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Renewal of Wedding Vows

Renewal Of Wedding Vows Ritual

There is a dearth of information on the renewal of wedding vows. The research that is available was done in the United States (Braithwaite and Baxter 1995). Like wedding ceremonies, vow renewals are social events in which personal feelings and commitments between partners are witnessed by friends and family. The ceremonies are held in churches, public secular spaces (e.g., hotel or hall), or residential homes.

Dawn O. Braithwaite and Leslie Baxter (1995) asked participants to describe their vow renewal experiences. Couples described why they decided to hold a vow renewal, the setting, participants, and activities of the event, and the outcome of the event. Many of the interviewees kept and displayed meaningful artifacts from the ritual, such as invitations to the ceremony, copies of the text of renewal vows, pictures and photo albums, videotapes of the ceremony, and objects involved in the vow renewal (including special clothing worn during the ceremony and rings exchanged between spouses).

Although a few couples report renewing their vows alone and informally, the vast majority of these vow renewal rituals are carried out in a public setting with witnesses. The number of witnesses can range from two persons to several hundred. The renewal events typically involve two phases that occur either in the same setting or in different settings: the vow renewal ceremony and the celebratory reception/party. These events typically involve an officiating person who administers the vows of renewal to the couple, usually the couple's pastor, minister, priest, or judge.

Participants in the ceremonies enact a variety of roles in the event: helping with planning and preparations, serving as members of a traditional wedding party (e.g., ushers or bridesmaids), performing as part of the renewal ceremony (e.g., performing a song or reading a poem), serving in a witness role; and, in the case of mass ceremony renewals, coenactor of vows. Many of these vow renewal ceremonies take the form of a traditional wedding; an observer would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a wedding and vow renewal event. Some couples reunite their original wedding party; other couples have their adult children serve as attendants.

Couples who renew their vows consider the witnessing function of family and friends in attendance important. They are aware that stating their vows in front of others also makes them accountable to the promises and commitments made: "[Having others present] adds verification that in a sense, we're willing to be held accountable for this commitment to each other because we promised [it] in front of the witnesses. We can't say to the witnesses now 'Well, we've broken that promise' without real due cause. It's nothing casual." (Baxter and Braithwaite 1995)

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage TraditionsRenewal of Wedding Vows - Renewal Of Wedding Vows Ritual, Types Of Vow Renewal Ceremonies And Their Purposes