As a stationery designer, I tend to spend my days creating and printing gifts for my customers' most meaningful occasions - birthdays, weddings, new babies, new jobs. Last week I shipped out a stationery set for a couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Traditionally the first anniversary is commemorated with the gift of paper, and this customer asked after placing her order - where did this tradition start? I've always thought paper was such a great material to start celebrating anniversaries with because it can be interpreted in so many ways. But I do have to admit, it's a little weird and I had absolutely no idea where it came from. Off to Google!
It's thought that the silver and gold anniversaries originated in medieval Germany, where wives were presented with a silver wreath on their 25th wedding anniversary and a gold wreath on their 50th anniversary. The rest of the gifts were most likely added in England during the Victorian Era, and in 1922 etiquette expert Emily Post published the "eight anniversaries known to all" in her Blue Book of Social Usage. (Emily included anniversaries 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 75.) The list has been expanded on over the years, and now there is a traditional and modern gift for the first fifteen years, and then every fifth year after that. The modern gifts absolutely crack me up. I can't wait for my fourth anniversary when my husband gives me an appliance. So romantic!
I read many different explanations for why the first anniversary is paper. Some say it's because paper is a blank slate, ready to record your story. Others say the woven paper fibers symbolize the strength of a marriage, but I also read the opposite - that the fragility of paper represents the newness of your relationship. The anniversary gifts get rarer and more expensive as the years go on, and it's also possible that the first year is celebrated with paper because it's such a common and humble material.
As far as gifts go, I personally think that stationery is an excellent way to celebrate your paper anniversary. Maaaaaybe I'm biased, but probably not. Here are my favorite one year paper anniversary gifts, straight from the shop:
Couples stationery. Even after a whole year of marriage I still got a kick out of my new last name, and the novelty of being Mr. and Mrs. hadn't worn off yet. I love the Established Stationery Set in particular for first anniversaries because it includes the year. (Put a bottle of wine with it, because wine.)
His and hers stationery. You can go so many directions with this! The same design in the same color. Similar designs in coordinated colors. Or completely different designs if you and your significant other have really different styles. (And you get credit for an awesome gift plus your own stationery too! Double-win!)
How did you celebrate your first anniversary? Did you exchange paper gifts? Go out to dinner? Revisit your honeymoon destination?