The wedding anniversary is very important to married couples - it signifies that they acknowledge how long they've been together and how far they've made it. It's like a marriage's birthday.
Woe befall the one who forgets the anniversary.
If one member of a couple forgets an anniversary it's considered a very big problem for the relationship (at least in fiction). Someone who forgets his/her wedding anniversary is either considered insensitive enough to not value the importance of a long-lasting marriage or unromantic in regards to not putting the marriage over his/her bad memory.
There are many variations on this theme:
- One of them forgets. The other sees it as pathetic, but nothing major happens, even though the other may be bitter or prone to teasing the one who forgot for a while.
- One of them forgets, and is embarrassed in front of an old friend who was considerate enough to remember.
- One of them forgets and gets Exiled to the Couch for being so inconsiderate.
- One of them forgets the anniversary and the other is so mad that he/she storms out of the house to go drink off the sorrows/storms out of the house to go back to mom/mope about it in frustration. This continues until the one who's forgotten it improvises a gift or improvises something.
- One of them seemingly forgets the anniversary and the other gets mad - but as it turns out, he/she hasn't forgotten! It's supposed to be a surprise gift or party, but now the one who's "forgotten" must deal with the ire of the other person...
- One of them forgets and is forced to do stuff by the other's whim in order to "make up for it".
- They both forget and later realize how pathetic they both are.
Oddly enough, in the one-person-actually-forgets scenario, it's usually the guy who forgets. Make of that what you will.
Usually (but not always) played for comedy. Nearly all TV sitcoms involving a married couple will fall back on this at least once in the run of a show. And it is by far more common for the husband to be one who either forgets or is pretending to forget.
- A credit card commercial where a man at work is asked by his wife if he made any plans for their anniversary. Naturally he must scramble for an Ass Pull: "Uh, yeah...we're... " *glances at Chinese takeoutbox* "taking the Orient Express to..." *glances at stained tie* "a spot in...Thailand!" *glances out window, where a bird lands* "We're going birdwatching!" At the end of the commercial, on the trip that his credit card company was able to drum up on short notice, his wife remarks that "this is such a surprise", and he wholeheartedly agrees.
- Another commercial had a guy's wife cook a fancy dinner, dress up, and light candles. Her husband then comes in, takes it all in with a wow, and asks "What's the occasion?" His wife then takes the steak back into the kitchen, probably to throw it away.
- Another commercial (This one for the latest iPhone) has the guy at work reminded of their plans by his wife, and making a dinner reservation while he's talking to her.
- In an episode of Wedding Peach this is the central problem; Hinagiku's mother attempts to leave the house because her father forgot, but as it turned out, the father was too busy with work and had hidden his anniversary gift so he couldn't present it to her the whole day. The girls try to get him to reiterate what he wanted to say in front of her, but then demons intervene and stuff tries to get in the way. They work it out.
- In the UDON Street Fighter comic books, one issue showed Guile falling victim to the results of this—he forgot his and Jane's wedding anniversary because he and Charlie were sparring in a match that lasted days. At the end of the spar, on realizing he'd forgotten the anniversary, Guile tried to make it up to Jane, but...
(Guile shows up at home with a bouquet, but Jane's extremely pissed)
Guile: Happy anniver—
Guile: I brought you flowers—
Jane: Couch. (walks off, leaving a defeated Guile with his head hanging low)
- In the movie The Family Man, when the main character forgets his anniversary, he forgets it because he hasn't technically been married to his wife yet, but she doesn't know that...
- One scene in The Sixth Sense looks like this, with Bruce Willis showing up late to an anniversary dinner with his wife at a fancy restaurant; she barely acknowledges him before leaving. Subverted, though, because he's actually a ghost and she can't even see or hear him.
- In the 1949 Milton Berle film Always Leave Them Laughing, a guy buys a watch for his wife, and she has no idea what the occasion is. He lampshades the usual nature of the trope by saying something to the effect of, "Folks, you're witnessing a historical event. Usually, it's the man who forgets the first anniversary." His wife feels bad about it for a moment, but then gives him a kiss for always being so good to her.
- Carry On Cabby from the Carry On film series bases its premise around this. The workaholic taxi driver Charlie Hawkins forgets his wedding anniversary, so his wife creates a rival taxi business to get back at him.
