WHAT KIND OF VOW RENEWAL CELEBRATION DO YOU WANT?
Imagine standing in front of a waterfall …in Hawaii. You have a hibiscus flower tucked behind your ear; your shoulders are tan and you’re in a white sundress with a pink and white flower lei around your neck. Your husband takes your hand and tells you he’ll love you forever as a dozen of your closest friends and family look on with tears in their eyes. Behind them, a rainbow arches over the clear sky, diving into the azure blue ocean.
Imagine once again walking down the aisle in the same church or synagogue where you were originally married. You’re carrying a bouquet of white gardenias and roses just like those you had at your wedding. Your friends and family—all two hundred of them—stand as you walk by, escorted by your sons. Your husband smiles at you with pure adoration in his eyes, overwhelmed by how beautiful you are as you approach. You both repeat the very same vows you spoke twenty years ago, and they mean even more to you now.
So what do you have in mind as your wedding vow renewal celebration style? Something small and simple? A getaway to a tropical island? A do–over of your wedding day, but even better? What's so wonderful about this celebration is that it’s yours to dream up and design any way you wish.
You’ve undoubtedly heard about various celebrities’ wedding vow renewals—like Celine Dion’s $1.5 million Arabian Nights–themed extravaganza in Las Vegas for her fourth anniversary with husband, René Angelil (where costumed servants carried Ms. Dion into the room like a queen), or Madonna and Guy Ritchie's reported do-over “after a rough year.” These extravagant bashes definitely have an inspiring role in the growing trend of wedding vow renewal ceremonies today. But not all couples are copying celebrity style for their own celebrations. The choice of vow renewal ceremony and reception style is unlimited in possibilities and completely individual and personal. Just look at the following examples of real–life vow renewal celebrations, at the wildly varying range of style and formalities and themes. In a moment, you’ll start creating your own picture for your own… The Wedding You Never Had
—Back when you were newly engaged, you imagined an elegant wedding in a hotel’s ballroom, with ice sculptures, a harpist playing at the cocktail hour, a seafood buffet, a designer gown, a five-tiered cake … but it wasn't meant to be. Back then, your parents were in charge of the wedding (they were paying for it), so the event was more them than you. It’s always something that’s been in your mind, that you wished you would have spoken up and requested more of your own choices. But you stayed quiet then. It was a lovely wedding, even if it didn’t include some of the things you dreamed of. And you still married the man of your dreams, so who’s complaining? Now, though, your wedding vow renewal ceremony is going to be everything you wanted back then and more. The harpist you didn’t have then will be playing at your cocktail hour now. Your gown will be more sophisticated, not the puffball you look at in horror in your wedding pictures. (It's not your fault… Vera Wang wasn't around then.) This celebration will be your dream come true. You have the resources now to make it happen for yourselves, and it’s going to be wonderful to celebrate the way you’ve always wanted. So bring on the limousines, the fine wines and champagnes, the sushi station, and the sage green invitations with dark green engraved print. You get a second chance.Something Out in Nature
—Forget the ballroom and the expensive champagne. What’s really you would be gathering everyone together at a scenic overview with a beautiful view of the ocean, the desert, or the mountains, or by a lake.On the Beach
—There’s a reason so many weddings take place at oceanside, and it’s the same reason so many wedding vow renewal ceremonies are also planned as beach celebrations. You’ll take your vows barefoot in the sand as everyone looks on, as the ocean waves curl and rush to shore, and then after you seal your vows with a kiss, you’ll join hands and walk along the beach together.
