Eight Great Anniversary Gifts You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

It was none other the queen of courtesy herself, Emily Post, who introduced the idea of material themes for anniversary gifts. In her 1922 book, Etiquette, she listed eight – and noted explicitly that the gifts become increasingly more serious and sacred over time, from paper for the first anniversary and tin for the 10th to silver for the 25th and gold for the 50th. Eventually, the list expanded to include materials like leather (third) and pearl (30th).

Emily Post's 1922 book, Etiquette — Anniversary Gifts

In the century since, the practice has been embraced by some and abandoned by others. Times change; Post’s notion of an anniversary gift was one given by family or friend to the couple, a custom that seems less common today. Now, some couples forgo gifts to each other entirely, choosing instead to mark the occasion with an event, such as dining at a special restaurant or taking a weekend getaway. And those who do exchange presents are likely to choose gifts that are more practical, or at least more relevant to a partner’s likes and interests.

Still, at Ten Thousand Villages, traditions intrigue us, especially when we can give them a new twist. In fact, this is one of our company’s core values – working with makers around the world to develop new designs that incorporate time-honored skills and crafting techniques. In fact, we think that the list of traditional wedding gifts provides the perfect inspiration for imaginative and meaningful, and, yes, modern anniversary gifts.

Here’s the “with a twist” approach our in-house gifting experts really like. Start with the traditional material as a theme. Plan an experience that relates (make a leap, if you have to, big points for originality here), because time spent together is where memories are really made. Then choose a physical symbol, something functional you will use or something beautiful you will display, something that will call that experience to mind. After all, for a memory to bring joy, we must actually have cause to remember it.

It’s a basic but brilliant template: experience + souvenir = memorable gift.

EXPERIENCE + SOUVENIER = THE BEST GIFTS! Go somewhere and do something; celebrate often. Ten Thousand Villages, Mosaic

For your convenience, or simply your inspiration, we present our favorite ideas for really cool, kind of quirky (and completely customizable) anniversary presents.

 


1st Anniversary: Paper

Write your love story.

The experience:

Your first year, in words
Just married (or about to be)? Start now. Use slips of paper to document the year – funny quotes, kind deeds, a road trip, that snafu with the kitchen sink, all those little everyday moments that, together, make up a life. They are simple. But they are precious. And they are fleeting. So write them down, one by one. Fold them up and drop them in a jar. You could do this together over the course of the year. Or keep it a surprise. Either way, read them on your first anniversary.

Eight Great Anniversay Gifts | Endless Knot Leather Journal

The gift:

A keepsake box, to hold those memories for years to come. Or on your first anniversary, give yourselves a journal in which you’ll take turns recording the moments of your second year together. Both of these ideas could easily become traditions you continue long after your paper anniversary!

 


2nd Anniversary: Cotton

Hey, good lookin’, whatcha got cookin?

The experience:

Cooking lessons
Good food nourishes the body and the soul, and a home-cooked meal is an everyday way to show the people we love how much we care. If you are novices in the kitchen, find a session that covers fundamental techniques, like chopping and sautéing. If you are more advanced, maybe you’ll focus on mastering a few signature dishes.

Eight Great Anniversary Gifts | Mandala Tablecloth

The gift:

A tablecloth and napkins, or aprons.

 


3rd Anniversary: Leather

Get on your high horse.

The experience:

Horseback riding
From knights in shining armor astride their trusty steeds to cowboys and westerns and wide open spaces, there’s something romantic about riding a horse (at least in the movies). Go give it a try yourself. Stables and ranches around the country offer guided opportunities for beginners lasting a few hours to several days. A guided trail ride gives you a chance to see the surroundings from a different perspective.

Eight Great Anniversary Gifts | Eco-Leather Saddle Purse

The gift:

A leather saddle bag or a horseshoe, for luck.

 


4th Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers

It’s wine time. (Grapes are fruit; need we say more?)

