Celebrating marriage of 40 years is a special milestone. In researching traditions as well as new ways to honor this landmark day, I found a number of unique and interesting ideas. If you have a 40th anniversary coming up or you are seeking ideas for honoring someone else’s special day, this article will spark some thoughtful ideas and insights.
What should I know about an upcoming 40th wedding anniversary? Traditionally, symbols of the 40th anniversary include: rubies (gemstone), nasturtiums (flowers), and the color red. Gifts range from something traditional within those categories (rubies, flowers, or something red-themed) to more unique ideas of pampering get-aways, travel-related adventures, or sentimental gifts such as a scrap book filled with captured memories through photos and stories. Special anniversary parties can be customized by combining the couple’s current preferences, while sprinkling in memories throughout the theme and celebration.
A combination approach would be most interesting. Rather than sticking too closely to solely traditional symbols and ideas, use tradition as a base and then add in a new flair based on things you know about the specific couple celebrating their special day.
40th Wedding Anniversary Meaning
The symbol of 40th wedding anniversary is a ruby because people believe rubies are filled with an internal flame. The flame symbolizes the passion existing in such a long-lasting marriage after being together for 40 years.
Rubies are actually considered to be rarer than diamonds. They are symbols of wisdom, wealth, health, and naturally, passion.
A fun way to honor the 40th wedding anniversary with by sharing a glass or ruby red port or red wine – just the two of you or with party guests. You can give a meaningful toast to both the enjoyable past and the exciting and joyful expected future.
40th Wedding Anniversary Gift Ideas
Gift ideas range from traditional to unique and personal. If the couple celebrating their 40th anniversary appreciates tradition, you may want to lean toward incorporating ruby gemstones or the color ruby-red into your choice of gift(s).
Aside from actual gemstones, you could opt for red candles, red glasses, a red vase or centerpiece. But consider that couples who have reached this milestone are probably at a point in their lives when they’re downsizing. If this is the case, more “stuff” if probably not the best choice, unless it’s sentimental kinds of stuff.
Other gift ideas, though less traditional, can have more significance and be less about “things” and more about experiences. So if you’re gifting a “thing,” ensure it has some kind of personal meaning. (And if you want to incorporate a bit of tradition, opt for red if you have a choice of color.)
Here’s a list of non-traditional gift ideas:
- Create a scrap book filled with photos and stories about fun or funny memories about the couple. Include pictures and stories about family members, kids, grandkids, trips they’ve taken, things they love, places they’d like to visit, dreams they hope to achieve.
- Paint or buy a piece of art that depicts something that represents the couple’s love for each other. Do they have pet names for each other that could be represented in a painting? Do they enjoy visiting a particular place? Do they love a particular kind of tree or flower? The art could represent anything the couple holds dear to their heart.
- If the couple is very philanthropic or giving, and perhaps are the kind of couple who seems to have everything they need, consider giving a donation in their name and honor to a charity they support. (Naturally let them know you’ve done this…or even tell them what you’re thinking and ask for their input about where to donate on their behalf.)
- Hire someone to make a hand-made quilt in their honor. Consider finding fabric with designs that incorporate some ideas from their childhood or some of their favorite things and give the fabric of choice to the person making the quilt.
For example, if the couple loves France and has always dreamed of taking a trip to Paris, choose fabrics with images that represent Paris and French themes.
Another idea is to make it more of a family quilt project where each family member is designated a square. They could use fabric markers to write special notes or share memories right on their fabric square.
To add in the traditional flair, ensure that the overall color scheme includes ruby red.
- Tickets to a local play, musical, opera, symphony, or comedy show – whatever you think they’d enjoy most. Check out the list of performances in their location and either buy tickets for something specific, or if the venue offers gift certificates, which may be a good choice for the couple to choose which performance to enjoy.
- His and hers robes and slippers. While this may add to their “stuff,” these are useful items – especially for couples who live in colder climates. Add a monogram to the robes for a more personal touch. And add in a couple of throw blankets (similar but not exactly the same) for a larger comfy gift.
- Create a “time capsule” by finding out what happened on the day they were married. This could be a fun project to get kids involved in creating. One website to find this type of information is FactMonster.
40th Wedding Anniversary Party Ideas
As with gifts and trips, party ideas should be thought about with the couple’s personalities in mind. This is one you can have fun with regardless of personalities, though. Honestly – even the stuffiest and grumpiest people tend to loosen up and enjoy a good party in their honor.
