Photo: Tiffany Kelley Photography
If your wedding promises a lifetime of happiness as a couple, the vow renewal ceremony is the celebration of a promise fulfilled. It isn’t a legal or even a particularly religious affair, but rather one that reaffirms a couple’s love and commitment to one another. That the “I do” still stands, even after the test of time.
But when do you renew your vows? And how do you pull off a vow renewal? Do you still have a wedding party? Do you need an officiant? The renewal ceremony isn’t necessarily a standard marriage component, but is a popular event. If you’re wondering how to renew your vows, you came to the right place.
The Rules of Renewing Your Vows
Renewing your wedding vows doesn’t come with the same tried-and-true traditions of a wedding, giving you the freedom to express your recommitment however you want. But we do have some guidelines, ideas, and suggestions…
What is a Vow Renewal?
Again, this is not a legal or even necessarily a religious ceremony, though many couples obviously incorporate their faith into the event. It is an added expression of love and a recommitment to your spouse, typically performed after an extended period of time and/or after a significant marriage milestone. Renewing wedding vows can be done in private with just the two of you, with your family, or can be a large, joyful celebration with the same guests you’d invite to a wedding.
When to Renew Your Vows
This is our most commonly asked question: How much time should pass between your wedding and your renewal ceremony? Sadly for the rule-oriented, there is no magic number—because there is no wrong time to renew your vows. It can coincide with a milestone anniversary (10, 25, 50 years); it can come after a significant life event, like having all your children move out or after you’ve relocated your family; it can symbolize a positive end to a trying time in your relationship. It’s your relationship and your renewal ceremony; do it whenever it feels right!
Who Attends a Vow Renewal
Weddings have pretty clear guidelines as to who officiates, who walks whom down the aisle, etc. You can follow a similar structure for your renewal, or go rogue! We can’t emphasize enough that this ceremony should be all about you, and what you want out of it. Make it as intimate or as celebratory as you want! We’ve seen beautiful ceremonies where the couple’s children take the place of a wedding party and stand with them as they renew their vows; we’ve also seen couples invite their original wedding party up with them as a fun reunion-esque renewal. Choose your own (vow renewal) adventure!
How a Vow Renewal Ceremony Works
See above—you make the rules! We do advise, however, that you be explicit with your invitations (yes, you’ll need vow renewal invitations), as guests won’t have any idea what to expect. Be clear about who is invited, what will take place, what guests should wear, if the event will include food, drinks, dancing/entertainment, etc. Vow renewals run the gamut in style and substance, so make sure your guests are prepared.
The one wedding tradition that doesn’t really fly for a vow renewal is the registry—this is not an appropriate time for gifts (or a shower, or a bachelor party). It’s wonderful that you’re renewing your vows and want to celebrate with your nearest and dearest; but it isn’t a wedding and gifts are not the end goal.
Sample Renewal Vows
The highlight of the vow renewal ceremony is, of course, the vows themselves. You may have had a lot to say to each other when you first got married, but we’ll bet you have even more to say now! Here are some of our favorite vow renewal ideas:
“I love you more than words can say. I know you can feel it every day! And the best thing about it is that I feel all your love in return each and every day. Twenty-five years ago, we started our forever story…thank you for choosing me to write it with.”
“The sun smiles on us today as we renew our vows, anyhow can it not, for our love is stronger than ever, and our hearts beat together as one.”
“Until today, the day I married you, that was the best day of my life.”
“You’re my best friend, confidant, lover, and partner. Together we have created a safe haven in our marriage from the chaos of the rest of the world, and in you, I have found comfort, joy, and peace.”
“On our wedding day, I pledged to love you in sickness and in health, and for better or worse. The past year has tested those vows, but our enduring love for one another has prevailed. I come here today to make a fresh start, to renew our vows of love, honor, and fidelity, and to reaffirm my love for you.”
“________, 25 years ago, I pledged my love and commitment to you. I promised to love you, honor you, comfort and keep you. I pledged to be by your side in sickness and in health, in times of want, and times of plenty, for better or worse, for the rest of our lives. We have had all of those things, and you have been by my side as we created a family, a home, and a life together. Today, at the beginning of our 26th year as husband/wife and husband/wife, in the presence of God, and our family and friends, I renew my vows to you, pledging my eternal love for you, and eagerly awaiting what life may bring us.”
“Thank you for being there then; thank you even more for being here now.”
“With great joy I pledged my love and commitment to you on our wedding day. But a loving relationship does not exist in a vacuum. Our family and friends first showed us how to love, helped us grow, and supported us when we found each other. I hope they will continue to love and support us as we love and support them. Therefore, I am delighted today, in the presence of these witnesses, to reaffirm my commitment to you, and once again, to promise to love you, honor you, and comfort you, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better and for worse, as long as we both shall live.”
“Because of you, I laugh, I smile, I dare to dream. Each day, I look forward to sharing my life with you, caring for you, nurturing you, being there for you. I promise today, as I did on our wedding day, to love and cherish you through whatever life brings us.”
“There are three words that are stronger than I love you. Twenty-five years ago, I stood in front of you to say ‘I choose you.’ Today, I stand in front of you to remind you that each and every day I choose you over all others. I choose you to share happiness with. I choose you to care for. I choose you to have a family with. I choose you to grow with. I choose you to love forever.”
How to Write Your Own Vow Renewal Vows
We’ve got lots of good advice on writing your own wedding vows, and all of that still applies when it comes to renewing vows; however, there are a few other ideas to consider when crafting your words and promises for this occasion.
1. Include how many years you’ve been together. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy for you to forget when you’re in the throes of vow drafts, because it’s such a second-nature statistic for you. But it isn’t for your guests, and it’s undoubtedly a foundation for your decision to do a vow renewal ceremony in the first place. There, you have your opening line!
2. Recall the wedding ceremony vows you made the first time around. You don’t need to repeat them verbatim, but harkening back to how it all got started, and how you’ve both made good on those vows, or adjusted them to real life, or found them to be more profound than you predicted, is a really beautiful sentiment for your vow renewal.
3. The best wedding vows tend to be very romantic, funny, hopeful, optimistic; your renewal ceremony is an opportunity to come down to earth a bit. Don’t be afraid to get real—everyone knows relationships and marriages take work, and nobody’s perfect, so chances are you’ve had your share of conflict and challenges. Be open about those—but not so candid that you make others, especially your spouse, uncomfortable. Not sure where the line is? Ask a friend or family member—or even your spouse! Again, this isn’t the wedding, so you don’t need to be so secretive about your vows if you don’t want to be. Better safe than sorry, we say!
4. Acknowledge that you still have a future. It’s easy to focus on the marriage you’ve had during this renewal ceremony, but you’re having this ceremony because you are recommitting—because there’s more marriage ahead. Make the same promises, or some new promises, to show the love of your life that there’s still much more to look forward to.