What qualifies as a newlywed? 1 month? 3 months? A year? Until you have kids? Maybe “newlywed” is just a state of mind. Who knows. Whatever your definition of newlywed, we hope you can agree that marking your first wedding anniversary is special—and important.
Seriously. You can’t mess this one up. It’s going to set the tone for future anniversaries. Not to mention it’ll make up for all the times you burned dinner or bought the wrong type of mayonnaise this year.
Don’t worry. We’re not trying to freak you out. It’s actually very easy to crush your first wedding anniversary, and we’re here to help. We’ll explain the traditional first anniversary theme (paper), the symbolism behind it, and 10 ideas for first anniversary gifts.
All you have to do is remember the date. And if you can’t remember your first anniversary wedding date… well. No one can help you then.
Year One: Paper
For your first year, the traditional anniversary gift is paper. Yes, paper. It may seem lackluster at first, but a paper anniversary gift can be meaningful, unique, and stand the test of time.
The traditional gift of paper for the first anniversary is highly symbolic for the newlyweds. It may seem less flashy than stereotypically romantic anniversary gifts such as flowers or jewelry, but it provides a much more meaningful way to mark the first year together. Here are a few ways the paper anniversary is symbolic.
Story: A marriage is a love story, and you’re writing it every day. Your first anniversary marks the completion of the first of many chapters in that love story. (Thankfully you are allowed to erase and edit.)
Fragility: Paper is delicate. To last, it needs to be properly handled and protected. This is a beautiful metaphor for a new marriage, and a great reminder at the one year anniversary for a happily married couple.
Process: Don’t forget that paper was once very bougie. Paper may be prevalent now, but it wasn’t so long ago that paper goods were extremely expensive and required the work of many different craftsmen and artisans. Your new marriage is also a work of art that will require much refinement.
Growth: Paper began with a tiny seed, which grew into a tree. The tree was cut and developed into paper that could then be used to create something new and beautiful. After one year of marriage your relationship could still be considered a seed which needs nurturing to grow into a useful, beautiful, rewarding result like the paper gift in your hands. Use this metaphor to narrate your first year of marriage to your spouse for bonus romance points.
It’s a thoughtful and heartfelt way to show a loved one how much they’re cared about and appreciated on a special day! Learn more
But perhaps the greatest argument for paper anniversary gifts is that they break the mold of our technology-obsessed world and return to the classic, timeless taste of a thoughtful physical gift.
10 Paper Anniversary Gifts
Paper might seem boring, but there are actually many ways you can surprise your spouse with a unique gift for your first wedding anniversary. At Kudoboard we’re passionate about marking special days, and we’ve found some great first anniversary gift ideas that will make your loved one feel your appreciation.
1. Paper flowers
Other people: Flowers.
You, an intellectual: PAPER flowers.
We love to take a traditional gift and spin it into a modern gift. Flowers are a classic romantic gesture, but updating this gift idea for the paper anniversary is a fun way to make a spin on this gesture more permanent—not to mention thoughtful. Paper flowers will obviously last much longer than an arrangement. Choose paper versions of flowers which are meaningful to your partner (perhaps flowers used in your wedding decor or from your partner’s home region).
Present the paper flowers in a beautiful vase, or even earn some bonus points by creating your own paper flowers. Other options include garlands, pressed flowers, and wall art.
2. Photo book
It’s common to take a trip down memory lane to ring in your first wedding anniversary. Remember when your weird uncle fell down on the dance floor? Classic. Many anniversary gift ideas revolve around this practice. Relieve your wedding day (minus eccentric relatives) while you eat your preserved slice of wedding cake, re-read your vows, and watch your ceremony and celebration videography. A photo book can be an easy and natural extension of these traditions that also meets the “paper” requirement of the first year anniversary.
Use Blurb, Shutterfly, Mixbook, or another photo service to quickly create professional-looking photo books, or print out photos and slide them into a pocketed photo album. But there are other ways to execute this anniversary gift idea. Think outside the box by creating a photobook of favorite memories, a trip you took together, or another important era of your partner’s life.
You don’t have to do it all on your own, either. You can crowdsource photos, videos, and messages from important people in your spouse’s life to make a meaningful gift. Try creating a Kudoboard photobook or poster with a group and then printing it for an impressive paper anniversary gift (Kudoboards can also make great anniversary cards that show a spouse how widely they're loved!).
3. Love note
Sometimes newlyweds spend their first years of married life on a budget. If you’re on that ramen noodles diet it doesn’t mean you have to pass the first wedding anniversary without a meaningful paper anniversary gift. We guarantee that a thoughtful, handwritten love note or love letter on the first anniversary will be remembered much longer than any material gift.
Want to take it the extra mile? Get a fancy journal or stack of stationery (don’t worry, we’ll cover that in a minute) and a next-level fountain pen or calligraphy set to make ongoing love notes part of your love story. But even a sweet note on a post-it or the back of a receipt can give your spouse the feels. It’s an inexpensive way to demonstrate thoughtfulness and love—any day of the year.
