We’re all familiar with silver wedding and golden wedding anniversaries. These were celebrated back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire. Husbands would crown their wives with a silver wreath on their 25th wedding anniversary and a gold wreath on their 50th. Most of us will also be familiar with the ruby and diamond wedding anniversaries also. But did you know that a modern tradition has evolved linking items or materials to almost every single wedding anniversary as themes for present-giving?
They generally have a flower associated with them too.
Apart from the gold and silver anniversaries, many of these, date back a long time; most, however, are 20th century innovations. Let’s look at each of these anniversaries in turn together with their associated symbols.
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16th – 19th | 20th | 21st – 24th | 25th | 30th – 80th
First Year Anniversary
Paper is the recognised first year anniversary symbol. Gift web sites tell us that this because the fibres that entwine to make paper are firmly bonded and that this symbolises the bond of marriage already in existence for one year.
Flower: Carnations are the flower associated with this first-year wedding anniversary, (to a lesser extent the pansy also). The carnation symbolises many things, but love in particular, along with red roses. According to Wikipedia, there is a Christian legend that Carnations first appeared when Jesus was carrying the cross. The Virgin Mary wept and Carnations grew where her tear drops fell. However, this is an unlikely story since the scholar, Theophrastus wrote about carnations some three centuries earlier (also recounted in Wikipedia).
Some of the anniversaries seem to have no story behind the symbols and flowers that are associated with them. Others have many years of tradition behind them.
Second Year Anniversary
The second anniversary is represented by cotton with Cosmos as the flower,
Third Year Anniversary
The third is represented by leather with fuchsia as the associated flower. Leather is a material used for creating protective apparel and symbolises protection.
Fourth Year Anniversary
The fourth year is linen with geranium as the associated flower. All these last three make for incredibly easy present-giving but don’t have any greatly publicised story behind them.
Fifth Year Anniversary
Now when we move on to the 5th wedding anniversary, the symbol of wood has a centuries-old tradition in Wales where skilfully carved wooden love spoons were given as presents. It is from this that we get the term “spooning” (canoodling in dated English, sleeping front to partner’s back in modern times). The daisy is the flower associated with this anniversary. With wood there is also the notion that trees have strength, and being around a long time, represent wisdom.
Sixth Year Anniversary
Iron, also a symbol of strength, traditionally represents the sixth wedding anniversary, though in the United States Candy has evolved as an alternative, presumably because some people might find it difficult to find suitable iron gifts for the woman. Let’s face it, iron jewellery is not the most appealing of jewellery material. Calla Lilies are the associated flowers.
Seventh, Eight, Ninth Year Anniversary
For the next three anniversaries we have Wool or copper as the symbol for the seventh anniversary with the unusual wild flower, Jack in the Pulpit, Bronze and Clematis for eighth and Pottery and Poppies for ninth.
Tenth Year Anniversary
Tin is the symbol for the tenth anniversary with daffodils as the associated flower. The idea is that tin is used for storing and preserving things. For a landmark wedding anniversary tin seems a rather uninspiring association. Happily, there is also an associated gemstone of diamonds and, finances permitting, most women would probably prefer to receive a present of diamond jewellery than a decorative item made of tin.
Eleventh Year Anniversary
Steel seems a bit of an odd choice for the eleventh anniversary symbol. I am sure most women will prefer the associated gemstone of turquoise. Morning Glory is the associated flower.
Twelfth Year Anniversary
Linen or silk for the twelfth anniversary is much more romantic and sensual. Denmark has a rather odd tradition around the twelfth wedding anniversary – Twelve and a half’th anniversary to be precise. According to www.denmark-gateway.com, the milestone wedding anniversaries in Denmark are 12.5, 25, 50. One tradition is to build half a floral arch round the front door of the couple after twelve and a half years of marriage and the other half is built on the twenty fifth anniversary.
