Let’s start by stepping back into the history of romantic gifts…
The tradition of anniversary gifts dates back to medieval times. Move aside images of bloody knights battling in muddy fields, horrific plagues and gloomy, damp castles. From the medieval darkness came a blossoming romantic movement of courtly love, sentimental poetry and knights duelling for the honour of women.
Nowadays, there’s less jousting involved as modern-day anniversary gifts for him or her come from wedding symbols. The materials behind these gifts reflect the strengthening of the relationship as the years go on; starting with cotton in year 1 (or paper in the US) and increasing as your investment in each other does until you arrive at gold after 50 years of wedded life together.
Of course, you could choose to be original and go off-piste with a unique personalised gift, a one-off for the love of your life. Historically, this idea has been taken to the extreme…
The Taj Mahal is an exquisite mausoleum, commissioned in 1632 by the famous Mughal ruler Shah Jahan. It was a memorial to his beloved wife when she died giving birth to their 14th child. Frankly, any mother who conceives 14 children deserves a Taj Mahal built in her honour.
At 32 million rupees (about $1 billion today) it’s a bit of a stretch for that first-year anniversary gift budget. Then again, as the Taj took 22 years to build, you could spread the cost over the next 22 anniversary gifts. I’m sure she wouldn’t grumble.
King Nebuchadnezzar 11 was not one to do things by half when it came to romantic gifts. When his wife Queen Amytis started to miss the plants from her homeland, he built her the 75ft high Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
I have no idea how you follow up on this gift the next year. Perhaps, it would be wiser to start with a pot plant and work progressively upwards through the flower, shrub and topiary gifts until you surprise her with a hanging garden on your 50th anniversary? Up to you.
Count Grigory Orlov was a charmer with the ladies. Legend has it that he gave a 198-carat diamond (that’s a whopper) to the Russian empress Catherine the Great, to win back her heart.
It failed. She went on to marry the military leader Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin.
What’s the moral of the story? It’s not always the thought that counts, even if that’s what The Count thought. Ehm.
Let’s reel things in a bit for us mere mortals.
The good news is you don’t need a royal budget or half a lifetime to create something wonderful and meaningful.
Take a journey back through the chapters of your love story.
- Where did your love story begin?
Tequila shots aside. Was it a mutual friend, a common interest, or pure serendipity? The universe works in wonderful ways. As do those clever algorithms in Tinder.
Unlike the movies, the chances are it didn’t happen at a snowy Times Square on New Year’s Eve or sharing an umbrella on a rainswept Notting Hill at Christmas. From our research into the UK’s most unexpected romantic spots, cupid twangs his love bow in some pretty down-to-earth places – like the frozen food aisle at the supermarket or your local Accident & Emergency room.
- Where were you when you realised that he or she was The One?
This isn’t always easy to put your finger on as it isn’t always a big dramatic moment. Sometimes it’s a simple act of kindness or unconditional love that takes you by surprise.
Sometimes it’s something they said that sends you into a bout of uncontrollable laughter. Sense of humour always scores higher than looks.
But often it’s more subtle. It’s a feeling that slowly wraps its arms around you as you realise that person brings completeness to your life.
- What other key moments have a special place in your story?
A friend of mine decided to propose to his girlfriend on a warm summer’s evening on London Bridge.
To put this moment in context, she had been waiting to get engaged for 8 years and it had started to put a strain on their relationship. So he thought the least he could do was plan the day meticulously.
He went down on one knee and pulled out the little red box containing the ring. As he opened it he nervously fumbled the ring which fell from his clammy grasp.
She watched with horror as it rolled off the bridge into the swirling river Thames below.
After a long silence, he looked up to her and said ‘Whoops’.
He then pulled a second box with the real ring out of his other pocket and with a smile asked for her hand in marriage!
Whilst love ebbs and flows over time, that special place you tied the knot or took your Honeymoon is a rich source of nostalgia that you can dip into for an anniversary gift. Whether things went to plan or not, really doesn’t matter as symbolically this the moment of commitment to share a life together.
My wife and I spent a night of our honeymoon in a hammock under a corrugated iron roof in a $10/night homestead in Northern Colombia. We were pelted by a plague of flying locusts most of the night. Not exactly the honeymoon suite my wife had in mind when she said ‘I do’. However, I can report that, with the passage of time, this night is now a memory that adds colour to our story. And that not only I laugh about.
I hope answering these questions has helped you capture the moments of your story to make any anniversary gift that much more meaningful.
These were questions that helped us create The Map of Everyone. This romantic gift may not be as impressive as The Taj Mahal but it is a unique way to celebrate your love story. And it’s definitely a little faster to make.