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WEDDING ANNIVERSARY GIFTS: Something Old Something New

Updated on August 30, 2011


Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend states the following: “The practice of observing the wedding anniversary, while primarily an excuse for gift-giving, probably has underlying it a belief in the correspondence of certain luck-bringing substances with a distinct number of years.” I still have a little pocketbook from Hallmark, and the inside cover has a list of wedding anniversaries and their designated gifts. Gift-giving on your anniversary began sometime during the Middle Ages, when the only dates which mattered involved the number 10, 25 and 50. Leave it to the Victorians to create a long list of symbolic gifts for each and every year of wedded bliss! Lovers adhered to this list until the late 60’s when everyone (retailers) decided they would make more money if they “modernized” the list.

If you have never carefully examined the Anniversary Gift List, I am about to enlighten you. After studying the history of these gifts, I have come up with a list of my own gifts, thus modernizing the whole idea of this silly gift business. After all, paper and wool just ain’t as special as they once were. Nowadays, 52% of all marriages end in divorce. The bright side of that equation is that most folks won’t have to bother with the more expensive gifts because they’ll never make it that far. On the other hand, those who do find their Happily Ever After deserve something really nice for their efforts.


Traditional gift: PAPER (updated to CLOCK)

Reason: Paper was a symbol of communication. As bizarre as it now seems, people actually wrote letters and poems to one another on paper. No emails for the Medieval, so paper was a precious commodity. A book would have made an excellent (and rare) gift. As for the clock? Time would be the obvious answer.

NEW GIFT: Stopwatch (although an Egg Timer would do)

Reason: Start that sucker the minute you say “I Do” and then see how long it lasts. For fun, newlyweds can set time limits on one another for, say, nagging (15 min only), driving before asking for directions (20 minutes or 30 miles – whichever comes first) or Remote Control Dominance (remember, sharing is part of the deal!)


Traditional Gift: COTTON (updated to CHINA)

Reason: Besides being the Fabric of Our Lives, I think cotton was a versatile gift. Women – almost all women – used to sew and make their own clothing, so receiving the gift of cotton was like getting a new wardrobe. Naturally, some folks thought about new bed linens, but after two years of bed hogging and late nights new sheets aren’t a bad prospect. As for China, I have a sneaking suspicion the tableware industry needed a boost in sales. Or perhaps China stands for fragility – as in, two years of matrimony can shatter at any moment.

NEW GIFT: Gift Certificate to Bed Bath and Beyond

Reason: It relieves the happy couple from the burden of indecision when it comes to the paper/china rivalry.You probably still need some decent glasses and some more steak knives. I think that would just about cover it – no pun intended.


Traditional Gift: LEATHER (updated to CRYSTAL)

Reason: Leather is resilient, tough, attractive, durable and even comfortable. These were all symbolic of a good marriage. Also, there were plenty of critters available to supply this worthy gift. Crystal is beautiful, like love. No, seriously; I can’t make this stuff up.


Reason: Why ruin a good thing? Only this time, let’s say leather is symbolic of strength, sexiness, Harley’s (see year 15) and the protection you need to survive the road rash of love. (Maybe rash and love shouldn’t be used in the same sentence here.)


Traditional Gift: FRUIT OR FLOWERS (updated to APPLIANCES)

Reason: Duh. Fertility. I guess by year three some folks expect children. We must remember, dear readers, that birth control was nil and thus women had children…a lot. Fruit was a nice way of saying, “Hey Mama – you look like you could carry on my family name”. I suspect it was the potential grandparents who started shoving fruit and flowers on the married couple. After all, three years is long enough to wait for grandbabies! As for appliances, I will simply say this. One year my father gave my mother a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. They are now divorced. End of discussion.

NEW GIFT: ANIMAL (as in a dog)

Reason: Going along with the idea of starting a family, what better way to grow accustomed to care giving? Give your loved one a dog – the needier the better. It’ll be great practice for when the kids get here!


Traditional Gift: WOOD (updated to SILVERWARE)

Reason: Wood is supposedly strong, like your love. Whoever decided this never has seen the aftermath of a good tornado. Wood, trees, roots, growth, fruits, and all that great stuff symbolize marriage. I like the wood idea – because some really nice things come from wood. Silverware? The modernized list stated the reason for this gift was because “the couple shares meals together”. You share toilet paper, too, but that doesn’t make it a worthy gift! How about, “Silverware, for when you stab one another in the back, or when you could give a flying fork…” I digress.


