Wedding Anniversaries: Traditions & Fresh Takes

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/16/24
Wedding Anniversaries: Traditions & Fresh Takes

Wedding Anniversaries: Traditions & Fresh Takes

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/16/24

Part of the Wedding

Wedding Anniversaries: Traditions & Fresh Takes

By  Tommy Peske
Updated on 02/16/24
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Candlelit dinner
Once you’re married, it’s common for the years you spend with your forever person to pass quickly. Despite the fact that you’ll likely experience decades of happiness with your partner, celebrating every yearly anniversary of your marriage shouldn’t be treated as optional. Acknowledging and honoring the phases of love and life, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can be a significant source of growth for couples. Plus, it helps you not take your partner’s presence and commitment for granted.

Celebrating your anniversary can include booking an extravagant trip or spa visit, but it doesn’t have to. As long as you spend time with one another and look back on the year that’s passed, you’re well on your way to celebrating your anniversary the right way. While there are certain traditions, like eating an old slice of wedding cake that people have been doing for ages, there are lots of other rituals you can start or adopt for your own modern relationship. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

We’ll go over some of the traditional ways you can celebrate your anniversary, as well as some new activities that you may love enough to make into traditions of your own. But don’t get too caught up on what you do on your anniversary specifically. Rather, focus on finding traditions that speak to you and your spouse’s personal interests

Traditional Ways To Celebrate

When you consider how long marriage has been in existence, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are endless anniversary traditions out there. What’s more, people in different corners of the globe celebrate differently and even have varying rituals. Luckily for you, that means there are a myriad of traditions worth adopting; some of which you may have never heard of! 

While celebrating your anniversary in a modern way is totally fine, bringing in historic traditions can make the celebration that much more meaningful. Whether you pull a page from your ancestors’ book or look back a generation or two to your Grandparents, keeping a tradition alive comes with a sense of pride. Plus, you can pass it down to your own kids if you choose to have any.

Traditional Wedding Anniversary Gifts

Married couples may choose to celebrate their anniversaries in any number of ways, whether between themselves or among family and friends, but many couples may feel that when it comes to a traditional gift the “rules” are a bit more defined. Paper for the first anniversary year, crystal for the 15th, silver for the 25th and so on — but where’d that tradition get its start? Like many wedding-related traditions, the origin of this long-held gifting ritual is up for debate. It has been traced by various sources to Ancient Rome or medieval Germany, but it’s hard to come up with actual instances of anniversary presents exchanged by married couples from either society that far back.

Wondering what these traditional anniversary gifts are? Here’s the full list for years 1-25:

  • 1st Anniversary: Paper
  • 2nd Anniversary: Cotton
  • 3rd Anniversary: Leather
  • 4th Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers
  • 5th Anniversary: Wood
  • 6th Anniversary: Candy or Iron
  • 7th Anniversary: Wool or Copper
  • 8th Anniversary: Pottery or Bronze
  • 9th Anniversary: Willow or Pottery
  • 10th Anniversary: Tin or Aluminum
  • 11th Anniversary: Steel
  • 12th Anniversary: Silk or Linen
  • 13th Anniversary: Lace
  • 14th Anniversary: Gold Jewelry
  • 15th Anniversary: Crystal
  • 16th Anniversary: Coffee or Tea
  • 17th Anniversary: Wine or Spirits
  • 18th Anniversary: Appliances
  • 19th Anniversary: Jade
  • 20th Anniversary: China
  • 21st Anniversary: Fire (theme)
  • 22nd Anniversary: Water (theme)
  • 23rd Anniversary: Air (theme)
  • 24th Anniversary: Stone (theme)
  • 25th Anniversary: Silver

While you might want to give your spouse something in addition to these traditional gifts, it can be fun to tie traditional and modern gifts together. For example, a leather keychain attached to the gift for your third anniversary or flowers to pair with your fourth anniversary present. 

Traditional Rituals And Celebrations

Indulge in something from your wedding day menu: Did you have unforgettable surf and turf or a special cake flavor at your wedding? Enjoy it again every year when your anniversary comes around to be instantly transported back in time. Some couples even choose to keep a slice of wedding cake in the freezer to enjoy a bite of it every year that it lasts. Nostalgia can come in the form of smells and tastes, so it’s no wonder this anniversary tradition has long been popularized.