- In an episode of Fawlty Towers, Fawlty plans a surprise party for his wife for their wedding anniversary. Sybil storms out of the house because she thinks he has forgotten it, and for the rest of the episode he tries to pretend to the party guests that nothing is wrong and that his wife is merely ill.
- In I Love Lucy, Lucy thinks Ricky gave her a mink coat, and says she thinks it's an anniversary gift. At the end, this is subverted when it turns out she lies about that, to the point of forgetting their real anniversary date, in order to get things from him.
- Another episode reveals that Ricky keeps emergency gifts in the closet for just such an occasion. This also includes birthdays.
- Leo McGarry does this very early in The West Wing. The forgotten anniversary is used to establish that he's Married to the Job with an intensity that clearly leads one to believe that he's using work as a substitute for booze; it leads to his divorce.
- Played with in one of the first season episodes of Sports Night: Dan is pissed off at Casey for forgetting their "anniversary" (the date of their first show together).
Dan: I remember what you were wearing. Do you remember what I was wearing?
Casey: I remember not thinking at the time that you were a woman.
- White Collar: In the pilot, Peter has an embarrassed moment when Neal remembers his anniversary before he does. He then spends the rest of the episode desperately trying to think of a gift for his wife that will make up for having forgotten last year.
- Invoked the Studio C sketch, "Celebirthsary" where the wife has deliberately decorated as ambiguously as possible so that her husband has to figure out what was special about the day. In actuality, there was nothing to celebrate, since it was a test to see if the husband really did remember everything.
- Leverage has Nate get in trouble with Sophie when he claims they met eight years earlier, while she insists it was ten. It later turns out that they first saw each other ten years earlier, when she was stealing art and he was chasing her, but he considers the first time they met to be two years later when they first spoke. Unfortunately, he also screws up the location of an event, which means she's still got something to hold over his head.
- In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, both Leonard and Penny forgot their anniversary. Leonard made a cake for Penny, worried she was feeling left out after the attention given to Bernadette's pregnancy and Sheldon and Amy getting engaged. Penny thought it was for their anniversary, and after Leonard checked his phone to confirm it WAS their anniversary, Penny already had a mouthful of cake while exclaiming "Happy anniversary!"
- An episode of Keeping Up Appearances has Richard forgetting his wedding anniversary, but managing to think fast on his feet and bluff his way into getting a security system installed last second and convincing her he planned it all along as an anniversary gift. It works almost perfectly until he comes home late that night and is unable to remember the password, which Hyacinth set to their wedding date.
- The subject of the "Anniversary Song" by Da Yoopers. The wife asks her husband if he remembers what day it is, and he guesses "trout season?" and later her uncle Ernie's funeral, where she got sick. In the second verse, she fills in the details a bit, but the only thing he remembers is someone in the congregation passing gas.
- In one children's song, the singer's mother gets back at her husband for forgetting their anniversary by giving the children a bowl of ripened fruit. The father sits at the low end of a table on a slope, and Hilarity Ensues when the fruit rolls onto him.
- Mentioned in the Straight No Chaser Christmas medley "Nutcracker": "I'm watching the game but something's wrong/Staring is my wife, her face looks long/I know that look, it must be me/It's not our anniversary/I shrug, no clue/What did I do?/She stares in disbelief"
- Variation in The Male Animal: Tommy fails to recall that it's his wife's birthday, even when she meaningfully asks him what day it is, until her Old Flame shows up and mentions the fact in Tommy's presence.
- In a rare non-marriage example, the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride at Universal Studios has Margo, Edith, and Agnes briefly believing that Gru had forgotten their first anniversary together as a family; though it turns out that Gru was only preparing his ultimate gift to the girls for the occasion.
- Rose's Never Live It Down moment in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is her continual "Do you remember what day this is?" nagging. Apparently remembering anniversaries is Serious Business compared to saving the President of the United States from execution by terrorists.
- Spoofed in the webcomic PvP. The author admitted (via Twitter) that he'd completely forgotten about characters Jade and Brent's first anniversary, so didn't do a strip for it. The next day, he started a storyline about how Brent and Jade had themselves both forgotten the anniversary.
- In The Order of the Stick, Thor explains that while the Outer Planes are made of beliefs, the Astral Plane is just made of thoughts, and the far Astral is made of thoughts that nobody remembers. As he says this, one of the floating phrases is "My wedding anniversary is tomorrow."
- On The Lot had a short film called "Sweet" where the man makes an epic effort in getting last-minute plans together for his anniversary. Hilarity Ensues.
