Couples have been renewing their marriage vows since the 1950s, but this ceremony did not become popular until the 1970s. Today, it is common to receive an invitation to a vow-renewal celebration.
What are some of the reasons behind this growing trend?
- The couple may have had a small, family-only wedding ceremony when they first got married. Maybe money was tight, or the wedding was held far away from the couple’s core group of friends, or perhaps the thinking at the time was not to do anything lavish “just in case” the marriage didn’t last. But now the situation has changed and you want to have a big party to invite all the friends, old and new, who did not take part in your original wedding day.
- You and your spouse have gone through a rough patch, come out of it better than before, and want to make a public statement of your love for each other. A year ago you were both giving serious thought to getting a divorce. But you have spent the past twelve months in counseling, learning new ways to listen and talk to each other. You have both focused on the good in your marriage, and let go of past hurts. Now, you want to reboot your commitment to each other and to your marriage. Nothing would delight you more than having your friends and family around you as you say “I do, again,” to each other.
- You are marking a milestone anniversary. 10 years? 20? 50? All good reasons to bring everyone together to watch you share loving words of commitment with your spouse. If you can still fit into your wedding gown or tuxedo, all the better!
The reasons behind holding a marriage vow renewal ceremony are as varied as the couples involved, but they all have one thing in common: a desire to mark their long-term relationship with an updated version of the vows that they initially spoke to each other so many years ago.
The vow renewal ceremony
It is important to remember that this is not a legal wedding, so there is no county paperwork to complete nor license to obtain. You are free to hold the ceremony in a house of worship, outdoors in a meadow, on the beach, or in a fancy hotel…whatever atmosphere best reflects your wishes. There is no need to have an officiant, but you can include someone who fills the role of that person: perhaps a good friend, a mentor, a parent or even an adult child. You can even hire a vow-renewal celebrant who can guide you with ideas for new vows, bible verses or poetry to include in your ceremony.
The sky’s the limit when deciding on vows. You may wish to recite your original vows, or perhaps update these with some personal anecdotes, jokes or references to real-life events. What about including some romantic quotes, or poetry? The one thing you will want to avoid is dredging up old hurts or grievances, even in jest. This is a ceremony to enhance and reinforce your love, not rehash any bumpy moments that your marriage may have gone through.
The guest list
Since this is not a wedding, you are free to include only those you wish to be present at your vow renewal ceremony. Unlike your wedding, where you may have had an obligation to include relatives and friends of your parents, for this occasion, you have the luxury of hand-selecting who you want to be with you for this special event.
Some dos and don’ts
Remember, this is not a wedding, so you want to avoid the traditional wedding symbols:
- No gift registry.
- No need to purchase new rings (unless you feel like it)
- Bridal attire would not be appropriate for your vow renewal ceremony, with the exception of wearing your original wedding gown or tuxedo (if you can still fit into it!). Depending on the mood of your ceremony, formal or informal clothing is appropriate. Make sure guests are aware of the dress code so everyone feels comfortable.
- No bridesmaids or groomsmen.
- No traditional, tiered wedding cake. Instead, why not do something fun like custom cupcakes, or personalized cookies iced with your intertwined initials, or a photo-cake with a cherished family photo on it?
- No formal bridal bouquet, but an informal cluster of pretty flowers tied with a ribbon is appropriate.
- No traditional wedding reception with table charts and pre-assigned seating. A garden lunch, a backyard picnic, a woodland cocktail party, a brunch at home, or a meal at your favorite restaurant…whatever fits your budget.
You will want to document your vow renewal ceremony. Photos and videos are perfectly appropriate. Even more fun would be to recreate some of your original wedding photos, this time updated with your older, wiser friends, especially if some of your original attendants are with you on this special day.
In an age where it seems like divorce is more and more frequent, it is a heart-warming sign that couples are feeling the urge to renew their marital vows. For the couples themselves, a vow renewal ceremony is a way to strengthen the connection that has bound them together for so many years. For those lucky enough to witness the vow renewal, it is an opportunity to share in the hope and joy as we celebrate long-lasting, enduring love.