So here’s a list of 40th wedding anniversary party ideas and themes to consider:
- Travel theme – this is one of my favorites. If you know the couple well, you’ll know some of their favorite places – whether they’ve ever been there or not (if you don’t know, ask others who might…if all else fails, ask the couple directly!) Or, find out where they spent their honeymoon.
In any case, choose a travel/location theme and base your party around it. For example, for anyone who knows me, they know I LOVE New Orleans (and my husband does, as well). So a Mardi Gras theme would go over really well.
If they spent their honeymoon in Maui, for example, you could do a luau theme. If they love the beach, a beach theme would be great! Maybe they got married in Germany while one of them was stationed there in the military. In that case, you could serve German food – brats and German potato salad and dark beer.
You can see where I’m going with this. Choose a location that’s meaningful to them and design your party theme around that single idea.
- Family theme – for the couple who loves their kids and grandkids and bringing everyone together, a family theme is a natural fit. Invite as many family members to gather, and try to get others to pop in at some point using Skype or FaceTime or some visual way to connect long-distance for a few minutes.
Use someone’s smartphone and record little snippets of interviews with each family members. This can be done either before the party or during. Just ask each family member to share their favorite story, memory, or character traits about the couple. Then get creative in how to use those video snippets.
If the couple is phone savvy, text individual videos to both of them throughout the party, so they get little surprises and can find the family member at the party to connect with them.
- Are they music lovers? You could just have a simple party (whether formal or informal) and make the music the theme. If they love 50’s songs or 60’s songs or jazz or standards – whatever they really love, bring it out loud and clear. Hold the party in a location where dancing is an option.
- For party favors and decorations, remember that ruby red is the traditional color for 40th wedding anniversaries. So unless one of the individuals enjoying their anniversary hates red, ensure it’s one of the decoration theme colors – whether you’re adding in streamers, balloons, signs that say “Happy 40th Anniversary!,” plates, cups, tablecloths, etc. Red is often paired with white for 40th anniversary color schemes, so white tablecloths with red plates or vice versa could work.
- Order custom made M&Ms as party favors. You can choose red and white as the colors, or only red, and the couple’s initials to be printed on them. This is a fun way to add a special touch and have fun with the color scheme of incorporating RED into the party theme.
40th Wedding Anniversary Trip Ideas
Planning a trip for the special couple celebrating 40 years together really depends on what the couple enjoys. Sending inactive conservative homebodies on an adventure type of trip may be stressful and overwhelming, even if you think they need to get out and be more adventurous.
So in planning a trip, keep in mind what the couple would enjoy most as a way to celebrate 40 years together. Here are some ideas to get the thoughts flowing:
- For an active adventurous couple, pre-plan and pay for a zip-line, hiking trip, or something that exhilarates them and takes them out of their everyday experiences. (Naturally, if the couple is not physically fit or adventurous, this idea wouldn’t be the best choice!)
- For foodies, plan a weekend trip visiting a new city or town that offers unique dining experiences or cooking classes. Some cities are geared more toward food and cooking than others, so gauge the couple’s taste and then do some research.
For example, if the couple loves soul food, a weekend getaway somewhere in the south where soul food was born would be priceless. If they love Chinese or any kind of Asian food, find a nearby city with an Asian section (you’ll find these in San Francisco, Washington DC, and many other cities).
A bit of online research will help you identify the best nearby places to go based on what the couple enjoys most.
- For wine lovers, if you live near any wineries, plan a day of winery-hopping and rent a limo to drive them from one to the next (and send along a basket of prepared food, like cheese, salami, baguette or crackers, fruit, and chocolate). This would depend on where the couple lives or how far you want to send them.
Online research can point you in the right direction. Naturally, you’ll find wineries all throughout Wine Country in the Bay Area of Northern California, but you’ll also find them on the east coast. Charlottesville, VA has a number of fabulous wineries, as well as northern VA outside of Washington DC. North Carolina also has a number of growing wineries, and was the first producer of wine in the United States (so you could even combine a “wine trip” theme with a “history trip” theme).
- Set up a spa day for couples with a massage, natural hot springs or hot tub, and restaurant package. If you want to go bigger on this one, the spa package could be combined with a trip to a cabin in the mountains or a warm relaxing beach trip. How much you bundle into the trip depends on your budget, but for this trip, remember that relaxation is key!
- Plan a weekend get-away to their favorite city or special place. Whether it’s a nearby day trip, a weekend get-away, or an overseas flight, they will appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into planning a special trip to a place you know they already enjoy.
- If they are more social and enjoy family gatherings, invite family members from all over and rent a large cabin (or several small cabins or rooms somewhere) and just enjoy the company of family. Spend time during the gathering sharing memories and stories that make you smile.
