Vow renewals are a heartfelt way to celebrate your love and reaffirm the promises you made to each other on your wedding day. If you are thinking about having a vow renewal ceremony, know that a joyous celebration of your marriage can be planned easily and confidently with a little guidance from the experts.
What Is a Vow Renewal?
A vow renewal is a celebratory ceremony for a married couple to reaffirm their commitment to each other. They are especially popular on milestone anniversaries (10, 25, or 50 years); however, there is no rule as to when to have one.
“The most important thing to remember is not to get caught up in ‘wedding planning’ again,” says Natasha Anakotta of American Marriage Ministries. “Vow renewal ceremonies should be unique and meaningful while wholly re-committing yourselves to each other.”
Meet the Expert
Natasha Anakotta is the outreach and operations manager of American Marriage Ministries, a nonprofit ministry and wedding authority providing free officiant ordinations, advocacy, and support for friends and family wishing to perform legal wedding ceremonies.
Why Do Couples Renew Their Vows?
Vow renewals are held for any number of reasons. Perhaps the couple was only able to have a small wedding or elopement and now wishes to have more guests present. Maybe they've overcome an illness, infidelity, or other situation in their marriage and want to re-commit to each other. Other couples may be so crazy in love that they simply want to say “I do” all over again. For romantics, planning a surprise vow renewal for your partner can be a way to re-ignite the flame of passion. It may also be a way of saying goodbye. One particularly moving vow renewal was held in hospice for a couple, complete with flowers and cake. Two days later, after promising to see her husband in heaven, the wife passed peacefully.
Does a Vow Renewal Require a License?
From the perspective of each state in the union, a vow renewal is purely ceremonial. You are not required to obtain a marriage license or use a registered church minister or officiant. There are no legal documents involved, and it can be held anywhere at any time. This means:
- You’re not limited by marriage laws, religious restrictions, or location. Why not make it a destination vow renewal and take the family? Or go to a romantic spot with just two of you and the officiant, as there is no need for official witnesses.
- You can choose anyone to preside over the ceremony. Since it's a public speaking role with no legal obligations, your officiant can be your local pastor, a longtime friend, your original best man or maid of honor, or a hired wedding professional. Even your children can take part in performing the ceremony.
Friends or family members who perform the vow renewal often wish to present the couple with a commemorative renewal of vows certificate as a keepsake. Because it’s not a legal document, they can be creative and personalized.
How to Plan a Vow Renewal
There is no standard protocol for planning a vow renewal ceremony, so you’ll have lots of freedom to create a meaningful celebration. Here is a general planning guide.
Decide the details.
Whether at an international destination, a restaurant, or your home, your celebration can be as formal or informal as you’d like. While vow renewals are not a sacrament in organized religions, you may still want to hold it in a place of worship. Check with local churches or hire a nondenominational chapel.
Hire a photographer and any other key vendors.
Just like you would for a wedding, it's important to determine which vendors you'll need when bringing your vow renewal to life; at the very least, you'll want a photographer there to capture every special moment. You should also consider whether or not you want to work with a wedding planner or coordinator, florist, musicians, and caterers, depending on how complex you want the celebration to be.
Choose a date and send invitations.
Once you select the location and date, send an invitation reflecting the tone and formality of the event. As vow renewals can be anything you want, your invitation will tell the guests what to expect and whether you are providing a meal, cocktail hour, or a champagne toast and cake.
Pick your outfit.
You don’t need a wedding dress, veil, or tux—wear what you want. That said if you'd like to get dressed up for the occasion that is perfectly fine, too. Whatever you choose, your outfit should reflect the formality of the event.
Meet with your officiant.
The officiant can deliver a welcome that outlines some of your married life experiences. You may have readings and well wishes from guests before you say your vows. Ideally, read your vows aloud to each other. Follow up with a blessing by the officiant, a big kiss, and walk out to “your song” to greet each guest personally.
Vow renewal etiquette has only one cardinal rule: Gifts from your guests are not to be solicited or expected. You can, however, present each other with new or upgraded wedding rings.
Sample Renewal Vows
You've built a life together, so there are no style guides—it’s your story. Consider affirming your original promises and include experiences or lessons learned during your marriage. You might speak to the hurdles you’ve overcome together, the joys in your lives, and how you’ll continue to support your beloved as you move through life side by side. To get you started, here are some examples:
“For much of my life, I dreamed about my wedding day. I thought about the person that would be standing beside me and what things would be like after that magical day had come and gone. I wondered if there was such a thing as a perfect, lasting union. Now, __ year(s) later, I know that we have a healthy and loving marriage. True love like this is rare and difficult to find, but I know that I have found it in you. In the time that we have been married, my life has changed because of you.”
“You have challenged me to do things that I didn't think possible. You have a passion for life that inspires me to be the best person I can be. Because of this, I find myself continuing to fall in love with you more deeply each day. You are my best friend, my confidant, and my one true love. Today, I want to thank you for loving me, unconditionally. I'll keep loving and supporting you and stand by your side no matter what challenges we face together. I still look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, and vow to continue loving you now, always, and forever.”
“__ year(s) ago, I took you as my husband/wife—knowing in my heart that you would be my faithful companion, my lifelong partner, and my one true love. As we stand before our loved ones [and God], I pledge to stay by your side as your wife/husband/partner, in sickness, in health, in joy and sorrow, through the good times and the bad. I vow, once more, to love you without reservation, to honor and respect you. I will continue to support you, protect you from harm, and to comfort you in times of distress.”
“With my whole heart, I promise to remain devoted to you, to continue to grow with you in mind and spirit, and to practice patience, kindness, and understanding. Once more, I vow to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”
What does a vow renewal ceremony entail?
A vow renewal ceremony is very similar to a traditional marriage ceremony. The wedded couple will enter through a short processional, exchange vows, and share a kiss before continuing on to the celebrations. Some may include blessings from a presiding officiant. A wedding party is typically not present in a vow renewal unless the couple chooses to include their children.
How long is a vow renewal ceremony?
The length of a vow renewal ceremony depends on the elements you choose to include like readings, blessings, and the length of the vows themselves. Typically, a vow renewal ceremony will last between 20 and 30 minutes.
Is it legal to renew wedding vows?
A vow renewal has no legal standing or implications as it is purely ceremonial in nature. As such, you are free to orchestrate it as you wish without any legal or religious matrimonial restrictions to adhere to.