What, Why, Where, When, Who, How. Rules?
Just a Couple Please!

A vow renewal is your opportunity to reaffirm your love for each other and celebrate in whatever fashion you desire. Traditional wedding etiquette doesn’t apply – this is a vow renewal. The only rules you are concerned with are simply about good manners. You can commemorate this special occasion any time and any place you like. It can be as elaborate as a grand wedding or as simple as a backyard party. Just make sure to send out invitations so your guests can mark their calendars and know that this is a special occasion for you! Now’s the time to celebrate the life you’ve built together!

Why Have a Vow Renewal?

Couples renew their vows for many reasons:

  • They got legally married, but missed out on the first wedding. The reasons are many -limited time or money, military leave, elopement, or being married abroad. Later, when circumstances have changed they may want to do something a bit more formal or celebratory, vow renewals are the way to go. The reaffirmation of vows ceremony can be big and extravagant as the couple want or can afford.
  • They had a grand wedding largely dictated by family, but wanted something intimate. Later, when things have settled down and time has passed they may want to do something intimate the way they envisioned. The renewal of vows ceremony can be intimate and private as the couple desire.
  • They have just gone through a rough spot in their relationship. Sometimes couples have such great differences that it seems as if a split is inevitable, yet they somehow pull through and work it all out. These times deserve celebrating, which is why many couples opt to renew their vows after a difficult period. These celebrations tend to be more intimate so as to allow the two of them to spend time together and regroup. However, when the rough spot was played out “in public” a larger event may be planned so as to also make the news of their success public.
  • They have hit a relationship milestone. Perhaps the birth of their first or last child or a fifth, tenth, twentieth, or even fiftieth anniversary. These big anniversaries are a natural time to celebrate their lasting love. Do it up the way you want! Invite everyone, have a blast, or put together everything that goes along with a wedding. Remember, have fun and say “I do” all over again!

Getting Started

First off, sit down with your spouse and discuss what your must-have elements are. Perhaps it’s the song you danced to at your wedding or a special reading that has personal significance. Also, think about the elements that you absolutely don’t want! This is your chance to do it how the two of you want.


There are no rules about when to renew your vows. From the year to the date, it’s all up to you. You may elect to renew your vows every year on your anniversary with just the two of you at home or away on a special vacation. You might want to renew you vows every five years with an officiant to preside. Or [perhaps you prefer to renew your vows on big occasions, such as a 10th or 25th anniversary, a birthday, or another special time.


There are no rules about where to renew your vows. From the backyard to somewhere exotic, it’s all up to you. You might reflect on the style of your wedding and what you feel like doing now. The location may mimic the first time around or be the complete opposite. It also has something to do with what size of a party you want to throw. How many people will be involved? Two or two hundred? Popular favorites for an informal little vow renewal celebration include the backyard, an exotic island, or a local park. If you’re planning a big celebration, you may want to look at a large hotel, country club, golf course, big reception sit, or destination such as Vegas or Hawaii.

Who hosts a vow renewal?

Vow renewals are generally hosted by the couple, with the exception of when children are throwing the vow renewal in celebration of a 25th or 50th anniversary. Parents of the couple rarely host vow renewals unless there was a reason that prevented them from having a traditional wedding with the parents involved the first time around and it is being held shortly after the actual legal marriage.

How does the ceremony work?

You are already married, so there are no legalities! You don’t have to hire an officiant if you don’t want to. You don’t have to walk down the aisle and no one has to give away anyone. If you want it to be similar to a wedding, it can be. If you have something creative in mind, go with it!

The ceremony itself can take place in a house of worship or any location that you like. During the ceremony you can exchange the vows you originally said or make up new ones, include unity candle or other joining ceremonies, exchange new rings or gifts, or get a new engraving on the old rings, include readings or songs, and so on. It’s all up to you!

Who should preside over the ceremony?

Since the ceremony has no legalities you can select whomever you’re most comfortable with to preside over the ceremony. If you have a friend or family member that you would like to officiate, ask that person if they would do you the honor. You can also simply hire an officiant the same way you would with a wedding. You can also ask your religious leader to perform the ceremony. Remember: This day is all about the two of you, so pick someone that fits in with your personality as a couple.

What about attire and decorations?

As with the other aspects of the vow renewal, it is entirely up to you. If you’ve decided on a formal event, the attire should be too. If you’ve opted for casual, likewise, dress appropriately. Either way, make sure your guests know what to expect. The wife can wear a big, white wedding gown if she wishes. It’s also common for her to wear a simpler gown in a color, or something less formal depending on what she wore before. The wife can even wear what she wore the first time! For example, if you’re exchanging vows in a park, go for a light, airy gown in a bright shade. When it comes to the guy’s style, it’s all about matching your wife. Complement her sundress with a pair of crisp khakis and a button-down, or balance out her evening gown with a classic tux.

The decorations are usually simpler for vow renewals unless of course, you want to go all out. In that case, enjoy and have the time of your life!

Do we need new rings for a vow renewal?

This is an excellent opportunity to upgrade your rings or have them engraved with a special new message. If you opt to have your current rings engraved, you can re-exchange them after reciting your vows. You might consider purchasing new rings to wear along with or in place of your original weddings bands as a visual reminder of your continuing love and commitment, some couples opt to stick with their original rings and keep them on the entire time and simply hold hands.

Who should/can we invite?

Vow renewal ceremonies tend to be on the smaller side (50 people or less), but it’s really up to you. If you had a small wedding the first time around, you might want to throw a big party. If an intimate affair is more your style, invite your closest family and friends to a private ceremony.

What kind of invitations do we need?

None if it’s just the two of you! If you’re inviting guests, then how formal the invitations should be all depends on how formal an affair the vow renewal will be. For a formal event, your vow renewal invitations should be similar to traditional formal wedding invitations. If you’re planning a casual party in your backyard, a simple invitation would be appropriate. Emailing your invites in not acceptable, unless that is the ONLY way to get them to your guests!

Can we have attendants?

While there’s no rule saying you can’t have attendants, most vow renewals tend to be more about the couple. Make your decision about having attendants based on how elaborate your celebration is going to be. If you’re going all out and having all the trimmings of a classic wedding, then it would be absolutely appropriate to have attendants if you want them. Just don’t go overboard with, say, a dozen attendants! You might also consider asking your children to participate in key tasks, like holding the rings or walking you down the aisle.

Are honeymoons allowed?

Absolutely! Whether you didn’t have a first honeymoon or took a big trip, consider it a fabulous way to wrap up your celebration. Some couples opt to make the renewal of vows a honeymoon in itself by planning a destination vow renewal. Many all-inclusive resorts and hotels offer vow renewal packages. Turn over some of the stress to a professional! You can even invite friends and family to join you if you like.

What about photographers and should there be music?

Photographs are a must if you are inviting guests. Balance the decision on whether you need to hire a professional photographer versus having friends and family capture the moments with how formal of an event you are having. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but you definitely want to capture the memories.

If you want to dance, then you need music. Whether you program a playlist into your iPod or hire a pro is all up to you.

Gifts and parties?

Basically no on both.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties are not acceptable under any circumstances. You’re married and no longer a bachelor or bachelorette.

Bridal showers are also not acceptable. You are married and presumably have a home together.

Gift registries are only allowable if the vow renewals are taking place nearly immediately after the original proclamation of vows. If you have been married more than a few months, gift registries are out of the question. Make sure that you let guests know gifts are not expected (just not on the invites).

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