First Anniversary Traditions and Where They Come From

There's more to this sweet celebration than defrosting the top tier of your wedding cake.

A couple sitting in front of the ocean with champagne.

Dean Mitchell / Getty Images / Design by Tiana Crispino

Wedding anniversaries—whether it's the first or your fiftieth—are one of the most special days of the year, and the practice of celebrating your wedding date, year after year, dates all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman tradition. Your first anniversary as a married couple is unlike any other; a whole year has passed since you exchanged vows in front of your loved ones, you've settled into new routines, and yet it may also still feel like you said "I do" just yesterday.

When it comes to marriage anniversary traditions, there are different flowers, gems, and gift types that represent each passing year, most of which have a specific meaning. Here, we outline everything you need to know about the different first anniversary traditions, from the history behind freezing the top tier of your wedding cake to why couples exchange paper gifts.

Freezing the Wedding Cake Top

You've probably heard of this tradition: removing the top tier of your wedding cake and storing it in the freezer to serve on your first wedding anniversary. It's actually rooted in British wedding culture wherein the English would serve fruit cakes (which preserve very well) at weddings, and save part of it to serve at their first child's christening. Over time, that tradition evolved into freezing the top tier of a wedding cake (no matter the type) and serving it for the first wedding anniversary.

For those who prefer to skip the freezing-the-cake part of this tradition, consider working with your wedding baker to create a mini-version of your wedding cake that you can enjoy on your first anniversary.

Exchanging Paper Gifts

Historically, paper gifts are reserved for the first anniversary. Symbolically, it's said that the tiny threads and fibers in paper represent the strength and interconnectedness of two people in a marriage. Paper also represents a blank slate, symbolic of the brand new life you and your spouse have started together. Additionally, paper is both fragile and resilient, just like a new marriage.

In terms of paper gift ideas, you're certainly not limited to a letter (although this is an ideal time to pen a romantic love note to your spouse!). Other options include an illustration of the two of you from your wedding day, a meaningful book, an anniversary journal, or a framed paper print of your vows.

Bouquets of Carnations

It's only fitting that a flower symbolizing affection is the official first-anniversary flower. Enter the canary, a tried-and-true classic that is vibrant and stunning on its own, but also mixes beautifully with other blooms (especially roses and baby's breath).

Giving Gold

Each anniversary year has its own gemstone and color. And lucky for you, the first wedding anniversary is all about gold! While gold isn't technically a gemstone, you can take this color and have some fun with it, whether you opt to give your spouse a yellow gold bracelet, earrings, or necklace, or pick out a piece of jewelry with a gold-toned gemstone at the center. Stones like citrine or lemon quartz, canary diamonds, or yellow sapphires are perfect options (plus there is a range in value here, so you don't necessarily need to break the bank quite so soon after the wedding).

Reading to find the perfect first-anniversary gift? Check out our top ideas here.


A Guide to First Anniversaries

Related Stories