Vow Renewals

vow renewals

By Gabrielle. Photo from a lovely vow renewal shot by Studio B. Photography.

As I mentioned, last month was our 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years seems like a solid number and earlier this year, we talked about maybe having a vow renewal to mark the day. But when I started picturing what that might look like — who would come, where we would have it, would I wear a wedding dress? — I came up a bit blank. I’ve never actually been to a vow renewal, and can’t think of anyone I know personally who has done a vow renewal, so the only images that come to my mind are things I’ve seen in wedding magazines, or on Pinterest. (Those images are lovely by the way!)

My first instinct is that I love the idea of vow renewals! For us, the pros of a vow renewal would be things like a good excuse to invite everyone we love to a big party, a chance to have a redo on wedding photos (alas, we only have a couple of images from our wedding day — a story for another time), and we like the idea of doing something intentional to celebrate each other and our marriage — we work hard on our marriage, and marking major milestones seems like a good way to help keep it strong.

But there are cons too. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel pressure to travel or use vacation days for a party like this. A party that seems “optional” for us to throw. (I know a wedding reception/party is technically also optional, but it feels less so to me. Probably because it’s such a long-standing established tradition.) Also, like any event, a vow renewal would require time, effort and expense (especially if I wanted to make it as pretty as all those inspiration photos). Would we rather take a trip instead? I think I also feel a general awkwardness about have a gathering that could potentially feel very “look at me! look at me!”.

The funny thing is, even though I have those worries for our own someday-vow-renewal, if friends invited us to theirs, I would feel nothing but joy and excitement for them! And I would be honored to be invited. Which makes me think my worries are ultimately silly.

I’d love your thoughts on the subject. Do you see yourself ever having a vow renewal? Or have you had one already? (If yes, I’d love to hear your favorite parts!) Is there a specific anniversary that you feel is the best fit for a vow renewal? 10 years? 50 years? And would you favor a big event or something really small? (I read about this family who did a vow renewal and it was just for themselves and their kids — a party of four.)

Do you see vow renewals as a chance to try party ideas you didn’t get to use at your original wedding? Or maybe a chance to publicly honor your spouse and say nice things about him or her? Overall, do you favor the idea of vow renewals, or feel that they are definitely not something you’d want to do? I’d love to hear!

44 thoughts on “Vow Renewals”

  1. I guess for those who had their weddings in the pre-internet, social media days, vow renewals would be a fun idea to capture a contemporary moment. I love the idea of a party of 4 with the kids, because I know my daughter is mad that missed our wedding! She seems to think that she was always in my tummy before she was born, so she reassures herself by saying she and her brother were in my tummy when I got married. They weren’t! :-) but she was born the next year.
    Love the photo too!

    Analog House

    1. I love that Anna!

      I was thinking the other day how strange it is that our kids weren’t at our wedding. Of course it wasn’t really strange at all because they weren’t born yet, but also very strange because it’s such a key event for our family. You know what I mean?

      The idea of being able get married (again) in front of our kids seems nice.

  2. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    We just celebrated our 20th Anniversary. We celebrated quietly which was just right this time. We celebrated out 10th Anniversary with a vow renewal and huge party. It was just right. It wound up meaning more than I ever thought it would. By then we had struggled with fertility issues for years (and all that that brings with togetherness and separation as a couple), job changes, buying our first house, the birth and death of our baby son, and the adoption of our daughter. It was an acknowledgement of our struggles and a celebration and a fresh start all at once.

    1. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

      Ps. We used some of our original vows which were also spoken at the funeral of our son. We added some too. But those original vows have sustained us.

  3. We did one for our 20th and mostly to get some pretty family photos but also to celebrate 20 years. We were planning a trip to California and I loved the idea of a beach vow renewal with just my husband and two girls (I didn’t want to be the center of attention either!). It was fairly easy to arrange an officiant and photographer via the internet (we live in PA). We had the ceremony at a quiet spot on a public beach in La Jolla right before sunset. It was fun picking out dresses for my girls and myself before we left. It was very simple and laid back. I had my hair done at the hotel where we were staying(Torrey Pines..awesome place!). Our officiant also did our bouquets for an additional fee (one stop shopping!). We celebrated with a nice dinner at the hotel afterwards. We didn’t tell anyone back home that we were renewing our vows until we got back. I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to get us anything. We made photo albums from our beautiful photos for our parents when we got back.
    Here’s a few of the photos..it’s been six years already!!

  4. My parents had a vow renewal for their 25th, which was about eight years ago now. They had it early in the morning, and it was mom, dad, my sister and I, a pastor they had a good relationship with, and a friend of mine to videotape/photograph it. It was in the same gazebo they took photos in 25 years earlier. We all just wore the nicest things we had in our closets, mom bought my sister and I and herself matching pearl necklaces and corsages, and it was very simple. I wrote a poem, my sister sang a song, and they said their vows again.
    And then we met some of my parents closest friends for breakfast, and later that evening just our little family of four went out for a very nice dinner together.
    Watching them say their vows, how they both wept because now they really knew what they were promising-it was SO beautiful and inspiring.

  5. Fun story – We had never talked about or planned to renew our vows. We’ve been married just over 14 years. We have a big party every 5 years to celebrate with friends and family, but keep it simple. A few weeks ago during Mass, the Priest, to our great surprise, asked all the couples to stand, face each other, and we all renewed our vows together. It was a big surprise and surprisingly lovely. Our kids were all around us. My sister and her husband were a few feet away with their kids. We were a little confused, but went with it and I adored it. It wasn’t the big party with everyone we know and a photographer, but it was a renewal of our marriage vows, witnessed by our kids and my sister, nephews, brother-in-law, and everyone at Mass. The church had a small cake and punch reception for us all afterwards with an area for photo opportunities. It was a huge surprise and really quite lovely. My mom took us all out to lunch after Sunday School to celebrate the big event, which was perfect. Spontaneity for the win!

  6. For our wedding, we couldn’t afford much and we had family and guests who would come from abroad and some friends who were unemployed or still studying…. So we have decided to rent a place with some chales for the entire week-end (to make the travelling worth it) and we invited only close relatives (grand-parents, parents, siblings) and some close friends… Our families living far away from us, they did not know our friends…. We offered the tickets to friends who couldn’t afford it (not from abroad for that we couldn’t). Since we had no money left, we decided that we would all cook together, decorate together, sing together, etc. No gifts required, no fancy clothes required… The week-end was awesome… the fact that we had to do everything together created a sense of everyone creating the event, new friendships were established around cooking, decorating, rehearsing to sing along…. Everyone’s talents for the deco, cooking, dish-washing(ha!), music was praised. The pictures we have of our wedding come from everyone who had a camera and they are great for everyone captured different things and people. Everybody asked us to do our vows renewal in the same way and I guess we will actually do it within some years…

  7. Do it! Look at all you’ve accomplished. A wonderful life, beautful children, fantastic blog, published author…need I go on. All of that took shape within your marriage, and that’s something to celebrate. And it’s ok if every once in a while you draw a little bit of attention to yourself. Enjoy! (PS: no one will complain about being invited to such a special occasion)

  8. I could have written everything you wrote! I agree with all if it – the look at me feeling, the expense, the fun party planning, who would come, I don’t know anyone who has done this, yet I would be happy to celebrate someone else, etc
    Ultimately, my biggest hang up is that when I said my vows the first time I meant it. I didn’t mean it for 10 or 25 or 50 years. So why do I need to renew?
    But it would be really great to have all of the people you love in the same place to just have a good time. The ones that were there on your wedding day and the ones you have come to love since.
    After our wedding was over I realized it was the only time in our lives we get to have all of the people we love come together in the same room. How awesome would it be to recreate that special moment with all the people you live celebrating love?

    1. My husband feels the same way. Why renew wedding vows when the original ones were meant to be forever? I think it would be romantic, though.

  9. I’m sorry to be the Debbie Downer but I have a very negative personal association with wedding vow renewal. The summer before I entered high school, my mom found out my dad was carrying on an affair. We had a family meeting and she made him confess it to my brother and I. Without going into detail, the days and months that followed were traumatic, to say the least. They stayed together and renewed their wedding vows on their next anniversary, which was in February. It was just the four of us and the priest at the church. I can remember so distinctly, standing at the altar and when the priest called for us to pray, I prayed that they would just divorce. 14-yr-old me could not understand why my mother would stay married to a cheater, and the whole vow renewal just felt…gross. (They didn’t divorce, and were married until my dad died in 2004.) Anyway, sorry for the negative story. I just felt compelled to share!

    1. Sorry to agree with you. The few acquaintances I know who have had vow renewals ended up divorcing the next year. Like those who remodel a kitchen or have a baby to help a struggling union, I get the uneasy feeling that they are the death knell of a marriage.

      1. I was going to say the same thing! All the people I’ve known who did a vow renewal divorced. All renewals were because someone had cheated and the renewal was a recommitment/last ditch effort to save the marriage.

      2. I COMPLETELY agree!!! Every time I hear of a vow renewal, I think “uh oh….” and sure enough, the divorce happens within 3 years. My husband and I have been married for 12 years and laugh at the idea of renewing our vows. They don’t need to be renewed because they don’t have an expiration date on them, and we meant them the first time we said “forever.”

    2. I tend to agree with this. The only couple I know in real life who had a vow renewal ceremony has a seriously rocky marriage. It felt like the vow renewal was not a celebration of a successful union, but an attempt to save it. And on reality TV it is a big publicity stunt and/or the couple divorces soon after.

      I also agree that the whole “renewal” idea feels silly. It isn’t like they expire! :-)

      I think having a giant anniversary party sounds fun. We are more of a take-a-nice-vacation couple, but I could see renting a space and buying a beautiful new dress and inviting our friends for a big anniversary bash at 25 or 50 years. And anniversary parties are a longstanding tradition. I just wouldn’t do the vow renewal bit.

      1. Although I should also add that some of the comments here sound like perfectly lovely parties that weren’t thrown because someone cheated and the couple was panicking. So obviously good vow renewals do exist!

  10. My husband and I just celebrated our 6th anniversary. We’ve been doing vow renewals every year on our anniversary! We got married at a friends farm and we go back every year (now with our two kids in tow) and recite our vows right under the olive tree where we were married. We even re-exchange our rings. It makes me teary every time! We find it helps keep us on track to what we promised to each other as we wrote our own vows. It can be easy to take your partner for granted so re-reading these vows aloud once a year helps me to continuously strive to be a respectful partner and honor the marriage we both vowed to have! I think we’re both surprised how emotional and connected to each other we feel after we do this every year.

  11. What a fun post! And topic to consider. We celebrated our 20th this past April and similarly thought about throwing a family party or something, but decided instead to spend the money to take a bucket list trip to Machu Picchu. There we were blessed to have an amazing tour guide who was also an Andean shaman, and on our actual anniversary he led us to this private part of the mountain and performed a ritual vow renewal there. It was intimate and sacred and exactly perfect.
    (Given the nature of LDS wedding ceremonies, we feel that returning to the temple and doing sealings as a couple is a vow renewal every time we go :-)

  12. I’ve been to a few vow renewals, and they’ve always been very special and beautiful. My grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a large Catholic mass and reception including all of the children and grandchildren, plus some siblings, nieces, nephews…pretty much the whole entire family! It was so moving to watch them stand on the altar surrounded by their eight children and their twelve grandchildren reciting powerful and long-lasting words. We all cried with so much joy that day! It is a day that I enjoy remembering, especially since my PawPaw passed away a few years ago. I don’t know if my husband and I will have a vow renewal, but I do like the idea of having all of our loved ones together again, and maybe appreciating it a little more the second time around.

    That same grandmother who renewed her vows firmly believes that if you don’t renew your vows at your 50th anniversary that you are no longer married! She is adamant about it, and when her sister failed to renew her vows at 50 years, boy did she have a lot to say! Ha! We all just laugh and roll our eyes!

  13. i don’t know that I’m interested in a vow renewal with that formality, but I love the idea of throwing a big anniversary party. I’m not one to throw a lot of parties, but I think it’d be fun to rent an affordable venue and get a caterer and photographer and have a big party to celebrate our marriage. 20 years seems like a great time too. We are at 8 years now. For 10 we’ve been thinking a big trip.

  14. My husband and I got married in our back yard in 2009. He promised me that since we got such a late start (we were in our mid-forties) that we’d always be newlyweds. Now every time we go somewhere special or memorable or romantic, we take a moment and marry each other again. Just a few words to say we still “do”. And we say “Remember that time we got married at the Grand Canyon?” whenever the subject comes up. Or “Remember the bottle chapel?” It’s really just for us,especially since our wedding was so recent, but I really love it and it makes me even more grateful for my perfect-for-me husband.

  15. Most people seem to have stories of much later vow renewals, but I know of a couple who renewed their vows after a particularly harrowing chapter in their marriage. No cheating, but I thought it was so sweet after they dug so deep to work on themselves and their commitment to each other.
    My husband and I joke that our marriage is like dog years- we seem to tackle so much in such a short period of time that it feels like we’ve been married many, many years longer than we have. I don’t think it needs to be a celebration (because that seems like an anniversary party to me), but rather at a time that’s especially meaningful in your relationship to stand up and say “I still choose you. Everyday.”

  16. I have never thought of renewing vows with my husband. It is not that I would not want to, it simply hasn’t heen a pressing need in my relationship with him. If I did, I would want it to be just the two of us. Our marriage is ours, for us. I have never wanted to share that with anyone but him. We were married in an extremely private ceremony, just us, the judge who married us and his assistant who was the witness. I know that might be strange for some people. Does anyone else feel that way? Or am I a bit weird?

