We Love a Good Theme, So Here Are Our Top Anniversary Gifts by Year
From paper to gold.
Published Jun 2, 2023 1:00 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
The sweet tradition of anniversary gifts by year—you know, first year: paper, second year: cotton, etc.—has been in practice since the medieval period. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, specific gifts were believed to bring prosperity to a marriage; in the Victorian era, it became more about a gift’s value growing year by year. The list, as we know it today, was published in 1937 by the American National Retail Jewelers Association.
Marking milestones this way might seem a little old school (okay, centuries old), but picking from anything on the World Wide Web is a bit daunting, so why not consider it a helpful (and fun!) limitation? Some of the themes are easier to shop for than others—as in, pottery is a no-brainer, but aluminum might make you want to ditch the whole idea altogether. That’s why we’re sharing our top picks within each milestone year, from 1 to 10 and then by decade. Following our guidelines not only guarantees your gift is a hit, it brings an added tradition to your already special anniversary ritual. Psst—if you’re nowhere near fifty years, these make for great parental gifts, too.
1 Year: Paper
While paper might be commonly considered disposable, there are plenty of luxurious goods made from the delicate material. Perhaps the most covetable lamp out there, by Isamu Noguchi, falls under the first-year category, as does the iconic cardboard Wiggle stool by Frank Gehry. And if you’re looking for a less on-the-nose take on the theme, Diptyque’s new L’Eau Papier scent captures the essence of ink soaking into paper.
2 Years: Cotton
This anniversary is all about adding something fresh and fluffy to your linen closet. That could include a soft good to wrap up in like a lightweight robe or a graphic quilt, or something to jazz up a dinner party such as a beachy tablecloth. If what really excites your spouse is a fancy candle, then Byredo’s Cotton Poplin candle will certainly get the job done (and remind them of their favorite crisp shirt).
3 Years: Leather
Just like your relationship, leather gets better with age. These accessories can be scattered around your home or tucked in your pocket to bring the memory of your anniversary with you out in the world. We’re pretty certain that a Bottega Veneta card case guarantees at least another 50 happy years.
4 Years: Fruit or Flowers
Some themes provide an option, and for year four, it’s between fruit or flowers. While Flamingo Estate offers a produce box filled with its Los Angeles garden’s seasonal bounty, there are plenty less fleeting options that still fall under the category. Take these shockingly realistic-looking porcelain cherries, for instance, or a vase designed by Alvar Aalto that can accompany a fresh bouquet.
5 Years: Wood
The trunk of a tree gains an additional ring each year, making wood an especially symbolic material to celebrate another 365 days together. November 19’s cutting board showcases yellow pine’s grain lines; wood blocks create a checked pattern, sanded down and polished to be silky smooth. We could easily see this becoming a family heirloom.
6 Years: Candy or Iron
Here’s a real choose-you-own-adventure of a theme. This is your opportunity to either give a fancy sweet treat they wouldn’t typically buy themselves (or better yet, candy-esque glassware) or shop for a hefty homeware. For something so heavyweight, Il Buco Vita’s colossal wrought-iron candleholders keep things light with a touch of humor (they’re fit for a giant: 13 centimeters tall, with a 12-centimeter diameter). Be sure to include a set of the matching beeswax candles.
7 Years: Wool or Copper
We’re considering this the cottagecore of anniversary gift themes, as nothing brings cozy Cotswolds vibes like a wool blanket or copper cookware. If your partner is open to sharing their new set of pots and pans, you’ll be able to partake in some egg flipping and soup stirring, too. But only when cooking for them, of course.
8 Years: Pottery or Bronze
If you aren’t tired of metal yet, year eight is an opportunity to buy something bronze. Chunky taper holders by Nancy Pearce can sit on your dining table to encourage more impromptu candlelit dinners for two, and an oyster-shaped bottle opener is perfect for the seafood-obsessed partner. If you are tired of metal, you can also opt for pottery.
9 Years: Willow or Pottery
Willow is pretty specific, but after a little bit of Internet digging, we found Rachel Bower, a skilled weaver based in Scotland. She’s got trays, she’s got utensil holders, she’s got garlic containers—but most of all, she’s got you covered for your nine-year anniversary. And because baskets can be polarizing, you can again fall back on pottery for this one.
10 Years: Tin or Aluminum
Ten years is quite the accomplishment, so a grand gift is only appropriate. However, tin and aluminum don’t exactly scream “luxury.” Not to worry: We found items—like this stovetop espresso maker designed by Mario Trimarchi—that are just as special as they deserve. And if you’re looking for something sweet and simple (pun intended), a tin chocolate box that can be repurposed will do just fine.
20 Years: China
After 20 years, the two of you really know each other. Which means you should also really know each other’s taste in dinnerware. Here are some editor favorites, from Ginori to Royal Copenhagen, that are sure to get you to full-blown adulting status.
30 Years: Pearl
Pearls are conveniently a major jewelry trend right now, which means there are tons of cute options out there. Anyone would love a dainty bracelet from Mary Macgil, but for those who are less inclined to wear jewelry, a fun take on the theme could involve mother-of-pearl spoons (along with a tin of caviar in the fridge).
40 Years: Ruby
It doesn’t get more opulent than ruby, but we were able to find some more affordable options that still fit the category. Lizzie Fortunato’s ruby Tile earrings look like a grown-up take on the fun costume jewelry kids wear while playing dress-up, keeping things not so serious while also seriously on trend.
50 Years: Gold
After 50 years of marriage, gold is pretty darn deserved. But it comes in more forms than a Rolex—like a glass bowl by Elsa Peretti with gold flecks mixed in or flowery gold-plated candleholders made in France. And because you’re celebrating big love, a solid yellow-gold heart necklace is certainly a crowd-pleaser.