How to celebrate your first Wedding Anniversary (History, Traditions and Gift Guide Included)

If this time last year you were counting down til the 'Big Day', you'll soon be looking ahead and thinking about how to celebrate your first wedding anniversary!

I thought I'd share a few ideas to get you thinking about your own celebration of being one year married.

I promise this article will not suggest any sappy 'romantic' things to write in an anniversary card to your spouse except this one which will hopefully make you laugh as much as it did me...

"I don’t think I’ll ever need a vacation – because every day of our life feels like a honeymoon. Happy first wedding anniversary." 

One Year Married! Congratulations!

Your wedding day is such a significant, momentus day in your lives, and celebrating your wedding anniversary each year recognises and reinforces its importance. As the day you celebrated your love, formally committed to each other, and began your legal union in the presence of family and friends, it can be really special to continue to celebrate this every year on your Wedding Anniversary. Many couples also choose to exchange Wedding Anniversary gifts, but it can be tricky find the right balance between a traditional gift and one that you'll actually want and use.

Historically, wedding anniversary gifts were only for certain years of marriage (only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th). In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association issued a more comprehensive list, which associated a material for each anniversary year.

The first traditional wedding anniversary gift is Paper. It symbolises the strength in paper that comes from the interlaced connection of the paper's individual threads. 

On our first wedding anniversary, I started designing and creating what I imagined would be the perfect 'paper' first wedding anniversary gift, as many of you will have heard of already - I still do, and I have also just released Celebrate Memory Book - an heirloom linen journal to write about 50 celebrations, whether you want to keep it especially for your wedding anniversaries, or include Christmas, birthdays and other special celebrations.

Where did the traditional wedding anniversary gifts originate?

If you're keen on following wedding anniversary gift tradition, you might at least want to know why you're gifting at all. If you're planning a gift for your Japanese partner, you may wish to folw 1,000 paper cranes - according to Japanese culture, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 paper cranes will be granted their most desired wish, because they have exhibited the cranes’ loyalty and recreated their beauty!

Celebration of wedding anniversaries is a tradition of Germanic origin that dates back to the middle ages. After 25 years of marriage a husband would present his wife with a silver wreath, and after 50 years, a gold wreath. From this custom emerged the recognition of silver and golden wedding anniversaries. Initially, only these two anniversaries were celebrated – the others generally passed unremarked.

The most likely guess is that the gift list made its debut during the Victorian era in the United Kingdom during the 1800s, and then jumped across the pond to the United States in the early 20th century. Of course, retailers soon seized on the consumer possibilities of celebrating every wedding anniversary and in 1937 the American National Retail Jewellers’ Association published a complete list of the type of gifts to give on each wedding anniversary. This list became the standard one that is still referred to, although modern variants have emerged, along with lists of anniversary gemstones and anniversary flowers.

Wedding anniversary gift ideas - how to get creative with a "paper" present!

If you love the idea of a paper gift, but want to think outside the box and get creative, you could purchase an experience gift such as accommodation or tickets: whether to a concert, an airline ticket, or even a surprise mid-week movie ticket, paper tickets are a way to celebrate your first year anniversary in accordance with tradition, while also making it an experience!
Print the reservation, tuck it into a card, and voila, you tick the experience and paper anniversary check-boxes!
Other 'paper' gifts with a difference paper-airplane cufflinks in silver, matching charm or necklace for you.

Unique 'Paper' Homewares

Have you heard of Uashmama? I'm obsessed... I bought a couple of the washable paper bags (in gold metallics... naturally) in Sydney last year having been recommended them by UK family and they're the bees knees. Plant pot covers, decor, remote-control holders, bags of nail polish, they make every space prettier. 

More traditional Paper gifts 

first wedding anniversary gift framed paper dates

Other traditional paper wedding anniversary gifts: origami shadowbox, calligraphy wedding vowspaper cut print, or have your wedding vows custom printed.

How to Celebrate Your First Wedding Anniversary (gifts optional):

  • Eat the top layer of your wedding cake.
  • Purchase tickets for a movie, sports event, concert, theater, etc. to attend together.
  • Plan a dinner at a special restaurant or plan a trip together.
  • Plan a picnic with paper plates and cups. If you saved any of these items from your wedding reception, use them!
  • Have a paper treasure hunt for your spouse. Leave clues throughout the house that eventually lead to a romantic location.
  • Use paper flowers for a centerpiece for your anniversary dinner.

Hopefully that's given you some food for thought and a few more ideas about your potential first wedding anniversary celebrations. You've got plenty more options than just "paper" - whether that's something glittering and gold, an anniversary adventure, or a simple slice of cake and bottle of wine! Whatever you do, take a moment to tell your spouse what you're grateful for over the past year, and what you're looking forward to in future, the first wedding anniversary is only the beginning!

If you're still wedding planning, head to the wedding planning index and of course check out the bundle for I still do & Celebrate!