A wedding anniversary is the anniversary of the date a wedding took place. Traditional names exist for some of them: for instance, fifty years of marriage is called a "golden wedding anniversary" or simply a "golden anniversary" or "golden wedding".
The historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their twenty-fifth anniversary, and a gold wreath on the fiftieth. Later, principally in the twentieth century, commercialism led to the addition of more anniversaries being represented by a named gift. In the Commonwealth realms, one can receive a message from the monarch for 60th, 65th, and 70th wedding anniversaries, and any wedding anniversary after that. This is done by applying to Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom, or to the Governor-General's office in the other Commonwealth realms.
In Australia, where one can receive a letter of congratulations from the Governor-General on the 50th and all subsequent wedding anniversaries; the Prime Minister, the federal Opposition leader, local members of both state and federal parliaments, and state Governors may also send salutations for the same anniversaries.
The names of some anniversaries provide guidance for appropriate or traditional gifts for the spouses to give each other; if there is a party these can be brought by the guests or influence the theme or decoration. These gifts vary in different countries, but some years have well-established connections now common to most nations: 5th Wood, 10th Tin, 15th Crystal, 20th China, 25th Silver, 30th Pearl, 35th Jade, 40th Ruby, 45th Sapphire, 50th Gold, 60th Diamond, and 70th Platinum. In English-speaking countries the first, wooden, gift was cut on the day of celebration and then presented to the wife as a finished article before the next two quarter days had passed.
The modern tradition may have originated in medieval Germany where, if a married couple lived to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their wedding, the wife was presented by her friends and neighbours with a silver wreath to congratulate them for the good fortune that had prolonged the lives of the couple for so many years. On celebration of the 50th, the wife received a wreath of gold. Over time the number of symbols expanded and the German tradition came to assign gifts that had direct connections with each stage of married life. The symbols have changed over time. For example, in the United Kingdom, diamond was a well known symbol for the 75th anniversary, but this changed to the now more common 60th anniversary after Queen Victoria's 60 years on the throne was widely marked as her Diamond Jubilee.
The origins of the current gift conventions date to 1937. Before that, only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries had an associated gift. In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association (now known as Jewelers of America as a result of an organizational merger) introduced an expanded list of gifts. The revamped list gave a gift for each year up to the 25th, and then for every fifth anniversary after that.
|Year||Traditional (U.S.)||Traditional (U.K.)||Modern|
|1st||Paper||Cotton or Paper||Clock|
|2nd||Cotton||Paper or Cotton||China|
|4th||Fruit and flowers||Linen, silk||Appliances (electrical)|
|7th||Wool, copper||Woollen||Desk sets / Pen and Pencil sets|
|10th||Tin, aluminum||Tin||Diamond jewellery|
|11th||Steel||Fashion jewellery, accessories|
|12th||Silk||Silk and fine linen||Pearls, colored gems|
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|2nd||Lily of the valley|
|9th||Bird of paradise|
|50th||Yellow rose, violet|
|1st||Mother of Pearl|
|10th||Crystal or green Tourmaline|