One way to give wedding anniversary gifts year after year is according to the type of material that was traditionally given to married couples at each milestone anniversary in old-world European cultures. The milestone anniversaries occurred on years 1 through 15, and were then reduced to every five or ten years (20th, 25th, 30th, etc.).
Year 1: Paper. This tradition started with presenting the wedding couple with a scroll of their wedding vows and commitment to one another, often based on religious traditions. Modern gifts can be anything that’s printed on paper, including photographs, artwork, or guest book trees.
Year 2: Cotton. Anniversary gifts over the next decade or so are based on items that couples needed for the home or for children as they came into the world. These needs haven’t changed much over the centuries, so a modern gift based in cotton could be any pillow, blanket, or throw for the home.
Year 3: Leather. Leather is extremely durable so it makes a functional gift on top of a stylish one. A gift of leather could be an item as small as a handbag or as large as a couch.
Year 4: Linen. Linen is a wonderful material for the home, but it’s also used to refer to sheets and towels, which are often made from cotton. For a modern gift of linen, it’s appropriate to give linens instead of something made from linen.
Years 5 & 6: Wood. A gift of wood is rather open-ended. A modern gift of wood should be something for the home that’s wood-based, which can range from a plaque or sign to wooden bowls or display items.
Year 7: Wool. Wool blankets make wonderful, warm, and lasting anniversary gifts for the couple to snuggle up in together, or for their children.
Years 8 & 9: Pottery. Pottery is a wonderful and practical gift that comes in the form of high-quality dishes, pitchers, platters, and other food-grade items.
Years 10 & 11: Jewelry. By milestone year number ten, couples should be either receiving or giving each other gifts of jewelry. A tenth anniversary bracelet, necklace, or pair of earrings that matches the engagement or wedding ring is a wonderful choice.
Year 12: Linen. More linen is given on year twelve to keep up with the needs of a growing household.
Year 13: Textiles. Textiles are similar to but still distinct from cotton, wool, and linen, although they may be made from all three. Textiles are more rugged, durable, items with texture, as the name suggests, such as rugs, cloth-covered furniture, and other household goods.
From here, the traditional gifts change to crystal, precious metals, and gemstones over the next several decades. That’s because it was more practical for couples to receive gifts to help outfit their household over the first 10 to 15 years, saving more expensive and extravagant gifts for the years down the road when they were expected to have more money.