Imagine yourself on a beach, remembering the day you were married. Only this time you are actually there, surrounded by a southwest Florida breeze, the soft lapping of the waves from the Gulf of Mexico, looking into your beloved’s eyes, making a new commitment. Consider the possibility of renewing one’s vows in Naples. As a company, A Beautiful Florida Wedding has always believed that it’s important to the vitality of a marriage to renew love daily. This may simply involve saying “I love you” each day, and being respectful of each other’s contribution to the day. But, periodically, at critical times in the marriage, something additional may need to be expressed, at such important thresholds as a 1st, 5th, 10th, 20th or 25th anniversary. As “officiants for life”, we have celebrated with couples at their 1st anniversary and at succeeding decade anniversaries. We have even had the honor of celebrating one couple’s 40th anniversary in Naples. This was a couple who had kept every souvenir from their wedding day right down to the bill for a tuxedo rental. We also blessed their new retirement home near the beach and shared in the joyous celebration and testimonials of their children, grandchildren, and lifelong friends.
The highlight of most wedding ceremonies is the exchange of vows, because this public expression of love and commitment comes straight from the heart. Once said, however, many couples can’t recall the content of their vows unless they kept some record of it. The words remain buried obscurely among the myriad of events that occurred during the wedding day. Couples may celebrate their anniversaries each year without realizing the importance of actually renewing their vows.
What is the attraction of a vow renewal? Fro some couples, who had traditional church or synagogue weddings, the attractions are the novelty and informality of a renewal on the beach. For others, it’s the belief that now is an appropriate time for them to take stock of their relationship. For still others, it’s the opportunity to celebrate with children, and sometimes close family or friends, in a quiet, intimate atmosphere.
How does a vow renewal compare with the original wedding ceremony? Some couples view it nostalgically as an experience as closely following the original ceremony as possible. Most couples, however, see the renewal as an opportunity to blend the original experience with recognition of how they have grown and changed over the years. Children, especially, are a manifestation of the gifts of the marriage union. We try to incorporate children in the vow renewal when possible as witnesses, readers, or recipients of their parents’ gratitude. They tend to be thrilled to be able to experience their parents repeating their vows. We hope that it impresses upon them the seriousness and sincerity of the marriage commitment.
Our renewal ceremony is relatively short, intimate, and personal. We begin with a brief homily or reminder of the importance of renewing one’s vows and how that renewal remains eternal throughout the marriage. We often include a reading or a prayer that captures the sustaining quality of marriage and that recognizes the strength of the commitment that each partner has brought and will continue to bring to the marriage. The vows that we have the couple repeat blend traditional wording with more contemporary wording that captures the sense of continuity and change. The precise wording often comes from the couple themselves, although we are happy to create our own phrasing for the occasion.
However expressed, the vow repetition comes from the heart. So also does the exchange of rings, an especially tender moment because it involves the one tangible symbol from the original wedding ceremony. We then conclude with a brief blessing or prayer that launches the couple, and their family, on to the next phase of their relationship.
There is usually no processional or recessional, no bridal party, and no formal reception. What is in place, though, is a particular recognition of a renewed expression of love and commitment, of a family created through that love, and of a resolve to continue to strengthen the bonding that began years ago and that we affirm again today.
Bob and Cynthia Mitchell and Catherine Fazzina- Your Officiants for Life