of alternative anniversary gifts useful. Here, you’ll find information on gemstones for each milestone anniversary and gift suggestions with timeless heirloom appeal. Alternatively, perhaps our unique anniversary gift guide is more your style, incorporating the traditional anniversary colors and flowers to create rare and one of a kind gifts and experiences.
Finally, we’ve curated anniversary ideas for couples that they’ll be sure to treasure, as well as gifts for your significant other that they're sure to love no matter how many years they’ve been by your side.
Need even more help? Here are some ideas to help you find the perfect Pinterest-worthy gift every year.
TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS BY YEAR
While most of us know that there are traditional gifts for each year that a couple is married, the reason behind the tradition is less well-known.
What started as a tradition in Medieval Germany of husbands crowning their wives with wreaths of silver or gold to mark their milestone 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries (no small feat, when the average life expectancy at birth was 30) appears to have been adapted through different cultures over time. Today it encompasses the first fifteen years of marriage, with milestone anniversaries marked by a traditional gift thereafter.
Wedding anniversary presents by year vary slightly between regions. While US couples will celebrate their one year anniversary with a gift of paper, for example, UK couples may celebrate with cotton. By and large, however, these variations are minimal. In the lists below, regional differences are indicated each year, when applicable.
TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS MEANING
A popular belief among those who trace the tradition to medieval Germany suggests that the procession of yearly anniversary gifts follow the stages of married life. Others suggest that the materials for each traditional anniversary gift grow in strength each year along with your marriage.
What follows are the commonly acknowledged traditional wedding anniversary gifts for the US and UK as they are now known. Due to changes and adaptations over time, you may be more familiar with a different material that is customary for your region or family which you prefer to incorporate..
Note: Some traditions place the diamond anniversary at 75 years. It has become common, however, to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary at 60 years, a shift that followed Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee marking the 60th anniversary of her coronation.
WEDDING ANNIVERSARY PRESENTS BY YEAR
Shopping for traditional anniversary gifts for milestone anniversaries beyond 15 years presents few challenges, as the materials are typical of the types of gifts that we associate with romantic love, such as jewelry. These are just a few potential gifts that you might consider if you’re shopping for traditional milestone anniversary gifts.
For a 30th wedding anniversary, a pearl necklace or pendant is not only a beautiful gift for her but one that will be cherished by children and grandchildren as a family heirloom.
The traditional gift for a 50 year wedding anniversary is gold, symbolizing the strength and resilience of your marriage. Golden anniversary gifts may range from gold-rimmed champagne flutes to a white gold anniversary band.
Shopping for traditional anniversary gifts by year requires some creativity in the earlier years of marriage if your spouse is not one to be particularly excited by tin, for example, or wool. Using the traditional materials as your guide, however, you can still find ways to incorporate tradition into your gifts. Creative five year anniversary gifts for him, for example, may include wood in the form of a hardwood anniversary ring.
Shopping for milestone anniversaries from twenty-five years and beyond presents a different challenge: each year is marked by a precious metal or gemstone, and narrowing down all of the elegant options to one perfect gift can be time-consuming. That’s why we curated shoppable gift guides for several milestone years. We’ve done the work to select milestone anniversary gifts with impeccable style that are made of the highest quality materials.
Shop the traditional sixty-year anniversary gift galleries by jewelry type and buy directly online, or find inspiration and ideas to discuss when you stop by our San Francisco jewelry boutique to see even more of our one-of-a-kind diamond anniversary gifts.
CONTEMPORARY ANNIVERSARY GIFTS BY YEAR
In the early 20th century, as anniversaries grew in popularity as celebratory social events, an association of jewelers compiled a new list of commonplace, modern gifts that made shopping for anniversary gifts more straightforward and, in some ways, more practical. Over time, the list grew to include modern and practical anniversary gifts for every year of marriage from 1-60.
In some years, practicality trumps sentimentality entirely, such as the 44th anniversary which is celebrated with a gift of groceries. Newlyweds, however, may find that the modern gifts are more suited to their lifestyle, allowing them to fill their homes with small luxuries such as clocks, china, and crystal during their first years as a married couple.
Other years may not seem practical at all in our modern times, such as the triple whammy presented by the 41, 42, and 43-year anniversary gifts of land, improved real estate, and travel, respectively. Perhaps the 44-year anniversary gift is a product of necessity rather than practicality; after those three years of high-value gifts, groceries may be the only thing in the budget...
