An Age-Old Tradition
For generations, the traditional first anniversary gift has been paper. This tradition dates back to the Victorian Era (1837-1901), and has a long history! Today, many loving spouses still celebrate their one year wedding anniversary with a paper gift: Stationary, an art print, or paper jewelry. Why do we follow this tradition, and why do we give paper? (Paper is such a simple, everyday material!) Although there is no definitive answer why paper is the traditional 1st anniversary gift, there are many different theories circulating about the symbolism of paper and the first year of marriage. Feel free to formulate your own personal meaning about this age-old tradition. After all, that’s what marriage traditions are all about- constructing rituals and traditions that resonate with you as a couple, and hold deep meaning as the years go on.
Paper Represents the Blank Page
When you’re born, your life is a blank slate. With each stepping stone, you progressively fill the pages with new experiences, emotions, and accomplishments. An anniversary is a fresh, new start to a new year together.
Paper Reminds us of the Fragile and Modest Beginnings of Marriage
Paper is a modest, fragile, and inexpensive material. The traditional anniversary gifts for the early years start simple (paper for the first anniversary, cotton for the second anniversary) and become more luxurious (gold, diamonds) as time goes on, symbolizing modest beginnings and the growth of a marriage. The fragility of paper also encapsulates the delicate state of newlywed life, which grows stronger and solidifies over time. In some cultures, like in Japan, the simple material of paper is art in itself. Chiyogami Paper (it means thousand generation paper is made with an intricate process.
Paper Symbolizes Writing your Future Together
In a new marriage, it feels like anything is possible. It’s a time to celebrate new opportunities, and to build your future together. It’s your chance to write, and build your future life story! Your first wedding anniversary is a time to look toward your future as a fresh new page, and reflect on what you want to write (or illustrate) as a couple. Life is yours to create!
Paper Symbolizes the True Interweaving of Your Lives
Alone, paper fibers are just wisps that can be blown with the slightest wind. When turned into paper, the fibers are tightly interwoven and strong. Similarly, a marriage means choosing to intertwine your lives, and to come together to create something strong and beautiful. This is one popular meaning of the “paper anniversary.”
Paper is a Reminder of Natural Growth
Paper is highly tied to the natural world. It can be made from trees, bamboo, cotton or plants. Even the largest trees grow and flourish from a small seed. Consequently, paper symbolizes newness, natural life and growth. Just as a tree grows strong, a marriage builds from one small seed, into a strong tree.
Paper is the Eternal Proclamation
Paper is a timeless form of expression that has been used for thousands of years to eternalize words and declarations. Paper evokes images of love letters written by candlelight, old photographs, Shakespearian poetry, dramatic literature, or even a marriage license. It’s an age-old form of communication and therefore, it takes on an important role in the history of human relationships. Despite digital technology, it remains valuable because it symbolizes preservation and communicating intimacy. Documenting your one year anniversary on paper is one way to cherish that memory forever.
A Meaningful First Anniversary Gift
On your first wedding anniversary, take that symbolic piece of paper and cherish it. Turn the page without any regrets. The paper is there to remind you of the origins of your love and the beginning of your story. After reading these theories why paper is the traditional first anniversary gift, it is your turn to decide what meaning paper plays for your relationship, and start your own tradition for your marriage!