Anniversary celebrations began in medieval times when people celebrated 25 and 50 years of marriage. A husband would crown his wife with a wreath of silver for 25 years and of gold for 50.
The tradition of gold and silver wedding anniversaries has stuck, but there is now a long list of other named anniversaries to accompany them. Each represents a different facet of the couple's commitment, the stage their relationship is at and the number of years they have been together.
Below is a list of the most popular anniversaries celebrated today and what they mean, but there are others. According to one American website, the 24th anniversary is for musical instruments, the 29th for new furniture, the 42nd for improved real estate and the 44th for groceries. Well, you never know your luck…
When it comes to anniversary gift buying, our advice is to think laterally. For example, most people can't afford to buy rubies for a ruby wedding anniversary, but how about a beautiful ruby-red throw, bottles of red wine or some coloured glass or pottery?
We've come up with a few more suggestions to get you started…
1st anniversary: Paper Can it really be a year ago you said 'I do'? Time flies when you're having fun…
Paper weddings have an edible tradition. If you opted for a fruit wedding cake, you can freeze the top tier and have it re-iced to eat on this day.
Don't stick to stationery for gifts on a paper theme. Name a star after your partner and present them with the certificate, or order a personal horoscope, or offer a voucher for a gift experience such as a helicopter ride over London? Tickets are, of course, paper.. so the world is your oyster! Then again, why not just pour your heart out in a love letter?
2nd anniversary: Cotton
3rd: anniversary: Leather Keep it simple on your second wedding anniversary: spend it tucked up in crisp, fresh cotton sheets. Or splash out on a second honeymoon.
For your third, what about a leather-bound photo album or wallet with something to spend inside? Plus Jimmy Choo makes leather shoes…
4th anniversary: Linen How about some lovely new bedlinen or cushions for your bed?
5th anniversary: Wood In Wales, elaborately carved wooden 'lovespoons' have been given for centuries. The term 'spooning' - meaning 'romancing' - originates from this Welsh tradition. An alternative gift to each other could be a romantic vsit to a log cabin!
6th anniversary: Iron In his famous diary, Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) writes of going home 'to be merry, it being my sixth wedding night'.
PS a tip for your sixth: a steam iron is NOT a romantic gesture!
7th anniversary: Wool For your wool wedding, you could snuggle up in new cashmere sweaters and watch Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch.
8th anniversary: Bronze
9th anniversary: Pottery Stylish ceramics make perfect pottery presents. On the other hand, your ninth anniversary is a good opportunity to exercise your own artistic talents. Take a trip to your local pottery café and create a personalised masterpiece for your beloved.
10th anniversary: Tin At ten years old, your marriage is getting all grown up and hopefully, more mature. But not too mature! To celebrate a decade of togetherness, why not break out the jelly and ice cream and hold a tenth birthday party for your marital relationship? Invite your friends and family over to join in the fun.
As a gift idea, tin may not sound too promising. Fortunately, there's also a gemstone or precious metal associated with each wedding anniversary. According to this tradition, you can celebrate your first decade together with diamonds. Any excuse!
11th anniversary: Steel
12th anniversary: Silk In Denmark, it's traditional to make a big fuss of the 12-and-a-half-year anniversary. Called a copper wedding, friends and family build the couple half an arch made from spruce (you get the other half when you reach your 25th). The arch is decorated with flowers and lights and positioned at the door of your home. When it comes to silk, why not invest in some beautiful silk lingerie for yourself!
13th anniversary: Lace Romantic lace is often associated with weddings. The veil made for Queen Elizabeth's 1923 wedding to George VI required 12,000 hours of work and 12million stitches. For your 13th anniversary, why not surprise your partner with a weekend trip to Bruges, home of lace-making?
14th anniversary: Ivory Ivory comes from elephants, so if you want to follow tradition in cruelty-free style, choose the modern alternatives of opal or gold gifts instead.
15th anniversary: Crystal If renewing your wedding vows appeals to you, your 15th anniversary - one of the first 'big' ones - could be the time to do it. You can make the service as formal or informal as you like, have a civil or religious ceremony, or fly to an exotic location to do 'I do' all over again.
Anniversary symbols vary worldwide. In some cultures, your 15th wedding anniversary, for example, is called a 'glass' wedding. Time to blow your savings on a conservatory? A greenhouse? Designer his 'n' hers specs? Combine the traditions by toasting each other with champagne in new crystal glasses.
