Anniversary Gifts

Creative anniversary present ideas by tradition and year

The custom of giving anniversary gifts based on the number of years a couple has been married dates back to the Middle Ages. Gifts were selected based on superstitious beliefs relating to the luck-bringing properties of various items. Even though most of us no longer believe that the right gift will guarantee a long and prosperous marriage, the practice of associating certain gifts with specific wedding anniversary years remains.

Traditional Wedding Anniversary Gifts

The traditional anniversary gift suggestions are often used as a starting point for picking out the perfect present for your spouse. Each year has a specific theme that you can use to help you brainstorm gift ideas. For example, paper is the traditional gift for the 1st wedding anniversary. Paper gifts could include fancy stationery, a special collectible book, or a framed print by an artist your spouse loves. You could also choose to interpret paper as tickets to see a play, concert, or sporting event.

Traditionalists often opt to personalize their anniversary gifts in some way, such as by adding a monogram or a photo. Monogrammed towels would be a practical gift for the 2nd anniversary, as the traditional gift suggestion is cotton. For the 10th anniversary, an appropriate gift might be a tin or aluminum picture frame engraved with the couple's names and the date they were married.

Modern Gifts

Since some of the traditional gift suggestions don't mesh well with contemporary sensibilities, etiquette experts have created a list of alternative modern gift ideas. For example, the traditional 14th wedding anniversary gift was once ivory. Today, however, concern over endangered elephant populations would make this an unethical choice. The modern alternative way to celebrate this anniversary is with a gift of gold jewelry.

Gemstone Gifts

Many wedding anniversary years have an associated gemstone which can be used as a starting point if you're thinking about giving jewelry to mark the occasion. Consider having the item you've selected engraved to add an additional layer of meaning to your gift. For example, you could purchase an emerald pendant necklace to celebrate your 20th anniversary and have the back of the pendant engraved with a phrase from your wedding vows.
Keep in mind that some anniversaries are more heavily associated with gemstone gifts than others. The 40th anniversary has rubies as both the traditional and modern gift suggestions, as well as its associated gemstone. The 60th wedding anniversary lists the diamond in all three categories.


If your budget is minimal, or you'd prefer to spend your money on a special date together, a bouquet of flowers is an excellent choice. Many anniversary years have a flower that is customarily associated with the occasion. For example, tulips are given for the 11th  anniversary and lilies are given for the 30th anniversary .

To make your gift extra special, consider purchasing a vase that coordinates with the year's traditional or modern gift suggestion. Pottery is the traditional gift for the 8th anniversary, so a handmade vase from a local artist that has been filled with lilacs would be a great gift idea.

Always Match the Gift to the Recipient

When brainstorming anniversary gift ideas, don't overlook the importance of considering the recipient's individual taste. Peonies are the flower associated with the 12th wedding anniversary, but it would be a terrible idea to present a bouquet to someone who is allergic to them. China is the modern gift for the 2nd wedding anniversary and the traditional gift for the 20th anniversary, but a set of expensive dishes would be wasted on a couple who prefers backyard picnics when they entertain guests. In circumstances such as these, it's better to stray from the established gift suggestions than to give a gift that totally misses the mark.