Monday, March 11, 2013

Vow Renewal :: The Hopes

Rocks painted by our daughters for our renewal ceremony

In a previous post, I explained how, somewhat suddenly, my husband and I decided to renew our wedding vows.  Well, the deed is done and we are now officially "renewly weds."  I'd like to share our experience in three separate posts.  This post, the first, will lay out the hopes we had going into the experience, and the plan we made to support our vision.  The second post will include the ceremony itself and pictures to go along with it.  And then the third post will be a report on what we learned.

Our inspiration was to bring awareness to what we are trying to create and embody as a family, at a particular moment of fullness in our family life.  With three children, a dog, all of our parents and biological aunts and uncles living, we are likely at our full familial capacity.  Three generations crowd around holiday tables and Friday night dinners.  Our dogs collectively bark and whinny just outside the door.  Baby clothes are knit by grandma hands.  Trips are made to ensure that first and second cousins grow up knowing one another.  My brother, sister-in-law and I send smoke signals over text, yes all is ok, we are just super busy.

Sometimes, I look across the chaos in my kitchen and take in the literal mass that our marriage vows have manifested.  150 pounds worth of girl children, and growing.  The physical weight of it can stun me.  Not too unlike the ubiquity of birth, there is really nothing unique about this, but the shimmer of something nearly incomprehensible emerges.  Day by day, meal by meal, parents everywhere manifest their love in the pure physical endeavor of growing children.

I have to admit, this growing, tires my husband and me out sometimes.  The myriad tasks (times three in our house) required to get through the day have a way of cramming out our overall awareness.  We checklist and calendar our way through the hours, collapse in front of the TV with a glass of wine, fall asleep before the show is over, and start again the next day.  Renewing our vows, for us, was a way to step out of this mode and bring awareness to the larger arc of our shared life together.

It was also a way for us to officially welcome our children into this larger vista, a way of telling them what we think our family being together means, and how they are an important part of a story that started before they even arrived on the planet.  We hoped that they might learn something about what love means in our family and what marriage means to my husband and me.  We weighed our hopes against what was actually possible for girls at their ages (3,7 and 8) and decided to proceed anyway, knowing that our eight year old gets bigger and more tween-ish everyday, and that even six months or a year from now the social anxiety about standing on a beach in a ceremony with her family will probably get more intense than it already is.  This was the main factor that drove our instinct to do it when we did, February 24, 2013, twelve years and five months and a day after our original wedding date.

Overall, we wanted the experience to be simple, fairly informal and geared toward the children.  Even though part of the inspiration of the moment had to do with the fullness of our family life nested within our extended family, our ceremony felt like it wanted to be a private affair, just the five of us, no guests.  It turned out, though, that by the usual chaos of family lives, the one day that my good friend's family could get together with us while we were visiting her city was the day of our ceremony.  She had been at our wedding and we had been at their wedding, so this turned out to be a very sweet and important part of the experience for us.

Knowing that the only thing we can really ever expect in our day to day, is the unexpected, I identified a few critical aspects, that to me, seemed important to the ceremony.  And even those, I tried to hold as loosely as possible.

The Ceremony:  I wrote it with Graham over the course of a few afternoons.  We wanted it to integrate elements from our original wedding ceremony, kid friendly language and involvement, and specific aspirations about what it means to love and be loved in our family.  I had hoped to work with a fellow Celebrant, however the details on that front, unfortunately, didn't align.

The place:  We performed the renewal on the beach.  We are an ocean family.  It's where we go to have fun, and it's the place where my husband and I feel the most connected to nature, awe and the wider aspects of life in general.  We offer this to our children, and my thought is, whether they themselves grow up to be ocean people or not, heading into nature as a way to feel connected to all life seems a good habit to cultivate.  Our family had a school vacation coming up, and we probably would have gone to the beach anyway, but the decision to renew our vows sealed that decision.

The aesthetic:  I really wanted flowers and painted rocks.  I can't put words to why exactly, but over the last year I have been surprised by how much of a good feeling I get from creating simple scenes that are beautiful visually and tactilely.  This was one of the biggest surprises of 2012 and I'm trying to follow this particular kind of instinct more in 2013.  

I had the girls paint rocks at home, which we packed up in our suitcase.  And we chose a hotel which offered a simple vow renewal package including an officiant, a ukulele player, leis, and a photographer.   After a little packing and a short plane flight, we were ready to renew our vows.

My next post will include our ceremony and pictures to go with it.


  1. My favorite part: "Not too unlike the ubiquity of birth, there is really nothing unique about this, but the shimmer of something nearly incomprehensible emerges. Day by day, meal by meal, parents everywhere manifest their love in the pure physical endeavor of growing children." Can't wait for the next installment.

  2. Hey, can you please suggest me vow renewal location where I can renew my wedding vows? The location should be affordable and should situate at the beach side.