Anniversary No. 15

My husband and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary next week; I jokingly remarked that perhaps now, finally, we’d be beyond the lesser gift categories (paper, cardboard, straw, dryer lint) and into those of real substance. And that got me to thinking, what is 15, anyway?

This was a joke because I don’t think we’ve ever received a wedding anniversary gift from anyone, not even our own parents, who are the ones who really should be grateful that their kids are still married, right? And our gifts to each other have been, well, erratic.  At the beginning, I gifted with all sincerity, looking up what year it was and trying to comply, but then one year, maybe anniversary six or seven, I went rogue. I found a gorgeous blown glass vase on one of my business trips, and I rationalized its purchase by thinking it would make a stunning anniversary gift – after all, it would adorn our home for years, reminding us of our bond. I still remember his face when he opened it. “Is this for me?” he asked wryly. I’ve never lived that one down. The vase definitely does adorn our home and does serve as a reminder, but not the one I’d intended – ever since then, my husband coyly threatens motorcycle parts and woodworking equipment as our anniversary approaches.

That may have been a turning point in our anniversary gift-giving, for after that it seems we’ve tended more toward giving ourselves experiences – foraying out to new restaurants or some mountain resort I’ve heard about, taking trips to Italy or Cabo, or, as we did for our tenth, to Spain.

But after my offhand joke, I decided to look it up – Anniversary No. 15, that is. Turns out it’s crystal. Sure ‘nuff, we’re definitely out of the paper years. But oddly, I also got watches. What’s up with that, I wondered. Why crystal OR watches? When I Googled it, good old Wikipedia came up first, and the entry, I was pleased to discover, included, not only a handy-dandy, year-by-year reference table, but also my answer.

There are a number of things about this table that I find intriguing and also quite telling (not to mention, hilarious). First is that it includes, not just US and UK lists, but also both “traditional” and “modern” US categories. What, this is so pertinent to US cultural mores that we’ve updated our list?  And, of course, the traditional US list is much more in line with the UK than with the modern US list – aha, we’re finally paving our own way in anniversary gift-giving – hooray! And, also of course, there is no “modern UK” list – go figure.

Then there are the actual differences between what was then and what is now in the good ol’ US of Anniversary Gifts.

In the old days, for example, anniversary number ten – that is one DECADE of marriage – got you tin or aluminum. And now? Diamond jewelry! That’s quite a revision, don’t you think? So what’s that about? Is it that most marriages in the US today don’t make it to year five much less ten, so if you do, you hit the jackpot, whereas in the old days, ten was just a very early marker on the long nuptial haul to 75? Take a look at the table. At first I thought on the traditional list diamond was finally achieved at 60 – six decades of marriage, but no. That’s only a yellow diamond. You had to hold out for another decade and half to get the real deal. Thank goodness we got that changed – phew.

Some other oddities: the traditional list in the US ends at anniversary no. 75, like, after that who bothers counting? And look at the UK: at year five you get wood, and then 80 years later, you get oak. Not much progress there, eh? Unless they’re building you a casket. Then at 90 (yes, 9-0), the Brits give you stone, as in headstone, I’m thinking – and just to make sure you’re clear, the modern US list spells it right out: engraved marble. Yikes. I guess if you plan on making it to your 90th anniversary (and by the way, you’d probably have to have gotten married at age 14 to have a prayer at that), getting your marble headstone as a gift works out pretty nicely.

There’s another list Wikipedia includes too: the floral gift list. Evidently there’s a flower representative of each year of marriage, as well. Who knew? And guess what? After all these years of giving and getting roses on our anniversary, this year, number 15, my husband and I will finally really have earned them. That’s right: it takes 15 years to merit a rose. Before that you’re in carnations (year 1 – ugh), daisies (year 5) and daffodils (the decadal flower!)

Oh, and as for the reason anniversary no. 15 is both crystal and watches, take a look: it’s crystal on the traditional list, but on the modern list, you got crystal way back at year three, so they had to come up with something way better for 15. And I’m thinking, since a watch does (or did) have a crystal face, it kinda makes sense, right? And maybe too, by this time in your marriage, you’re starting to have a sense of just how long it’s been, so a watch might be a suitable memento…??

In any case, this whole thing seems to me a bit outdated. Who, after all, still gives anniversary presents, if they ever did?

Or maybe it’s me who’s out of it. Am I missing the boat on anniversary gift-giving? Ooo, and perhaps more importantly, anniversary gift-receiving?? Well, just in case, we’ve decided to register. At, as well as Baume and Mercier. At No. 15, we’re on solid ground with either list, so, please, take your pick.


About Rebecca Reynolds

Leadership Guru; Systems Thinker; Complex Problem Solver; Facilitative Leader...also LOVE life, dog Wiley, good food, Malbec, forests, oceans, yoga stillness, the boxing bag, ballroom dance, and movies.
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8 Responses to Anniversary No. 15

  1. Adrienne says:

    Congratulations, Rebecca and Bill! Great post. I wonder what list I am supposed to follow, being here in Canada and firmly stuck between the two traditions. We just passed our 21st, which still amazes me. It seems like such a large number for someone so young! (Right?) 21 is the brass/nickel anniversary according to the chart. And I wonder who makes these things up? (I see some Chicago librarians compiled the list, but who makes the decision? Marketers somewhere? Makes me think of how de Beers quickly made everyone think a diamond was the default engagement ring, when it was nothing more than a marketing ploy. (“A Diamond is Forever” and something along the lines of “Is one month’s salary too much to pay?” There’s a great podcast and info. here: I hope you have a lovely anniversary celebration.

    • Hi Adrienne: Hmmm, as a Canadian I’d advise you to do as you please and pick whichever list gives you the best deal! Hardly seems fair though that 21 is brass/nickel when 15 is crystal. And I can only imagine the group of “deciders” who figure it all out — especially the modernizing of the list! I hope it’s not just a marketing ploy…certainly in the old days it was highly practical: young couples needed items to round out their households, plus the substance of the item was undoubtedly symbolic. Alas, we have lost all that and are left with something rather puzzling indeed! RR

  2. Brenda Todd says:

    I always assumed the whole anniversary gift giving tradition was just between spouses. Like you said, who cares how long you have been married besides yourselves and your parents? 🙂 Adam and I have an anniversary coming up, so if you’d like to broaden the practice, feel free! It’s our second, so the “traditional” gift is cotton and the “modern” gift is china – I think we’re the modern kind of couple… All joking aside, happy anniversary to you and Bill!

    • Hi B: Oh, I don’t think so. I think people did receive anniversary gifts, but it just isn’t a tradition much done now. (Or as I said, maybe I just travel in the wrong circles!) And so sorry, we already have the cotton on order for you! (Happy 2nd to you two!) RR

  3. Brenda says:

    I clearly travel in the wrong circles. 🙂 Loved seeing your wedding photo in this post!

    • Ha! Thanks, but that is NOT our wedding photo – it’s from our 10th Anniversary! We went back to the church, dressed in our wedding clothes and had a self-done photo session and catered picnic lunch – superlative!

  4. Fun post! Great accomplishment to reach 15! May you have a sparkling anniversary and may you think of a gift in time. I wish you both all good things in the years to come!

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