- Random Assault: The secret ending sound of episode 042 is a very un-enthusiastic message from Alex reminding listeners of the show's one-year anniversary.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Dude, We're Getting The Band Back Together," Lawrence Fletcher forgets his wedding anniversary, and his wife is angry with him. Phineas and Ferb help their dad make up for it by duplicating the rock concert at which the couple had their first kiss.
- Mung Daal from Chowder does this.
- Cosmo tries to leave the fishbowl in an episode of The Fairly OddParents! when he believes Wanda is angry at him for no reason and has forgotten their anniversary. Turns out, it was the False Anger Anniversary (once every someodd years) and Wanda had remembered, but it's too late - he's gone home to his mom. They work it out anyway, only for Cosmo to forget it was their anniversary at the end of the episode.
- In The Simpsons , Homer Simpson does this several times.
Marge: "He forgets [all] holidays, both religious and secular..."
- There was an incident regarding this in Danny Phantom - Danny had lost the gift and he had to go retrieve it in a ghost world. It's revealed that Jack has forgotten his and Maddie's anniversary eighteen years in a row because he's so obsessed with ghost hunting.
- In The Flintstones, Fred often had difficulty remembering his and Wilma's...except whenever it fell on Trash Day.
- The American Dad! episode "Francine's Flashback" has Stan forget his and Francine's anniversary. Roger reminds her about when he forgot last year, in which Francine gave Stan a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown so bad that it became an episode of Cops.
Francine: I am sure he is just waiting for the perfect time to surprise me. After all our anniversary isn't till midnight.
Stan: This midnight fishing is great.
Bullock: Sounds to me like someone doesn't want to go home.
Stan: Yeah, I'm, uh, laying low. Today is the anniversary of a huge fight me and Francine got into last year.
Jackson: Yeah? What about?
Stan: Oh, I forgot our anniversary. Huh! I'm never gonna do that again.
Jackson: I eh?
Bullock: (signals Jackson to not say anything)
(Stan takes a sip of his beer, casts his line, pauses a few seconds)
Bullock: There it is.
- In Father of the Pride, one year prior, Larry had promised to never forget the wedding anniversary ever again. Guess what happens. Though getting married on Jimi Hendrix's birthday may have had something to do with it.
- In Dan Vs. "The Fancy Restaurant", Chris and Elise both assume the other is trying to remind him/her of their wedding anniversary. Eventually they both come clean and realize that neither of them actually remembers the date of their anniversary. Chris declares he doesn't care because he doesn't need to wait for a certain day to show Elise how much he loves her.
- In Bob's Burgers first episode, Bob forgets his and Linda's anniversary, and when Linda gets angry Bob protests that he's just not good with dates. A montage of flashbacks reveals he's also forgotten Linda's birthday (while at her party), his own birthday (while at his own party), and Linda's due date (while holding their newborn.)
- On Daria, it's Quinn who points out that Daria and Tom's six-month dating anniversary is coming up, and Daria begins to get annoyed that Tom doesn't realize it. Of course, she's also forced to admit that a) she didn't remember it either, and b) neither of them really like traditionally romantic stuff anyway. Mostly she's just projecting her insecurities about their relationship onto an unimportant issue.
- A platonic(ish) variant is teased in one episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon. Every year, Beetlejuice and Lydia celebrate the annivesary of the day they met, but one year Lydia is convinced BJ forgot. He pretends he has no idea what she's talking about...and then pulls out his gift, assuring her that he was only pulling her leg.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Fuss", Richard forgets his and Nicole's wedding anniversary and he and their kids can't tell because she's being completely ambiguous about it. Then it turns out that today wasn't their anniversary after all because the calendar was upside-down.
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Diaz Family Vacation", Star forgets to give Marco's parents a gift for their anniversary. So she went through all this trouble taking the Diazes to Mewni as a last minute anniversary present while avoiding Star's royal dad because she's not allowed to leave Earth.
- An episode of The Fairly Oddparents had this played rather oddly; Wanda apparently forgets her and Cosmo's wedding anniversary, but it turns out that they each got their anniversary dates mixed up: Cosmo thought it was the Styrofoam anniversary, while Wanda knew it was the False Anger anniversary, so neither of them forgot. Unfortunately, Cosmo's mother took this as an opportunity to try and split them up.
- Many people will testify. (Although at the same time there are many instances where both parties forget...)