Over the years, civil celebrants have been asked to do something special for a wedding anniversary in the form of a Renewal of Vows ceremony.
There appear to be five main reasons a couple may ask for a Renewal of Vows ceremony.
1. The couple were married overseas or in another state, and now want to celebrate their marriage with family and friends. As civil celebrants in Australia are not able to legally marry a couple for a second time, the ceremony has been termed a 'Renewal of Vows' for the want of a better word.
However, in recent times, celebrants have realised that the ceremony is primarily a celebration with family and friends of their married status. See Celebration of Marriage.
2. The couple's wedding day did not meet their needs and expectations, and so they wish to use their wedding anniversary or some other time to create the 'wedding' they missed the first time.
3. There has been a very difficult time in the relationship, perhaps even including a separation, and the couple wish to make a 'fresh start' in their relationship.
4. After an intense period of parenting, the married couple find themselves in an "empty nest' and decide that it is time to refocus their relationship on their love and support of one another for the next stage of their journey together.
In this case, some components of a Wedding Anniversary ceremony are worth considering.
5. The couple want to do something special for their anniversary - but they do not know what to do other than a Renewal.
If the latter is the case, it is important to consider whether this is the best approach.
An alternative is to have a Wedding Anniversary ceremony.
In its simplest form, the celebrant's role in a wedding anniversary ceremony, is to
- congratulate the couple for the fact that they have honoured their marriage vows,
- review their journey - its acheivements and challenges, and
- provide family and friends with the opportunity to acknowledge the strength of the couple's marriage and its positive effects on others in the couple's lives.
Stucture of a Renewal of Vows Ceremony
Traditionally a Renewal of Marriage Vows ceremony has followed the same format as a wedding ceremony. See the TCN article on the wedding ceremony format.
However it is important to note that in Australia, couples can not be legally married for a second time, even to each other!
The civil celebrant is required to ensure that the couples and the guests understand that the importance of the ceremony is in its meaning and the support given by the guests, but that the ceremony has no legal standing.
An experienced professional celebrant can personalise the various elements of the ceremony to suit the couple's needs.