I do – again! Vow renewals grow in popularity

NEW YORK – When Letty Abraham of Sylvan Lake, Mich., married her husband, Mark, almost 22 years ago, she was determined not to make a fuss.

It was her second marriage and she didn’t want to go overboard.

“I had a big wedding the first time ... My second wedding I was over that, and I wanted it more small and intimate. We got married in Las Vegas. We had family and friends there, but it wasn’t a really big deal,” she said.

Still, it was important to the couple to make their union special, so they made a plan early on to renew their vows.

Fast forward 10 years, and they were saying “I still do” on a trip to Maui, Hawaii. At that ceremony, Abraham let herself cry. She and her husband were so happy with their second wedding to each other that they decided to do it again at the 15-year mark as well.

“We’ll probably do it again at 25,” she said.

Recommitting to a relationship through vow renewals is becoming more popular, said Susan Southerland, president of Just Marry!, Inc. wedding planners in Orlando, Fla.

“In the last three to five years they’ve become extremely popular. We’ve always done one or two throughout the year, but all of a sudden it’s become a huge request.”

For one thing, it’s a great way to reconnect.

Kathryn Quinn of East Lansing, Mich., is approaching her 11-year anniversary. She and her husband recently renewed their vows on a trip to the Virgin Islands. They traveled with three other couples and all four renewed their vows on the beach on Valentine’s Day.

“I’m so glad we did it,” she said. “This was our first trip away from our children. It was at a beautiful location. The vow renewal was meaningful, and gave us a chance away from our daily life to really celebrate our time together and be grateful for our relationship.”

Sometimes, a vow renewal is not only a reminder of how far a couple has come but a memory to cherish.

Winifred “Wini” Brunston of Lancaster, Calif., lost her husband last year. She enjoys looking back to their 35th anniversary, in 2004, when they renewed their vows in the same small church where they got married. The same couple who stood up with them back then resumed their duties.

Brunston feels marriage vows mean more over the years because “after being together after all that time you really know each other,” and “it lets the spouse know you still love them enough to marry them again.”

Anja Winikka, editor of the wedding website TheKnot.com, believes one reason for the spike of interest in vow renewals is that some celebrity couples have done it.

Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott filmed their vow renewal for their reality TV show. Holly Robinson Peete tweeted photos after she and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete recently celebrated their 17-year anniversary by renewing their vows on top of the Empire State Building in New York. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon are the most consistent; they renew their vows every year.

“You hear about it, and just like any trends in the wedding industry and in decor and fashion, celebrities certainly do influence us in that way,” says Winikka.

Southerland says she recently helped a couple who renew their vows every year. “It’s always a surprise, and the husband plans it,” she said.

Whether you renew your vows annually or just once, in a small ceremony or as part of a vacation, the cost of saying “I do – again” can vary.

“You can do something that’s very simple, that’s just the husband and wife standing up with a photographer, and that can be less than $1,000. Or you can do something where you’ve invited a bunch of people. I’ve had people spend upwards of 50 or 60 thousand,” Southerland said.

And even a do-over bride can turn into a Bridezilla, she says.

“That still is personality-driven, which kind of makes me chuckle,” she said. “I’m thinking, ‘Wow, you’ve known this guy for a long time. What’s there to be nervous about? So what if a flower falls off an arch?’ Others are more laidback. But you still have some very nervous brides.”