MODERN ANNIVERSARY GIFTS MEANING
The modern anniversary presents by year have not entirely replaced the traditional anniversary gifts, but instead, have taken up an equal and complementary position. Couples may choose to switch between the lists each year depending on their needs and tastes, or even incorporate elements from both in the gifts they select to mark another year of marriage.
Note: The contemporary list of anniversary gifts by year does not deviate from the traditional materials in several milestone years.
MODERN ANNIVERSARY PRESENTS BY YEAR
Appliances for the four-year anniversary may not appear romantic on the surface, but ask a husband who has been washing dishes by hand for four years if he would appreciate a dishwasher to commemorate the event, and he’s sure to answer yes.
Similarly, the much-mocked 44-year anniversary gift of groceries may seem lackluster on the surface, but a busy wife who spends long hours in the office and dreads her weekend grocery shopping trips might dream of a grocery delivery subscription service.
Many years on the modern anniversary gift list are marked with rather specific gifts, such as a desk set to celebrate seven years of marriage or a game of golf to mark the 59th. Other years, however, allow for broader interpretation and present opportunities to incorporate the contemporary gift material in exciting ways.
The 35 year anniversary, for example, is celebrated with gifts of jade. A jadeite ring makes a beautiful and rare gift to mark the occasion. If your spouse is an antique collector, you might also consider a gift of equally rare American vintage jadeite kitchenware.
Diamond anniversary bands make their appearance much earlier on the updated list of anniversary presents by year. Rather than waiting for their 60 year Diamond Anniversary, couples may exchange diamond gifts on their 10th, 30th, and 60th wedding anniversaries if they are following the modern gift list.
If you married a fashionista who would be far more delighted by diamonds than she would by tin for your ten year anniversary, our shoppable ten year modern anniversary gift guide has the meaningful and modern diamond gifts you’re looking for. Shop the galleries of contemporary ten year anniversary rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings available to purchase online or in our Union Street, San Francisco jewelry boutique, or find inspiration for the perfect custom anniversary gift all in one place.
For select milestone years, both the traditional and contemporary anniversary gift are the same. Such is the case or the Diamond Anniversary, celebrated at sixty years. This doesn’t mean, though, those with modern taste are without chic, trendsetting options. For a 60th anniversary gift that carries all the meaning of the traditional diamond anniversary gift and gives it a modish twist, fancy colored diamonds may be the perfect solution.
ALTERNATIVE ANNIVERSARY GIFTS
The existence of traditional and modern anniversary gifts by year is relatively well known. Less well known is the notion of traditional anniversary gemstones.
As with the traditional and modern gift lists, couples may find that they are best served by combining ideas from more than one practice or choosing the gift each year that is the best fit for their spouse, as opposed to following just one tradition from year to year.
ANNIVERSARY GEMSTONES BY YEAR
Unlike the traditional and modern anniversary gifts, there is no sole authoritative source on the list of anniversary gemstones, though the American Gem Society, the Gemological Institute of America, and the American Gem Trade Association have supported many of the commonly shared lists.
The commonly acknowledged anniversary gemstones which are endorsed by the Jewelers of America are listed first, and are followed by frequently shared alternative gemstones, where applicable
ALTERNATIVE ANNIVERSARY GIFT IDEAS
Unique anniversary rings and jewelry may appeal to couples who don’t see their lifestyles or needs reflected in the traditional gifts. As many couples now marry later in life after first establishing themselves in their careers, merging households is common, and the need for practical basics may be limited.
Similarly, the contemporary list was first created in 1937 and had couples who did not live together before marriage in mind. Today, it’s far less usual to find a newly married couple returning from their honeymoon before they share a roof.
While investment pieces like china may be appreciated by some spouses celebrating their two year anniversary, others may have inherited family china or find that special occasion dishes don’t suit their lifestyle. A gift of rose quartz jewelry may be the more appropriate and appreciated two-year anniversary gift, in this instance.
Unique alternative anniversary gifts can also come from thoughtfully combining the materials from different lists or taking inspiration from each. The modern ten-year anniversary gift of diamonds, for example, can be paired with inspiration from the alternative gift of onyx to produce a stunning black diamond anniversary ring.
The sophisticated and stylish black diamond makes an excellent alternative to the traditional 60th anniversary gift, as well. If your partner for the past sixty years has always set the trends rather than following them, a black diamond anniversary gift offers a new approach to incorporating traditional sentiment in designs that appeal to her striking and fashion-forward style.
