The historu of the meanings of wedding anniversaries

wedding anniversary. History of anniversaries


Anniversary home
History of anniversaries
Anniversary poems
Anniversary Party
Party details

First ten years
1st Paper
2nd Cotton
3rd Leather
4th Linen
5th Wood
6th Iron
7th Wool / copper
8th Bronze
9th Pottery
10th Tin

Over ten years
11th Steel
12th Silk
13th Lace
14th Ivory
15th Crystal
20th China

Over 20 years
25th Silver
30th Pearl
35th Coral
40th Ruby
45th Sapphire
50th Gold
55th Emerald
60th Diamond
70th Platinum
75th Diamond (USA)
80th Oak




The celebration of specific materials in connection with specific wedding anniversaries is something that does not go back very far except for the Silver Wedding Anniversary (25 years) and the Gold Wedding Anniversary (50 years).

These two anniversaries seem to have originated in the Germanic region of Europe, probably about 500-700 years ago. It might seem strange that such anniversaries could be celebrated, after all, didn’t people die young?

There are two reasons:
People got married much earlier, 13 was not too young to get married so a 25th anniversary could happen before a 40th birthday.

The second is that people make a mistake with "average lifespan" calculations: The average lifespan for someone in medieval times might have been 35, but the average was dragged down by the very high child mortality rate. The fact is, if you made it past 20 then you were very likely to live to be 70-80 years old, so a Gold Wedding Anniversary was quite likely.

The reason why 50 and 25 are significant numbers is that they are a half and a quarter of a century respectively. For that reason some countries also celebrated 12 and a half years (half of 25), and that was a Copper anniversary.


Apparently other traditions had materials associated with anniversaries for years 1 to 5, and then every 5 years thereafter. With the 5th anniversary being for Wood, apparently around 1875, not that long ago.

The Diamond wedding anniversary is a little bit confusing. Originally it seems this was the 75th Wedding Anniversary however when Queen Victoria had been on the British throne for 60 years she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. This was then adopted as the material for the 60th Wedding Anniversary. Perhaps having a 60th celebration is more realistic than waiting another 25 years when the minimum age of the couple would be 100 years old.

Where celebrations are occurring the retail sector is never far behind, just as the greeting card trade is behind the creation of many recent celebrations (like Father’s Day). It was the American National Retail Jeweller Association that created a list in 1937 giving a materials list for every wedding anniversary up to the 15th and then every 5 years up to the 60th. This list is now considered to be the definitive one.

There are other lists like the "modern", "flower" and "gemstone" lists.

Last updated December 1, 2014 16:20