If you have an anniversary coming up, you might be stumped in terms of what to get your significant other. Even if you’ve been married for decades, finding that perfect present can be difficult.
Turns out, this is no new problem. In the 19th century, Victorian couples shared that sentiment and began circulating a list of suggested traditional wedding anniversary gifts by year, taking inspiration from long-held anniversary traditions that stretch back as far as the Middle Ages. The list gained traction in popular culture even if not always in practice, and today, you can still find that list in use, alongside a more updated list of modern anniversary gifts.
Today, these are the widely suggested anniversary presents by year:
- Year 1: Paper
- Year 2: Fiber
- Year 3: Leather
- Year 4: Flowers
- Year 5: Wood
- Year 6: Candy
- Year 7: Copper
- Year 8: Bronze
- Year 9: Pottery
- Year 10: Aluminum
- Year 11: Steel
- Year 12: Silk
- Year 13: Lace
- Year 14: Ivory
- Year 15: Crystal
- Year 16: Wax
- Year 17: Furniture
- Year 18: Porcelain
- Year 19: Bronze
- Year 20: China
- Year 25: Silver
- Year 30: Pearl
- Year 35: Coral
- Year 40: Ruby
- Year 45: Sapphire
- Year 50: Gold
- Year 55: Emerald
- Year 60: Diamond
The older version makes a few swaps (like listing linen for Year 4 instead of flowers and tin for Year 10 instead of aluminum), but the two lists are more or less the same.
You can also find even more updated lists, though less widely known, that swap out each gift for supposedly more useful items (though, on the most modern list, the first year’s gift is a gold clock, which, while more extravagant than paper, still might not be that useful for your recipient!). You’ll likewise find lists compiled by individual brands that aren’t widely accepted and just promoted by said brand, as well as lists that focus on gemstones and similar materials only, such as jade, tourmaline, aquamarine, etc.
A quick look at the above list, though, might leave you even more stumped in your gift shopping than before. What in the world can you get your spouse in the copper category that’s really going to impress them on your seventh anniversary? Do they really want a desk set or silverware?
Thankfully, it’s broadly accepted that these gift suggestions can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Think of them as your starting point in discovering a fantastic — and traditional — gift for your husband or wife.
Still need help? Here are a few perfect anniversary gift ideas by anniversary year.
Year 1: Paper
While some may think of the first year of marriage as the honeymoon phase, all sunshine and roses, the gift pick for this year reflect the fragility of new relationships. But just because this year’s anniversary theme is paper, don’t reach for a Hallmark card and call your gift-giving duties done. Instead, try a different option for your first anniversary.
Go personalized with your 1st anniversary gift with a custom print or portrait. Thanks to online retailers like Etsy and Uncommon Goods, you can find personalized options that fit a range of decor styles and interests. You could also go with a city skyline poster in a vintage style that includes your wedding date, location and names. Or, consider a poster that likewise features your names and anniversary date but shows the lunar phase for that particular point in time.
Need to go the budget-friendly route? We all know the first year of marriage can be expensive (you’re paying off those wedding bills, after all).
So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly paper gift, consider a sentimentally significant book, album or work of art. (Think the record for your first dance song, an early or signed edition of the book that sparked your first conversation or a work of art that you both admired at a museum on a long-ago date.)
Year 2: Fiber
While a fiber or textile gift may seem boring at first glance, consider a gift that incorporates an element of fiber but with a fun activity. If you find that your date nights and fun quality time have fallen off a little in this second year of marriage, this is an especially good option.
For example, you could go with customized, high-end aprons and plan a baking or cooking night. If you want to go a little larger, you could go with a personalized, posh, plaid blanket that’s perfect for cuddling up under the stars or next to a bonfire on an anniversary camping trip.
Year 3: Leather
On your third anniversary, the traditional gift is leather, which gives you a lot of room to play with luxury gift ideas. A designer leather bag for her, a leather weekender bag or a briefcase for him are sure to be a hit.
Year 4: Flowers
Year 4 is pretty self-explanatory (and easy!). However, rather than just picking up a bouquet of half-dead flowers in the supermarket check-out lane, consider going a little bit bigger with a flower subscription that delivers beautiful blooms to your home every single month (or however often you choose).
Don’t like that these flowers will still wilt over time? Try a box of preserved roses that will last for years (and the best part is they’re available to order conveniently on Amazon).
Other options? Plan a fun date to a flower farm in your area for some self-pick fun.
Year 5: Wood
Some obvious options for your fifth anniversary, or the wooden anniversary, might include some wooden decor or furnishings for your home that you can both enjoy. However, there are plenty of ways to get creative with this year’s gift, too.
Want an experiential gift? Head to your local nursery, pick out a tree and spend the afternoon planting it in the backyard.
Year 6: Candy
Like the flower anniversary, Year 6 is easy to neglect simply because it’s just so easy. Buy a box of chocolates at the grocery store, and you’re sorted. However, there are likewise ways to elevate this anniversary for a more special and spectacular time together.
