Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Today is my 5th wedding anniversary. It seems like just yesterday I was waking up on the camp mattress on the floor of my mom’s living room and realizing that it was my wedding day. And yet, it other ways it seems like I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for as long as I can remember.

As I was thinking about an appropriate gift for my husband for our 5th anniversary, I had to look up the traditional 5th anniversary gift. I know that the 25th is silver and the 50th is gold, and I recalled that the 1st is paper, but all the other years I haven’t the faintest idea. So naturally, I googled it. And the list of traditional and contemporary anniversary gifts is...unexpected.

The first five years aren’t too strange: the “traditional” list is paper, cotton, leather, linen or silk, and wood; the “modern” list is clock, china, crystal or glass, electrical appliances (seriously? yes, seriously), and silverware. Among the gifts my husband and I have exchanged have been a photo book for our paper anniversary, a hammock for our cotton anniversary, and a handblown glass vase for our glass anniversary. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t the faintest idea what we gave each other last year, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an electrical appliance or anything made of linen or silk.) What I ended up giving my husband for this anniversary was a wine carrier that is made of heavy cardboard covered in leather so I suppose it could technically be considered wood, and it came with a corkscrew which could conceivably be considered silverware.

Years 6 through 10 get a bit odd, however. The traditional list is iron, wool or copper, bronze, pottery, and tin or aluminum. What would you get as a gift for your spouse from those categories? A new railing for your front steps? A nice knitted sweater? An ashtray? For your 10th anniversary, can you really imagine getting your wife a nice tin…anything? The modern list is a great improvement: “wood objects” (I guess that means "art"), desk sets or pen and pencil sets, linens or lace, leather goods, and (this is the winner) diamond jewelry. You could end up with some carved artwork, a nice fountain pen, Belgian lace curtains, a leather jacket, and a tennis bracelet. Which you must admit is a much nicer collection than anything involving, say, aluminum.

Years 11 through 15 are fairly evenly matched between traditional and modern gifts. Traditional gifts are steel, silk, lace, ivory, and crystal; modern are fashion jewelry or accessories, pearls or colored gems, textiles or furs, gold jewelry, and watches. Steel is a bit questionable, but I’m a sucker for ivory and crystal, and I don’t wear gold jewelry or a watch, so the two lists are pretty much a wash for me.

The traditional list goes to mostly 5-year intervals after the 15th anniversary, with year 20 being china, 25 being silver (although 24 sneaks in with opal, for some unknown reason), 30 is pearl, 35 coral or jade, 40 ruby, 45 sapphire, 50 gold, 55 emerald, and 60 diamond. The modern plows on annually through year 25: silver holloware (I looked it up; apparently year 16 is when you finish breaking all the gravy boats you got for your wedding, as it refers to things such as creamers, soup tureens, teapots, and other tableware that is neither china nor flatware), furniture, porcelain, bronze, platinum (20th), brass or nickel, copper, silver plate (to hold you over for those 2 more years before you hit “real” silver, apparently), musical instruments (so both an autoharp and a tuba are legitimate anniversary presents if you wait till your 24th anniversary - which might also explain why the traditional list has a suggestion for year 24), and silver for the 25th. Continuing from there in 5-year increments, the modern list includes diamond, jade, ruby, sapphire, gold (50th), emerald, and diamond. The 75th for both lists is diamonds or gold. The modern list goes on to add diamond or pearl for the 80th, and ends, interestingly enough, with “wife’s birthstone” for 85th (not that I expect to make it that far, but for the record, my birthstone is yellow topaz). Presumably the man only gets his birthstone if he makes it to his 100th anniversary.

All in all, these lists are mediocre to good ideas for gift categories for each year, but based on my experience and the experiences of my married friends, I’d like to propose a new list of gift suggestions for some of the key anniversary years:

Year 1: The first year of any marriage includes lots of adjustments, compromises, and learning to balance your respective habits and weigh your spouse’s needs against your own. The perfect gift for the first anniversary, therefore, is a scale.
Year 2: By the second year, you’ve got a system down. The second anniversary gift is a daily planner or a wall calendar, to make sure that system stays neatly in place.
Year 5: By the time you’ve been married for five years, you’ve settled into a routine, you’re used to each other, and you may even be taking your marriage a bit for granted. The fifth anniversary gift is a mirror so you can reflect back on the past five years and keep taking a close look at yourself and your relationship.
Year 10: Ten years of marriage is a pretty significant milestone, and deserves a reward in the form of time to rekindle your flame and spend time together, just the two of you. The tenth anniversary gift is a trip, preferably to someplace with a warm climate.
Year 15: By year 15 both you and your spouse have changed significantly since your marriage. You’ve grown, you’ve matured, hopefully you’ve become wiser. The fifteenth anniversary gift is a book, the purest symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and learning.
Year 20: Twenty years is a very long time to spend with someone, so the 20th anniversary gift is something with special value: a photo album reflecting back on those last twenty years.
Year 25: This is one that both the traditional and the modern list got right: silver.
Years 30, 35, 40, and 45: Once you pass the 25-year mark, every anniversary is precious. Each of these years should be celebrated with the precious stone of your choice: amethyst, sapphire, emerald, ruby, amber, opal, jade, pearl, topaz.
Year 50: The traditional and modern lists both got it right again with gold.
With so many couples getting married well into their 20s and 30s and even later, fewer couples – even couples that take “till death do us part” at its literal value – are making it much past year 50. So every anniversary after the 50th should be celebrated. Celebrate each year with candlelight and flowers. Celebrate each year with photographs and memories. Celebrate each year with love and laughter.
 And if you happen to be one of the lucky couples that reaches your 75th anniversary, celebrate it with all of those things – AND a big sparkly diamond. Hey, if you can’t give yourselves a nice diamond for your 75th anniversary, when can you?

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