Reminisce about your special day: If there’s one thing all couples should do on their anniversary, it’s making room for reflection and reminiscing. Discuss the ways in which you’ve grown as a couple since getting together or getting married over a dinner you love or at a place that is significant to you both. You may choose to write yearly letters to each other and read them out loud, or return to your vows that you made when you tied the knot. Are you living by your vows still? If you’re not, why? Does anything need to change or have your individual needs changed?

Some couples might choose to look at old wedding photos or videos to transport themselves back in time. Looking at old photos and videos regularly is an easy way to keep the special occasion fresh in your mind for years to come. And as the years pass, wedding videos and photos become all the more precious because they hold memories of loved ones who may not be around anymore.

Schedule an anniversary photo shoot: Most of us don’t get professional photos done nearly as often enough as we should. Make a yearly anniversary photo shoot a tradition you stick to. That way, you’ll have photos from every year of your marriage to hang onto. Plus, if you add kids or pets to your family, those life changes can be reflected in photos as well. Watching yourselves grow and change exactly 365 days apart is a beautiful way to commemorate the passage of time.

Modern Ways To Celebrate

Doing things the old fashioned way is great, but adding a fresh and fun twist to your anniversary can lead two a celebration that is twice as special. Creating your own traditions that are unique to you and your spouse is a wonderful way to celebrate your relationship with methods that are close to your heart. Just like modern weddings, anniversaries don’t come with antiquated rules attached to them anymore. If you want to spend your anniversary eating pizza and watching reruns of The Office, more power  to you. If doing something simple feels most authentic to your relationship, you shouldn’t feel pressured into a big trip or flashy vow renewal ceremony.

Modern Anniversary Gifts

It’s a misconception that anniversary gifts are, by default, endlessly romantic and expensive. Fancy jewelry, luxurious vacations, and day-long spa trips are just some of the gifts the general public may associate with wedding anniversaries. Don’t let Instagram convince you that a no-frills gift is unacceptable. In fact, smaller gifts can even be more sentimental than some of their more expensive counterparts. The old adage is true; it really is the thought that counts. 

Want to make your spouse feel loved, but don’t want to clear out your bank account? Here are some useful and modern anniversary gift ideas:

A Custom Etsy Creation: Etsy is chock-full of independent retailers who craft special custom pieces, making it the perfect destination for sentimental anniversary gifts. Look for a custom sign for your home, custom wine glasses, or custom decals to ring in the occasion. 

A Shared Experience: What do you and your spouse like to do together? If you’re into camping, consider gifting new gear or a short stay at a local “glamping” site to stargaze. If you’re into wine, look into tastings or tours near you and make a day of it. You don’t have to jet away to an island paradise to get out and do something you love with the person you adore. Look through Travala for countless activities you can do with your partner!

Something They Need: We’re all guilty of not following up on certain must-have purchases. Maybe your spouse’s driver club broke recently, or they’re out of their regular shampoo and conditioner. Incorporating essentials into your gift might not be overtly sexy, but it shows you’re paying attention to your husband’s needs. 

Something They’d Never Buy For Themselves: You know those frivolous things you totally don’t need, but want desperately anyway? (Think towel warmers, electric foot massagers, and Nespresso machines) These items make great gifts. Surprise your spouse with something they’ve wanted for a while that they’d never dream of buying for themselves and watch their excited reaction.  

Recreate Your Honeymoon: Nick Muller, CEO of says, “couples can recreate their honeymoons for their wedding anniversary, but in different locations.” Traveling to various destinations and having a honeymoon every year (or however often you’d like) can be a great gift for you both! Get a map out and start planning together. 

Final Thoughts

Above all, anniversaries are an opportunity to pay homage to your relationship and your spouse. While it can be easy to take the people you’re closest to for granted, celebrating this momentous occasion will give you a deeper appreciation for your significant other. Whether you celebrate in a luxurious way or keep it lowkey, making the celebration unique to your relationship is the best way to make it an enjoyable experience for all.

Need more help navigating the wedding traditions? Check out our article on 5 Traditions Every Groom Should Know About!



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