Traditional Ways To Celebrate Your First Wedding Anniversary

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For many people, marrying their partner is one of the biggest events of their lives. A wedding day should be filled with friends, family, food, and, most importantly, love. It marks the beginning of a new chapter and the joining of two lives into one. In short, it's a day worth remembering — and commemorating with each passing year.


When your first anniversary arrives, you'll hopefully be looking back at your inaugural year of marriage with joy and gratitude, eager to celebrate twelve months with your new spouse. And while you can certainly mark the occasion with a nice dinner or by going out on a special date, your first wedding anniversary also comes built-in with ways to mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. So why not embrace gestures that hold a deeper meaning? If you're hoping to show your love through time-honored rituals, here are the top traditional ways to celebrate your first anniversary together.

Defrosting the top of your wedding cake

Looking for a celebration that screams tradition? Saving the top tier of your wedding cake has been around since the 19th century — and where this cake was originally eaten to mark your first child's christening, it's now become the most iconic way to commemorate your first year as a married couple.


With the advent of better food storage, it's also become easier to preserve this souvenir of your wedding day. For best results, chill the cake in a refrigerator then wrap it closely in plastic wrap. Place this bundle in a ziploc bag and squeeze out any excess air. Finally, pop the cake into a hard container to guard it against smooshing. Then store it safely in a freezer and defrost it to enjoy on your anniversary!

Of course, some people may not be super excited about eating year-old cake. And if it doesn't fare well in the freezer, you could be in for a disappointing surprise. As Cindy Rudin, a bride who saved the top tier of her vanilla-on-vanilla cake, tells The New York Times, "The cake was awful, it looked the same but it had that smell of bread that's been in the freezer too long. It went right in the garbage."


And while some couples may not have the best experience with their frozen cake, other newlyweds may not have thought ahead to save the top tier, making it seemingly impossible to enjoy this tradition. Either way, there's a simple and delectable solution: Simply order a small cake for two in the same style as your original wedding cake. If possible, go back to the same bakery for the genuine article. This way, you can enjoy fresh, moist cake while still sharing a nostalgic moment remembering your big day.

Decorating with yellow or gold

Traditionally, your first wedding anniversary is associated with the colors yellow and gold. So why not celebrate by setting the tone with decor in these warm, inviting hues? Whether you're planning a romantic evening at home or will only be coming back after a fun-filled night on the town, mark the occasion by decorating your space.


With yellow and gold as broad guidelines, you're only limited by your imagination. Go for budget-friendly options like yellow streamers, confetti, and balloons, or embrace the height of elegance with golden candlesticks, centerpieces, and place settings.

And even if you're not able to decorate at home, there are still plenty of ways to include these colors in your special anniversary plans. Wear an outfit accented with yellow fabrics or gold jewelry, give sultry looks with metallic gold makeup or show-stopping yellow lipstick, wrap gifts in yellow and gold paper, and don't be afraid to spice things up with yellow or gold lingerie.

Exchanging carnations or pansies

Depending on who you ask, there are two ideal floral selections to mark the occasion of your first wedding anniversary — carnations or pansies. In the language of flowers, carnations are said to symbolize love and devotion, making them a perfect analogy for your successful beginning as spouses. Red carnations are especially apt, as the color red adds an extra note of affection.


If you're hoping to shower your partner with carnations, there is one caveat: While yellow is a color tied to first anniversaries, yellow carnations are not the best choice for a gift, as they are said to represent disappointment and rejection. So you may want to go for a different hue for these traditional blooms.

As for pansies, these cheerful blossoms are associated with not only love and affection but also thoughtfulness, suggesting that your partner is always on your mind. For an extra layer of meaning, choose the color that best embodies the sentiment you want to share. Blue pansies carry a suggestion of loyalty, orange pansies represent hope, purple pansies are associated with beauty, and, of course, red pansies are once again tied to love. If you're trying to double down on first anniversary themes, good news — yellow pansies are also fair game, carrying the pleasant meaning of happiness and joy.


Giving presents made with paper

When it comes to traditional gift-giving for your first wedding anniversary, one of the most popular ideas is to exchange paper gifts. This may sound underwhelming, but it can actually encompass a beautiful meaning. In its most basic form, paper is modest and a bit fragile, like your first year as a newly married couple. But it is also a material that's made stronger by its many individual strands, and when treated carefully, can stand the test of time. In the same way, you and your spouse can weave your lives together and grow from this humble beginning to build a stable, long-lasting relationship. Plus, paper is something of a blank slate, suggesting that the future is wide open to be filled with your dreams and goals as a couple.


Embracing paper as a gifting theme also leaves plenty of room for creativity. Classically, stationery was a popular first anniversary present, but you can also think outside the box. If gifting a favorite book or beautiful journal doesn't appeal, why not compose a beautiful love letter — or get some of your existing love letters printed into a special anniversary tome?

Other perfectly paper-themed presents might include gorgeous artwork or prints of your favorite photos. For example, print and frame a beloved picture from your wedding ceremony to take pride of place on your gallery wall. Or, if you're the type who values memories and experiences over material objects, invest in something like a concert or weekend getaway, then wrap the printed tickets as an anniversary gift for your partner.


Giving pearl or peridot jewelry

You've probably heard of birthstones, but did you know that there are also signature stones for each wedding anniversary? To commemorate your first year together, the typical stone of choice is pearl. In nature, these semi-precious gems usually form in the mouth of an oyster and are made from the same lustrous material used to create its shell. In a sense, this makes pearls perfect to mark your first year together, as you're working to build and protect your beautiful new family.


If your spouse loves the classics, you can't go wrong with a gift of white pearl jewelry. But if they veer more toward an edgy or glamorous vibe, you can also give them something with a little extra style, such as these Japanese Akoya Black Pearl Earrings from The Pearl Source.

Occasionally, you might also see peridot suggested as a first-anniversary gift. So if your partner isn't one for pearls, why not explore this stunning gemstone, instead? With its bright, yellow-green shade usually varying between hues of olive and spring green, peridot practically glimmers with vibes of fresh plant life and new growth. Celebrate the creation of your own marriage roots by selecting peridot jewelry, such as this dainty Peridot Solitaire Pendant Necklace by Carleen or these mossy green Peridot Cufflinks.


Buying new clocks or watches

At first glance, the significance of gifting a clock, watch, or other timepiece on your first wedding anniversary may not seem very clear. But this is actually a charming way to reaffirm your commitment to one another and show you're in it for the long haul. Because clocks represent the passage of time, this anniversary present celebrates both the year you've already enjoyed together and all the glorious years to come. What better way to display loyalty and your hopes for the future?


To find the perfect timepiece, you could search around local antique shops to find a clock with some history, evoking the idea of putting down your family's roots. Or for something more personal and romantic, you could gift your sweetheart with a fancy wristwatch or pocket watch, engraving a message of love on the case. After all, watches are one of those simple fashion accessories that always make a statement. You can even go for something more unusual, like a decorative hourglass or a sundial for your garden. In the end, what's most important is finding a gift that feels authentic to your lifestyle and love story.