A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Anniversary Traditions That Keep Happy Couples Happy

Updated: Nov. 28, 2022

These sweet rituals are not just sentimental. Whether you do them once a year or once a day, they’ll keep the love alive through thick and thin, in sickness and health, and everywhere in between.

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Celebrate the little things

“On our anniversary, we reminisce about our wedding—it snowed that day!—and our first year of our marriage. It was a hard year for us; filled with uncertainties and unexpected emergencies. One of our sweetest traditions is going apple picking in the fall. Picking our own apples, drinking apple cider, and having a great conversation always deepens our connection; it’s a tradition we do every year. As a couple, we’ve learned the importance of celebrating both the big and the small ‘wins.’” —Ashley and Marcus Kusi, podcast hosts, authors of Communication in Marriage; married 6 years

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Pursue a shared interest

“We have to be proactive, with both spouses making an effort to help the love deepen and mature. That won’t happen without connecting and growing together. So, be intentional! Spend time together on a shared interest or activity every day, even if it’s for 15 minutes. One of the best ways to do this is working on projects together—our joint project is a relationship advice blog.” —Ashley and Marcus Kusi
(Related: You’ll be surprised by these other secrets of happily married couples.)

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Make sure to mark the occasion

“An anniversary is an important marker each year for a couple. It’s a time when couples look back on the year and evaluate, consciously or unconsciously, how well the marriage is doing. Are we happy? Do we still like/love each other? One thing I see happy couples do is make their anniversary and the celebration of their anniversary a priority. As such, they stop to acknowledge their relationship and celebrate it, no matter what else is going on. It’s easy when you have young children and work demands to let a proper celebration fall by the wayside, but the message that unintentionally gets communicated is, “You don’t matter that much.” Happy couples don’t blow off their anniversary. Celebrating it is an acknowledgement of how much they treasure the marriage and one another.” —Lee Berg Marchesani, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Orinda, California

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iStock/Dean Mitchell

Make it a family affair

“I’ve been married for 16 years. My husband proposed on the beach in Coney Island and afterward we rode the Wonder Wheel, so one anniversary we did that again. We got married at the Westbury Manor in Long Island, and we often go there for dinner on our anniversary and slow dance to their piano player. One year, we didn’t want to leave the kids for too long or spend a lot of money, so we took “Cruise to Nowhere,” which circles Manhattan. We all spent one wonderful night on the cruise ship.” —Paulette Sherman, PhD, New York-based psychologist, author of The Book of Sacred Baths

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iStock/Jacob Wackerhausen

Remember the good old days

“When couples share memorable times, it is a consistent reminder of their love for each other through the years that deepens their bond. It’s very positive for couples to relive special dates when they were first getting to know each other; silly moments and fun times during the dating stage; and the celebrations around the marriage ceremony. It’s important to keep those beautiful memories top of mind so when struggles do occur, the sense of being in the relationship together and going through the challenge united is a present reality.” —Nancy Pina, licensed relationship counselor, Houston, Texas (Related: These 11 signs help you know you can trust your partner.)

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Write love letters

“Remember how excited you were to receive a little love letter or note from your pre-teen crush? A good old-fashioned handwritten note keeps things romantic and heartfelt. Writing a letter about all the things you appreciate about your spouse keeps the respect and romance alive. It also helps couples stay motivated and invested in doing kind things for each other, rather than feeling that they’re been taken for granted.” —Aida Vazin, Marriage and Family Therapist, Newport Beach, California 

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Observe marriage milestones

“The first anniversary is a romantic time to recreate the day you proposed. Take a bottle of wine to the park bench where you popped the question or make reservations at the restaurant where you got down on one knee. It’s a great time to reflect together on the adventures the first year of marriage has brought, and share your fantasies about what the next years will bring. For the fifth anniversary, try a weekend getaway, sans kids. In the early years of parenthood, it’s easy to forget how important it is to keep the romance alive with time for just the two of you. Pick somewhere dreamy that reflects the things you enjoy together. A decade together—wow, 10 years!—deserves a party. Book your favorite restaurant, rent a house on the beach, charter a party boat—pick somewhere creative and fun to bring your friends and family. It’s no small feat to have weathered the ups and downs 10 years can bring, and still be going strong.” —Charlee Brotherton, relationship expert and founder of Executive Matchmakers (Related: Check out the marriage advice of people who have been together for 50+ years.)

