Symbolic gifts for anniversaries

I haven’t come across a definitive list of the traditional gifts or symbols associated with different wedding anniversary milestones, but this is one I’m happy represents the British consensus quite well.

1st – Paper
2nd – Cotton
3rd – Leather
4th – Linen
5th – Wooden
6th – Iron
7th – Copper/Wool
8th – Bronze
9th – Pottery
10th – Tin
11th – Steel
12th – Silk
13th – Lace
14th – Ivory
15th – Crystal

Ben and I celebrate our third anniversary next week and I haven’t bought him anything, much less anything in leather. Like many couples we can rarely justify spending money on ourselves or each other. Afterall, we’ve got each other, and back massages are free! Yea we’re happy and don’t need gifts to remind us we are loved, but I do love to buy Ben gifts, even if there’s no occasion. He deserves little treats and surprises and it makes me so happy.

For our first anniversary we bought each other papercut design cards, papercut being an ‘us’ thing. Last year we didn’t exchange gifts but we decided to have another baby, who we bought plenty of things made of cotton. I love the idea of us buying ourselves a joint gift. Something for our bedroom or bathroom, something we’d use every day, for each anniversary. It’s ideal that the list of traditional anniversary gifts suggests objects of quality and craftsmanship. Anniversary gifts are among those gifts you’d like to cherish and hand down to your children. Objects that come to define your home and space and lifestyle. We value handmade pieces, prefer unique and unusual pieces, and I love anything with a past and a story.

Cotton: I bought Ben a Liberty print handkerchief for our wedding, a handkerchief he’ll keep and love forever. Leather: the year after we were married we bought an Italian leather super king-size bed, a bed that will last the rest of our lives, we share with our children. Linen: some nice dinner napkins would suit us as we use them every day. Wood: Maybe that year we’ll get round to making our bespoke coat and hat rack with mismatched hooks that reflect our personalities for each the family. Iron: A second fireside companion so each of the downstairs open fires has one each. Copper: copper bathtubs are pretty special and we’ll need a bath when we convert the attic into our master suite, however having just Ebay’d them gosh they’re expensive, I would love copper saucepans instead . Wool: we use throws and blankets a lot both in the snug and on the bed, a Cotswold wool blanket would be perfect.

Bronze: something for the garden. Pottery: maybe we’ll replace our crockery. I’ve been hankering after an Emma Bridgewater hearts milk jug forever. Tin: probably something else for the garden – when in doubt! Tin makes very cute hole-punched candle holders. Steel: We already have a nice cutlery set. I’m sure we’ll find something in one of the nice kitchen shops in Oxford or Witney. Silk: I’m struggling to think of silk items for the home, but I’d start by looking for silk cushion covers. Lace: Like linen, beautiful lace is always something I want to bring home with me from France. I think our Dining Room could pull off a lace table cloth without looking too geriatric. Ivory: Our kids will still be pretty young so we could finally get a piano (if we can make room for one) and it should still see some use as they grow up. Crystal: Instead of the obvious wine glasses, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to an expensive bottle of champagne! Scandalous!

20th – China
25th – Silver
30th – Pearl
35th – Coral
40th – Ruby
45th – Sapphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
65th – Blue Sapphire
70th – Platinum

I think it’s sensible to switch to five-yearly gifts of significance once you’ve been married 15 years, but I don’t agree that after a point, a grand gesture every ten years is more appropriate! Anything longer than 50 years of marriage, with so many couples marrying in their 30s rather than their 20s, is bloomin marvellous! All the more reason to celebrate the passing of another five years. If you are fortunate enough to get to 70 happy years together well then you already have more than money can buy – a wonderfully long lifetime of memories.

China: we already have quite a collection of china tea sets, which we plan to use in our tea garden when it’s open, so it would make sense to buy something special for the tea garden this year. The rest of the list is suggestive of jewellery. I know I will much rather buy one of our children a piece of jewellery made of the stones and metals symbolic of our years together as family keepsakes. After all back massages will still be free 🙂

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With this ring I thee wed

Your engagement ring will probably be the first wedding-related purchase you make as a couple, whether you or your partner choose and buy it or you do it together. The ring can be a first chance to prove how well you know each other, if you’ve particular tastes or expectations. Or it can be a haribo jelly ring, hula hoop, or ring-fashioned tin foil to fulfil the role of ‘ring’ and be all you need. The engagement ring can set the tone for the wedding to follow. Much like the invitations, your ring will give your guests an idea of what to expect from the wedding. Is it contemporary? Antique? Traditional? Restrained? Elaborate? They will be looking for clues!

