Everything you need to know about humanist wedding vow renewal ceremonies

What is a wedding vow renewal ceremony? 

A wedding vow renewal ceremony is an ideal way to celebrate your marriage — and you get to say ‘I do’ all over again. Renewing your marriage vows means declaring your love and making a commitment to one another in front of those you hold dear. Each ceremony tells a unique story of what the couple has achieved and experienced together through the years. 

Why have a renewal of vows?

If you felt bound by etiquette, bowed to family pressure, or were on a tight budget originally, you may not have had the type of wedding you really wanted, but with a humanist vow renewal ceremony, it’s your day, your way! You can have an intimate ceremony just for the two of you or a grand party with all your family and friends. With a vow renewal, you’re not restricted by any technicalities or legalities, so the choice is yours!

Many couples choose to combine their vow renewal ceremony with a significant wedding anniversary. And, for couples who have endured difficult times, such as critical illness or a period of separation, a vow renewal ceremony can be especially meaningful and signify a new start or turning point in their relationship, which they want to mark with a celebration.

Local lockdowns aside, most places in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can now host ceremonies of up to 30 people as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. This means that weddings and vow renewals can once again take place.

Humanist Ceremonies celebrant Ed Petrie, best known for his TV role as the presenter of CBBC show ‘Marrying Mum and Dad‘ said:

‘So much has changed in the UK as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, and many of us have been reevaluating what’s most important in our lives. 

‘Relationships have particularly come under pressure during the lockdown and, through humanist ceremonies, we want to offer people a way of celebrating their marriage and ongoing commitment to one another. After so much sadness, it’s now the perfect time for people to celebrate.’ 

Ed Petrie – Humanist wedding celebrant and TV presenter

Humanist wedding celebrant Ginny Collins told us:

After all the hardship of 2020, a focus on celebrating love was more important than ever. That is just as true for long-standing couples as for engaged couples. Renewing your marriage vows means declaring your love and making a commitment to one another in front of those you hold dear.

‘Every relationship faces hardships and strains, and this year that’s sure to be more true than ever. A vow renewal ceremony is a beautiful way of telling the unique story of a couple has grown, both individually and as a unit.’

What happens at a vow renewal ceremony?

Our wedding celebrants plan and deliver a vow renewal ceremony in exactly the same way as a wedding — and with the same amount of personalisation and attention to detail.

A Humanist Ceremonies celebrant can help you to create a non-religious ceremony that is personal and meaningful to you. You can renew your original vows, expand on them, or write entirely new ones.

Your celebrant can also advise on the inclusion of a range of symbolic rituals to consider, such as a handfasting ceremony, lighting a unity candle, or drinking from a quaich (a two-handled loving cup) – something meaningful to you as a couple.

Photo by Ben Jenkins

Where can you have a ceremony?

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are purely symbolic; they have no legal aspect to them, which means they can take place pretty much anywhere — even in your own garden.

Outdoor ceremonies are particularly popular and, if you choose to host your ceremony in your garden, you can add your own decorations such as a decorative arch, garlands, candles, bunting, and fairy lights.

Can children take part in the ceremony?

Of course! Children can take part in the ceremony by giving a reading, singing, or participating in a symbolic act such as a sand-blending ceremony or a handfasting.

Are same-sex ceremonies available?

They are! All our wedding celebrants conduct same-sex weddings and vow renewals, so you don’t need to ask — it’s a given.

If you had a civil partnership, you too can have a vow renewal ceremony!

Can ceremonies go ahead this year?

Local lockdowns aside, most places in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can now host ceremonies of up to 30 people as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. This means that weddings and vow renewals ceremonies can once again take place.

Do we need to be humanists to have a humanist ceremony?

Our ceremonies are for all couples wanting a non-religious ceremony.

Many people share humanist ideals without realising or putting a label on them. As Humanists UK President Alice Roberts recently told The Scotsman:

‘More and more people are discovering humanism or, perhaps a better way of putting it, discovering that humanism describes how they already think. Sometimes that discovery or realisation comes along at a time when people might want to mark an event – a birth, a marriage, a death – and find that the religious options just don’t represent what they really believe. For a lot of people, humanism really does encapsulate what they already think about the world, and how to live a good life.’

How do you know if you’re a humanist? Take our quiz and find out — or watch this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.

Next steps

To find out more about humanist wedding vow renewal ceremonies, visit

humanistceremonies.org.uk/vowrenewal.

If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding, the next step is to find your ideal celebrant.

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