The experience:

Wine tasting
Wine is produced in each of the 50 states in the U.S., though if you live in California, Washington, Oregon or New York, you’ll have more wine to choose from. Pick a vineyard to visit and check the schedule of events. Brush up on a few basics before you go, but don’t be intimidated if you aren’t yet a connoisseur; the best way to learn what you like is by tasting. Be sure to hire a car, because all those little sips can add up. And raise your glass to love – that gets better with age!

Unique Anniversary Gifts: 4th - Fruit & Flowers — Go Wine Tasting & Gift a Unique Wine Rack

The gift:

Unique wine glasses or a wine rack, to hold all the bottles you’ll bring home.

 


5th Anniversary: Wood

See the forest for the trees.

The experience:

Tree appreciation
The roots have taken hold, and with tender care your relationship grows stronger each year. To celebrate, donate a tree to be planted through the Arbor Day Foundation or your local parks department or conservancy. Then head outdoors and experience the shade, shelter and beauty of a tree. Pack a picnic and visit an arboretum or go camping in a National Forest.

Eight Great Anniversary Gifts | Roots & Leaves Cut Metal Art

The gift:

A photo, a painting, or other piece of artwork depicting a tree.

 


10th Anniversary: Tin/Aluminum

Trust, not rust.

The experience:

Volunteer together
Tin and aluminum are some of the most ordinary elements on the periodic table. But for things like canned goods and cookware, they are materials that serve us every day in more ways that we realize. These materials contain more than just food—they contain the promise of never going hungry. After a decade, comfort and reliability are something to celebrate. Think about doing something together for your community: volunteer at soup kitchen or a litter clean up. Then kick back (on a beach if possible, but your backyard will do) and pop a top on a cold beverage.

Eight Great Anniversary Gifts | Truck Wire Sculpture

The gift:

A tureen and soup bowls, the Truck Wire Sculpture from Kenya to symbolize your journey through life together, or something ingenious made from recycled materials!

 


20th Anniversary: China

Go.

The experience:

Take a trip to China(town)
Forgo the fine porcelain. The most populous country on earth boasts some once-in-a-lifetime vistas – from mountains and waterfalls to ancient villages. But if you can’t swing a trip to the Great Wall, many U.S. cities, including San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, and even Houston, have a Chinatown. Make a visit and immerse yourself in Chinese culture – from open-air live markets to authentic food – and leave your passport at home.

Unique Anniversary Gifts: 20th - China — Visit Chinatown & a Chopstick Set

The gift:

Chopsticks sets. And you’ll remember the trip with every stir fry and takeout.

 


25th Anniversary: Silver

Every cloud has a silver lining.

The experience:

Hot air balloon ride
Over a quarter of century, there will have certainly been ups and downs, but this is sure to be a memorable HIGHlight. Get a bird’s eye view of a vacation destination or your hometown.

Eight Great Anniversary Gifts | Icy Whirlpool Cocktail Glass

The gift:

A piece of hand-blown glass


You get the idea. Turn your own imagination loose with the list. And consider these themes when it comes to others’ anniversaries. A gift to another couple likely won’t be as elaborate as the one you share with your spouse, but it’s a thoughtful gesture to recognize an occasion that is important to people who are important to you – parents, siblings and close friends, particularly if you were part of their wedding party. These themes give creativity and meaning an opportunity to outshine extravagance (which is the essence of gifting). Your sister and brother in law’s fourth (fruit or flowers) anniversary? A bottle of wine or a potted annual are simple but still significant. It’s that easy.

Need a little help? Have no fear, our gift finder is here.

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Becca Stamp

Part of the Ten Thousand Villages Marketing team, Becca has a soft spot for alliteration and a healthy obsession with choosing the perfect word. When she’s not tinkering with sentences, you’ll find her participating in endurance activities —including running, triathlon and parenting two boys. She likes strong coffee, dark beer and would choose pizza over dessert (but only if she had to).

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