What are the traditional wedding gifts for each year of marriage, why is it different in the US and what do they mean?

MOST people are familiar with diamond or golden jubilees but in fact every year of marriage is linked to a gift.

While monarchs – or our grandparents – may celebrate a milestone anniversary, each year has its own unique present.

What are the traditional wedding gifts for each year of marriage?

In the UK, there are individual gifts from the first year up until the 15th.

After that it jumps to the 20th, then the 25th, and at five-year intervals until the 70th, when it goes by decade.

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her golden jubilee – 50 years – on the throne in 2002 after being crowned in 1952.

And in 2012 she became only the second monarch to celebrate their diamond jubilee, 60 years, after Queen Victoria celebrated hers in 1897.

The current gift suggestions date back to 1937, when prior to that only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries had a specific gift.

In 1937 the American National Retail Jeweler Association expanded on the list.

There are variations of the list, but wedding website Anniversary Gifts details them as follows.

Anniversary gifts by year

  • 1st Anniversary: Paper
  • 2nd Anniversary: Cotton
  • 3rd Anniversary: Leather
  • 4th Anniversary: Linen
  • 5th Anniversary: Wood
  • 6th Anniversary: Iron
  • 7th Anniversary: Copper
  • 8th Anniversary: Bronze
  • 9th Anniversary: Copper
  • 10th Anniversary: Tin
  • 11th Anniversary: Steel
  • 12th Anniversary: Silk
  • 13th Anniversary: Lace
  • 14th Anniversary: Ivory
  • 15th Anniversary: Crystal
  • 20th Anniversary: China
  • 25th Anniversary: Silver
  • 30th Anniversary: Pearl
  • 35th Anniversary: Coral
  • 40th Anniversary: Ruby
  • 45th Anniversary: Sapphire
  • 50th Anniversary: Gold
  • 55th Anniversary: Emerald
  • 60th Anniversary: Diamond
  • 70th Anniversary: Platinum
  • 65th Anniversary: Blue Sapphire
  • 70th Anniversary: Platinum
  • 80th Anniversary: Oak
  • 85th Anniversary: Wine
  • 90th Anniversary: Stone

Why is it different in the US?

While many of the gifts are the same, there are some differences between the US and UK registry’s.

The Americans include opal for the 24th year, but interestingly the UK list goes beyond the 75th, where it stops for the US.

According to Anniversary Gifts, in the US silk can be given instead of linen, wool can also be presented instead of copper, and china is a substitute for pottery.

And tin can be replaced by aluminium.

Items such as paper and wood make up the traditional gift list, with a modern list later developed for the US by the Chicago Public Library.

These include clocks, electrical appliances, desk sets, silverware, and jewellery.


What do they mean?

The first years are relatively easy items to acquire, and that’s because it was generally thought newly-weds would be strapped for cash.

But giving paper for the very first year has deeper symbolism, as it’s meant to signify a fresh start.

The idea behind cotton is as the thread is woven together, so your lives become more entwined.

Leather is a durable material, and is meant to signify how your relationship is growing in strength.

The gifts get more elaborate and expensive the longer the marriage lasts, referring to how your feelings develop and get stronger over time.


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