PaintingYour first anniversary is coming up.  You’ve been married for eleven and a half blissful months and you’ve written almost all the thank-you notes for the wedding gifts.  And now, you have to think about an anniversary gift.

Paper, Rock, Aluminum

You can go with the tried and true and Google “anniversary present by year,” where you’ll learn that you’re supposed  to celebrate your first anniversary with a gift of paper.  You can get your honey a meaningful magazine subscription, lottery tickets, or the boxed DVD set of The Paper Chase.  I’m feeling his excitement all the way from here.  Zzzz.  He can get you wallpaper, stationery, or paper dolls.  (He’s a man:  he’s going to take the whole “paper” thing a lot more literally than you are.)  If you follow this method, you’ll be giving each other gifts of sugary sweets or iron on your sixth anniversary (Really?) and coral on your thirty-fifth.  (That might be okay if it includes a trip to the Great Coral Reef.)  If, however, you don’t want to stick with the traditional list, and you don’t want to be exchanging meaningless lingerie, gadgets, sweaters, and hobby paraphernalia (that’s what you’ll get each other for Christmases and birthdays, after all), consider doing what my husband and I have done since our first anniversary:  buy art.

Remembrance of Things Past

There are three great benefits to this.  First, you do it together.  It becomes an outing, or a series of outings to galleries and art fairs as your anniversary approaches.  Hubby and I really look forward to spending that time together; we draw it out as long as possible. Second, you can get something that commemorates your year together.  For our first anniversary, we lived in Texas, so we have a lovely oil painting of a bluebonnet landscape.  On our second, we were vacationing in Ireland, so we got a watercolor of the Irish coastline.  Other artworks relate to when we had children, funny or meaningful moments together, or events and successes we want to cherish together.  (The one year we were really having marital difficulties we got a still life of pears.  I mean, a still life.  Is that symbolic or what?  It’s the only one in a collection closing in on twenty-two works of art.)  Third, the art lasts.  It’s not a lace thong you’re going to discard when you gain a few pounds, or a gadget that will break the second time your husband uses it.  It’s forever (kind of like those rings on your fingers).  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Stick to a Budget

The art doesn’t have to be expensive.  We’ve gotten pieces from art fairs, college student showings, and traditional galleries.  The key is to set your budget before you look at anything, and then go places that are likely to have pieces at or below your budget.  If your budget is $100, don’t start off in a hoity-toity San Francisco or New York gallery. Be creative.  We’ve framed maps as artwork, and have pieces in acrylic, pastel, oils, watercolor, stone, bronze and batik.  One year we bought a piano.  It’s a good idea to tuck a note on the back of a painting or under a sculpture to remind you what anniversary it commemorated and why you got it.  Trust me—you’ll forget.   Tom and I have had many a conversation about “Did we get that pheasant and fox pastel for our fourth anniversary or our fifth?  Was that falcon sculpture from New Mexico or did we get it here in town?”

The Art of Compromise

Be prepared to compromise.  It’s a rare year when we both love a piece equally.  Some years when he loves, loves, loves a painting, I’ll let him sway me to it.  He does the same for me another year.  That we don’t both love it equally doesn’t lessen the value of the piece to us; it increases it because it comes with that extra measure of sacrificial love so necessary to making a marriage work.

It’s never too late to start this tradition.  Whether you have yet to reach your first anniversary, or you’re coming up on your sixteenth anniversary and you’re tired of trading golf balls and spa gift certificates, consider giving each other a gift of togetherness and inspiration.

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