The Baby Boom generation has put its own stamp on many traditions, so why should 25th wedding anniversaries be different? Many couples are ditching convention when it comes to marking the milestone.
“When they get to these more dramatic occasions, so many couples want to do something exciting and different,” says Charles Schmitz of St. Louis. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are marriage counselors and authors, most recently of “How to Marry the Right Guy” (Briarcliff, 2014). “They don’t want to go to their favorite Italian restaurant.”
Schmitz says that “upending experiences,” whether that’s going on safari or serving dinner “all splendid in nothing,” strengthen marriages, especially when they involve “thinking about those wonderful moments in our relationships.
“It’s celebrating those milestones like you’re letting your hair blow in the wind riding in a torch-red Mustang convertible,” he says.
For many of us, however, that may be easier said than done; there are time and money constraints, to say nothing of not owning that Mustang — yet.
Celebrating your 25th in a meaningful way doesn’t require big expenditures or elaborate staging, says Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington-Seattle sociologist who works with AARP’s Life Reimagined program.
“A 25th anniversary can be celebrated in two ways. One is celebrating who you have been to each other. The other is celebrating the future,” she says.
Keeping the occasion in perspective — i.e., not freaking out — is also wise.
“This isn’t the last thing you do before you jump off the face of the Earth,” Schwartz says. “It’s a big moment, and it deserves to be celebrated by something memorable that makes you excited for the future.”
Here are 10 ideas to do that, some of which require very little money or planning.
As Schwartz says: “You mark the day, but it doesn’t have to be a trip to Africa.”
1. Change things up at home. That could mean anything from stringing celebratory lights outside to sprucing up the house. Paint the bedroom wall or rearrange your living room furniture. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s “just something that says, this changed on our 25th,” Schwartz says.
2. Do something especially romantic at home. Read poetry to each other by candlelight, for instance. Or have your favorite food for dinner, even if it involves marshmallows.
3. Mark the day permanently, which doesn’t necessarily mean getting a tattoo (although if you’re considering it, now could be good time). Inscribe a small plaque with the date and occasion, and put it on a piece of outdoor furniture. Or have a professional photo taken of the two of you. Write your names in a slab of wet cement.
4. Have a day of service — to each other. If you usually cook and your spouse mows the lawn, switch jobs for the day. Neither of you will get off scot free, but the effort shows you’re willing to help carry the burden.
5. Have a day of service — to others. Do something charitable, whether it’s making a donation somewhere or serving dinner at a shelter. It’s nice to be reminded after 25 years how good we have it.
6. Learn something new together. It doesn’t matter what: speaking French, tending to bonsai trees, restoring cars, learning massage therapy. When not in class, you can study together, and eventually apply your new skills.
7. Start an annual tradition doing something you both enjoy. Planting a tree, say, or going to a pottery place to make an anniversary plate. Not only do you and your spouse get a shared experience year after year but, depending on the activity, you could create a collection of mementoes, too.
8. If you’re going to travel, make it an adventure. Hike the Grand Tetons, go whitewater rafting or learn to scuba dive. If you have the itch to travel but not the cash, look into a house exchange. And sure, if you really want to, it’s OK to go to Disney World without the kids.
9. Have a party, but make it sort of retro. You were married in the 1990s after all! Event planner Jason Jani, owner of the SCE Event Group, suggests making a playlist of songs from the year you were married and showing videos from the wedding. If you’re renewing your vows, invite your bridesmaids and groomsmen back to recreate their roles. And if you still have your dress, wear it.
10. Finally, when all else fails, you can do what Schmitz said: Let your hair blow in the wind while riding around in a torch-red Mustang convertible. He and his wife did buy a Mustang, and make sure to drive it with the top down at least once a month regardless of the weather. Perhaps you can borrow one.