The most common reason is to reaffirm the marriage on the occasion of an anniversary.
Renewal of vows is often used for couples who were obliged to marry quickly, perhaps because marriage was a condition of obtaining a USA work permit or because of an imminent military posting. At a more convenient and propitious time a complete ceremony, mirroring the original ceremony, can be held.
It is also suitable for married couples, who, after separation, are reunited. Some also feel the need for such a ceremony when their original wedding ceremony, for one reason or another, was meaningless to them (they may have been too young, had no say in the ceremony, or cannot remember any of it).
Whatever the circumstances in my experience this is a very emotional and meaningful ceremony, more so, perhaps, than the original ceremony.
They are arranged in much the same way as a traditional marriage ceremony.
It is best for the couple to spend an hour or two together discussing the ceremony and why they wish to have it. The couple then draft the introduction so it expresses their feelings.
All the elements of the traditional marriage ceremony are suitable for renewal of vows. It must be clear that this ceremony is a renewal, not a marriage. It is illegal to pretend to officiate at a marriage ceremony when, in fact, it is not such a ceremony.
Geoff & Margaret, today is your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary – your silver celebration. Your main responsibility to bring up your children is now over, and tonight, when you renew and reaffirm your marriage vows to each other, you can happily look back on the achievement of raising a family; at the same time you can look forward to a new era in your life.
It will be a time, we hope, when you can concentrate on developing your love for each other, freer than you have been from the tensions and hassles that characterise the struggle to become established in life and in nurturing a growing family.
Tonight is a night when you reassure each other, and expressing deep loyalty and loving trust as the basis of your marriage relationship.
Both of you believe in marriage – in the fullness of the husband and wife relationship – and you know that a deep bond unites you both. It must do so because of what you have been through together; all the stresses and tensions of the past have not weakened your love, but have only made you more determined to stick by each other. This relationship is, and must be, very deep. As the poet, contemplating and comparing the rush of life to the plunge of the great waterfalls, says: ‘Deep calls to deep in the roar of your cataracts’.
Your relationship, I know, is as important to you as life itself. Tonight’s recommitment should encourage you both to be more dedicated to each other so that you can look forward to a settled and enjoyable future. (A selection of readings and symbolic acts follows.)
Geoff: Twenty-five years ago, I, Geoff, took you, Margaret, to be my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. This day I reaffirm that vow.
Margaret: Twenty-five years ago, I, Margaret, took you, Geoff, to be my lawful husband, to have and to hold from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. This day I reaffirm that vow.
Margaret With this ring
I reaffirm that we are wed,
Take and wear it
As a pledge of my love
And as a symbol
Of all we have shared
And all that we shall share.
Wife to repeat for husband, if wished.
Readings chosen by the couple are then read. (Wedding readings are easily adapted for this ceremony.)
Celebrant: Ladies and Gentlemen, Geoff and Margaret have declared before me and before all of you, their relatives and friends, that they will continue to live together in marriage. They have made special promises to each other. They have symbolised it by joining hands, taking vows and by Geoff giving Margaret a ring.
I therefore call upon all present here today to be fellow-witnesses with me to this reaffirmation. I declare that they have been, and will remain, husband and wife.
Adapted from Ceremonies and Celebrations © Dally R. Messenger
Certificate: A certificate is presented at the conclusion of the ceremony.