A married friend said to me recently she thought that couples should renew their vows every five years (it should be noted that she’s been married for 14 years and has never renewed her vows). I found her rationale interesting. She said contrary to what perhaps some “authorities” would have you believe, lifelong monogamy is not natural to humans. She said that interests and directions change but that couples begin taking each other for granted and rarely if ever reaffirm that indeed they wish to continue being married to the other person. Instead, couples often become frustrated, bored – failing to communicate — often leading one or both to act out in ways that end up doing real harm to the relationship.
I thought it was an interesting idea: Imagine if we all had to speak our vows and our promises to the person we married at least every five years — when perhaps the fire has fizzled, the baggage has accumulated or kids have run you down (we love ’em but we know in those early years, kids aren’t exactly conducive to romantic intimacy).
The idea reminded me of why I feel so strongly about doing personalized weddings for people; why I believe in building a wedding with a couple that forces them to speak out loud first to me and then in front of a room of people what they love about the other person, why they’re getting married to them and to share a part of their personal stories or journeys so that both their guests and they are reminded that they are making a decision that is irrevocably life-transforming — regardless of where or how it may end up. You also realize that many couples today have been together for many years. Many decide to get married after already having children together. So, for many, getting married IS like a vow renewal ceremony. Even when we are not married, we need to remember that the business of every day living can often get in the way of passion, romance and just good old fashioned communication. I have met many couples who indeed have been together so long that they are caught off guard when I ask them what they love about their mate and why they want to get married. Many can’t remember pivotal moments in their relationships. So for people like them, their wedding indeed serves as a bit of a wonderful wake-up call. A way to be conscious — even for just a short time — and connected to the person they have chosen as their life partners.
While celebrity gossip mags/rags love reporting about vow renewals of the more rich and famous (here I am reminded of Matt Damon’s 1 million dollar ceremony and the long ago over the top spectacle that was Celine Dion‘s vow renewal) The truth is you don’t need a million bucks or even a thousand. Perhaps try doing what I ask the couples I work with to do when we first start building their ceremonies: Sit down together over dinner with some tea or a glass of wine or whatever suits you — and really think about the things you love about the other person and then write them down. Why do you want to get married? How has this person changed your life for the better? What were some pivotal, memorable moments together? Then remember, a nice ceremony (like a wedding) in a room full of people is wonderful and great and an officiant like myself can certainly walk you through it. But know that a vow renewal can be an incredible yet private affair as well — with just the two of you and the words you’ve written thoughtfully and carefully and, despite some discomfort, are prepared to say out loud — each to the other.