Milestone Gifts,
Traditional and Modern

Milestone gifts for anniversaries, year by year.
well-chosen gift ideas
for traditional or modern tastes!

Below is the chart showing Traditional and Modern anniversary gifts. My daughter Diane and I take a slightly different approach to our Anniversary department, as you will see - instead of just a list of ideas, it's more like a guided shopping trip with links to examples and to some of the actual milestone gifts we mention.

The practice of giving specific wedding anniversary gifts by the year goes back more than a century. Traditional Anniversary Gifts have been fairly well established since the 1920s and are agreed upon, in general, from one source to the next.

There are slight variations and some crossover between American and British traditions. Here you'll find traditional anniversary gifts that most closely parallel the American list found at, which largely avoids alternates as well as crossovers with the British list.

For Modern Anniversary Gifts, we checked 22 sources and found 19 variations - only three totally agreed! Obviously, the Modern list for milestone gifts is still evolving. So why bother with "Modern" anniversary gifts, anyway?

Well, anniversary gifts used to be focused on helping the newlyweds to establish their household. Traditional gifts became more luxurious as the length of a marriage increased, but in the early years, couples needed the basics.

Today, however, fewer newlyweds are starting from scratch. These days, young people frequently live in their own apartments before marrying, and so they begin married life with most of the household basics.

Furthermore, many of the basics of yesteryear have given way to modern time- and labor-saving appliances; and many gift items once made of materials like cotton or tin are now made of modern synthetics and alloys.

On the modern anniversary gifts list, expensive milestone gifts make a far earlier appearance than was traditional. For example, crystal has been promoted from the 15th anniversary to the 3rd, and china from the 20th to the 2nd. Some traditional anniversary gifts have been removed altogether, with modern gifts assigned to take their places.

The Modern lists have moved luxury gifts to earlier anniversaries, in part because fewer couples reach their 50th or even their 25th wedding anniversary, even though people are generally living longer.

  • Men and women are remaining single to an older age.
  • Many couples live together for a few years before marrying.
  • The divorce rate has risen dramatically over the years, and so
  • Subsequent (often the longest) marriages begin even later in life.

The influence of the gem and jewelry industry is clearly seen in modern milestone gifts. Most modern lists designate diamonds and gold for multiple anniversaries and specify jewelry and watches rather than more general anniversary themes (e.g., copper). It seems no accident that traditional gifts beyond the 25th anniversary - mostly gemstones - have not been changed for modern anniversaries.

Since a piece of jewelry, a watch, or a personal accessory is used by one person, the modern lists tend to favor gifts best suited for husband and wife to give each other. Jewelry and personal items given by friends and relatives call for two separate gifts, one for each recipient. That's probably no accident either...

Here you'll mostly find milestone gifts for you to give an anniversary couple, or gifts for a husband and wife to buy together for themselves. We've chosen general themes from modern lists (e.g., onyx), over specific gift items (e.g., fashion jewelry), in order to emphasize milestone gifts that your anniversary couple can enjoy together.

Our Modern anniversary gifts are those most common on Modern lists, with a few drawn from alternate versions to eliminate repetition. Since the Modern list is still evolving, we have introduced a change (well-reasoned, in our opinion!) for 5th anniverary milestone gifts, which we'll explain when we get there.

The links on the anniversary chart will take you to suggested wedding anniversary gifts by the year, and you are invited to take the guided shopping trip by following the links you find there. (continued below chart)

PLEASE NOTE: Links and gift suggestions are provided for convenience only, and takes no responsibility and gives no warranties for the content or accuracy of third-party websites, nor the suitability for a particular purpose or person of any product or service offered on any other website.

Anniversary Gift
Anniversary Gift
3rdLeatherCrystal / Glass
4thFruit / FlowersAppliances
5thWoodStainless Steel / Pewter
8thBronzeLinens / Lace
12thLinen / SilkSilk

For each category of milestone gifts, we've hunted for "something a bit different" from the usual things that come to mind. You're in for a few surprises that we hope you enjoy!

Milestone gifts are a fun way to observe anniversaries, and that's how they should be viewed. There is no rule of etiquette requiring certain wedding anniversary gifts by the year. You can switch between Traditional and Modern, or ignore both lists. You can observe a given theme with just the wrapping paper, or decorate your anniversary gift package with a token milestone ornament tied into the bow. In the end, the well-chosen gift is all about your anniversary couple's tastes and interests, and whatever will most please them!

As always, we'd love to hear your comments and suggestions. If you'd like to share your ideas for traditional or modern anniversary gifts, please Contact Us and you will have our prompt attention. Thanks!

Whether traditional or modern,
milestone gifts can bring focus and fun
to any anniversary celebration!

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