Are Anniversary Gifts Necessary?

You may have an anniversary approaching, and whether it’s your first or your fifteenth, you may be wondering: Are anniversary gifts really necessary? Sure, they’re appreciated, but then again…are they?

There are so many gift-giving occasions during the year that sometimes you wonder if maybe a nice dinner out is enough for an anniversary celebration. You’re not necessarily wrong: giving a gift just to check a to-do item off the list isn’t helpful.

If you’re not excited by giving an anniversary gift, they won’t be excited about getting an anniversary gift. But a truly thoughtful gift can be the difference between a good anniversary celebration and a great one. But do you decide if you need to buy a gift, and what the difference is between a good gift and a great one.

While the short answer is that no, gifts aren’t strictly necessary, there’s more to it. Making your significant other feel special is never a bad idea. Here are our thoughts on when you should and shouldn’t give anniversary gifts, and how to pick out the right one.

What Are Traditional Anniversary Gifts?

While milestone anniversaries (roughly every five years) have certain gifts or themes associated with them, there are some gifts that are commonly thought of as anniversary gifts. Flowers, especially roses, are standard anniversary gifts, and it’s tough to go wrong with flowers—though going to a florist for a professionally-prepared bouquet goes that extra mile. Jewelry is also a good option, as long as you have a good sense of your sweetheart’s style. A necklace is a good choice, because wrist and finger sizes can vary and you might not know those off the top of your head. A nice bottle of wine to split over a romantic meal is also a great gift.

Anything traditionally romantic makes a great gift. Try a book of romantic poems, or a handwritten letter about how much your significant other means to you.

You Don’t Get a Participation Trophy

When people say “It’s the thought that counts,” they don’t mean that any old gift will do. They mean that if a gift was heartfelt, it was a worthwhile gift. If you think you should get a gold star and a pat on the head for flowers from the grocery store with the price tag still stuck to the plastic, you may be missing the point.

We’re not suggesting you give up on gift giving all together. We’re suggesting that putting some care in and planning ahead will make your significant other feel special, while waiting until the last minute to do the bare minimum will have the opposite effect. In most cases, a gift without heart is worse than no gift at all.

Does My Significant Other Want a Gift At All?

It’s very possible your sweetheart doesn’t want a traditional anniversary gift like jewelry or a stuffed animal. If your partner is a very practical person or an extreme minimalist, they may consider even the most well-meaning gift to be clutter, and they may feel guilty about admitting it. They know that you mean well, whatever gift you choose. As always, knowing your partner well and communicating with them is key to keeping you both happy.

It may feel awkward to bring it up—you may feel like your partner expects you to be a mind reader. It’s totally understandable. But there are ways to find out what the perfect anniversary gift might be.

You don’t have to ask “What do you want for our anniversary?” but you can ask how they’d like to celebrate it. It may be that they’d like their gift to be an experience, like going to a musical or taking ballroom dancing lessons. The experience may be gift enough.

But if you know your partner well enough to know that they want to commemorate the anniversary, too, you can always supplement the experience with something thoughtful and tangible, like a souvenir from the experience or a new pair of shoes just for dancing. While some people want gifts that they’d never buy themselves, others are very practical—but it doesn’t mean they don’t have interest in enjoying their anniversary.

The Anxiety of “Surprise Me”

So you’ve been a good communicator and checked in with your sweetheart to see what kind of anniversary gift they’d like (if they want a gift at all). There could still be dangerous waters ahead: they could say “surprise me.” If you’re here wondering if you need to buy an anniversary gift at all, there’s no worse conundrum than “surprise me.”

“Surprise me” definitely means you need to buy a gift. The question is what. Here’s the good news: your significant other doesn’t actually want to be surprised. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, your partner has been dropping hints or has outright told you what they’d like as a gift. Make sure you keep your ears open in the weeks approaching your anniversary. While the gift itself is nice, the anniversary gift you’re giving here is mostly showing that you’ve been paying attention.

This may feel unfair, or like you’re being tested. Don’t take it personally. It’s understandable that you might feel that way. It would be great if they could just be open about what they wanted as a gift. But really, “surprise me” is just your partner letting you know that part of what they’d like as a gift is to feel like you’re listening. Give it a shot.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.