When John and I got married, we chose a Registry Office to hold the ceremony. Well, I say ‘chose’ but to be honest, in 1987 it was pretty much our only choice. We came from different faiths and neither of us was practicing, so using a place of worship felt disingenuous and would have stirred up all kinds of family discussions (polite term) that would have spoiled the occasion. So we went with the safe option. The ceremony was dull and impersonal and neither of us can remember what vows me made. Thirty two years later whatever we agreed to has been surpassed by each of us as we’ve supported, lifted, laughed with and loved each other. Boy, would we write some memorable vows if we could go back and create them for our lives together now.
That’s the reason I love helping people create vow renewals; they get the chance to acknowledge the remarkable thing they have created – the partnership and bond that is so much more than they could have anticipated on their wedding day. This poem From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin says it eloquently:
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being ‘in love’, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love,
have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree, and not two.
Louis D Bernieres
Every time I read this it gives me goosebumps!
Marriage is an amazing commitment and a complicated yet magical journey. As a friend recently shared on social media “marriage is like the longest sleep-over ever with your best friend”. And I know for us, marriage has been friendship at the core. Enjoying the company of your life partner, without the desire to change them, is key to our story and to the happy marriages of many friends.
Celebrating these stories of success, whether you’ve been together for ten years or fifty, is a joyful acknowledgement of your partnership and the life you have created together. People often choose to renew their vows to mark an anniversary (either of their marriage or their first date or other meaningful event) or after they have come through a particularly challenging time.
The good news is, there really does not have to be a reason; you can renew your vows any time you like, and because there is no legal relevance to the event, you can do it with the words you choose, in the location you choose and with whom you choose. I was recently lucky enough to carry out a ceremony on a hill top by a treehouse for an amazing couple celebrating their tenth anniversary. They did not invite anyone else, it was all about the two of them and making a renewed commitment to each other and acknowledging their love. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever been part of.
Calling this ceremony a vow-renewal is slightly the wrong wording, as this is your chance to write new vows rather than simply renewing the ones you made at the start of your marriage. And if the thought of having to come up with brilliantly worded vows is one of the things stopping you, don’t worry about this. A good Celebrant will help you write vows that are personal and authentic and if you’re doing it yourself there are some great examples online.
If you’re still waiting for a reason to plan your vow renewal, I’d encourage you to make the reason simply that you’ve made it to today, together and that’s worth celebrating!