On our first wedding anniversary, I didn’t get my wife a gift. Quite frankly, I considered the idea, but shelved it because it didn’t seem like a major situation. I believed that sometimes it’s nice to get a gift for a “major” anniversary (one ending in a 5 or a 0), but for other anniversaries, I thought just spending some time together was an appropriate way to celebrate.
I was… wrong.
My wife was pretty upset with me. She had thought carefully and put together a really thoughtful gift for me, which she sprung upon me that evening. When I told her that I didn’t have a gift for her, she thought I was kidding, but eventually she realized I wasn’t. And it wasn’t pretty.
Since then, we’ve adopted a policy of getting each other very simple but thoughtful gifts for our anniversary – books, journals, simple trinkets that clearly represent that we’ve been paying attention to each other.
This is the custom that we’ve established within our marriage. Neither one of us feels that an anniversary calls for a huge, ostentatious gift of any kind. Instead, we view it as a day to recall our wedding vows and our pledge to combine our lives together, and we’ve found that simple and thoughtful is the way to go for us.
Having said that, I’ve observed many different patterns in different marriages that I’m familiar with. One marriage, for example, seems to revolve around absurdly huge gifts given by the husband to the wife, and I know from outside conversations that the husband really resents this pattern.
In another marriage, the couple sticks very carefully to the “traditional” list of wedding anniversary gifts – paper, wood, and the like. They try to think of thoughtful gifts for each other that center around the “theme” of the anniversary. I can tell from both of them that this is a tradition that they both value.
Another marriage seems to involve spending a lot of money on something frivolous that they’ll both enjoy. Recent gifts include a week-long trip and a Lexus.
In yet another marriage, their sole remembrance of their anniversary is a kiss for each year they’ve been married.
Why am I reporting all of these things here? There is no established pattern for anniversary gifts, so don’t get caught up in trying to chase something that’s an illusion. From what I can see, anniversary celebrations are as varied as the marriages they represent.
If you think that there’s something “expected” as an anniversary gift and you don’t like it, talk to your partner. It’s likely that you’re harboring an expectation that may or may not be real – and that expectation can be very expensive in the short term – and can establish a very expensive pattern over the long term.
The key to celebrating any personal event is to find a way to celebrate it that’s in line with your personal values. For us, the most valuable thing in our marriage is the fact that we know each other almost as well as we know ourselves, and we focus on celebrating our anniversary in a way that represents that.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be about frivolous spending at all. Instead, it needs to just be a remembrance of a key moment in both of your lives – and it should reflect on both of you in a way that fulfills you both.
How do you celebrate your anniversary? Share your tactics in the comments.