Milestone Anniversary Gifts - How It All Started
Ever wonder how and when the custom of gift giving for wedding anniversaries came into being? The origins are believed to have begun either in ancient Rome or medieval Germany before the 18th century. In English speaking cultures it is believed that the tradition began in the early 1800’s. However, people began marrying for love as opposed to arranged marriages In the Victorian era in the late 19th century which made sense for gifts to be given as an acknowledgement of the work it took to keep a marriage together over time. * (1)
The love match idea was very destabilizing to more conservative approaches and thus rewarding people with gifts emphasized building love and commitment. As time went on, mentions of silver and gold wedding gifts acknowledging these milestones increased. Initially when people spoke of a silver or gold wedding it was described as a German or Dutch tradition. Both the husband and wife would celebrate these anniversaries. The husband would crown his wife with a wreath of silver and the husband would receive a silver buckle for their 25th wedding anniversary. Various composers and authors of the times wrote about the celebration of a wife being given a silver crown or leaves as part of the wedding anniversary celebration festivities. As the idea of a “love marriage” grew and continued to flourish gender roles remained and the wife’s achievement in reaching the milestone was considered as more important and celebrated with these metal gifts. Eventually it was also recognized that it took work on the husband’s side to reach these important accomplishments of long-lived marriages.
Presents were one way to show an appreciation for the work involved, but also recognized that the couple would have enjoyed a harmonious existence to be together for so many years. Initially, it was thought the wife should receive most of the credit This old idea was that the harmony was mainly due to the wife’s efforts.
As the silver and gold traditions spread, shopkeepers looked for additional ways to mark earlier anniversaries as well. By the late 1800’s additional gifts such as paper, wood and tin were being seen to acknowledge years one, five and ten years of marriage. In the 1920’s Hallmark got involved in the celebrations and by the 1930’s the American National Jeweler Association got involved and introduced and expanded the list in an effort to find a gift for every year. Eventually there was a list put together for every year up to 50 years. With 44 years with the gift of groceries. Below is a partial sample list:
1st Anniversary: Paper
5th Anniversary: Wood
10th Anniversary: Tin
15th Anniversary: Crystal
20th Anniversary: China
25th Anniversary: Silver
30th Anniversary: Pearls
35th Anniversary: Coral
50th Anniversary: Gold
*1. Merrill Fabry