4. Love story
Another paper anniversary gift that has been growing in popularity is the gift of your love story. There are relationship journals that provide you helpful prompts to document the important steps of your courtship, artists who will illustrate your story, or simply your own recollection of the day you met, the day you married, or just a special day in the life of your marriage. A traditional first wedding anniversary gift can be the perfect way to document the happy couple for posterity.
5 Your wedding vows
Maybe you still have your wedding vows tucked into a memento box, but consider upgrading them for your first anniversary paper gift. You can upload your wedding vows into various programs or to digital artists to have them professionally designed. Print them on canvas or large poster paper and frame them for a timeless, precious gift (and future family heirloom). BONUS: Now’s the time to edit and polish your vows if they weren’t perfect. Who’s gonna know?
6. Personalized prints
Wait… you want me to put my deepest emotions on the wall where the UPS guy and neighbor kids can see them?? Ok, so maybe hanging your wedding vows is a little more intimate than you’re willing to get. You can still choose a unique gift that is thoughtful without compromising your romantic privacy. You can find ways to memorialize important stages of your relationship in paper for this first anniversary. Consider the following:
- A map of the city where you met
- Lyrics to your wedding song
- A star map of the the night you met or your wedding date
- A favorite or meaningful quote
These types of prints will always be a conversation starter, so choose something interesting and display it prominently in your home.
7. Framed art
A gorgeous piece of artwork can be a showstopper for everyone who enters your home for the rest of your lives. Think of it as an investment piece that will prompt conversations and memories for the duration of your relationship. Photography, too, can make an excellent first year wedding anniversary gift. Choose your favorite engagement or wedding photo to immortalize (like your wife in her gorgeous wedding dress or the loved ones gathered around you on your special day). Just make sure it’s one your spouse actually likes too, or else this could backfire. Fair warning.
In general, bigger is better when it comes to artwork and photography, but don’t let that stop you from getting your spouse a meaningful work of art even if your budget is tiny. A small work of art or photograph that means something to them can become a treasure. Choose the best frame you can afford and place it somewhere your spouse will see it daily.
If your spouse is more into experiences than material goods, tickets are the way to go. A paper ticket is the gateway to experiencing something incredible with your spouse, whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime concert, a home game of your favorite sports team, flights to a new adventure, or even a thoughtfully chosen movie at your local cinema.
Be sure to save the ticket stubs to remember this first anniversary gift and experience you enjoyed together. Start a ticket stub album, or display them in a shadow box or frame.
If your partner is more practically minded, sentimental gifts like love notes or paper flowers may seem frivolous. But there are still great paper gifts for the spouses who are unimpressed with mushy romance. Mark your first anniversary by gifting your spouse a special book. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- A copy of your favorite book
- A first edition of their favorite book
- Their favorite book signed by the author
- Two copies of a new book to read together
- A travel guide to their dream destination
Find an independently owned local bookstore and speak to the owner or manager to help you find something truly special that will blow your reader away. You can also write a special message to your partner inside the cover (or slip a note inside if writing in books makes you cringe) so they can always remember this meaningful paper anniversary.
We might not write paper letters like we used to, but that doesn’t mean personalized stationery isn’t useful. From envelopes to custom stamps to list pads and business cards, nearly everyone has use for paper goods. And what’s better than using custom designed stationery? It’s a major flex. Stationery also makes a romantic gift if it reflects your new married address or changed name.
This option can work for any budget, as a personalized notebook or monogrammed journal can cost less than your standard DoorDash budget. Take the time to think about paper products that your partner might actually use. Notebooks, calendars, and sticky notes are a safe bet, even for the most technologically minded. Thank you notes are an important part of adult life,and much more likely to be used if they’re personalized. (Wait. You HAVE sent thank you notes for all your wedding gifts right? If not… yikes. Get on it before Aunt Hilda writes you out of the will.) Professionals might use letterhead or business cards in their daily work, so consider workplace appropriate options.
Celebrating Your 1st Wedding Anniversary
The best paper anniversary gift is the one that highlights your relationship and the things you love about your spouse. But just in case you need a little help planning that special day, here are a few tips for your 1st wedding anniversary.
- Set expectations. Sure, surprises are nice, but it’s more important that you set clear expectations for your anniversary gifts. Some individuals were raised in homes where wedding anniversaries were not acknowledged, let alone celebrated. Others might have seen their parents exchange elaborate and expensive gifts each year. Decide what will work best for you as a married couple and consider a budget.
- Discuss priorities. Maybe a night away is more meaningful than a tangible gift. Perhaps you’d rather buy an anniversary gift you can both enjoy rather than exchanging individual gifts. It’s all about what will work best for you to celebrate this wedding anniversary.
- Look ahead. For the traditional first anniversary, many couples look back at their wedding day. You should definitely remember your special day, but don’t forget to take the time to talk about your future. Discuss what you’ve accomplished in your first year of marriage and what your goals are for the next year.
- It’s the thought that counts. You’ve heard the expression, but it truly applies to wedding anniversaries. No matter your budget or amount of time available, you can make the first wedding anniversary special so long as you spend some time thinking about your spouse and how to honor them.
We hope you have an incredible first anniversary, with many more to follow.
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