16th anniversary: Topaz
17th anniversary: Amethyst Why are certain materials associated with different anniversaries? As the years pass, you'll see that the materials become more durable and more valuable the longer the marriage - just like your relationship! Another theory is that they are designed to help you replace wedding gifts at the time they wear out…
18th anniversary: Garnet You might not fancy buying each other garnets, but there's nothing wrong with taking a weekend break in the home of these red gems - Prague. If you love the idea of a city filled with gothic architecture and romance, this is the place to go.
19th anniversary: Aquamarine Aquamarines are the colour of the sea, so what about a quick trip to the coast to celebrate your 19th anniversary? A stroll on the prom, a quick paddle and a champagne picnic on the beach can be a real tonic. As the poet EE Cummings wrote, 'It's always ourselves that we find at the sea'. An alternative could be a visit to a relaxing spa for the weekend. Continuing the water theme, fit out your bathroom with some beautiful new accessories?
20th anniversary: China Congratulations - you've made it together through two whole decades! Invite friends and family together to help you celebrate. To mark your 20th anniversary, throw a roaring twenties fancy dress party , and Charleston the night away.
You can always add another piece to your wedding china, as it's fun to collect things over time. Prince Albert, for example, gave Queen Victoria a set of gold and porcelain jewellery bit by bit - a brooch before their wedding, a brooch and earrings for Christmas and a wreath on their fifth wedding anniversary in 1845.
21st anniversary: Brass
22nd anniversary: Copper Brass and copper are not necessarily the most romantic of metals but use your imagination and you could make something of them. Copper-bottomed saucepans are prized by celebrity chefs, or be 'bold as brass' and take your beloved for an extreme sports experience such as bungee jumping or whitewater rafting.
23rd anniversary: Silver plate
24th anniversary: Musical instruments This is an unusual one! Instead of an instrument, how about tickets to a concert, or a new cd for the collection?
25th anniversary: Silver Silver weddings have a long tradition. In medieval Germany, husbands gave their wives a wreath of silver when they had been married for 25 years. 'Sylver brydells' are mentioned in an English church record of 1624, and the term 'silver feast' is attributed to the Germans in a letter to Dr Samuel Johnson in 1806.
Couples may want to buy something to special to commemorate this first major milestone in their relationship. Choose from a huge range of silver items to celebrate your 25 years together - this could be a lovely silver frame for one of your wedding photographs, or even a piece of jewellery for each of you.
26th anniversary: Original pictures How about having your portrait painted as a special anniversary gift? A less costly option is to enlarge and frame a favourite (wedding?) photo. Otherwise, keep an eye out in local galleries and choose something that you both love.
27th anniversary: Sculpture This anniversary gives you a great opportunity to buy a lovely sculpture - either for inside your home or for your garden. You might even decide to take a class and make something yourself!
28th anniversary: Orchids In China, orchids symbolise nobility, friendship, elegance and perfection - making these exotic, mysterious blooms an ideal anniversary present. Bouquets of orchids or orchid plants are breathtaking. If you feel like splashing out, many orchids originate from Asia so perhaps it's time for a holiday!
29th anniversary: New furniture
30th anniversary: Pearl Be pearly king and queen for the night with a Cockney themed party for your pearl wedding. You can feast on jellied eels and have a good old knees-up! Alternatively, keep it just the two of you and curl up in front of some classic movies from the 1930's.
In Indian mythology, pearls are said to be dewdrops from heaven that fell into the sea. These jewels represent peace, nobility and beauty, and would make a wonderful gift - but if you can't stretch to pearls, use their colour as an inspiration for a beautiful white gift, or just get romantic over a dozen oysters. Caviar is traditionally eaten with a mother of pearl spoon... I see an evening of Champagne and caviar!
31st anniversary: Timepieces
32nd anniversary: Conveyances (vehicles) You could always purchase that long-coveted Porsche for your anniversary, but if a car isn't quite the right thing, why not just 'convey' your partner to a posh hotel to enjoy a weekend of luxury as a 32nd celebration? Or hire a limo for the night and enjoy the celebrity lifestyle.
33rd anniversary: Amethyst The Victorians were fond of making rings with a message conveyed in the first initial of each jewel. So a ring with a Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Topaz on it spelt 'dearest'.
34th anniversary: Opal
35th anniversary: Coral Jewellery is the natural choice for this anniversary gift, as coral goes so well with jade, the gemstone associated with 25 years of marriage.
Jade was once used as currency in China and is considered to be lucky. Red coral is the most valuable kind.
Alternatively, head to one of the world's great coral reefs and go for a dive together!
36th anniversary: Bone china
37th anniversary: Alabaster Although, generally speaking, it's five- and ten-year anniversaries that are the most widely celebrated, there's no reason not to mark the date of your wedding every year. So if you want to have a big bash on your 37th or 38th - go ahead! Try an alabaster carving or sculpture, as a gift.