The choice of engagement ring will probably have most bearing on your choice of wedding bands. Do you intend to keep wearing your engagement ring after the marriage? Will you keep it on the same finger or move it to the other hand? Will you want to wear it alongside your wedding ring on special occasions or keep it in a box to hand down to the next generation? If your partner will only wear silver coloured metals or only yellow coloured metals does this mean your wedding rings will now not match? Do you need to consider a multi coloured gold band to tie the three rings together?

Jewellery is pretty. We love the decadence of it. It is never needed. This makes it all the more desirable. Getting married gives you a great excuse to buy not one but two rings plus jewellery to wear on the day! But spare a thought for your other half. The Groom will generally get a nice new pair of cufflinks out of it – if he’s lucky. After our engagement I decided to buy my fiance a watch. Not just a functional watch, but one that was special. One that was a bit over the top., a bit ornate. One that really spoke to him and spoke to me of him. He adores it to this day and wears it every chance he gets (whenever not at work). It’s a ‘for best’ piece, and because it was frivilous, because I told him to choose whichever one he wanted, instead of weighing up pros and cons or thinking of the watch as a practical purchase, it’s basically his most prized possession. A true gift, a treat, not a concession.

When we were shopping for his wedding cufflinks we were so bored by the masses of jokey modern Groom offerings. We eventually came across a pair of cheeky vintage links. My top tip: don’t search under the Groom or Wedding category for cufflinks. Think about the kind of design or look that would work with your theme. While we’re talking about thinking outside the box, there’s no rule that you have to have wedding rings. If you’re not really a ring person why not go for something more you – jewellery or otherwise? The purpose of rings in the marriage ceremony is firstly to symbolise your first gifts to each other, so you could opt to exchange pretty much anything instead, eg. roses, garlands, tokens, coins. Secondly, rings symbolise infinity. This could mean to you your unending love, your unending support for one another through live, or your unending bond together in marriage. Rings symbolise these things because they are circles so have no end. You could replace rings with any other circular object, for example, a bracelet.

With my own wedding jewellery, I thought about what I’d like to wear every day after my wedding around my neck to remind me of the promises we had made. I had been coveting a chunky heart pendant for ages but not being able to afford a gold one, I fell in love with a Murano glass range and ordered some bespoke earrings to match. This way for very little money, I got a necklace and earrings I had designed myself, having chosen exactly the perfect beads and fittings to go with my dress and my wedding theme. I ordered brooches for the Moms and pendants for the Bridesmaids from the same jewellery maker so that everything was in Murano, but as individual as the girls I was buying for. I ended up wearing my other Nan’s pearl necklace on my wedding day instead of the pendant, but I wear my Murano wedding jewellery all the time. It was really nice to have things to keep wearing on the honeymoon that reminded me of the wedding. It was one of those things you don’t plan but then just really appreciate at the time.

As for my rings, well I wanted an old ring that resembled one I had admired on my late Nan’s finger. When she died, I inhereited the ring but discovered it was damaged and not worth repairing. We scoured Oxford for something similar or reminiscent, and finally found ‘the one’ in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, which meant a great deal to me, having a long line of ancestors from the city. Ben was very easy to please with a plain yellow gold band, but I wanted a design that symbolised our union and set about getting quotes for a bespoke ring with entwined threads of rose and yellow gold. Rose to symbolise me and the yellow to symbolise Ben. Our budget just didn’t stretch that far so I found a half diamond crossover design that would represent our differences and our joining well enough although I’d still love to get the ring of my dreams made some day. We had our rings engraved with words that meant the most to us. Ben’s ring says ‘Whole’ because he feels that our relationship has made him a whole man, ready for the rest of his life as his true self. It’s really nice that our words make sense when they are put together too. My ring says ‘Life’ because that is what I feel Ben gives me. The real start of my life, as a wife, we are a new family, setting out on a new adventure. By giving my heart and soul peace at finding him and knowing that he will always love me, Ben gives me the grounding to fully live and enjoy my life.

Jewellery and especially rings can be far more than just pretty. When it comes to your wedding, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to inject meaning into everything if you want to. There’s no reason why everything you choose to be a part of your day should not hold a special (and secret if you want) meaning to you and your beloved. How often do we get this chance? The world is your oyster. Happy shopping, and remember: the only limit to possibility is your imagination.