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I remember feeling a lot of pressure as the date of my first wedding anniversary neared. It seemed like a momentous occasion, and I wanted to celebrate it in a meaningful, memorable way! In the end, I’m not sure if our celebration counted as “momentous,” but it was very us — we spent the day at the beach, then splurged on a nice dinner out where we exchanged heartfelt letters, a nod to the traditional first anniversary gift of paper.

Ever since, we’ve loved combining an adventure, delicious food, quality time, and a gift keyed to the traditional anniversary gifts to mark another year of marriage. If you need a refresher, here you go:

To our sweet brides who were married last year: this one’s for you! We’ve brainstormed a few of our favorite and most creative “paper” anniversary gifts to give and to get, and here they are…

An album of wedding photos. In addition to the options from your photographer, we love Artifact Uprising and MILK Books.
A book of Instagram photos from your first year. Chat Books makes it so easy to upload right from your phone!
A framed keepsake. Maybe your wedding invitation, an art print, or a favorite photograph from your wedding or first year as married people. More ideas here.
Art from your hand-lettered wedding vows. John and I are still completely charmed by the watercolors Simply Jessica Marie made for us!
A book. You could exchange favorite novels, buy a new devotional to do together, pick out a gorgeous coffee table volume, try a new cookbook, or look for a rare first edition.
Stationery. There are gorgeous readymade options available, or you could order a monogrammed version or even commission a set with your likeness!
A brush lettering kit. So you can create your own beautiful works of art on paper.
A custom painting to commemorate your first home. We love the sweet versions drawn up by Little House Shop.
A board game to play together. Cardboard is pretty much paper, right? :) Or these pretty playing cards.
Tickets. Plane tickets, tickets to a show, tickets to a game… the possibilities are endless!
A sweet card. To tell him how much you love him. Because really, isn’t that the best gift, anyway? We love Shannon Kirsten’s designs.

What do you think, friends? Any suggestions to add to our list? I’d love to hear!!

emily Written with love by Emily
5 Comments
  1. avatar Caroline reply

    I gave my husband a big framed world map for our first anniversary that we can add push pins to all the places we’ve been together. We both love it and I think we will have it forever!

  2. avatar Valery reply

    For our paper anniversary my husband and I gave each other a year of dates! We wrote 12 date ideas on little slips of paper. Then we put them in a jar with cash (more paper!). We’ve gone on one date every month and it’s been such a great way to make sure we’re spending meaningful time together each month.

  3. avatar Stephanie Nelson reply

    I got my husband a subscription to a journal he was always tracking down/borrowing, but for something less academic you could consider a magazine subscription!

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Y’all, can you believe that John and I have been married for almost a year?? Sometimes it seems like just a few minutes ago that we were sharing our wedding photos and film.

Tanja Lippert

We’ve been discussing for a few weeks how we’d like to celebrate our first married milestone, which got me thinking about the traditions that surround anniversary gifts. I did a little digging into the history behind the list, and thought you might be interested to hear what I found!

The practice of giving certain gifts for certain anniversaries seems to have originated in Medieval Germany, where friends [or the husband, depending on your source] were said to give a wife a wreath of silver after she had been married for 25 years, and a gold wreath after fifty years. Both materials represented harmony.

In 1922, Emily Post listed “eight anniversaries known to all” (1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th) and associated gift materials in her Blue Book of Social Usage. In 1937, the American National Retail Jewelers Association published a more complete guide; they later updated it with a second set of “modern” choices. This is the list we still refer to today:

Of course, as cheesy as it sounds, the best anniversary gift I think you could ever get is another year with your spouse — marriage is a gift in itself, don’t you think? But it’s also absolutely a thing to be celebrated, and gifts are a lovely way to do that. While it’s handy to have suggestions to fall back on when you’re stumped for ideas, and it can be fun to try and think of a creative and meaningful gift within the bounds of each material, the traditional list is in the end just a list of suggestions. John and I love to travel and experience new things, so I’m sure there will be some years when we don’t exchange material gifts at all, but instead choose to take a trip together!

There is one thing I love about the traditional anniversary gift list, however: each material has a symbolic value, and the value increases every year to symbolize the increased investment each partner makes in the other. The idea that my marriage will grow more precious with time is a beautiful one, I think. Here’s to many, many more anniversaries ahead of us all!

Tell me: What anniversary are you celebrating? What did you get each other, if anything, for your first anniversary? Do you follow the traditional list of gift materials? I’d love to know!

P.S. Check back next week — I’ll be offering up some gift ideas for specific anniversary years!

emily Written with love by Emily
12 Comments
  1. avatar Ashleigh reply

    I love that the modern gift is included in the list, but I am a traditional gal at heart. I saw an ad for Love Book the other day and (while I’m approximately 49 weeks away from my first anniversary) I loved the idea. We like to travel, as well, and have already planned our 1-year anniversary getaway to a foreign land – so a small gift like Love Book might be appropriate versus a lavish gift on top of a trip! Great post, Emily!

    http://www.lovebookonline.com/

  2. avatar Elizabeth reply

    My husband I just celebrated our year anniversary. I got him a watercolor of our home. It’s beautiful and he loved it. I wrote a sweet message on the back. I guess that it’s traditional in that it’s paper. I like the fact that we will always have the painting of our first home together. He got me a necklace that is my monogram. Although not traditional, I love monograms and couldn’t have asked for something better!

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  7. avatar Morgan reply

    First off, can I just say how much I ADORE this blog?! I love you all!

    My husband, Derek, and I were married on June 2, 2012. We decided to celebrate our anniversary each year with the traditional gift! For our first year (paper!), he made me a frame and placed a picture of us from our anniversary dinner in Charleston inside it. I made a sheet that highlighted my favorite memories from our first year together as a married couple! I am looking forward to celebrating our second year soon (cotton!)…I am going to get us monogrammed robes from Pottery Barn, which is fitting since we’ll be moving into our brand new house!

    xoxo Morgan

  8. avatar Janice Collins reply

    For our first Anniversary I got my husband a “paper” gift certificate for a deep sea fishing trip off the coast of Charleston, SC (where we live). He was thrilled! He really enjoyed the day of deep sea fishing and even brought home plenty of fish for us to eat.

  9. avatar Cheri Dunn reply

    9/23/15- celebrating 9 years of wedded bliss today!
    We married on Bermuda in 2006 in a beautiful ceremony with many symbolic moments, the memories of which we will treasure forever!! We returned to Cambridge Beaches, Bermuda for our first anniversary and stayed in the same cottage as honeymoon. The resort manager gave us the key to the cottage! Our first anniversary gift was a beautiful watercolor painted by a local artist–on paper, of course!

  10. avatar Erica Broker reply

    My sister in law received a sketch of her wedding dress. It was the perfect one year anniversary gift framed.

  11. avatar Rebecca B. reply

    For our first anniversary my husband got me an anniversary sundial that he found online, it is made of glass and sits on the window sill and was handmade just for us so it would work where we live. It is a clock that tells time by using the sun, but the coolest thing is that it makes really vivid rainbows in our home when the sun shines. He had the guy who made it add a date line to our sundial that the time shadow follows on our anniversary day each year, and there is even a special mark on that anniversary line to celebrate the actual MOMENT we got married! My husband tells me that the sun and moon and planets all move every day, but they will always align for us on our day together (awww) It really is a great gift though because it also makes brilliant rainbows on the floor when the sun shines, and our toddler loves to play in the colors on the floor. I don’t remember what it’s called but you can find it online with a search – it has become a real touchstone in our home and it does something really cool every year on our anniversary!

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