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Wedding Anniversary Traditions and Inspiration – The First 5 Years

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There’s no denying that marriage is hard work. It’s all of the good and wonderful things of a lifelong journey mixed with all of the bad and difficult. It takes commitment, patience and compassion. And the first five years will be full of some of the most joyful and painful moments of all. But it’s so worth it. Sharing your life with someone is a beautiful and meaningful experience. And you should celebrate it! Marking your wedding anniversary as a significant date helps strengthen your bond and reinforce your commitment to each other. Plus there’s usually champagne. What’s not to love?

Our guide below will help inspire your own anniversary celebrations. We’ve taken medieval gifting traditions and given them a modern makeover. From traditional meanings to date and gift ideas, we’ve got you covered.

Wedding Anniversary Traditions & Inspiration – The First 5 Years

  Year 1 – The Paper Anniversary

paper anniversary wedding celebration gift
Saint Signora

What It Means

This tradition dates all the way back to the Victorian Era and has many interpretations. Paper represents a blank slate and open possibilities. It is also a common, everyday object, symbolizing a marriage’s humble and fragile beginnings. Paper has been used to express love, art and poetry for thousands of years. And even in our digital era there is something so special about handwritten records. This milestone is the ending of the very first chapter of your lives together. Use this wedding anniversary to celebrate how you want to write the rest of them.

Date Ideas

Take a weekend road trip somewhere new! Map out your route (on an actual paper map) and get lost exploring together. Or if a stay-cation is more your style, order takeout (from the paper menus!) and celebrate with a simple paper lantern ceremony together. Stand on your porch, make a wish together, and send your lantern up into the sky. Sip champagne from paper cups and enjoy the simple sweetness of doing nothing at all.

Gift Ideas

Concert or plane tickets are a popular option for paper anniversary gifts. (Presented in a handwritten card of course). Or a new notebook with a fountain pen attached is a lovely sentiment. You can also recreate your wedding day with a gift of your favorite photos printed for your home, your vows blown up and framed, or a shadow box with your invitation nestled inside. However you celebrate it, this anniversary is one you won’t want to skip.

Year 2 – The Cotton Anniversary

2nd wedding anniversary cotton gift ideas
The Nest

What It Means

Cotton symbolizes strength, steadfastness and the ability to adapt to change. It’s long wearing quality mirrors the desire for a long and healthy marriage. Just as the cotton fibers interweave with each other, so do you and your partner. The second year of marriage brings you closer together, strengthening the bonds built during year one. But even in it’s strength and resilience, cotton remains soft and comforting, just as your marriage should. The gifts associated with this wedding anniversary represent the desire to nest and build a home together.

Date Ideas

The cotton anniversary embraces all things cozy. So stay in, rent a movie and nestle down under the snuggliest cotton blanket you own. (Better yet, make a sheet and pillow fort). Or treat yourselves to a spa day complete with giant fluffy bath robes. You can also take this theme to the next level by cooking your date night dinner with cottonseed oil. Drizzle it on toasted bread or salad for an on trend protein boost.

Gift Ideas

Cozy up with gifts of sheets, pajamas, bath towels or a new blanket. Use this as an opportunity to upgrade your old t-shirt sheets for something more luxurious or finally get those His and Hers towels you’ve always wanted.

Year 3 – The Leather Anniversary

3rd wedding anniversary gift leather
Tamara Maynes

What It Means

 By the third wedding anniversary you should be aware of how “durable” your relationship is. This makes leather the traditional gift of choice. It wears well over time and just gets more beautiful and meaningful as it ages. It also emphasizes strength and flexibility as you experience more trials and triumphs together. The little imperfections are reminders of your marriage’s longevity in the face of adversity.

Date Ideas

This anniversary is all about flexibility! So take a leather stamping class together and learn something new! Or if you’re not the crafty type, consider taking turns writing your favorite memories down in a nice leather journal. When times get hard, or when you just want to reminisce, take out the notebook and read passages to each other.

Gift Ideas

The gift options are abundant for the leather anniversary. Get her that pair of Italian boots shes been drooling over for years, or matching leather coats for both of you! Belts, wallets, handbags, a new watch band or passport covers all make thoughtful (and useful!) gifts.

Year 4 – The Fruit & Flower Anniversary

4th wedding anniversary fruit and flowers
Monkia Hibbs

What It Means

Just like a flower blooms or a fruit ripens, so does your relationship. In the fourth year you really have grown together and built a solid foundation for the rest of your life. The sweetness of the flowers and fruits represent the joy and delight found in your marriage. These traditional wedding anniversary gifts are also meant to add freshness and rejuvenation to your every day routine.

Date Ideas

This one’s easy! Take a stroll through a field of wildflowers or your local botanical garden and pack a picnic lunch. Or visit a pick-your-own orchard or farm to gorge yourselves on whatever delicious treats are in season. Have you always wanted to make your own jam? Stay home and make a mess of your kitchen together creating sweet gifts for your friends and family.

Gift Ideas

If you want to go beyond a bouquet and a fruit basket consider a piece of jewelry inspired by her favorite flower. Or a candle or essential oil diffuser to bring the smells of nature indoors. We especially love the tradition of planing a shrub or garden in your yard together. It’s so romantic to watch things grow right along side your relationship.

Year 5 – The Wood Anniversary

5th wedding anniversary gift wood
Abduzeedo

What It Means

Wood represents strength and solidarity. By year five your bond is stable and you are no longer considered “newlyweds.” This milestone celebrates your “growing roots” and building a life together that is equal parts you and your partner. Trees symbolize wisdom and intuition, helping you learn from past mistakes to form an even deeper connection.

Date Ideas

Escape to the woods for a weekend cabin getaway. Take long hikes and reconnect in the way that only nature lets you. Or stay home and plant a new tree in your yard, or carve your names into one that is already growing tall. End your evening with a game of Scrabble by a roaring fire and just soak up all of the love.

Gift Ideas

At first glance, the wood anniversary gifting options may not seem that romantic. But there are so many clever and creative wood crafted goodies to be found online. A customized box with the wine you drank at your wedding makes a perfect wedding anniversary gift. Or a personalized Jenga set, cutting board or picture frame are thoughtful gifts you’ll see, and use, often. You can even find watches, wine glasses and art prints all made out of wood.

Wedding anniversaries are special. And no matter how you celebrate, the important thing is that you take the time to recognize the milestones of each passing year. It is easy to get stuck in a routine and forget about the little things, but those small moments and celebrations of love are exactly what makes marriage so wonderful. And whatever year you are celebrating, don’t skip the love note! Shop our anniversary and love collection right here.