At first I wasn’t sure I’d heard it right on the radio. “Free vow renewal” being hawked to sell more entry tickets to a Renaissance Festival?
I could just imagine couples lining up in their matching bouquets and boutonnieres and gaudy finery, and being remarried by some temporarily-employed actor in robes or tights and codpiece. I looked it up on the internet. Sure enough, vow renewals—once the province of marriage retreats and nursing homes—are indeed surging in popularity, and becoming a big business along the way.
They’ve become a regular feature at Renaissance Festivals all over the US, but the fad didn’t start here.
Vow renewal ceremonies have long been a feature for couples who have made it to their silver anniversaries, although as such long-lived marriages have become more rare as nearly half of all marriages fail, there is a growing trend to celebrate making it for radically shorter periods of time—even just a few years. Vow renewals usually include nearly all the trimmings of a wedding including big dresses, bouquets, bridesmaids, and gift registries. The renewal boom may also stem from the growing size of weddings themselves, now averaging well over $20,000 a pop. Their grand scale is inspiring some couples who eloped or had civil ceremonies to give themselves the wedding that they never had.
For the travel industry, which benefited from the destination-wedding boom of the ’90s, it’s a way to expand the market by having couples do it again. It’s is an opportunity that really stretches the 2.3 million weddings a year and have made vow renewal packages de rigueur for the travel industry. Packages include a matching bouquet and boutonniere for the bride and groom, a keepsake certificate, a professional photographer for the ceremony, champagne and cake, and even “romantic, recorded ceremony music” for the event. (Sample script: “Having witnessed the vows you have just made to each other, I now pronounce you, once again, husband and wife.”) Because there’s no legal basis for vow renewals, couples have free rein to restate their promises however and wherever they want. Local newspapers are even printing up vow-renewal announcements alongside the wedding and engagement notices.
For a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, vow renewals have become a big part of ship cruises and resort stays. Resorts say their vow-renewal packages are some of their fastest-growing offerings. I even read about Carnival’s Princess Cruises (of “The Love Boat” fame) which held a group “I do Re-do” renewal ceremony several years ago, officiated by Judge Wapner of “The People’s Court”, with other celebs present including “Love Boat” captain Gavin MacLeod.
Marriage experts generally support the vow-renewal trend. Some marriage-education and support groups include reaffirmations of vows as a way to reinforce the couple’s commitment. I have mixed emotions, though, about the development myself. While the trend has stumbled upon the very same thing that I credit with the durability of my own marriage, I am concerned with its commercialization. I tend to be distrustful of something when someone has figured out how to make money off of it.
Also, I’m concerned that vow renewals can gloss over more serious issues that a couple may have. People will do anything to avoid the hard work of actually thinking in-depth about something. If such a serious thing can be reduced to a free feature of a weekend fair, it may actually have become too easy a thing to do and something too easy to eventually throw away like used Kleenex.
Groove of the Day
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