UNIQUE ANNIVERSARY GIFTS
Perhaps even less known than the traditional anniversary gemstones are the anniversary colors and flowers by year. While they may be less known, however, they’re certainly not less meaningful.
A mistake that many spouses make when shopping for wedding anniversary gifts is putting a focus on tradition over personalization. No matter how beautiful or meaningful, yellow gold jewelry won’t be as valuable if the recipient exclusively wears white gold.
Partners may also fall into the trap of purchasing gifts that they would enjoy, and fail to consider if the person receiving it will appreciate it in the same way. Using the colors and flowers associated with each wedding anniversary can allow for greater flexibility and creativity in finding the perfect gift year after year.
ANNIVERSARY COLORS BY YEAR
The anniversary colors are inspired by the traditional, modern, or gemstone gift for the same year. While standard anniversary colors served in the past as guidance for party planners who wished to throw themed anniversary parties, modern couples may use them to guide their gifts, as well.
As the colors incorporate the materials in the traditional, modern, and gemstone anniversary gifts, some years are associated with more than one color. As with the list of traditional anniversary gemstones, there are no colors commonly followed with any consistency beyond the 25th wedding anniversary except for milestone years.
ANNIVERSARY FLOWERS BY YEAR
Wedding anniversaries are also associated with a traditional flower each year, providing even more inspiration to find the perfect gift that has roots firmly set in tradition.
If your partner has a green thumb or a passion for the outdoors, a living gift of flowers may be precisely the thing to delight them. Using the list of traditional anniversary flowers, you can also create a tradition together as a couple, planting the customary anniversary flower in your garden each year as you celebrate and build a perennial garden that grows with you year after year.
Most anniversary flower traditions include only years 1-15, marking all future years every five years until the 50th wedding anniversary. While there is consistency among most of these lists, there are a few variations which may provide alternatives for those living in regions where the more common suggestion is not available or in cultures where the traditional flower holds a different meaning. Where applicable, the list below begins with the commonly associated flower for each anniversary and is followed by the lesser shared alternatives.
UNIQUE ANNIVERSARY GIFT IDEAS
If you’re looking for a truly unique anniversary gift, using these colors and flowers on their own or in tandem with the traditional, contemporary, or gemstone wedding anniversary gifts can open up entirely new avenues.
If you’re celebrating your 2nd wedding anniversary, for example, you might take inspiration from the customary and contemporary gifts and colors to create a surprise anniversary picnic, complete with a red and white checked cotton picnic blanket and china tucked away with toasting flutes and your partner’s favorite foods in a picnic basket.
For couples who prefer experiences over items, the traditional materials, colors, and flowers for each anniversary year can help to inspire the itinerary for a long weekend trip. An 11 year anniversary, for example, might incorporate the traditional gift of steel with the 11th-anniversary flower with a trip to San Francisco that includes sightseeing at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a stop at the San Francisco Flower Mart.
If your partner loves gifts of jewelry but their style leans toward the eclectic over the classic, using the flowers and colors associated with your anniversary year can inspire new and unique anniversary gift options. A gold, sapphire, and diamond ring, for example, incorporates the traditional 50-year anniversary color with the colors of the traditional flowers to create a breathtaking and unique anniversary ring.
For an original 5-year anniversary gift, a floral-inspired turquoise necklace incorporates both the traditional anniversary color and flower.
Browse our shoppable alternative ten-year anniversary gift guides to discover how the ten year anniversary colors can be interpreted into amazing gifts that strike the perfect balance between traditional symbolism and modern sophistication.
ANNIVERSARY GIFTS FOR HIM
When shopping for anniversary gifts for him, it becomes clear that the traditional and modern gift lists skew toward gifts that might have held particular appeal to wives at the time the customs were created.
The contemporary list of anniversary gifts by year incorporates more neutral gifts, as well as some that had husbands in mind when the new tradition caught on, such as the 59-year anniversary gift of a golf game.
Some of the modern anniversary gifts allow for a greater range of interpretation than others. For example, the 54-year anniversary gift of glass might inspire a gift of rocks glasses and a whiskey at least as old as the marriage. The 32 year anniversary is marked with a gift of conveyances, which can be adapted to anything from a riding lawnmower to a motorcycle to suit the interests of any man.