The Destination Renewal—This style is quickly becoming a favorite of first-time brides and grooms who fly a handful of their closest guests to a tropical island. Your renewal celebration could be the same exact style …with all of the island resort perks like steel drum players setting the tone for your walk toward the officiant.THE WORLD IS WAITING
Island resorts are opening their doors to you with vow renewal or second honeymoon packages that may be better than your original honeymoon. Massages on the beach may be included, and your getaway ride is a pair of white horses on the beach. All as part of the package. In addition to the dream island getaway, another option is going out to the American West, standing before majestic desert rock formations in Arizona, or out in Big Sky Country of Montana before mountainous vistas and in wide-open spaces. Such a getaway makes your destination vow renewal event a great adventure for all of your guests.A Cruise
—Now you can book a wedding vow renewal cruise, a special package designed by many cruise lines to include a ceremony officiated by the ship's captain, either out on deck or in a formal dining room, even in the onboard chapel. You’ll often receive a bottle of champagne to celebrate, take–home champagne flutes to commemorate your renewal, a bouquet and boutonniere, a two– or three–tiered wedding cake, live or recorded music to set the scene, and photography and videography. Some cruise lines offer onshore excursions in their ports of call, so you could renew your vows onboard and then celebrate with your guests in Cancun, Hawaii, Europe, Canada, the Bahamas, even Alaska for quite a grand and exciting backdrop to your celebration.A City Loft
—It's your Renewal and the City party, with chic decor, Asian fusion food, cosmopolitans or mojitos, a view of the city lights at night, and everyone’s dressed fabulously. A sophisticated, trendy party at a friend’s amazing loft (which could be your “something borrowed” this time around)—or at one of the many stylish lofts that you can rent for your party—might be just your style. You often go into the city to enjoy the culture and nightlife, the great restaurants and entertainment, so there's no other theme you'd rather enjoy for your own celebration than one that reflects your shared interests.A Dessert and Champagne Party
—You’ve laughed together after attending relatives’ and friends’ weddings that you would have been happy with just the desserts and the cake. You’re both decadent in your tastes—you love chocolate and a fine champagne. So your evening party will be all about the cake, the tiramisu, and the chocolate–covered strawberries.A Brunch
—Sunday morning could bring you to a restaurant or hotel’s ballroom for a lavish brunch with dozens of food stations, mimosas, omelets and crepes to order, and a killer dessert bar in addition to your wedding cake. This morning celebration could be held right after church where your vows would be renewed by the same officiant who originally married you.A Backyard Gathering
—You don't need to dress up and drink champagne. You’re happiest in jeans and a T–shirt, and so are your family and friends. So you could plan an informal backyard gathering, fire up the barbecue grill, cook up some ribs and chicken and mahi mahi, portabello mushrooms and shrimp kebabs, and set the blender to its daiquiri setting. A family–style barbecue gives you just the comfy at–home celebration you wanted, and the garden you planted, the trellis you tended, are the perfect backdrop for your day.A Simple, Private Ceremony at Home
—Your dream is to descend your staircase to the tune of “the wedding march”, repeat your vows in front of the fireplace, then gather with the family around the dining room table. This style brings yet another in a long line of special family celebrations to your home.
By no means are these the only options. They’re simply the ones most popular right now. We all want to celebrate our happiest moments in environments and in styles that are most us. And envisioning your ideal style and theme is the next step toward your own planning process.Your Style Checklist
Start building your renewal celebration right here. Sit down together during some downtime, maybe grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and consider your options as a team so that the event is wonderfully reflective of your partnership. Your kids can certainly help you along the way, turning this process into a terrific family activity. Your children may have special skills that you can use. One might be a musician and can advise on creating a personalized song list. One might have a knack for catering or for graphic arts. Bringing in the family to co-plan can add even deeper levels of meaning to the ceremony and reception.