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Toast your spouse

“Make the time to really show your spouse how great you think they are. I often have couples do this ‘flooding’ exercise: The admiring spouse walks around their partner, who is sitting down, pausing briefly to look in the spouse’s eyes, and then shares three physical characteristics, three behaviors, and three qualities he or she likes about the spouse, one fact per circle. With each successive comment, the spouse raises his or her voice and excitement level, eventually shouting out a global affirmation of why he or she loves the spouse. This exercise really changes the energy in the room and the relationship, and allows the spouse on the receiving end to truly feel cherished.” —Rabbi Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin, founders, The Marriage Restoration Project (Related: Don’t miss the 10 things you should tell your spouse every day for a happier marriage.)

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Gaze into each other eyes

“Life can be hectic and we don’t often think to nurture the meaningful connection we once had, when we could truly bask in each other’s presence. Taking the time to gaze into your partner’s eyes is a refreshing reminder, ‘Oh, it’s you! Where have you been all this time?’ The deep intimacy you can instantly experience by looking into each other’s eyes is a wonderful way to reconnect and remind yourselves of why you fell in love.” —Rabbi Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin

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Dance—even with two left feet

“One little tradition my wife Keren and I do every anniversary is pour a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne and slow dance to ‘Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.’ It was the song that played while Keren walked down the aisle at our wedding. She is Puerto Rican and can dance circles around me, while I can’t get my hips to move to salsa or merengue! So a nice little side-to-side slow dance is good for me! We’ve been married for almost 5 years.” —Hunt Ethridge, NYC-based dating and relationship expert

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Keep up with date nights

“Happy couples have regular date nights, or lunches, on a weekly basis, and don’t allow anything—unless it’s a family emergency such as serious illness or death—to interfere. I know a couple who are both busy professionals with four children. He’s an attorney and has cancelled or postponed court dates; she has her own business and doesn’t allow work obligations to interfere. They report that this practice has been a constant reminder of how each of them honors the value of their relationship.” —Shelli Chosak, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist, San Diego, California

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Avoid generic gifts

“I recently had a client who received a diamond and ruby necklace from her husband for their anniversary. On the outside, most women would think, ‘Wow, he hit the ball out of the park!’ But there’s a catch—his wife absolutely hates rubies. For whatever reason, she just does not like them. To her, this gift showed he didn’t really know her at all; she felt like he wasn’t paying attention to anything she said. When it comes to gift giving; it’s not about how much money you spend, but rather it’s about selecting something clearly, uniquely selected for your partner. Did he or she hint to you about a cool new watch? Upload a photo to Instagram of a cake decorating kit, or a surfboard? Pay close attention to what your spouse is saying when it comes to gift-giving.” —Jenn Mann, PhD, Los Angeles-based psychotherapist, author of The Relationship Fix

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Put some energy into it

“Wear an article of clothing like a dress, jacket, or scarf from your first date; go on a scavenger hunt and hide meaningful clues from each year you’ve been married leading up to the current anniversary; create a slide show of yourselves through the years (even include baby pictures from both husband and wife); create a music library of all the special songs over the years. It’s so personal and so sentimental.” —Wendy O’Connor, PhD, licensed marriage & family therapist, Los Angeles, California (Related: Draw inspiration from these 40+ creative romantic ideas.)

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Remember to laugh

“Here’s some advice from Jayne and Al—my parents, who have been married for 53 years: ‘It’s all about chemistry, communication, and humor! Laugh, laugh, laugh!’ Even the story of how my parents met is funny: My mom was one of the original Doublement Twins in Wrigley’s gum commercials. My dad was working at CBS Radio in Chicago, where my mom and my aunt were doing radio shows. My dad asked my aunt out; she said, ‘No, but my sister will go out with you!’ She’s kicked herself ever since! Today, mom’s 78 and dad’s 83, and they’re still very much in love.” —Wendy O’Connor

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Create personal traditions

“Alexa and I first met first as teenagers in the 1980s and drank sparkling water out of wine glasses—we weren’t old enough to drink yet. We both went away to school after a few summers of friendship. Whenever we reconnected through the years, we would toast a Perrier together to celebrate. In adulthood, we both found ourselves living in Indiana. On our first adult date in 2005—finally of legal age!—we drank champagne. We wed in Chicago on the first day it was legal, and celebrated with some Prosecco. So, we’ve celebrated, and continue to celebrate, each anniversary with a sparkling beverage of some sort—a tradition familiar to us since we were teens!” —Samantha Aulick (and Alexa Lemley), Indiana 

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest