Wedding anniversaries are celebrated all over the world – and why not? There’s no better way to measure how long you’ve been with the one you love than to mark the occasion in a special way or to make it a day or night to remember. And the more anniversaries you celebrate, the even more special that date becomes!
Certain wedding anniversaries are celebrated depending on how long the couple in question has been together – this is a trend that has a long and interesting history and plenty of lore and tradition buried in books and ancient cuttings! Most people will know that you’ll celebrate your silver anniversary when you reach 25 years of marriage, and a gold anniversary when you’ve been together for an amazing 50 years – but what about everything in between? What are paper, ruby, wood lace and crystal anniversaries? And furthermore, why not celebrate them?
The different names and items associated with the various stages of wedding history are said to reflect both the stage in the couple’s relationship and can even suggest a typical gift to be offered to the happy couple. For example, a paper anniversary is the very first year of marriage – a fresh sheet of paper signifying something new, yet to be written on, with history yet to be etched out.
The celebration of wedding anniversaries in this way is very much a Western ideal, with both the UK and the USA sharing many common named celebrations. It’s said that celebrating milestone anniversaries dates back as far as the Roman empire, which will not only explain why such milestones seem to have been around forever, but also why there appears to be such a Western emphasis upon them.
Not much is generally known regarding the exact reasoning behind the naming of each year, however, it’s thought that making each of the years have their own special landmarks or connotations was a by-product of commercialisation – in any case, it’s a great way to keep track of all the years you have spent together, and if nothing else, a fantastic excuse for a celebration.
There’s a trend in the names of the anniversaries that we celebrate for marriage, and it appears to be that lighter and softer materials give their names to the earlier years of betrothal – this is perhaps symbolic of a marriage just starting out, and with the years progressing, the material getting stronger and more resilient. If this isn’t intentional, it’s certainly a remarkable coincidence!
For example, consider the first five years of marriage. Your first year is your paper anniversary, followed up by your cotton anniversary for your second. Cotton is sturdier and more steadfast than paper, and it’s said that this name suggests intertwining and adaptability. Some of the choices for names are perhaps cleverer than we first thought!
Your third wedding anniversary is your leather celebration – perhaps named for its strength and protection, and maybe even symbolic of growing love and closeness over the years. Leather is also certainly much stronger and more reliable than paper or cotton, so we would be inclined to agree again with the choice for this naming!
Your fourth anniversary is the first one to really differ between the USA and the UK. In the USA, you’ll be celebrating your linen or silk anniversary, while in the UK you’ll be marking a fruit or flower celebration. Why this difference is in place it’s not entirely clear, but you’ll, in fact, celebrate your linen anniversary when you reach your twelfth anniversary if you live in the UK.
It’s not until you reach your fifth anniversary that your named celebrations start becoming really ‘solid’ and a bit more robust! In both the UK and the USA, you’ll be celebrating your wooden anniversary after five years of marriage, perhaps symbolising wisdom and growing roots. It’s also a fair assumption that wood is, in its rawest form, fairly tough wearing!
Before reaching your fifteenth anniversary, you’ll be celebrating copper, tin and steel milestones, showing that there is a growing trend towards the elements and unions made of ‘tougher stuff’! Your fifteenth anniversary is universally your crystal celebration, and it’s a fairly common milestone if you haven’t already marked your tenth (or tin) anniversary.
From here, the milestones grow a little wider, and interestingly, are named after more precious and rarer gems. This is perhaps symbolic of the unique nature of a particularly long marriage – once you’ve passed your china celebration after twenty years, you’ll be looking ahead to your silver 25th, your pearl 30th and your ruby 40th. From there, the elements get dazzling, and the celebrations get huge!
If you’re lucky enough to be married to the one you love for fifty years, you’ll have the honour of celebrating a golden wedding anniversary – this is truly a fantastic milestone as it is a huge percentage of one’s lifespan! But it’s not until you reach your 60th anniversary – your diamond celebration – that you will start to gain personal recognition with a message from the reigning monarch if you live in the UK!
As you can see, there truly are a huge number of named milestones for marriage and each of them has a great deal of symbolism and mean much to those who pass each stage. While it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will be able to reach their stone anniversary (an unbelievable 90 years of marriage – you’d need to be at youngest 106 apiece to reach this milestone), counting the years through traditional stones and gifts is nothing new – and while much of it may be down to commercialism, there’s absolutely no reason why staying happily married can’t be celebrated regardless of the span of time.
So if you’re approaching a year of marriage with no looking back, consider celebrating your paper anniversary – and look forward to stronger and more precious milestones to come!