- Book a cruise you think they’d enjoy. You’d need to research the best prices and ensure the couple is available during the dates you plan to book the trip. Check all details about cancellation policies prior to paying for the trip. Since you’re making reservations on someone else’s behalf, careful and detailed planning is key!
- For a more low-key simple pleasures kind of couple, a weekend trip filled with a picnic or two somewhere with nice weather is a good option. Plan out some picnic basket options (sending cold items in a cooler), and some beverages (wine, champagne, sparkling cider, port or sherry, or whatever they seem to enjoy when letting loose a bit).
You can personalize this as much as you want and have fun with it. You may want to plan a treasure hunt as part of the picnic and it can start with a note in the picnic basket telling them where to find the next clue. Again, knowing the couple will help to decide what they would enjoy most. They may prefer to enjoy their picnic without the distractions of finding clues, so their personality and preferences play a role here.
- For history fans, consider planning a trip for them to visit a historic site. Depending on where they live and if you interested in a day trip, driving for a weekend trip, or flying somewhere to enjoy the scenes, this will dictate your options.
Ideas around this theme could include locations that offer a “back in time” experience, like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia or Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Or it could be a historically famous location, such as nearby a haunted mansion or Alcatraz Island and penitentiary.
If they enjoy paranormal history, consider a location that offers really great ghost tours. It could be that one person the couple enjoys history more than the other, so find ways to balance the straight up historical slant with lighter side options.
40th Wedding Anniversary Wishes
For Your Spouse or Life Partner
Speaking or writing from the heart is the best way to go here. As long as you are sharing sentiments that reinforce your love and commitment toward your spouse or partner, you’re on the right track. Here are a few ideas you can use as a springboard to craft your own:
(Be sure to add in the little special touches, like if you use a pet name, include it…if you usually joke around, then be funny. Just be consistent with who you are and who your spouse fell in love with in the first place!)
- “Happy 40th anniversary, Baby. Believe it or not, I STILL love you more and more every day!”
- “Happy 40th anniversary, with all the love in my heart, to the most amazing, thoughtful, kindhearted, best partner I could imagine.”
- “You have always been my best friend and lover – thank you for the past 40 years and I’m looking forward to many more with all my heart.”
- “You have been the greatest adventure, comedy, drama, and love story all rolled into one – thank you for being you! Happy anniversary to the one I love most truly.”
- “40 years ago, we made each other the happiest we could be. I’m even happier today and can see in your eyes that you are too. Happy anniversary!”
- “Hmmmm…after 40 years I could write a REALLY long list of things I love about you. But I think I’ll just spend the next 40 years telling you.”
General Warm Wishes
Sharing warm and thoughtful anniversary wishes are meaningful to the recipients. If you’ve bought a card that already stated a message, you can keep your personal wishes short and sweet. Here are some ways to do that:
- “Wishing the next 10 years are even better than the past 40!”
- “Sending some seriously fun anniversary cheer”
- “Congratulations to you both for such lasting loving success – all 40 years of it!”
- “Happy 40th anniversary to our favorite lovebirds”
- “Wow! I can’t believe it’s been 40 years – here’s to many more!”
- “Love conquers all…we can see that now:-) Happy anniversary!”
Difficult or Challenging Circumstances
Sometimes, wedding anniversaries come around when things in a couple’s life are not all that rosy at the moment. Whether it’s due to a death in the family, illness, job loss, or another challenging circumstance, you still want to wish them the best and remind them of their love for each other through so many years.
In these cases, here are some wishes that may best match your sentiments:
- “Remember – Love endures ALL, and you’ve done an amazing job at the “for better or worse” thing!”
- “Celebrating your strength and courage and perseverance – and above all, lasting love.”
- “Taking some time out from the sometimes harsh realities of life to celebrate the best life has to offer – the simplicity and beauty of long-lasting love that rises above. Here’s to you both!”
- “Loving and honoring your anniversary while rising above the clouds to find the sun. May the sun always shine brightly for you both.”
What do you write in a 40th wedding anniversary card? Ideas to spark your imagination and use as a starting point include: “Through ups and downs, you have loved each other for 40 years. May your love bring you the greatest joy as you celebrate this anniversary of togetherness.” More can use some of the ideas listed in the “anniversary wishes” article.
What are the wedding anniversary milestone gifts? Traditional gifts are based on the symbol of milestone wedding anniversaries: 10th = aluminum/tin; 20th = china; 30th = pearl; 40th = ruby; 50th = gold; and 60th = diamond.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare