After five years of marriage, a big move from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan, new jobs and two new babies, Sarah Tupper knew she wanted to mark her wedding anniversary in a significant and meaningful way.
“I think it’s easy to get lost in the everyday routine of life that shifts the focus off the marriage,” says Tupper.
During their yearly anniversary trip to Chicago to celebrate, Tupper surprised her husband, Brian Adams, with a vow renewal ceremony at the church where their 2010 nuptials took place.
“Father Chris, our priest at St. Vincent’s Church, proposed doing it during mass rather than privately, as an awesome example of marriage commitment to the congregation,” says Tupper.
Tupper says her husband’s reaction quickly went from shock to emotion, and that he later thanked her for arranging the experience.
“Brian was thrilled that I would recognize this as a sentimental moment for him,” says Tupper. “I thought renewing our commitment to each other was just a really important reminder of that love.”
Jim Rehnberg, also known as “The Rent-A-Rev ,” has presided over hundreds of weddings and vow renewals over the past 33 years he has served as a non-denominational pastor and counselor.
Married for more than 40 years himself, Rehnberg says the power of renewing marital vows serves to reconnect and recharge a relationship by reinstating the deep commitment a couple has in a meaningful and intimate way.
“Most couples are often entering a tender time of married life after they’ve raised a family or come through a process and decide it’s time to exhale, step back and let each other know they are here, present and plugged in again,” says Rehnberg. “It’s like a massage for your relationship.”
Top 3 Reasons Couples Renew Their Vows:
1. To mark a special anniversary
2. Unintended influences by friends/family
Couples who have witnessed the renewal of vows by another couple are often inspired to seek the same experience for themselves. In other cases, grown children have encouraged their parents to renew or a couple wants their children to witness their vows.
3. To celebrate overcoming a trauma or illness, or experiencing healing in a marriage
Rehnberg says marital and family therapists often encourage a vow renewal when they see a positive breakthrough in marital therapy. In other cases, couples facing a health crisis or who have recently overcome an illness may choose to symbolically celebrate life and love again by renewing their vows.
Rehnberg says there are no wrong reasons in his book to renew vows, and says he’s seen a positive effect on couples, even in cases where one partner was more committed to renew than the other.
“Even if one-sided, it’s worth it,” says Rehnberg. “If he sees she’s happy and realizes their love is genuine, it can even be a wake-up call.”
Pro Tips for “Retying the Knot” With Style and Substance:
1. Choose a sentimental setting.
Event Consultant Randy Schuster, a seasoned veteran who has planned some of the North Shore’s swankiest soirees, suggests making it personal when choosing a venue to hold a vow renewal. Rehnberg agrees; he recommends holding the ceremony in the home or in a special location or restaurant that holds meaning for the couple and their families, though he notes he has also performed many vow renewals with the couple alone.
Whether a couple chooses the comfort of their own home, a Caribbean beach, or even the site of their original wedding, the priority should be to hold the event in a place that feels special and reflects their entertaining style. “It doesn’t have to be over the top — it can be as fun and simple as a barbeque in your backyard,” Schuster says.
2. Share a token of your love.
Schuster loves the idea of including the couple’s children or grandchildren in the ceremony. “You are showing your children what love and commitment is really all about,” he says, and suggests presenting those included with a small token of remembrance. “Give the kids a locket, a necklace or cufflinks — something engraved perhaps, to mark the day.”
Rehnberg agrees: “Have the kids participate by sharing in the lighting of a unity candle, sharing wine from a special family ceremonial cup or by performing special readings,” he says.
3. Include something borrowed from the past.
As a nod to the past, Rehnberg works to incorporate components of the couple’s wedding into the renewal ceremony. “I try to create a format with a sense of the original ceremony,” Rehnberg says. “Typically there is no processional but rather a gathering of the guests to witness the ceremony.”
Schuster echoes this, and suggests including some of the same music, featuring a table of framed photos from the wedding, and even designing the décor and cake with elements of the original wedding in mind.
Rings are not required for vow renewals, but Rehnberg says he is happy to include a blessing of the original wedding rings. Couples can create their own vows, and Rehnberg says including children, grandchildren and other special friends and family members is a wonderful way to share the love.
4. Consider the element of surprise.
Schuster says many of the numerous vow renewals he’s helped plan in the past were done under the guise of an anniversary or birthday celebration. He recalls a recent 60th birthday party where the hosts offered a toast and then popped the news to their guests that they were also there to witness their vow renewal ceremony. “We surprised the guests by inviting them into a second room that had been completely concealed for the ceremony,” Schuster says.
5. Hire a good photographer.
Take advantage of the opportunity to commemorate the renewal with gorgeous photos. “How many times do you get your whole family together?” Schuster asks. “This is a great opportunity to take formal family photos that will be cherished forever.”
Photos: © Artisan Events 
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