Whether you’ve hit a major milestone, made it through a rough patch or just want an excuse to party with your closest friends, the point of a vow renewal is to celebrate your marriage. And unlike the first time around (when Aunt Karen’s incessant demands about the menu drove you up the wall), this time it’s all about commemorating your relationship in a low-key and stress-free environment. Here’s how to plan a vow renewal.
What is a vow renewal?
The clue is in the name: A vow renewal is when a couple renews the vows they made to each other when they first got married. It’s a way to celebrate their love while acknowledging how it has changed over time. But one thing a vow renewal isn’t? A second wedding. Aim for a celebration that’s relaxed and intimate (i.e., no 150-person guest list).
Why do a vow renewal?
The idea behind a vow renewal is to commemorate your marriage, which a couple can decide to do at any time. But there are a few specific life events that may inspire a pair to say “I do” again, such as…
- It’s a milestone wedding anniversary (hey, 20 years together is no small feat).
- You eloped the first time you exchanged your vows and now you’d like to celebrate with friends and family.
- You’ve overcome a major obstacle together and want to commemorate the occasion.
- You went through a rough patch in your relationship and made it through the other side stronger than ever.
14 Do’s and Don’ts of a Vow Renewal
Do: Pick a spot that’s meaningful to you. Whether it’s a church, your own backyard or a favorite restaurant, choose a locale that has a sentimental significance for your relationship.
Don’t: Wear a wedding dress. Reminder: This isn’t a second wedding. Which is not to say that you can’t don a white dress or an elegant gown if you want to, but there’s no need to go through the rigmarole of dress shopping with your mother-in-law, dropping a small fortune on something you’ll only wear once and going to multiple fittings.
Don’t: Have a bridal party. Feel free to ask your original maid of honor or best man to stand with you for sentimental reasons, but requesting that your friends buy matching dresses and plan a bachelorette party is not OK.
Do: Get flowers. While pretty blooms are certainly not a requirement for a vow renewal, it’s completely acceptable to hold a small bunch during the ceremony if you’d like to (just don’t spend hundreds of dollars on an elaborate bouquet).
Don’t: Expect gifts. Wedding gifts are given to help a couple get set up in their new life together. In a vow renewal, the couple have already made this transition, so gifts are not part of the equation.
Do: Exchange vows. That’s kind of the point of a vow renewal, but that doesn’t mean you have to say something elaborate (unless you want to, of course). You can exchange the same vows you had on your wedding day or come up with something entirely new to reflect the different people you are now. Choose your own adventure.
Don’t: Invite everyone you know. That means anyone you haven’t spoken to in the past year or any colleagues who aren’t considered friends. Keep the guest list to a minimum.
Do: Have a reception. This is the fun part! But again, it doesn’t have to be anything complicated or stressful to plan. An intimate dinner party at home or cocktails at your favorite bar are both great ideas. Focus on mingling with friends, and feel free to add some fun details like playing a slideshow of photos or showing off some pictures from your wedding album.
Don’t: Get a seven-tiered wedding cake. Dessert (yes, even cake) is totally appropriate for a vow renewal, but a multitiered white buttercream masterpiece with a bride and groom on top is unnecessary.
Do: Exchange rings. These can be your old wedding rings or new ones. No pressure.
Don’t: Do the traditional father-daughter and mother-son dances. Instead, invite all your guests to join you on the dance floor.
Do: Ask a friend or family member to officiate. Since a vow renewal ceremony doesn’t have any legal implications, anyone can serve as an officiant, whether it’s your minister, your bestie, a relative or even one of your children.
Don’t: Have a parent escort you down the aisle. Most couples choose to walk down the aisle together or walk from opposite sides of the room and meet in the middle, but you could have one of your kids escort you.
Do: Have fun without any pressure. If in the weeks before your vow renewal you find yourself stressing out over the playlist or what to wear, then you’re doing it wrong. Relax, enjoy the event and congratulations on your relationship.