Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Special Kind of Celebration

Perhaps it’s time to consider renewing your wedding vows. Renewing vows can be so meaningful, not just for yourself, but also for children, grandchildren and other family members and friends.

I hope and believe that those couples who allowed us to perform their wedding really enjoyed that special service. I say this with the knowledge that their imprint was firmly imbedded in its arrival at text and tone.

When I hand a couple their wedding book, I tell them to place it in a special place for quick access for revisitation, especially each anniversary, and recite those promises to each other. I strongly encourage planning each anniversary with special attention to themselves and to rekindle the flame. It is so vital.

However, many couples were not afforded the opportunity for some personalization, and settled on making parents happy by having a large church wedding. What they may have wanted was to exchange spiritual vows out under a big oak tree in a park or forest setting. Or perhaps they had a small civil ceremony many years ago, and now have that urge for a more festive celebration.

Perhaps the original ceremony was absolutely marvelous those many years ago, and it just feels right to face each other again with all those new faces which came afterwards, and allow them to know your happiness.

An anniversary is an excellent time to consider a vow renewal, revisiting those promises stated publicly and adding some more.

It doesn’t matter if the parties have been married, five, ten, twenty-five or fifty years. A couple may want to reflect where they have been, what they have conquered, along with their ups and downs, joys and sorrows, but mostly, where they wish to go from here.

A wedding vow renewal ceremony offers children and grandchildren a beautiful example about marriage and love, especially the love between parents or grandparents; a love that did not fade but continued to strengthen over time. In a society where 50% of marriages unravel, this sets forth a pure example to young people. A vow renewal can give hope to the institution of marriage.

Some general thoughts

A vow renewal is not a second marriage. It does not require a license. It does not require a bridal shower or a bachelor’s party. It is inappropriate to have a bridal gift registry. Of course, if friends and family members present an anniversary gift, it is perfectly OK to accept it. At a vow renewal ceremony, the couple is the host and responsible for the finances – not the parents anymore if they are still alive.

It is also not appropriate to wear a wedding gown. More appropriate would be an elegant evening gown or dress. Of course location will also dictate what to wear as well as the style of the event. Typically, vow renewal attire is less formal than wedding attire.
What about rings? Do you give each other another ring? Yes and No … Some couples have a strong bond to their original wedding rings. Some like to use this occasion to exchange new rings. You can also use this occasion to add to the existing wedding ring with another piece of jewelry commemorating the date and the event.

The receiving line after the ceremony is appropriate for larger gatherings just to make sure that family and friends get acquainted with all the guests. If the guests all know each other, then a receiving line is not needed.

A toast is a great way to celebrate a vow renewal ceremony reflecting on the couple’s continued love as well as their life and future. Since there is no bride’s maid or groomsman – anybody can step up to the plate to yield the toast.

There is no tossing a bouquet or a garter. This only applies to your original wedding. You may use the original wedding vows during your ceremony or add to the vows to include promises made since your wedding day. You may even want to prominently display a photograph of your wedding day.

The cake, or the reaffirmation cake, can be a recreation of the original wedding cake, but the writing should indicate “vow renewal.” Husband and wife should walk towards each other from the opposite sides of the room or area versus the aisle procession. Another nice touch is the blessing of the original wedding rings, or in some cases, the new ones.

If the couple is capable, they should find the original officiant, minister or rabbi who married them. If not available or desired, they should find a new qualified person. Also, a beautiful vow renewal certificate should be obtained in advance to be signed by the minister and witness.

Some events are to be treasured

There have been several memorable vow renewals in my experience. One included a ritual to introduce a new addition to the family, namely a two year old girl. Another was the most unselfish wedding in memory, when the bride included in her ceremony her parents 50th wedding anniversary. The elderly couple renewed their vows and then listened happily to the wedding of their daughter. Both were touching variations so worth celebrating with family and friends.

One doesn’t really need an excuse to get together with family, but some gatherings provide an exceptional opportunity to speak of the deepest essence of the human experience. An eternal memory is created when a couple recommits to each other and to family, and maybe for once, have family offer thoughts which have never been shared. One never knows until the opportunity is granted.

I recall a day on a Florida beach for a 25th anniversary vow renewal. The husband had literally rescued his wife and her four children from a life of desperation and abuse. They lived in a dilapidated trailer and he had come to make repairs. He cared deeply for them, and in due course, married her and nurtured the children. The four children, all grown, had never expressed their deep love and appreciation, but on this day as the sun set, each child poured out every feeling for this couple. It was an opportunity never to be forgotten.

There are so many variations on bringing this celebration to life. One must select that which has the right “feel.” So think about it! Perhaps it is time to rekindle, renew, be grateful and continue the journey in love together.

Blessings…Reverend Elisheva