When much of the news about matrimony is often less than encouraging, there's one bright trend gathering momentum. The movement ranges from intimately private to exuberantly public, and the lengths couples go to express themselves is limited only by their imagination—and budget. The Osbornes did it. Sammy Sosa did it. Robert DeNiro even did it. Couples from Maui to Manhattan are renewing their marriage vows.There are many compelling reasons to renew your vows: to declare the high priority of your relationship; to remind each other that you're still in this thing together; to start fresh after a time of family crisis; or to create a positive memory, because the first time was less than memorable.
In Savannah, Georgia, each February Rev. William Hester leads a public, interfaith marriage renewal ceremony at the downtown City Market. "I like to tell people," Hester says, "that these renewal vows are, in some ways, more powerful than their original vows. Once we're married we know what it really means to be committed to someone."
When Kathy & Dale Bissette were married, they were young and strapped for cash. "Our wedding could have been mistaken for dinner with the family," Kathy told TheBridalBook.com. Twenty years later, "We wanted the whole shebang," she says, "white wedding gown, big church, limo, caterers, flowers, and more than 200 guests."
During Sherrie and Bob Eldridge's ceremony, their pastor summed up why they chose to renew their vows. "His text was about the Israelites choosing a stone to mark each place of victory in their journey to the Promised Land," Sherrie says. "Our renewal ceremony would be like a stone of remembrance showing God's faithfulness to bring Bob and me through everything."
Meaningful reaffirmations can be as simple as sitting in the parking lot of the church where you were married and reliving your wedding ceremony, or holding hands and silently repeating the vows at someone else's wedding. But if you desire a more intentional vow renewal event, here are several options to consider:
Group or Retreat Renewal Ceremonies
Recommended for: any couple who wants little fuss
Family reunion renewals
$ "Every June, my family gathers for a reunion at the old homestead," says Nancy Sebastian Meyer. "My husband and I had been married ten years when the 100th wedding anniversary of our family's ancestors, our 'founding' couple, came around. That summer we invited everyone to renew their vows in the dining room of the old home. One of our relatives is a pastor who led the ceremony. After he closed with a prayer of praise and commitment, we cut the cake and celebrated."
$ Check to see if your church schedules a yearly recommitment ceremony. If not, why not volunteer to organize one? It can be as simple as planning a prayer at the end of a worship service or as elaborate as a banquet with music, a guest speaker, and group vow renewal. Display original wedding photos and run a contest with prizes for the person who can guess who's who or the one who still looks most like their original photo.
Marriage conferences and seminars
$$ "Each year we offer a vow renewal ceremony that's connected to the material we teach at our conferences," says Pam Farrel, co-director with her husband, Bill, of Masterful Living, an organization dedicated to enhancing and encouraging relationships (www.masterfulliving.com).
$$ Watch your newspaper for announcements about hotels, churches, restaurants, or community groups hosting marriage renewals. Each August for the past several years, more than 200 couples have visited the Don CeSar hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, to participate in a sunset beachside renewal ceremony.
Recommended for: couples who want something more personalized
Renewals with family and friends
$ Janet Holm McHenry and her husband, Craig, claim their reaffirmation was more fun than their wedding. Janet carried one long-stemmed rose for each of their four children who stood with them during the ceremony. She'd saved their original unity candle and liturgy, so Craig and Janet were able to repeat many of the same elements they used the first time. "This time," says Janet, "we understood those vows—because we'd already lived them."
$$$$ Fly to Maui and AHappyMauiWedding.com will arrange for engraved, Hawaiian-style wedding rings, a custom tailored Hawaiian wedding dress with matching groom's shirt, live island music, and a Royal Hawaiian, Maui Princess Canoe entrance with a conch shell blown in your honor as paddlers escort the "princess" to her "prince" on the beach. Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean, Ltd. cruise lines each offer vow renewal packages during their cruises. For approximately $400 (plus the cost of your cruise) Royal Caribbean will provide an ocean-front location, pre-arranged ceremony, romantic music, a bouquet for the "bride" and boutonniere for the "groom," a vow renewal keepsake certificate, cake for four on an elegant table with fresh flowers and white linen, one 8x10-inch silver-plated frame and photograph, and a personalized bottle of champagne.
Share the moment
If loved ones can't be there, no problem. For approximately $375 YouMayNow.com will set up a custom website to share photos or video of your renewal. The site is good for 90 days. They'll even send out electronic invitations. You provide the guest list and they e-mail invitations that include a hyperlink to view your virtual event.
Whatever motivation or special meaning you choose to bring to it, with a little imagination and attention, renewing your marriage vows can fuse joy in your relationship, draw you closer to your spouse, and provide the momentum you need to continue your life-long journey together.
Caron Chandler Loveless is author of Honey, I Shrunk My Hormones (Howard).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.