The checklist on the following pages will start setting the foundation for your event, taking you step–by–step through the most fundamental decisions. Feel free to make extra notes in the margins and between sections—you're your own event planner, so you know what special ideas you have already!The Size of Your CelebrationWe Want:
• A very small party, only immediate family and closest friends
• A small party, under 30 people
• A medium-sized party, 30-50 people
• A large party, 50-75 people
• A larger party, 75-100 people
• A huge party, 100-150 people
• Everyone we've ever knownFor the Ceremony
You'll find more on building your ceremony in Part 2. For now, we’re just talking about style.We Want:
• A religious ceremony, led by a religious officiant
• A spiritual ceremony, led by a spiritual officiant
• A secular ceremony, led by a nonreligious officiant
• A secular ceremony, led by a family member or friend
• We’ll create and lead our own vow renewal ceremonyThe Formality Level
We’ll talk more about what you’ll be wearing in Part 3, with complete wardrobe advice. For now, I’d like you to use the image of what you’d like to wear as a tool to define the formality of the event itself. After all, just as with weddings, the formality of the celebration will determine many factors such as the location and decor of your party, the style of the invitations you’ll send, favors you’ll give, the style of catering you’ll choose, and so on. It’s all connected, so think about the category of formality that's most comfortable for you.We Want:
• Ultraformal (think of an ultraformal wedding, with the bride in long, floor-length gown and the men in tuxedoes wearing white gloves)
• Formal (think gowns for the women and tuxedoes or suits for the men)
• Semiformal (think gowns or cocktail-length dresses for the ladies and suits for the men)
• Informal (think street-length dresses for the women, suits or jackets for the men)
• Casual (sundresses for the women, and jeans, tee shirts, khaki pants and white shirts for the men; a very laid-back affair)The Budget
We’ll get into your budget in Chapter 4, but it's a guiding principle to state your expected expense level right now. Money may be a factor for your plans, or it might not. Either way, it’s best for you both to discuss your clear expectations for what this event will cost so that the very marriage you're celebrating doesn’t become strained over the very real pull of spending “just a little bit more to make it extra special.” State your wishes now, and then vow to stay close to what you’d originally discussed:
• A lower budget affair, no more than $___. It’s the meaning of the day that matters most.
• A moderate budget. This is a special event, after all …
• A sizable budget. Hey, we’re worth it!Sun FactorWe Want:
• IndoorDo You Know the Time?We Want:
• A morning event
• An afternoon event
• An early–evening event
• An evening event
• A late–night eventWhat's Your Season?
We’ll cover choosing the date for your vow renewal celebration in Chapter 3, but I'm including the question of season here to get you thinking. There’s no rule that says you have to hold your celebration on your actual wedding anniversary, after all. If you had a summer wedding, you’re not restricted to holding your renewal celebration in the summer.We Want:
• WinterSHARING THE MOMENT
Just as important as the moment you’ll share with each other when you take your vows once again, are the people who will be standing there with you as witnesses to that moment. The vast majority of the couples I spoke to, whether they renewed their vows after one year or fifty, said that what made the day immensely more special to them was the presence of their children, their grandchildren, their parents, sisters, brothers, family, and friends. Many couples will also include their original bridal party members from their wedding day, sometimes gathered together in the same room for the first time since the original wedding day. This makes a vow renewal celebration a reunion as well, with a sentimental twist as it focuses on your thriving partnership in the past, present, and future.
You had your loved ones at your wedding, and now—at your renewal—your circle of loved ones has grown. Perhaps at your wedding, you mentioned your wish for a family together. Now, your kids and perhaps your grandkids are with you. Your family has grown since then, with new nieces and nephews, your kids’ spouses and their families, new friends, clients, colleagues, neighbors…the people who have entered and graced your life.
You’re planning this event because of gratitude to your spouse, but you soon realize that this celebration is bigger than the two of you. All of these names on your list or in your thoughts right now, in their own ways, played a part in your success story.
Think of the friends and relatives who have been there for you, who helped you through a hard time in your marriage or through a health crisis, a job loss, a move, a difficult life transition. They may have saved the day with their advice and with their thoughtful offers to help. They grieved with you, they laughed with you, and perhaps even taught you through their own examples and deeds. At times, they may have said just the right thing to defuse a simmering fight with your spouse, or they shared the perfect relationship book that guided you both through a period of taking each other for granted. No marriage is an island. Everyone around the couple contributes in some way. Sharing this day with them is a tribute to them as well, when you thank them for all they've added to your life and to your partnership.
Excerpted from Renewing Your Wedding Vows by Sharon Naylor. Copyright © 2006 by Sharon Naylor. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.