How to celebrate your first wedding anniversary + gift guide included

If this time last year you were counting down til the big day, now you’ll be looking ahead to the same date a year later, and thinking about how to celebrate your first wedding anniversary!


I thought I’d share a few ideas to get you thinking about your own celebration of one year married, and tell you how we celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

I promise this article will not suggest any sappy “romantic” things to write in an anniversary card to your spouse (okay… except perhaps to make you laugh…”I get weak knees when I see you smile, but I get wings when I know that I’m the reason. Happy anniversary” – that is seriously a recommended first anniversary message via that article… “I don’t think I’ll ever need a vacation – because every day of our life feels like a honeymoon. Happy first wedding anniversary.” is another – truly, who are these people!?).

One Year Married! Pop the Champagne! (and are you supposed to mark the date with gifts?!)

If you’re familiar with traditional wedding anniversary gift recommendations, you’ll probably already know that the one year wedding anniversary is marked by a “paper” present. For those not familiar, each year has a corresponding gift type of gift that is traditionally given. However, paper is not the only “traditional” gift for your first wedding anniversary.

Ladies, if you’re reading this, I’m going to hugely generalise and say that your husband is probably not caught up in whether or not you follow tradition and craft him something out of paper-mache (or buy him a gift at all). Unless you tell him of the gift tradition, and let him know you want to follow it, you may find yourself disappointed (if you follow the jewellery anniversary gift-list, the first year is gold, so start dropping hints now…)

Earlier this year, I actually designed and created a wedding anniversary gift which lasts forever. I still do is a wedding anniversary journal – for everything after the wedding, your little love notes from the heart. It’s the perfect ‘paper’ wedding anniversary gift.

It may be too late for this – but incase you’re still wedding planning – we saved the top tier of our cake for our wedding anniversary (another tradition) and enjoyed it with a bottle of wine from our wedding too, up at Treghan Lodge where we celebrated.

treghan-luxury-lodge-birdsong-retreat(For the traditionalist in you, I’ve found some pretty awesome “paper” gifts below!)

Where did the traditional wedding anniversary gifts originate?

If you’re keen on tradition, you might at least want to know why you’re folding 1,000 paper cranes… (bonus, according to Japanese culture, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 paper cranes will be granted their most desired wish, because they have exhibited the cranes’ loyalty and recreated their beauty).

Celebration of wedding anniversaries is a tradition of Germanic origin that dates back to the middle ages. After 25 years of marriage a husband would present his wife with a silver wreath, and after 50 years, a gold wreath. From this custom emerged the recognition of silver and golden wedding anniversaries. Initially, only these two anniversaries were celebrated – the others generally passed unremarked [via NZ govt].

The most likely guess is that the gift list made its debut during the Victorian era in the United Kingdom during the 1800s, and then jumped across the pond to the United States in the early 20th century [via Martha Stewart]. Retailers seized on the consumer possibilities of celebrating every wedding anniversary. In 1937 the American National Retail Jewellers’ Association published a complete list of the type of gifts to give on each wedding anniversary. This list became the standard one that is still referred to, although modern variants have emerged, along with lists of anniversary gemstones and anniversary flowers.

As I alluded to above, gold is also traditionally linked with the first wedding anniversary, while freshwater pearls are the traditional gemstone.

To the gifts – get creative with a “paper” present!

If you love the idea of a “paper” gift, but want to think outside the ‘box’ and get creative, here are some ideas:

I still do – wedding anniversary diary and marriage journal drawing on my own first year of marriage, I realised: we devote so much time and effort thinking about and planning an ‘ideal’ wedding, but not nearly enough time thinking about, and planning our “ideal” marriage. Discover I still do.

Tickets – whether to a concert, an airline ticket, or even a surprise mid-week movie ticket, paper tickets are a way to celebrate your first year anniversary in accordance with tradition, while also making it an experience!

Print it! – alternatively, make a reservation somewhere nice, whether at a hotel in your city, for a romantic dinner, or if you’re lucky enough to be close to boutique luxury accommodation, treat yourself to something really special. We went to Treghan Luxury Lodge in Kerikeri – pure bliss. Print the reservation, tuck it into a card, and voila, you tick the experience and paper anniversary check-boxes!

Paper-airplane cufflinks in silver, matching charm or necklace for you (all Etsy)…


Have you heard of Uashmama!? I’m obsessed… I bought a couple of the washable paper bags (in gold metallics… naturally) in Sydney last year having been recommended them by UK family and they’re the bees knees. Plant pot covers, decor, remote-control holders, bags of nail polish, they make every space prettier. Grab a couple of gold Uashmama bags and get double points for gold and paper!

Earlier this year, you might have seen I dashed Blair’s planned first wedding anniversary gift by having our vows printed as art – you can easily do something similar.

Bicycle Anniversary Print, origami shadowbox, calligraphy wedding vows, or paper cut print.

Feeling Romantic?

For me, the most romantic thing Blair can do is be the one to organise things… whether it’s a simple date or whisking me away for the weekend – he doesn’t write poems or love letters but that’s not necessary, the thought involved in making an effort is more than enough.

To mark one year married, we headed off on an anniversary adventure. Between pre-wedding preparations and the wedding weekend itself, we’d spent quite a lot of time in the beautiful Coromandel, but until recently it had been years since I’d been to Bay of Islands, and Blair had never been. A girls’ trip had gone so well there a few years ago, and more recently in January, so Blair and I sought solace in the ‘Winterless North’ and returned to Kerikeri for the weekend. We checked into Birdsong Retreat and spent two days in total bliss.

We barely left Birdsong, our totally self-contained cottage, though Blair’s need for a latte took us to a couple of walking-distance Kerikeri spots: The Old Packhouse markets on Sunday, Koropiro Heritage Park and , and Food at Wharepuke (all excellent, especially Wharepuke!)

Hopefully that’s given you some food for thought and a few more ideas about your potential first wedding anniversary celebrations. You’ve got plenty more options than just “paper” – whether that’s something glittering and gold, an anniversary adventure, or a simple slice of cake and bottle of wine! Whatever you do, take a moment to tell your spouse what you’re grateful for over the past year, and what you’re looking forward to in future, the first wedding anniversary is only the beginning!

If you’re still wedding planning, head to the wedding planning index and check out I still do!