Whether you've just returned from eloping in Jamaica or you're about to celebrate your 25th blissful year of marriage, renewing your vows -- also called a reaffirmation ceremony -- might be on the brain. Maybe you want to say again the words you said last week on the beach, in front of all your nearest and dearest. Or you'd like to refer to history, reminding yourselves of what you promised all those years ago. Here are renewal how-tos:
Who Renews Their Vows?
Both situations above are legit -- you're "formalizing" your elopement, commemorating an anniversary, or marking the end of a difficult time in your lives together. Some couples decide to renew their vows to finally have the big wedding celebration they couldn't afford when they first got married. Maybe you recently went through a traumatic time together (say, one of you was dangerously ill) and you want to reaffirm your commitment to each other. Or, you've made it to 10, 25, or 50 years together and you want the world to know that you'd do it all over again if you could.
Who Hosts a Renewal?
Sometimes children host a renewal of vows for their parents. But many couples host their own renewals.
How Soon After The First Ceremony Can You Renew?
A reaffirmation can take place literally anytime after the actual wedding -- the next day or 30 years later. But you don't want to renew too soon or too often, unless you've eloped and would like to make your vows public upon your return. Otherwise, be sure to reserve the occasion for milestone years.
Where Should It Be?
You can renew your vows in a house of worship, at home, on the beach, in a pretty garden or park, on a mountaintop, or on a cruise -- basically, anywhere that has sentimental meaning for both of you.
Because a vow renewal is not a legally binding ceremony like a wedding is, virtually anyone you'd like can officiate at the ceremony: clergyperson, judge, your children, a close relative or even close friends. Perhaps the best man or maid of honor at the couple's first wedding would like to take the honors.
Who Should Be Invited? How Should the Invitation Read?
You might choose to have an intimate reaffirmation, inviting just close family and friends who've known you through the years. Or it can be a blowout party for your extended family and circle of friends. A word of advice: Unless you're opting for a big bash, limit your guest list because this might not be the time to entertain work acquaintances.
The invitation is similar to a wedding invite, except no hosts' names are at top:
The honor of your presence
is requested at the reaffirmation [or "renewal"]
of the wedding vows of
Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith [or "Susan and Jonathan Smith"]
If the invitation is issued by the children of the couple:
The children of
Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith [or "Susan and Jonathan Smith"]
request the honor of your presence
at the reaffirmation ceremony
of their parents
What Should You Wear?
This is a time to dress to the nines. If you're the bride, you could wear your original wedding gown, if you're comfortable with it (and if it still fits!). Or you can choose another dress -- a pretty cocktail dress, a formal evening gown, or a nice suit, depending on your taste and the formality and style of the celebration. Skip the veil, but wear a hat or flowers in your hair if you'd like. Carry flowers or don a corsage.
If you're the groom, you might wear your original tuxedo or suit (or uniform if you're in the military), updated with a new tie or vest. Or choose a new ensemble for this second celebration. Wear a gift of jewelry your wife has given you -- cuff links, a watch -- and a boutonniere in your lapel.
Should You Have a Wedding Party?
Attendants are unnecessary for a vow renewal, but you might choose to invite your original bridesmaids and groomsmen to stand up for you informally, for sentimental reasons. (They don't have to wear those outfits again, but they could!) Many couples also involve their children and grandchildren, perhaps being escorted down the aisle by them or having them perform a reading during the ceremony.
Who Walks You Down The Aisle?
Don't walk down the aisle alone. Have your children escort you, or, better yet, walk down the aisle together.
What Actually Happens During The Ceremony?
You'll exchange vows, recalling what you said when you were first married. It's meaningful to write original vows, so you'll be expressing exactly how you feel. This is an opportunity for both of you to really think about how you feel about your relationship, if the last time you exchanged vows was decades ago. After you've both spoken, exchange rings. These can be your original bands with new engravings (perhaps the date of your vow renewal or a cute quote like, "I Love You, Part II") or new rings purchased expressly for the reaffirmation (a great time to upgrade those bands). Children, close relatives, and special friends can do readings, and you can have meaningful music playing, just as you would at a wedding ceremony.
Should You Have a Reception?
Of course! The party can be any style, from a casual backyard barbeque to an intimate family dinner to a cocktail party or dinner as large and complex as a traditional wedding reception. There can be dancing, a cake -- the works. Just don’t stress yourself out with every last detail. If bouquets aren’t your thing and you don’t want to splurge on décor, opt for something more minimalist. If you absolutely love cake, treat your guests to a specialty confection in your favorite flavor. You might bring along your original wedding album for guests to take a trip down memory lane (if you've just eloped, bring the recent pictures), as well as family photos through the years of your marriage. At some point during the celebration, the two of you can thank and/or toast family members and special friends for what they've contributed to your marriage over the years. And you'll probably be toasted by many of them. Be sure to hire a photographer to capture the event on film -- in 20 more
years, perhaps you'll renew your renewal!
Should You Register?
Unfortunately, a vow renewal is not the time to upgrade your new kitchen or china collection. Skip the gifts and don't hold a shower -- there's no need to turn this intimate soiree into a four-day festivity. As the saying goes, the presence of your guests is their present. If they'd like to give gifts, suggest that they make donations to your favorite charity.
See More: Wedding Ceremony + Wedding Vow Ideas