As far as I am aware, usually in our parish we conduct one or two renewal of vows services a year. These are usually of what I would call the ‘traditional’ kind – a couple celebrating a significant anniversary – often members of the congregation. This year we have noticed a change – we have 6 Renewal of Vows ceremonies booked! And not all of them are of the ‘traditional’ sort.
Apart from the traditional celebration of anniversary kind of service these are some of the others that might be requested now:
- a renewal of vows after some marital trouble – making a fresh start (for example, after infidelity)
- the couple were married abroad and want to have a ceremony back home that more can attend
- the couple want to celebrate their commitment to one another – and have a family get-together
I recently conducted a renewal of vows for a couple celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. Their wedding had been on a beach abroad and not all the family had been able to go – at their renewal their children were present and the wider friends and family. The ceremony was arranged as a surprise by the husband as an anniversary gift for his wife and also provided the opportunity for a big family party. At the party afterwards I spoke to another couple who had had a renewal ceremony last year on their 15th anniversary. When I asked them why they’d decided to do it they said ‘well, so many of our friends are giving up too easily on their relationships. We wanted to show that we are still committed to one another.’
I think it is likely that we will see a surge in interest in Renewal of Vows services for a few reasons:
- people are looking for opportunities to have family parties – often there feels a big gap, once christenings are done, between weddings and then funerals – it is nice to have a gathering that is celebratory and brings all the generations together
- since the trend for people marrying abroad, more and more people might come to the decision to have a church-based renewal service to ‘fill the gap’ left by their secular ceremony on the beach with only a couple of friends present
- celebrations of shorter anniversaries than the traditional (eg. 10 or 15 year anniversaries) are becoming more significant because the divorce rate is so high
You might be able to think of some other reasons as well.
It strikes me that we are extremely well placed in the Church of England to meet this new need – it’s a no-brainer! Celebrating lifelong commitment is something we should be doing. I think we could do more to encourage people to have a Renewal of Vows service.
Some questions I would pose are:
- if you work in a church, have you seen an increase in requests for Renewal of Vows?
- should we include renewal of vows services in our statistical returns to the Church of England (in the same way as we record other occasional offices)?
- should there be some more liturgical resources available to meet these newer requests?