Being married to a service member means you won’t always be able to celebrate your wedding anniversary the way you would like to. Sometimes, your spouse may be training at another duty station, or deployed around the world! Your family might be in the middle of a PCS move, or just getting settled in a brand-new state.
No matter what challenges military life throws your way, you can still find sweet, romantic ways to celebrate your anniversary. You just have to be patient and a little creative.
If you’re celebrating your anniversary long-distance:
- Plan a video date. If your service member has access to the internet at their location, you can plan a virtual video date for your anniversary. There are apps that let you watch a movie together, no matter what the time zone difference is between you. It’s the long-distance version of dinner and a movie! You get bonus points if you can still wear the wedding dress for the occasion.
- Dream and plan together. Married life should have shared dreams and goals. Discuss somewhere you want to go or activities you want to do together once you see each other again. Did you get to take a honeymoon trip? If not, have fun talking about what your ideal “rain-check” honeymoon would look like, or plan a big bucket-list trip together.
Make long-term plans about where you want to be on your next anniversary, where you want to live after the military, future vacations, etc. If you had to do a quick courthouse wedding before, talk about the “big wedding” or vow renewal ceremony you want to do someday.
- Mail a personalized gift. Did you know there are themes for anniversary gifts, depending on how long you have been married? One year is paper, third anniversary is leather, and five years is wood, etc. Think of small but meaningful gifts to send your loved one that have your wedding date, a special memory or symbolize your relationship. There are endless personalization options online!
You can get special gifts shipped directly from online retailers directly to deployment locations, so you don’t have to pay for shipping twice. Just check if the merchant accepts APO or FPO addresses.
If you can’t communicate on your anniversary:
- Send an anniversary care package. Send cake-in-a-jar (bonus if it’s the same flavors as your wedding cake!), something bubbly (like sparkling water, since you can’t ship alcohol), and of course a sweet note or a card. Maybe you want to include some photos of yourself — either now or from your wedding day — for your spouse to enjoy.
If they don’t have much space or aren’t able to receive gifts where they are located, then include some hints or an IOU of a special anniversary present you want to give them when they return.
- Write “open when” letters. If you won’t be able to celebrate with a phone call or video call on your anniversary, then prepare some love notes in advance! Before they leave, write some letters for your spouse to “open when it’s our anniversary.” You can share your favorite wedding memory, some photos, the lyrics of your song, or any sweet message that will make them smile.
If you’re able, tuck these letters along with others for any type of “open when” occasion — into your spouse’s bags before they leave. Or mail a big bundle in the next care package. It will certainly make the time go faster if they can read an encouraging message from you when they need it! You can find additional “open when” letter topics here.
If your anniversary falls during a move:
- Make a date out of your PCS travel. Yes, it’s difficult to celebrate during the stress of a move, but if it is a PCS, you will receive a per diem for hotel stays and restaurant food. Research somewhere unique to visit along your PCS travels and decide what would be a fun way to celebrate as a family. Consider paying a sum above the per diem to make the anniversary memorable. After days of camping out in hotels and eating fast food, even a small upgrade will make for a fun memory!
- Unpack the wedding gifts. If you are just settling into a new home on your anniversary, you can regift your wedding items … to yourself! You probably have some lesser-used china, collectibles or breakable items that you initially received as wedding gifts but are now living in cardboard boxes. Enlist your spouse’s help with unwrapping them and finding a suitable place to display them in your new home. Unwrap them together, talk about the people who gifted you each item, and enjoy laughing and reminiscing together.
- Explore your new town. Whether you are stationed in small-town America, or a totally new city overseas, your anniversary is a great reason to make date night memories at a new favorite location. Research to find your favorite cuisine or activities nearby or ask for recommendations on the local Spouses Facebook page. Maybe you’ll start a new date night tradition!
It’s difficult to spend your anniversary apart, but military spouses learn how to creatively adapt to difficult situations. However you choose to celebrate, we congratulate you both and wish you a happy anniversary!