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    Anniversaries and Renewing Your Vows

    reverendFor those of you in committed relationships, how long have you been with your partner? Has it been 20 years, 30 years, or just a year? No matter how long you have been together, there’s always room to celebrate your anniversary, including wedding anniversaries. A special way to celebrate wedding anniversaries is to renew vows.

    For extroverts, it’s easy. This is another opportunity for a party—yippee! You can go whole hog and put on the entire whang-do, just like you did with your wedding! But, for you introverts, that may not be your idea of a good time, especially not for something that’s this personal and private in front of a whole bunch of other folks, even if they are your best friends. So, when a couple asks me for advice on how they can do this without a “party,” and even without an officiant, I offer the following suggestion: Plan this special event with the same care and focus as you did your wedding.

    Choose the day, or the special weekend getaway, and time and location. It could be the place one of you proposed to the other, or where you went on a wedding trip. Or it could be to somewhere you’ve never been, but have been longing to visit.

    Get out your wedding vows (if you have them, or remember them!) and take time to read them. See if you have any new ones you would like to add. These might be based on events, or surprises, that have shown up during the first years of your life together. This is quite different from when you made vows before you were married, as now you have lived this marriage and life has handed you all that life has a way of handing out. Look at even the difficult or painful times. And now look at how you have grown through them together, and what strengths each of you has brought to these experiences. See if you can translate some of these discoveries into promises, or vows you want to make for the future together. These may be your new vows to add to the ones you will “renew.”

    Also think of what you have learned from your mate. How have you changed because of him or her? What is new and wonderful in your life because of these years of togetherness? What are some of the things that you are grateful for as a result of your spouse? Write those thoughts down.

    When you arrive at your special location, set up a little ritual space with perhaps a candle, some flowers, a terrific photo of the two of you that’s recent, plus, of course, a wedding picture. You could also include icons of people, experiences, and memories that you’ve shared, or those you have yet to create. Oh, and don’t forget the music! You will know what’s right.

    Then, standing facing one another, each of you will take turns reciting your old vows, and the new ones. Say them slowly, with meaning and purpose. Hear each other with your heart and mind, along with your ears. Then, read the other things you’ve written, and listen to what your spouse has to say to you. Thank one another for your years together, and look forward to the years to come.

    An occasion like this might become something you decide to celebrate every year, rather than just having a great meal in a terrific restaurant. Well, in addition to the great meal! As I often say, we are a bit short on ritual in our culture; we just don’t set aside sacred time and space often enough for all the important moments—transitions, wins, losses, changes—that happen in our everyday lives.

    Celebrate, yet again, this important relationship—and keep on celebrating it!

    Reverend Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit