Traditional VS Modern Anniversary Gifts

Most people are familiar with the traditional materials list that good etiquette requires us use as a guide when selecting a gift to commemorate a wedding anniversary. If you are like most people, you might find it a bit challenging to convert the materials on the list into an acceptable gift idea. There may be more choices available to you than you realize. Do you know that an updated “modern” gift list is available which is becoming more and more popular? This article touches on the history of the traditional list, highlights the differences between the modern and traditional lists, and helps you decide which is right for you.

Parts of the traditional list have existed since medieval times. Historians can trace the origins of silver and golden anniversaries to medieval Germany, where garlands made of these metals were presented as gifts for the 25th and 50th years of marriage. The rest of the list may not be as traditional as you think. I was surprised to learn that the traditional list, as we know it today, did not exist until 1937. In that year, the American National Retail Jeweler Association published a list, which associated a material for each Anniversary up to the 15th year and then each fifth year after that up to the 60th Anniversary. The following is the materials list from 1937, through the 60th year:

* First – Paper
* Second – Cotton
* Third – Leather
* Fourth – Fruit/Flowers
* Fifth – Wood
* Sixth – Candy/Iron
* Seventh – Wool/Copper
* Eighth – Bronze/Pottery
* Ninth – Pottery/Willow
* Tenth – Tin/Aluminum
* Eleventh – Steel
* Twelfth – Silk/Linen
* Thirteenth – Lace
* Fourteenth – Ivory
* Fifteenth – Crystal
* Twentieth – China
* Twenty-Fifth – Silver
* Thirtieth – Pearl
* Thirty-Fifth – Coral
* Fortieth – Ruby
* Forty-Fifth – Sapphire
* Fiftieth – Gold
* Fifty-fifth – Emerald
* Sixtieth – Diamond

The modern anniversary materials list presents us with a contemporary, easier to use alternative. The modern list has no clear beginning, but like the original, each year’s gift is more precious than the last. This arrangement is intended to honor the longevity of the commitment. The new list retains the spirit of the traditional list, but loses the some of the sense of etiquette in the original. Although more convenient, the modern list sacrifices the thoughtfulness previously required to make a good gift from the more mundane materials on the old list. However, the modern list is more extravagant (expensive) than the original, which in some cases may be more appreciated than a thoughtful but humble gift from the traditional list. The following is the widely accepted modern list, through the 60th year:

* First – Clocks
* Second – China
* Third – Crystal/ Glass
* Fourth – Appliances
* Fifth – Silverware
* Sixth – Candy/Iron
* Seventh – Desk Sets
* Eighth – Bronze/Pottery
* Ninth – Linen/Lace
* Tenth – Leather
* Eleventh – Jewelry
* Twelfth – Pearls
* Thirteenth – Textiles/Furs
* Fourteenth – Gold Jewelry
* Fifteenth – Watches
* Twentieth – Platinum
* Twenty-Fifth – Silver
* Thirtieth – Diamond
* Thirty-Fifth – Jade
* Fortieth – Ruby
* Forty-Fifth – Sapphire
* Fiftieth – Gold
* Fifty-fifth – Emerald
* Sixtieth – Diamond Jubilee

For most couples, I recommend using the modern list. When selecting a gift from the modern list you have the benefit of more specificity, for example a desk set is much more clear than copper/wool. With the modern list, you won’t risk insulting your spouse by rewarding 10 years of companionship with a pitiful tin or aluminum gift. Believe me, she won’t be satisfied with the excuse of tradition. Also, good luck finding the ivory candlesticks for year 14! Unless you really enjoy the creative challenge of using the traditional list, try the modern list this year.

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Slade Hartwell, Webmaster at

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