  17. I’ve always thought that vow renewals were a lovely idea, plus I love any excuse to plan a party. I doubt that we would ever do one though, since I think that there are other ways to renew vows than throwing another party.

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  18. i’m with you on the mixed feelings. I married so young and had no clue as to what I really wanted my original wedding to be like, and like you, we hardly have any pictures from the day, so it would be nice to do it over with more of ‘us’ in the planning. However – every time we attend the temple, we try to include a sealing session, and that is kind of like a renewal, don’t you think?

  19. Ah! I always think about this so I’m glad someone wrote about it!

    We’ve been married seven years and I used to joke that every five we would renew our vows so I could wear a pretty wedding dress every five years. ;) We went to a wedding last weekend and I talked about it again! I agree on all accounts – having a party with all your loved ones and we work hard on our marriage too. :) Making it through life together is something to celebrate!!

    I think we’ll do it someday. Year ten. And fifteen. And twenty…


  20. Our friends are marking their one year anniversary with a service and party because they just went to the justice of the peace to get married. So it’s technically a renewal, but also finally a chance to celebrate their marriage. I’m pretty excited about it :)

    I’ve thought about one as well, mostly because our wedding day was a fiasco, and we also don’t have many pictures.

  21. We renewed our vows in Las Vegas at the Elvis chapel on our 17th wedding anniversary with our 3 kids and my ex-brother in law and his new wife. He gave me away the first time and he walked me down the “aisle” (ok it was between the chairs in the diner!) for the second time too. But really, it was more because we thought it would be a fun thing to do with the kids.

    So then we did have a seriously rocky patch in the marriage after that for a couple of years but you know what, next year we hit 20 years and I am glad we stuck it out. And I’m really happy we have a bunch of really cheesy photos with Elvis for memories :)

  22. I adore weddings, and I love marriage more than almost anything, but I am not a fan of vow renewals. Anniversary parties? Absolutely!! A marriage of 2, 20, or 40 years deserves to be celebrated. But I said my vows once, and they will last me for the rest of my life. I don’t feel any need to get up in front of loved ones and say them again, because they still hold true. However, I did read about a couple who recited their vows to each other over dinner on their anniversary every year, and I thought that was a terribly romantic reminder. To each his own, though! :)

    1. Was coming to post the exact same thing but you already said it, better. By definition, vows don’t need “renewing” in my opinion. But celebrate, yes!

  23. We actually did a vow renewal INSTEAD of a wedding, because when we got married, we eloped (just the two of us to Lake Tahoe). We eloped because of an upcoming military deployment, then AFTER the deployment, we had a renewal of vows ceremony and the big party/reception we’d always planned.

    I say go for it, and if people can make it, they will! Lots of people are happy for an excuse/reason to celebrate with friends. Happy 20th Anniversary, by the way!

  24. Anniversary party? Yes! Vow renewal? Nope. I dunno, I’m a bit of a stickler. I think our original vows were strong and broad enough to stand the test of time. I almost feel like a vow renewal would cheapen them.

  25. I want to read the story of why you, of all the Mormon and design-conscious people I know, don’t have too many images of your wedding. You often make me curious, and this is certainly no exception. Tell us tell us— please?

  26. Yes to a big party; no to a vow renewal. My 20 year wedding anniversary is next year and my husband and I talked about having a big party, but the planning and paying for it overwhelmed us and we ultimately decided we’d rather take a couple trips and save the party for the 25th year. I love the idea of celebrating with my kids though — such a simple idea and one I didn’t even think of. That is definitely something I can do and afford!

  27. We have discussed this subject too as we were married quietly without family or friends present. We didn’t remember to take a picture either. For our 10th anniversary we have decided to have a celebration with our children, family and friends. It will not be anything extravagant but it will be personal. If a Fairy Godmother appeared to grant us our wish… We would either be on a beach somewhere warm with turquoise waters or in snow covered mountains beside a roaring fire. Things that remain the same regardless of venue: good food, good music, good company.

  28. One thing I think would be fun for an LDS “renewal” of sorts is attending a session at the temple, and then taking pictures outside the temple, but this time with your kids. Fitting into your old wedding dress scores you bonus points!

  29. We’re planning on doing a renewal next year for our 10th. Big party. So much of the first time around was disappointing. I had never been to another wedding, so I had no idea what they were supposed to be like and mine ended up being a flop (in an effort to NOT be a bridezilla, I let my mom and my MIL make most of the decisions and now I’m regretting not asking for something that was more my own style). Also, I’d like to write my own vows now instead of using whatever generic ones we had originally. We aren’t cookie cutter people and our commitment to each other deserves more than cookie cutter words.

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