Husbands fond of jewelry can mark the occasion of practically any anniversary with a band that incorporates the color, metal, or gemstone associated with that year, such as this diamond anniversary band for him. Watches and bracelets that include the conventional anniversary material are also potential options to consider.
For the sixty-year anniversary, all of the anniversary gift lists agree: diamonds are the way to go.Diamond anniversary bands are a popular choice, but they’re not the only one available. Our shoppable guide for him includes bold statement rings, elegant and masculine eternity bands, and unique men’s rings composed of nature-inspired materials such as wood and meteorite—there’s sure to be a diamond anniversary gift on the list that will suit the tastes and styles of any man.
ANNIVERSARY GIFTS FOR HER
Anniversary gifts for her are somewhat more natural to come by, but partners should still take care to tailor gifts to the interests and lifestyle of their spouse rather than relying on tradition alone.
Tastes and style will determine whether a traditional anniversary band is the kind of gift she’ll love, or if a more unconventional approach would better suit her. If none of the traditional gifts suit her, creatively approaching anniversary flowers can provide a new way to surprise her with a unique gift. For example, if your partner wouldn’t find much appeal in china or rubies, the 15th-anniversary flower, rose, can inspire a gift more in line with her tastes, such as a rose gold anniversary band.
Milestone anniversaries merit milestone gifts, such as a matching set of 2-3 pieces of diamond jewelry. Our Luxury 60th Anniversary Gift Guide brings together suites and sets of coordinating diamond jewelry that can be worn individually or together to create a knockout look (not to mention an unforgettable 60th anniversary gift!)
ANNIVERSARY GIFTS FOR COUPLES
It’s not uncommon to receive an invitation to an anniversary party celebrating a milestone anniversary for friends or relatives. The recommendations for anniversary gifts by year may also be applied to gifts from friends and family.
GIFTS FOR PARENTS & GRANDPARENTS
When shopping for anniversary gifts for grandparents, parents, or friends, apply the same approach you would when buying for your partner and consider the couple as well as the tradition, rather than relying on tradition alone.
The 50th wedding anniversary gift ideas for your parents who love to entertain might incorporate an element of this shared interest into a golden anniversary gift of gold-rimmed serving dishes or stemware. Meanwhile, a more appropriate approach to 50th-anniversary gift ideas for your friends who spend every spare moment traveling might be an engraved gold compass.
GIFTS FOR CHILDREN & GRANDCHILDREN
While it is in line with modern etiquette for guests (except for the hosts) of an anniversary party to bring a gift for the couple, anniversary gifts are neither expected nor necessary outside of a planned celebration. Parents and grandparents who wish to present their children and grandchildren with gifts for their anniversaries are of course, however, welcome to do so.
Younger couples, especially, may still be starting their lives together or be looking to upgrade some of the items they’ve been using since their dorm room days. A set of quality Egyptian cotton towels tucked into a wicker laundry basket, for example, might be precisely the anniversary gift that your daughter and her partner are hoping to receive so they can do away with the rough, threadbare towels they each brought with them when combining their homes.
Even a well-established couple is likely to have wish list items that they haven’t acquired. A wooden salad bowl set might delight your grandson and his partner for their five year anniversary if they don’t have one already. Similarly, a silver tea set to commemorate your daughter’s 25th wedding anniversary may be precisely what she and her partner were hoping for.
GET HELP FINDING THE PERFECT ANNIVERSARY GIFT
Even with every possible resource at your fingertips, you may still find yourself lacking inspiration for the perfect wedding anniversary gift. Consider asking for the advice of your spouse’s friends and family if you feel the need for additional insight.
If you’re shopping for jewelry, consulting with your trusted jeweler will help you narrow down your choices and incorporate modern and traditional elements. There are plenty of options to choose from depending on your taste and budget, from vintage anniversary rings to 3 stone diamond anniversary rings and gold anniversary bands. A local jeweler whom you know and trust is your best bet to navigate your options and find the perfect anniversary gift to celebrate each year of your marriage.
If you haven’t yet developed a relationship with a jeweler, an anniversary is a perfect time to seek one out. After getting to know you, your partner, and your tastes, they’ll be available year after year to help you build upon jewelry investments and coordinate future gifts with those you’ve bought in the past.
Looking for help in the San Francisco area? Drop us a line to schedule a consultation, or stop by our Union Street shop in the Cow Hollow district!