38th anniversary: Beryl Beryl is a little known, colourless gemstone in it's pure form. Aquamarine is it's blue versiou and it's green is one of the most precious gems of all - emerald.
39th anniversary: Lace There is no traditional material for the 39th wedding anniversary but the modern lists state lace, which also marks the 13th. 26 years on, it may be time to replace that tablecloth!
40th anniversary: Ruby Life begins at 40, and the 40th wedding anniversary is considered to be one of the most important after the 25th. Not surprisingly it's been attached to one of the world's most precious gems. Rubies are said to be rarer than diamonds - they symbolise health, wealth and wisdom and, of course, passion.
Rubies are red, so why not plant a red rose in your garden as testament to your love? Or buy some vintage bottles and invite your party guests to toast the future and the past in vintage ruby port or red wine.
41st anniversary: Land In 1659, John Evelyn wrote in his diary about going to a 'forty-first wedding day feast', one of the earliest references to wedding anniversaries in English literature. It looks as if all anniversaries were an excuse for a celebration back in those days - what a good idea!
42nd anniversary: Real estate
43rd anniversary: Travel This couldn't be easier. Enjoy a day or weekend away, or head off on the holiday of your dreams!
44th anniversary: Groceries Groceries don't sound too exciting, but they can make a great present. Just remember to avoid standard supermarket fare and go for a luxury hamper instead.
45th anniversary: Sapphire Sapphires come in an array of colours - pink, yellow, white, green and red as well as blue. So get the shaker out and celebrate your 45th with a multi-coloured cocktail drinks party.
Use the Victorian language of flowers to let your partner know how you feel with a colourful bouquet. You could try freesias for faithfulness, alstromeria for desire - or just a red rose, for love.
46th anniversary: Poetry This is the perfect opportunity to be romantic - buy a poetry book, go to a poetry reading or even put pen to paper yourself.
47th anniversary: Books Explore the literary theme for these anniversaries and take your love to Hay-on-Wye, home of the famous book festival. It's a charming, picturesque place, packed with bookshops where you'll be sure to find a volume of romantic poetry for your partner.
48th anniversary: Optical goods
49th anniversary: Luxuries Modern wedding symbols, such as luxuries and optical goods, might not have quite the same romantic ring to them as traditional materials like silver or rubies, but you could always buy a telescope and spend your anniversary stargazing together…
50th anniversary: Gold You've spent half a century together - what better cause for a celebration? Golden weddings have been marked for many years. In medieval Germany, men would present their wives with a golden wreath on their 50th anniversary. This was said to symbolise harmony.
Going for gold is the obvious choice for a 50th wedding gift and you may want to use the opportunity to buy each other new wedding rings to add to your old ones. You could even have special inscriptions made inside the rings to mark the occasion.
55th anniversary: Emerald These precious stones symbolise love and rebirth and make beautiful jewellery. You can also use green as a basis for your anniversary party and give it a Celtic theme with some traditional Irish music. Or 'go green' and give your loved one a present with an ecological slant, so the gift endures for future generations too.
Now's your chance to take a dream trip to Ireland - the Emerald Isle, in celebration of your anniversary. You could even stay in a romantic castle. If you fancy somewhere a little warmer try Sardinia's Emerald Coast.
60th anniversary: Diamond The word 'diamond' originates from the Greek adamus, meaning unconquerable - which, if you've lasted 60 years, is the perfect epithet for your own marriage. Splash out in celebration of this fantastic event and buy a beautiful piece of diamond jewellery.
The Queen sends out congratulatory messages to British citizens at home and abroad on their 60th, 65th and 70th anniversaries, and each one thereafter.
To receive yours, you need to complete a form and send it no sooner than three weeks prior to the anniversary date to: The Anniversaries Office, Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA. You can download the form from the Internet at http://www.royalinsight.gov.uk .
70th anniversary: Platinum After 70 years together, you've earned your own platinum record. And like the metal, your marriage is strong, precious and rare.
Eternity rings are a popular anniversary present. Of course, you can buy one whenever you feel like it, but it might be an ideal gift to mark a special anniversary like the 70th.
75th anniversary: Diamond Although the 75th is the second diamond wedding in the anniversary calendar, it was actually the first to exist - the 60th was added in 1897 when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. There's no modern symbol for a diamond wedding. Perhaps that's because nothing beats a diamond.
Diamond anniversary parties will probably include generations of family and friends and should be an event to remember. Make sure someone is on hand with the video camera to get it all on tape.
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