[Alex Green] In Roman times, proud husbands would present their wives of 50 years with a wreath of gold that the wife would wear on her head. This practice was carried over into medieval Germany, where large celebrations were held in honor of the longevity of the married couple and today have become associated with symbolic elements to denote wedding anniversary milestones.
In the US, the order of gifts reflects the investment that the couple gives of themselves to each other. In Europe, by comparison, couples use a list of symbols that represent the progressive strengthening of the marriage relationship. The logic of presenting gifts was that stability deserves a reward and more the stability the greater should be the reward. Emily Post’s etiquette guide “Blue Book of Social Usage” printed in 1922 suggests paper for the first anniversary. Paper is seen as both a symbol of the thrifty beginnings of a relationship as well as its delicate nature.
My new wife, Stephanie, is curious, creative and quirky. A book, origami, concert tickets or personalized toilet paper would not be satisfactory – not because she is fussy, but because she is adventurous. Those gifts would seem a little fleeting, and certainly not unique enough for a woman whose job is movie and television makeup and special effects. She spends her days elbow-deep in foam mold mixtures, fabricating human-like intestines out of sausage casing and silicone or creating her own lipsticks and powders. She derives her pleasure from the process of creating something from scratch, and seeing it presented on screen – from one medium to another. Her work starts out as a bunch of chemicals, and by the time she finished, they convey ideas of beauty, horror, humor and all other emotions of visual entertainment.
I write this in order to give you a background as to my reason for taking my new wife to a paper mill for our first anniversary. To see primary products transformed. To witness large vats of bubbling pulp, machines whirring, mixing, baking and stretching. For a paper anniversary, this would be the closest to her distinctive sense of adventure as I could get. And to be honest, I would love it as well. One of my favorite TV shows is Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made, after all.
I wrote an email to the paper Mohawk, whose products I had come across after using them through the cool printing company, Moo. They make seriously cool paper. It would also work perfectly to combine with a romantic weekend out of Brooklyn, NY, in the Adirondacks.
With a rental car and log cabin booked, we set out early Saturday morning to Troy in upstate NY, where Mohawk had arranged our rendezvous. Stephanie had no idea, and she was very confused as we pulled in to the car park outside an industrial mill on the outskirts of Albany. To her, it seemed like an unpromising start to our anniversary weekend. We were welcomed at the entrance to the mill, and it was then that I declared to Stephanie that for our paper anniversary we would be getting a tour of a paper mill. She looked a little bemused. She was immediately presented with a myriad of paper gifts – journals, cards, notebooks and so on. Stephanie loves paper products – she was delighted and now, excited.
We were introduced to the mill manager, Terry, who handed us safety glasses and earplugs. It turns out that the mill manger himself had taken his Saturday off to come in and personally show us around. We got to see every part of the papermaking process. We held the pulp, saw the huge machines lay out the paper, feel the heat of the drying furnaces, watched the cutters slice the rolls into reams and handled a variety of paper products. It was absolutely fascinating. Four hours later, we were true amateur paper enthusiasts!
The one thing I learned from our tour was the amount of energy and time it takes to break down and separate the wooden fibers into small fragments so that the paper has a lot of strength and exceptional quality. The way fibers are milled and combined indicates the superior finish of the final paper product. Mohawk dedicates enormous amounts of time and care to achieve the highest quality paper possible. Its paper is beautiful, smooth, bright and strong. So, contrary to the original use of paper as an indication of newly-wed fragility for the first anniversary, Mohawk showed us that paper actually emphasizes how strong and special our marriage is. It was the perfect symbol!
We are so grateful to the whole Mohawk team for a truly unique and remarkable day. It was a profoundly enjoyable and very special first anniversary celebration.
We want the thank Alex for sharing his story and anniversary with us. Congratulations to you and Stephanie!
Top image used with permission, courtesy of CafeYak.com. All other photos © Mohawk.