If you do really want to go with the traditional box of chocolates, consider a luxury box of artisan chocolates that you can share together. You can also be more creative by planning a chocolate-themed date night (complete with a fondue pot), booking chocolate-themed treatments at a nearby spa (these are particularly popular near Valentine’s Day) or taking a chocolate-making class, which you can sometimes find offered by local or regional chocolatiers.
Year 7: Copper
A copper gift might be a little more functional or useful than other anniversary gifts you’ve given and received in past years. However, by Year 7 of marriage, you may find that the wedding registry gifts are losing their luster, and you’re ready for some new stuff.
So, use your copper anniversary as an excuse to stock up on things you and your spouse will both love and use, such as a copper cookware set, for the foodie couple or, for the cozy couple, a copper tea kettle.
Year 8: Bronze
Very similarly, on your 8th anniversary, bronze gifts will likely be either more decorative or more useful rather than something that’s part of a fun date experience. You can always go with a customized piece of bronze decor (Etsy has lots of options) or something that’s a little more handy, like a bronze cake server or photo frames.
Year 9: Pottery
With pottery as the theme for your ninth anniversary, you can’t pass up the opportunity to plan a pottery throwing date night. Don’t have a pottery studio near you? You can buy a pottery wheel for beginners from Amazon, or if you want to skip the wheel, you can go with a Sculpd Pottery Kit.
Year 10: Aluminum
Much like bronze and copper, aluminum gifts aren’t exactly easy to find just anywhere. However, you can still find nice aluminum gifts for your 10th anniversary if you’re looking for decor or kitchenware.
One totally unique option? An Apple Watch with an aluminum case.
Year 11: Steel
With steel being the material of choice for the 11th anniversary, now is the perfect time to upgrade your wedding bands with a stainless steel option. Other options include a set of stainless steel kitchen knives.
Year 12 and 13: Silk and Lace
Both year 12 and 13 come with obvious gift choices, but if lingerie isn’t really your thing (or your spouse’s), consider the many other silk and lace gifts you could purchase for these milestone anniversaries.
Year 14: Ivory
Ivory is, unfortunately, one of the traditional gift themes that really shows its age. While it was considered appropriate to source ivory gifts in the Victorian Era, that’s not the case now.
Instead of buying an ivory-related gift for your sweetheart on your 14th anniversary, consider doing your part to protect the world’s elephants by adopting one and protecting them from the still-present threat of ivory poaching.
Year 15: Crystal
For your 15th anniversary, you could definitely just buy a set of crystal, but consider that crystal doesn’t always mean Champagne glasses. You could, instead, opt for a crystal decanter for your favorite spirits or a piece of jewelry that incorporates crystals.
Year 16: Wax
As you reach your 16th anniversary, don’t think that a wax anniversary means a boring candle that you picked up from your favorite home goods store. Think outside the box and maybe go with a waxed canvas bag for your next trip, a spa day with wax treatments incorporated or, if you’re looking for a couples crafty activity, a candle making experience.
Year 17: Furniture
Year 17 is self-explanatory. Go furniture shopping; outfit your home with some new pieces. If you’ve been married for 17 years, it’s very likely that it’s high time for an upgrade.
Year 18: Porcelain
Porcelain doesn’t just mean the standard “nice” plates that your grandma kept in her china cabinet. You can buy all sorts of cool and useful items made from porcelain for your spouse for your 18th anniversary, from Le Creuset bakeware to jewelry.
Year 19: Bronze
Likewise, you can find lots of interesting and unique items made from bronze, all of which would make great gifts. Jewelry, home decor, tumblers — start with something you know your spouse loves and then look for a bronze take on that item.
Year 20: China
Update your dining room with a collection of china. No matter your style, from super-traditional to ultra-modern, you can find china pieces that will work with your current decor. Always luxurious and always beautiful, china makes a fitting gift for such a landmark anniversary as 20 years.
Year 25–60: Silver, Pearl, Coral, Ruby, Sapphire, Gold, Emerald and Diamond
After you reach your 20th anniversary, the yearly anniversary themes drop off. Instead, there are themes for other milestone years between your 25th anniversary and 60th anniversary, such as for your 35th anniversary, 40th anniversary and 45th anniversary. All of these milestone anniversaries are pretty significant, so the themes are more expensive and luxurious. As you’ve advanced in age and spent decades of marriage together, you’ll have (hopefully) had time to save up for bigger gifts for your lifelong partner and now can splurge a bit on that long-coveted piece of jewelry or similar high-end item.
Not into diamond jewelry or gemstones? Splurge regardless, and let one of these themes inspire your next luxury vacation. Maybe you check out the coral reefs of Australia, the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean or the pearl-filled waters of East Asia. Your 30th anniversary or 50th anniversary is the perfect time to do something like this.
Buying Anniversary Gifts by Year
Don’t assume that buying anniversary gifts by the year will force you to buy boring gifts or items that don’t match your and your spouse’s styles. There are creative ways to interpret all of the traditional anniversary gift themes into your gift-giving for a fun nod to the classics while still staying true to yourselves.
You might also be interested in: The 30 Best 50th Anniversary Gifts For The Golden Couple