You’ve made it! Congratulations on a whole 365 days (or 366 if you’re like my husband Matt and me and you have a leap year first anniversary). Thankfully, we’ve really been savoring the year.

So you’ve pulled out some pictures and maybe some greeting cards from your big day to look through for good memories. The top layer of your cake is out of the freezer and thawing, and you’re probably wondering if it will even be edible.

The gift. Have you remembered your first-anniversary gift? 

Fear not. Let’s make this happen.

Looking specifically at the first anniversary, the Traditional Anniversary Gift List gives paper as its gift while the Modern List suggests clocks. 

Let’s have a little fun with this. Listed below are some ideas for each (some more conventional, some on the more creative side) organized by budget.

Modern List: Clocks

“What time is it?” Time your anniversary, of course! The world of clocks is surprisingly expansive. I did not realize the extent and variety of how many are out there, including some really sleek and contemporary ones. If you’d like to think outside the box, there are opportunities for watches, sundials and more. Analog or digital, there will be something that suits the needs of everyone.

Budget-friendly options

A modern clock

Image via MoMA Design Store

Give your other half a gift that’s just like you and your LGBTQ+ marriage—shiny, new and incredibly modern. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art has an online store with interestingly shaped alarm clocks in fun colors that start at $20 ranging up to avant-garde timepieces of all shapes and sizes priced for thousands. Whatever your budget, you’re bound to find something useful and thoughtful with this route. (, $20+)

A DIY clock

A DIY clock. Speaking from experience, it is surprising how easy it is to make a clock. The website has everything you would need in terms of mechanics (really just a motor and the hands). The clockface you choose is up to you—perhaps it’s a movie poster of a film you both like. Maybe it’s a vinyl record that you both enjoy. If you use small enough hands, maybe it could even be a copy of your wedding invitation. The possibilities are endless. (, approx. $20+)

Moderately priced option


Image via BestNest

Perfect for a spouse with a green thumb, this sundial would look great in just about any garden. A more creative way to celebrate the first wedding anniversary, this particular one from BestNest is inscribed with, “Grow Old Along With Me/The Best Is Yet to Be.” In other words, it’s practically throwing itself at newlyweds coming up on their one-year mark. (BestNest, $79)

High-end option


Image via Apple

The smartwatch is the quintessential modern first-anniversary gift of the 21st century. It takes the tradition of the wristwatch and brings with it the technological advances and conveniences of our time. The wonderful thing about a smartwatch is that it’s not just a watch, but it can do just about anything you need it to do. (Various brands, $200+)

Traditional List: Paper

Here’s the beauty of giving paper as a gift: The paper itself doesn’t necessarily have to be the gift. Instead, what’s indicated on the paper could be the gift. It’s this wonderful loophole of the traditional first-year anniversary gift that unlocks a whole lot of potential.

Budget-friendly options

A thoughtfully written letter or poem 

Unless you splurge on the paper you’re writing it on and the pen you’re using, this literally costs nothing to do and is a gift that comes from the best place—the heart.


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Image via “Why you should absolutely do a post-wedding photo shoot”

Maybe not just any book, but maybe a selection of books. Maybe the first edition of your love’s favorite book, or the next in a series that they’re reading. Or maybe you get them the whole series. Perhaps a cookbook is in order here if they like the kitchen, and if they follow through with its use, I would say that’s a win-win. Bon appetit? (Barnes and Noble, $20+)

Newspaper or magazine subscription

I mean, I wouldn’t call reading the news in 2020 the most uplifting experience, but if you have a news junkie of a spouse, or if your spouse has a hobby that offers a niche publication, maybe this is your way to go! (Various prices)

Moderately priced options

Personalized stationery

Image via The Paper Source

I freaking love The Paper Source. I can’t wait to move into our forever home specifically so I can order a personalized return address stamp from them kind of love. Their styles are contemporary, versatile, polished and certainly something you would want your name on. With that said, perhaps personalized stationery is your answer. (The Paper Source, $35+)

Framed coordinates poster

Image via Etsy

This offers a gift that is equal parts traditional in its paper contents, modern in its aesthetic. It comes with both simplicity and meaning. You can easily dress up a living room or bedroom wall with this poster and a beautiful frame (Etsy, $10+ for poster, $15+ for frame)

Night sky poster

Image via Etsy

Riffing on the previous idea, this poster includes the same option of coordinates, but also adds the element of the map of the night sky for a specific date. This idea is nice for all of the same reasons, but there is an element of freezing your relationship in time and commemorating the date and moment that you are looking to commemorate in time (Etsy, $38 for unframed poster, $63 with frame)


Tickets to a sporting event, concert, or music event.

You know yourselves. This could be a great combination of a date experience and an anniversary gift. Have fun!

High-end options

Pack-up + Go

Image via Pack Up + Go

This is one I have wanted to try since I’ve heard about it. The premise behind a Pack Up + Go experience is that their staff fully plans a vacation getaway within the United States based on survey questions its clients complete. These include budget, dietary concerns, travelers’ interests and vacation type and length. 

The paper comes in at the most exciting part: The travelers do not know where they are going until they unveil a piece of paper with their destination when they arrive at the airport. (Pack Up + Go, you set the budget)

Deed to a new place to live, a new car or a vacation home.

I know, I know. But let me daydream for a minute! While one of these things may be more attainable on your twenty-first, thirty-first or forty-first anniversary after a lifetime of saving, everyone’s gift-giving style and financial means are different.

Good luck and happy anniversary. May this be the first of many.

William Travers (pen name) and his husband Matthew were married at The Piermont in Babylon, New York, in August 2019. At that point, they had been together for nearly five years. William is a public school teacher on Long Island, and Matthew works at a nearby university. Together they blissfully enjoy shared interests in television, travel and food.