Celebrating Your Milestone Anniversaries

The Traditional & Modern Anniversary Symbols—Plus the History Behind Them!

Somewhere in the middle ages, the list of milestone anniversaries was somewhat more basic. And, based on the selections, only for the wealthy. A husband would present his wife with a silver wreath for their 25th anniversary. Then, should they survive long enough, a gold wreath for their 50th. This established the silver and gold anniversary symbols. During the Victorian Era, the fifth anniversary, pretty randomly, was designated as the wooden anniversary. Later on, the 60th anniversary was added and designated as a diamond anniversary with the 60th anniversary and jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Not until much later did Emily Post write about eight milestone anniversaries and the desire to create symbolic anniversaries. The list then evolved to include symbols for the first fifteen years, followed in increments of five years. In recent years the list has been updated to reflect more modern tastes and needs. Follow along to learn what each year symbolizes and creative ways to celebrate your milestone anniversary!

Symbols of Strength

The items picked for each year are symbols of strength, representing the strength of the couple's relationship. The list begins with paper for the first anniversary, reflecting the strength of the interlaced connection of the paper's individual threads, to the fifth-anniversary symbol, wood—durable and long-lasting—indicating a solidified relationship, all the way through diamonds' strength and hardness on the 60th anniversary.

Traditional vs. Modern

The original list was further updated by a retail jewelers association and reflected some more modern ideals. Here's a shortlist of both modern and traditional anniversary symbols for years one through 10 and a few larger milestones.


Gifts & Celebrating

Much like weddings, milestone wedding celebrations will vary widely depending on your budget, personality, and situation. A gift for some on the first anniversary might be a book of poetry, a print of a favorite piece of art, or sheet framed sheet music from your first dance song.

A first paper anniversary celebration might be a series of love notes left around the house ending in a romantic dinner where they share the top tier of their wedding cake. Many cake artists offer to recreate the top tier for a couple. A way more palatable option, as wedding cakes don't always freeze well.

We love this tip from an industry veteran: "After your wedding, refrigerate the top tier to firm it up. Then slice it into 12ths, individually wrap each piece and freeze them in a zip-top freezer bag. This protects the cake, and you can enjoy a reasonably fresh piece each month leading up to your first anniversary."

The more modern anniversary symbol of a clock is said to represent the idea that love is eternal. While the symbolism of strength might not be there, the concept of eternal love is touching—and selecting a gift is much easier!

Gemstones & Flowers

Beyond the traditional and modern anniversary symbols and gifts, a list has also been established the showcase specific symbolic anniversary gemstones, colors, and flowers. For the novice gift giver or party planner who might struggle with creative ideas, the additional options with symbolic meaning can open up a world of possibilities.

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Loraine Photography


Including Your Family

As time goes on, the lists of wedding anniversary celebrations will grow in importance as you, as a couple, and family, grow and change. Couples often plan an anniversary getaway, and milestone anniversaries are often the perfect way to accomplish bucket list items together. For some, as the 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries approach, the focus may turn to family. Sometimes it's including your own growing family. Other times it's celebrating an enlarging extended family or aging family members. While private movements together, symbolic gifts, and touching symbolism are tremendous, sometimes it's essential to include the village that gets you to that point.


Hero photo courtesy of Patrick Moyer

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