There are several lists indicating with which symbol the various years of marriage are marked. Whilst the traditional lists are fairly similar, there are some minor changes between countries. In the US, for example, the first wedding anniversary is marked with paper, but in the UK it is traditionally marked with cotton. The big anniversaries, however, remain consistent. So the 25th wedding anniversary by tradition calls for gifts of silver.
Marking wedding anniversaries with specific gifts is thought to have its origins in medieval Germany. To survive 25 years of marriage was no mean feat in an era of limited medical knowledge, plague outbreaks and frequent wars, particularly in the Germanic areas of Europe where battles over territory and between nobles and the papacy were on going over the centuries. A silver wreath was presented to the wife by her neighbours on her 25th wedding anniversary, congratulating the couple on the good fortune that had enabled them to live so long together. If a couple reached 50 years of marriage then a gold wreath would be given to them. It is from this tradition that the giving of specific gifts to mark the years grew.
Most silver is produced as a byproduct of the refining of other metals. It is found as an alloy with gold, copper, lead and zinc, in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite, as well as in a pure form on its own. The gold-silver alloy electrum was used as far back as 700 BCE by the Lydians in eastern parts of what is now Turkey. Sterling silver, usually used in jewellery and silverware, is an alloy of silver and copper, and almost all coloured carat gold alloys include silver.
So, what could you do to mark such a milestone in a marriage?
1) The gift.
Something in silver, or including silver, is what would be expected. For women, some form of jewellery – perhaps a ring, although the eternity ring is traditionally precious gems set in gold. A necklace and earring set is another possibility, or perhaps a brooch fashioned in silver. For men, a ring would also work – perhaps a signet ring. Alternatively, sterling silver cufflinks are a traditional gift, although if the man concerned does not have suitable shirts they may not be of much practical use. A hip flask might also be appreciated.
To give to a couple, a silver photograph frame is a popular idea, although there is a risk that most of their friends will do the same. Personalise it, if you can, with a favourite picture of the happy couple, perhaps with friends or other family members. Alternatively, go that little bit further and find a silver coloured photo album and fill it with images of their lives together. Perhaps a more decorative item, such as a small silver platter engraved with the date of the wedding and the names of the couple, a silver carriage clock, or a candelabra could fit the bill instead.
2) The celebration
Because 25 years is such a major milestone, in recent years the renewal of wedding vows has become a popular way to mark the occasion. Whilst it is unlikely to be on the same scale as the original wedding, it is a way to bring together friends and family to witness both the enduring connection of the couple with the solemnity of the ceremony, and to celebrate with a party.
Decorations for a renewal of vows tend to be very similar to those of a wedding. A woman may wish to carry a recreation of her wedding bouquet, but as an alternative the iris is the flower which represents the 25th wedding anniversary. Silver sugared almonds, bound in silver organza and tied with a silver ribbon, would make elegant party favours. And what better excuse for a truly spectacular meal, complete with silver service?
3) The holiday
Although it is by no means compulsory, a milestone wedding anniversary seems a good excuse for a second honeymoon. Some couples opt to return to the place they visited on their honeymoon, seeing the ways in which both it and they have changed over 25 years. Others may have had somewhere they always dreamed of going and so head off for the holiday of a lifetime. If you want to stick to a silver theme, there are several possibilities.
Taxco in Mexico was the country’s silver capital. There were several mines in the area, and today there are still plenty of workshops in the town where it is possible to pick up an appropriate keepsake. Combine the visit with time in Mexico City and also the Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula.
South America, particularly the countries on the Pacific coast, was the source of the silver that funded the growth of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century. Peru could be the ideal location for a holiday of a lifetime. It features spectacular variations in scenery, from the Andean mountains and the coastal deserts through to the rainforest of the Amazon basin. It was also home to some of the most ancient civilizations, from the Norte Chico to the Incas, with the spectacular citadel of Machu Picchu.
Half a world away, Queensland in Australia is also home to silver mines. Known as the Sunshine State, Queensland is another perfect destination. It features the Gondwana Rainforests, the Whitsunday Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast, and the cities of Brisbane and Cairns.
How ever a couple chooses to mark their silver wedding anniversary, 25 years of marriage is a truly special milestone in their lives. It’s a significant achievement – choose something really significant to honour it.