Humanist celebrant Dawn Rees’ ceremonies are individual and humorous but they include a touch of gravitas where needed – just to remind everyone that the ceremony is marking a momentous occasion. An experienced celebrant and longstanding member of the Humanist Ceremonies network, Dawn agreed to share her top ten tips for planning a wedding vow renewal ceremony.
I love vow renewal ceremonies just as much as weddings. They have a strength and a sense of purpose. Where a wedding is about a leap into the unknown, a vow renewal is a time to draw breath and acknowledge the deep sense of belonging, survival identity, and togetherness.
But why would you renew your vows? I guess the alternative question should be, ‘Why not’?
Our lives change. We change. The world changes. Time, life, love, and loss give us a perspective that we simply cannot know when we set off on our relationship adventure.
Vow renewal celebrations are the outward expression of our survival, gratitude, patience, our adventures and growth as individuals, and as a couple.
The reasons for such a celebration are as different as the couples choosing them. Some couples want to share a day with their friends and family. Others want a simple and personal moment just between the two of them to stop, draw breath and re-commit to one another.
Your celebrant will tell your story at the ceremony, but it’s up to you how much personal stuff you want to share with your guests.
Some couples I’ve worked with renewed their vows because they had experienced serious health worries and their vow renewal was simply a celebration of life itself. And so their ceremonies were a benchmark signifying hope and excitement for the future.
At home, in your garden, at a favourite place with lots of memories, on the beach, in a wood, at a party, at your favourite hotel?
The location might be chosen for sentimental or practical reasons. Work out what’s best for you.
Who would you like to be there with you?
Perhaps you’d like the same guests who attended your wedding or you may have different people in your life now who are important to you.
It might be just the two of you. One of my favourite ceremonies of all time was on a beach in North Norfolk, just me, Adam, and Susie. A simple re-commitment and expression of love.
Is there someone who has been there for you both through the years who you would like to acknowledge and include? You could acknowledge them with a special reading.
Perhaps you have children or grandchildren, would you like them to take part in some way like Martin and Jane’s three grandchildren? They wrote their own story of the best things about staying with grandma and grandpa and then read it out. It included bedtime stories but also special breakfasts, bicycle rides with picnics, and school pick-ups.
Do you want to renew your original vows – or, knowing what you know of one another now, do you want to write new ones? It can be fun to write them together and then take a line each, adding some humorous touches. I’ll always remember the ‘I promise you will never again have to get up in the morning and come down to yesterday’s washing up’ – which had all the guests laughing!
Would you like to exchange rings again? Will you have new rings? Or perhaps you’d like to re-dedicate your original rings instead.
Think about whether a handfasting could be part of your celebration. If you have children, they could do the binding or you could have yours and your children’s hands bound together as a symbol of who you are as a family and all you have shared.
Humanist celebrants are experienced in a wide range of symbolic acts, such as lighting a unity candle, sand-blending, or sharing a quaich (a two-handled loving cup). Your celebrant will be happy to help you choose something meaningful to you.
Your vow renewal ceremony doesn’t need to be a rerun of your wedding; this is something entirely different, so make it unique and memorable.
Whatever you want, your celebrant can bring it alive for you by writing a ceremony that is entirely about you and your commitment to one another, acknowledging the hurdles, celebrating the triumphs!
If you want to ramp up the vibe, then you could have a theme – it could be a colour, a film, a decade, a style, or it could be linked to the time of year. Encourage your guests to really get involved.
Many couples combine their vow renewal ceremony with a significant wedding anniversary, such as 10, 25, or 50 years.
Traditionally, there are wedding gifts attributed to each anniversary, such as paper, china, crystal, silver, and gold. These could form part of the theme for your ceremony.
If you want to thank your spouse for their love, support, dedication, and help through the years, why not plan a surprise vow renewal ceremony? Your celebrant will be able to help you make it a memorable event.
A humanist wedding vow renewal ceremony is ideal for you if you’d like a non-religious ceremony that is unique, personalised, and meaningful.
Humanists are non-religious people who believe this is the one life we have, and in showing kindness and respect towards others. You could take our quiz and find out if you share humanist values — or watch this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.
Norfolk-based celebrant, Dawn Rees is available to conduct the full range of humanist ceremonies. Whether you’re looking for a simple ceremony just for the two of you, or a big blowout party, Dawn will be able to create the perfect non-religious vow renewal ceremony for you.
If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding vow renewal ceremony and would like to talk to a celebrant near you, you can find your ideal celebrant via our online map.