Curious History

Curious History
anniversary gifts

The History of Anniversary Gifts

The first documented instance of the practice of giving anniversary gifts dates back to the 18th-century German tradition of silberne Hochzeit. Here, wives would receive silver wreaths from their husbands or friends on their 25th wedding anniversary. If the couple were together for 50 years, the wives would get gold wreaths.

While these wreaths were given as memories of the occasion, which was also commemorated by exuberant celebrations, they also served as symbols of the hard work that went into maintaining a harmonious marriage and achieving such a milestone.

As the popularity of silver and gold anniversaries spread, techniques for commemorating other years of marriage began to emerge.

In 1859, The Old Farmer’s Almanac published an updated gift list that featured gifts from one month from a marriage where one would receive sugar to 75 years where one would get a diamond.

The emphasis was on commemorating milestone anniversaries and charting the couple’s journey from hopeful beginnings to established adulthood.

Every anniversary commemorates a milestone in the couple’s marriage. Another year together represents a strengthening of the couple’s devotion, an accumulation of priceless time.

To assist in honoring these milestones are particular gifts, one assigned to each anniversary and each with its own tangible and symbolic worth.

The wedding anniversary symbols began with paper and flowers and progressively gained weight and importance. The gift-giving sequence demonstrates the couple’s investment in each other.

The gift list grows in the Victorian Era.

The popularity of anniversary gifts grew, and the tradition spread throughout Europe, expanding the list and appearing more frequently in print.

By the 1880s, the list had expanded to include the already known presents for the first, fifth, tenth, twenty-fifth, and fiftieth anniversaries, as well as crystal for the fifteenth and china for the twentieth.

When Queen Victoria commemorated the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne in 1897, the practice was cemented across Europe.

By the turn of the century, the traditional list had expanded to include every year from the first to the fifteenth anniversary, as well as every five-year milestone after that.

Source: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

20th century: The tradition gets to America

Emily Post’s first bestselling etiquette book was published in 1922, and it featured Webster’s list of eight milestone anniversary gifts, which helped popularize the tradition in the United States.

It is worth noting that Post, in her publication, reverted the diamond anniversary to the 75th year, but the issue was later resolved when the diamond theme was accepted for both the 60th and 75th anniversaries.

Although the tradition was growing in the United States, anniversary etiquette in the U.S. and Europe was slightly different.

In Germany, a silver wedding was an important event, and a great celebration was made of it, but in America, it was not as good.

The problem started with the invites. The one celebrating the anniversary invited just a few intimate friends and family to the anniversary party. And the invited were supposed to bring gifts. According to the Post, this was too greedy of the American people.

Despite Post’s warnings against anniversary celebrations and the faux pas of appearing greedy for gifts, the tradition quickly spread.

The modernization of the anniversary gift list

The American National Retail Jewelers Association is responsible for expanding the anniversary gift list, which they did at their annual convention in 1922 and worked on for several years.

The association realized that by leaving out so many anniversary years, the list was missing out on significant sales potential. To address the issue, they developed a current list of annual presents for 75 years of marriage.

In 1937, jewelers across the United States were given access to the present list of anniversary gifts.

While the traditional list is confined to the first fifteen years, followed by important milestones, the modern list includes every year of marriage until the 50th, as well as every subsequent five-year milestone.

Unsurprisingly, the current list favors precious metals and diamonds, making jewelry a popular choice for anniversary gifts.

By the mid-to-late 1930s, people were celebrating their first, tenth, twentieth, and seventieth anniversaries, as well as their 25th and fiftieth.

The society also decided on a gift for each of the milestone anniversary years. The idea behind providing gifts was that stability deserves a reward, and the more stable, the larger the reward.

Modern lifestyles also influenced the list and feature items that would have been unusual before the turn of the century, such as clocks, silverware, appliances, and desk sets.

Today, you can also find lists of wedding anniversary colors, flowers, jewelry, and gemstones to assist you in choosing the best anniversary gift and organizing an anniversary party.

In addition to gifts, modern couples mark anniversaries with supper, a night out, a romantic getaway, or even a second honeymoon.

Although these new gifts were devised with the greatest of intentions, you should be cautious when gifting them. It’s even better that you double-check and confirm that the person needs the item that you are gifting them.

For example, you wouldn’t rush to gift someone a clock if they don’t need it in the first place. As you can tell, they won’t appreciate the gift.

Traditional vs modern anniversary gifts

The traditional and modern lists coincide at important milestones beginning with the 25th anniversary, with the exception of the 30th anniversary, when the traditional gift is a pearl and the diamond returns as the modern present.

Not wanting to pass up an opportunity for extravagance, diamonds make their first appearance on the modern list at the 10th anniversary of diamond jewelry for those couples who are not pleased with typical tin and aluminum.

Parting shot

Both modern and traditional lists are still used by gift buyers today, albeit a bride or groom is not compelled to follow them.

Many people are, in fact, unaware of the gift list we have listed above and often opt for gift cards, Champagne, or a lavish evening out on the town as an anniversary gift.

If, however, you choose to honor this Victorian tradition and go for the traditional gifts, nothing is stopping you.

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