Reason: If you have even made it these five years, which most folks haven’t, then treat yourselves to a new bedroom suit – complete with a new mattress and 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. You’ve earned it! Celebrate!


Traditional Gift: CANDY (updated to IRON)

Reason: Candy – which was a hot commodity back in the day – represented the sweetness of your love. I’m not so sure about the candy idea – it just seems a bit campy after all that LEATHER and FLOWERS business. Now iron, I can completely grasp. Bring on the Blacksmith – iron lasts forever! Archaeologists are still digging up tools and artifacts from the Iron Age, and that’s what I want in a marriage! Longevity, iron will, strength and the opportunity to dig up stuff years after you thought it had been buried and forgotten (metaphorically speaking, of course). I like Iron. Wait – we’re not talking about appliances again are we?


Reason: I would say you must actually prepare a gourmet meal for your loved one, but some folks don’t cook. If you’re like me and you’re a foodie, make your spouse’s favorite dish! If you can’t handle the heat, take him/her out to a very nice restaurant (and NO, Red Lobster is not 5-star dining). A gourmet meal is delicious, aromatic, romantic, and should be savored. This is how you should be treating your marriage. You’ve made it 6 years! That’s twice the national average. Feast!


Traditional Gift: WOOL (updated to DESK SET)

Reason: Roman brides would touch the threshold of their new home with wool for luck and prosperity. Wool symbolizes the warmth and comfort of a loving relationship. May I point out that it is also scratchy and shrinks big-time should you wash it. I do approve of wool as opposed to a desk set! Honestly – a desk set is something you buy for an estranged uncle for the family Christmas function. Come to think of it, we don’t even have a desk.


Reason: When was the last time you even took a vacation – just the two of you? So plan a Heavenly vacation (it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive) and reconnect. Life is too short. Make year number seven remind you of year number one, only without all the awkward parts.


Traditional Gift: POTTERY (updated to LACE)

Reason: Pottery starts as a lump of clay, and is then worked into a beautiful and useful shape. After it is fired, pottery becomes hardened and practical. Hmmm, kinda like people in a marriage. Lace, on the other hand, is fancy and frilly and dainty and sexy and how does this relate to matrimony? One word; negligee.


Reason: You must each try something new: a food, a destination, a skydiving session…and you must try it together. You get two turns: one turn each. Trust one another. Try the Ballroom Dancing; you might just love it! Try the Paint Ball arena; it may be the best stress buster you’ve ever discovered! Think of some new adventure you’ve always wanted to try to go for it. Part of marriage is keeping things exciting and new and fresh!


Traditional Gift: WILLOW (updated to LEATHER)

Reason: I have absolutely no idea why willow is an ideal gift. Because it can bend without breaking? It makes a good whip? Who knows? I cannot find any history on this subject. I will say that Cricket bats are made from willow. Getting any ideas yet? And then we have leather again, which seems to find its way into several of the anniversary years. I’m thinking a leather sofa from Restoration Hardware…that makes for a good ninth year!


Reason: Any woman worth her salt loves a gorgeous string of pearls. These natural beauties come in a variety of colors and can be purchased in sets, including earrings, a necklace and a bracelet. If you are a metallurgist, you know just how strong copper is. Copper is also beautiful. Give your man some copper, whether it is a copper telescope (so he can name a star after you) or a copper pocket watch engraved with something nice. If both of these suggestions bore you, go buy one another firearms and practice shooting targets at a local range. You heard me...


Traditional Gift: TIN (updated to DIAMOND)

Reason: Tin was chosen because it was durable but flexible. While I feel that adage has been a bit overused by this point, I will say tin has its appeal. Tin is the roof over my head that lulls me to sleep in the rain. I am not, however, fond of the tin-as-a-gift idea. Now diamonds….THAT’S a GIFT! And who doesn’t understand the universal symbolism of diamonds? Beauty, perfection, faceted depths, and eternal durability; that’s a marriage worth having! So let’s just cut to the point….


Reason: Self-explanatory, my friend. Go ye forth and buy thee some diamonds and enjoyeth them forever. Amen.


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    • bharmoriat profile image


      7 years ago from CHANDIGARH INDIA

      once again funny and witty. i love the way you write. very very good.


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