Wedding Anniversaries in Western Culture

What is a wedding anniversary and why do we celebrate them as part of western culture? This is simply a celebration of the date that a person’s wedding took place. Traditionally these have been given names to indicate the length of marriage, such as the golden centenary to celebrate 50 years of marital union.

The Official Recognition

Important wedding anniversary milestones now receive official recognition by a number of governments and heads of state. This not only shows the respect for long lasting marriages that still exists to this day, but also allows the celebratory couple to enjoy their moment in the limelight with something a little special.

Official Recognition in the British Commonwealth
The monarch on the throne at the time of a person’s 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversary can issue a private message to the couple wishing them a happy centenary. However, this message will only be sent if an application is submitted to Buckingham Palace in the UK or the relevant Governor-General’s office in other Commonwealth countries. Any subsequent centenary after the 70th will automatically receive a message from the monarch if a request is again submitted.

In Australia and Canada the Governor-General will also issue a congratulatory note of his own on the occasion of a 50th centenary.

Official Recognition in the United States of America
In the USA a couple enjoying their 50th or any subsequent anniversary can receive personal wishes from the office of the President.

Official Recognition from the Papal State
Roman Catholic couples can receive a Papal blessing via their diocese for milestone wedding anniversaries such as their 25th, 50th, 60th and 70th centenaries. These Papal blessings have to be applied for before the time and will be approved by the Vatican in the Papal State.

Traditional Gifts

The names of traditional wedding anniversaries provide a rough guideline for the types of traditional gifts that spouses are supposed to exchange on a wedding day. Below is a list of some of the more important wedding anniversaries and the corresponding gifts:

The first wedding anniversary is the Paper Anniversary
The fifth wedding anniversary is the Wooden Anniversary
The tenth wedding anniversary is the Tin Anniversary
The fifteenth anniversary is the Crystal Anniversary
The twentieth anniversary is the China Anniversary
The twenty-fifth anniversary is the Silver Anniversary

Two of the most important centenary celebrations are the 50th and 60th which are the Golden and Diamond centenaries respectively. These traditional centenary gifts are believed to have originated in Germany, but it must be noted that the gifts and centenary symbols have started to change over time with the diamond now a well-known British symbol for a 75th centenary.