You may know the big yearly anniversary gifts (silver on the 25th, gold on the 50th), but pretty much every year that a couple is married comes with a specific gift theme, with highlights including:
- Year 1: Paper
- Year 5: Wood
- Year 10: Tin
- Year 15: Crystal
- Year 20: China
- Year 25: Silver
- Year 50: Gold
- Year 60/75: Diamonds
Gifts tend to increase in value as a marriage grows older to equally represent strength and reward stability.
The rhyme or reason for the gifts is pretty arbitrary, but the practice itself of giving specific gifts for certain anniversaries evolved over centuries according to prosperity and prestige. In Central Europe (Germany, specifically) during the medieval era, it wasn’t uncommon to give wreaths of silver at the 25 year mark or wreaths of gold at the 50 year mark -- though it’s assumed that only wealthy families took part. But giving presents for wedding anniversaries wasn’t uncommon; couples would share gifts with each other that were meant to bring luck and reflect the strengthening of a relationship.
Anniversary gift-giving really goes back as far as Ancient Rome, though it didn’t necessarily involve the couple. Friends or family would present them with gifts to celebrate their investment in each other.
More special anniversaries came out during the late 19th century, during the Victorian era, though. The Victorians loved classifying things, so it makes sense that they adopted the practice from the Middle Ages and bumped them up a notch. They came up with wood for the fifth year and diamonds for the 60th. Queen Victoria herself can be credited with that one: She celebrated her 60th year on the throne with the Diamond Jubilee in 1897, so commemorating an anniversary with diamonds became more mainstream (the move between 60 and 75 years for the diamond anniversary floats back and forth depending on which lists you look at).
After that, the more modern lists can be traced back to Emily Post’s “Blue Book of Social Usage” from 1922. She included years 1 through 25 in increments of five and then skipped to 50 and 75.
The American National Retail Jeweler Association took it even father in 1937 and included themes for every year up 20 and then every fifth year until 75 (minus year 65, apparently).
The additions to the year count continued in part because store owners and jewelers were keen on procuring new customers this way. Some sources even credit a “copper anniversary” at 12 ½ years, and honestly, we commend their creativity.
“All the marketing people and droves of sentimentalizers started figuring out reasons for symbolism and trying to make people see it as a very important symbolic step to take that brings them closer as a couple,” Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, a History,” told TIME.
Nowadays, lists ebb and flow, and it’s tough to find a suitable gift for every year -- one record even lists groceries as the most romantic present to give on your 44th anniversary.
Maybe just stick to the main ones.