An Exploration of Etiquette, Cynicism, and Lack of Understanding
Why some people are so against vow renewals is a subject that is near and dear to my heart as the founder of this site, so this is largely an opinion article. When my husband wanted to renew our vows for our 10th anniversary, I found so much negativity on the web on the subject that I was shocked. I wondered why on earth anyone would object to two people wanting to renew their commitment to one another and their marriage. What I found was that there are basically three types of people who are against vow renewals: 1) people obsessed by outdated etiquette, 2) people who are just plain cynical, and 3) people who just don’t understand what a vow renewal is all about. Let’s take a look at the issues and arguments raised by each group:
1) People Obsessed By Outdated Etiquette
The first group of people are truly just out of touch with modern society and the evolution of etiquette. Today, we live in a world where the divorce rate alone makes lasting marriages something to be celebrated. Their primary arguments focus on who should and shouldn’t be invited, what you should and shouldn’t wear, how many people should be invited, how grand the celebration should be, and whether or not gifts are appropriate. Lasting marriages should be celebrated with as much grandeur as the couple wants, be it for a first or 50th anniversary or any other time. Maybe you got married for financial, health, or military deployment reasons or any other reason when at the time you weren’t able to do it the way you wanted. Or maybe you just want to say you still love your spouse. A vow renewal isn’t a wedding, so let go of the supposed rules and outdated etiquette and throw whatever kind of celebration you want.
Seriously, long gone are the days of white dresses being reserved for a virgin bride at her wedding. There is absolutely no even semi-logical reason you shouldn’t wear a big white dress if you want. Just as there’s no reason you should wear one. Today, anyone can wear a white dress for any celebration without a second thought, be it an anniversary, wedding, or on the red carpet. Feel like rocking red or teal? Go for it! It’s your day, and you should wear whatever makes you feel amazing.
I’ve also read the craziest etiquette rules about only inviting close family and friends to a vow renewal. This makes no sense whatsoever. You’d invite the world to a birthday party, so why not invite them to a celebration of love? The great thing about a vow renewal is that it isn’t about who you “have” to invite but about who you want to invite. Feel free to invite as many or as few people as you want and your budget allows for.
I’m pretty sure this group’s opinion that the celebration should be small and private is directly related to their opinions on who should be on the guest list. Honestly, I’m not sure why there should be rules about the style, size, or formality of a vow renewal when none of these would apply to any other kind of celebration. Your celebration should be any style you want, from a big casual backyard barbecue to an intimate family dinner to an upscale cocktail party to a celebration as large and complex as a traditional wedding. Want to have a black tie reception with ballroom dancing – then do it! Prefer cake and punch at the church – that’s perfect too! As you plan your party, go for what feels right to the two of you and don’t give a second thought to these false restrictions.
Let’s talk gifts. The old school etiquette crowd says absolutely not. They’ll even go so far as to say you should put a note in your invitation that says “no gifts.” It seems a bit silly and contradictory. This same group of people would tell you that you should absolutely bring a hostess gift if you were invited to dinner. So maybe registering is a bit much if you’ve been married 25 years and really need nothing, but if you’re holding a vow renewal right after a destination wedding, then I see no reason not to register so guests would have an idea of what you can use. I do think it’s perfectly appropriate for guests to bring a gift no matter how many years you’ve been married though since they would bring a gift of some sort to most any other celebration.
I think we can all agree a vow renewal isn’t a wedding, so please leave your wedding rules at the door!
2) People Who Are Just Plain Cynical
This group’s focus is on the idea that you’re making a lame attempt to “fix” a broken marriage with a vow renewal and it’s not going to work. While I’d agree that a vow renewal won’t fix a broken marriage, I completely disagree that’s what all vow renewals are about. Sure, some celebrity couples do it after troubles in their marriage come to light publicly, and they may or may not stay together. But celebrities aren’t representative of the whole world, and their motivations may or may not be optimal. Many couples are simply wanting to say “I still love you” after several years. Some couples have made it through difficult financial, health, or other personal issues and want to acknowledge their enduring commitment to one another – a celebration of the “for better, or worse” part. Others are doing it to celebrate their recent marriage with family and friends who weren’t able to be there for the wedding for whatever reason. Others have their own special reasons as a couple that aren’t shared with others. The reasons couple choose to have a vow renewal are about as diverse as the couples are themselves. Celebrating your love and commitment to one another is never lame, it is, however, wonderful and special.
3) People Who Just Don’t Understand What a Vow Renewal Is All About
This last group tends to be caught up in the idea that a vow renewal is about trying to have another wedding. The fact is, you only get married once. Marriage is ultimately a contract, and once it’s been signed, you can’t re-sign it. But what you can do is celebrate that marriage in whatever manner you see fit and as often as you want. Are some vow renewals similar to weddings? Sure they are. They come in as many styles as weddings do – big, small, formal, casual, indoor, outdoors, at home, at exotic locations, and so forth. Why shouldn’t they? There’s no real reason not to celebrate your marriage with as grand or as small of a celebration as you like. Perhaps throwing a big gala every year is a bit much, but maybe not if your marriage is staying strong through real challenges and that’s what you want and have the budget for. I’ve seen children’s birthday parties that rival the grandest of weddings, so why shouldn’t your vow renewal? Or maybe the two of you like to have a private ceremony while on your yearly vacation, that’s perfect too. At the end of the day, a vow renewal is about the couple, not everyone else. The only opinion that really matters is yours.
One final thought – the beauty of it all is that if a guest feels uncomfortable with your plans for your vow renewal, they don’t have to attend. There’s no social expectation on them either.
This kind of negativity and outdated thinking is nothing new. In fact, it’s what led me to create this site years ago. I wanted to bring a fresh, less judgmental perspective to planning a vow renewal. As you browse IDoStill.com, I hope you feel invited and find ideas that speak to you and your unique needs. If we’ve missed a topic you want to know more about or have a specific question, please let us know in the comments so we can keep building a resource for every couple.