Thirteenth Year Anniversary
The thirteenth anniversary has quite a sexy symbol associated with it – lace. Beautiful towns like Bruges in Belgium and pretty villages like Lefkara in Cyprus are famous for it. Hollyhocks are the associated flower.
Fourteenth Year Anniversary
Ivory traditionally is the symbol for the fourteenth anniversary, but as killing elephants is generally not well regarded and indeed, in many places illegal, opal and gold have cropped up as alternatives. Dahlia is the associated flower.
Fifteenth Year Anniversary
The fifteenth wedding anniversary is a fairly important milestone. Crystal, symbol of clarity and transparency, is traditionally associated with this anniversary with the rose as the flower and the beautiful ruby as the gemstone.
Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Year Anniversaries
For some years we don’t have any traditional symbols, so some were created in modern times: silver for 16th, porcelain for 17th, furniture for 18th, and bronze for 19th.
Twentieth Year Anniversary
China is the traditional representation for the 20th milestone of wedding anniversaries. Beautiful china is said to represent the beauty of a happy 20-year relationship. For this anniversary year, the anniversary theme goes back centuries.
Twentyfirst, Twentysecond, Twentythird, Twentyfourth Year Anniversaries
We then have a few more totally modern themes: bronze or nickel for 21st, copper for 22nd, silver plate for 23rd and musical instruments for 24th.
Twentyfifth Year Anniversary
This brings us to The Silver Jubilee, the 25th Anniversary landmark, the time when the previously mentioned Danes build their second half of an arch and when special postage stamps are issued for Royal commemorations. Silver is the traditional theme of this anniversary and Isis is the flower. As we mentioned right at the beginning, this is the symbol that started with the Romans through their tradition of crowning their wives with a silver wreath on their 25th wedding anniversary.
After this the gaps for anniversary celebrations lengthen to five or ten years. Perhaps by this time if marriages have lasted this long, people feel so well ensconced in their relationship that they do not feel the need for annual celebrations. The remaining themes are around diamonds and other precious gems.
Thirtieth to Eightieth Year Anniversary
We have Pearl for the 30th, Coral for 35th, Ruby for 40th, Sapphire for 45th, Gold for 50th (the Roman tradition again), Emerald for 55th, Diamond for 60th, Platinum for 70th, and Oak for 80th. Couples who live long enough to celebrate 80 years of marriage must be around 100 years old or more so the symbolism of the oak, that tree that lives on seemingly for ever, is self-evident.
What can we say of the symbolism that is characterised by the precious stones and metals that mark these wedding anniversaries of the later years? Well Silver, apart from the Roman connection, was thought in more superstitious times to have magical properties and to bring luck to those who wore it. It has always been recognised as a commodity of value. In French and in many other languages, the word for ‘money’ is the same as the word for ‘silver’. Pearls are traditionally considered symbols of wisdom gained from life’s experience. They have been associated with wisdom in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Persian times – see https://bellatory.com/fashion-accessories/pearl-myth.
Coral, as described on a website on building beautiful souls, is said to have healing properties. Coral, you will remember, is the theme for the 35th wedding anniversary. Presumably, this comes at an age when healing properties start being rather useful. As for Rubies, the website gemstone.org recounts quite a lot of mythology round this precious stone believed to have powers of energy and protection. What about Sapphire for the 45th anniversary and Emerald for the 55th? Sapphire is another gemstone reputed to offer protection to its wearer. It is in many cultures associated with heaven. The ancient Persians believed that it was the reflection from Sapphires that made the sky blue. The website, “jewels for me”, gives quite a lot of stories on this gemstone. Gold is associated with wealth and status, elegance and sophistication. As for Emeralds, they are another stone said to have healing powers, promoting peace and balance, reflection and growth.
We are left with Diamonds. They are thought to attract abundance, harmony and true love in relationships. The saying goes that they are a girl’s best friend. And the film title says that they are for ever – a fitting association for a sixtieth wedding anniversary.
To see our collection of Anniversary Cards please visit: https://cardology.co.uk/collections/occasions/anniversary-cards/