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12 Vow Renewal Dos and Don’ts Everyone Needs to Follow

Before you send out your vow renewal invites, check out these do's and don'ts to create a memorable and heartfelt marriage milestone.

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Do consider a vow renewal if you want to honor a special time in your marriage

Maybe your marriage has survived some challenges and you’ve come out on the other side a stronger couple. Or perhaps you had a small wedding and never got the opportunity to celebrate with your family and friends. Or maybe you want those closest to you to share in the joy of having made it 10 years, 25 years, 50 years or more. Whatever the window, a vow renewal reaffirms your commitment to one another. Chicago-based event planner, founder and creative director, Sharon Ringier of Sharon Ringier Events, has planned vow renewals for both clients and herself. When planning her own renewal, she chose her wedding anniversary as a hallmark moment in her and her husband’s marriage. “Fast forward to our 20th anniversary—it was a milestone year,” she says, “one that many didn’t think we’d make it to, but we did! So, we went to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and renewed our vows on the beach.”

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Don’t let others dictate how you should plan this monumental day

While it’s great to have family and friends help you with this event, ultimately, the focus should be on you and your significant other and the promises you’re making to one another now and in the future. You can have an intimate event with family or an elaborate affair with many guests; there aren’t any right or wrong vow renewal ideas. Regardless of what you pick, “Do what moves your heart and feels right to you,” say Ringier. “I feel couples have had time to reflect on what’s kept them together, so there’s substance in a renewal. Vow renewals should be planned however a couple wants them to be.” What’s more, a vow renewal isn’t a legally binding ceremony. To add some personal elements to your ceremony, anyone from an ordained minister to your friends or family can officiate.

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Do think about using electronic invites

Invitations are absolutely recommended, says Ringier, who encourages her clients to send them out for all events. But there’s no need to invest in heavy stationery with multiple envelopes and reply cards when electronic invites, like ones from Paperless Post, are now totally acceptable and can even be quite elegant. An article featured on The Knot, details how the vow renewal invitations should be worded: “The invitation is similar to a wedding invite, except no hosts’ names are at the top: ‘The honor of your presence is requested at the reaffirmation [or renewal] of the wedding vows of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith [or Susan and Jonathan Smith].’ If the invitation is issued by the children of the couple: ‘The children of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith [or Susan and Jonathan Smith] request the honor of your presence at the reaffirmation ceremony of their parents,'” the article states.

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Don’t buy a bridal gown

Say, “yes” to a dress, but “no” to the cost of a second bridal gown. If you’d really like to wear wedding attire, The Knot recommends wearing your original dress or tuxedo if at all possible. If not, a cocktail dress or an evening gown are appropriate vow renewal dresses as well. The style of the dress will be determined by the casual or formal nature of your event. Last January, Ringier did a vow renewal event where the bride wore a knee-length, pencil cut crème and gold dress, and the groom wore a simple suit; their looks were understated, yet beautiful. “I truly feel that you should be able to wear what you like,” she says.

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Do hire a photographer

You’ve taken the time to implement your vow renewal ideas, so now it’s time to think about hiring the appropriate vendors to document this important day. Anna Guziak, a wedding and portrait photographer in Chicago, Illinois, has this to say about the value of hiring a professional photographer to capture your precious moments: “I think it’s a great idea to hire a photographer who can document your celebration, capture real emotions as they happen, and photograph your family and friends having fun and celebrating your love with you. It’s a great way to preserve the memories of this special day,” she says. Wary of having people follow you around all day? “Don’t pay too much attention to the photographer,” Guziak says. “Enjoy the event and let him or her capture the day exactly the way it unfolds with many meaningful movements.”

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Don’t forget to include cinematography

“The number one regret couples often have about their wedding day is that they didn’t hire a cinematographer to tell their story,” says Tom Buttaccio, owner and lead filmmaker of XO Films in Chicago. Perhaps you didn’t have the budget to afford a wedding film when you first got married. However, a vow renewal is the perfect opportunity to look back and remember what you’ve lived through together—all while having it filmed. “It’s one thing to vow on your wedding day to stick together through good times and bad. It’s quite another thing to actually have done so,” Buttaccio says. “It’s really incredible to think of all the things a married couple experiences. As a filmmaker, I believe that there is power in the sharing of stories. And, that’s where a filmmaker is beneficial to a vow renewal. It’s a really great thing to share your time-tested thoughts and love for each other in story form.”

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Do write your own vows for the renewal

Part of what makes a vow renewal ceremony so special is your customization of the proceedings. This is not the time to read some canned lines from the Internet! Take some time to consider why you’re doing this, including all the incredibly amazing memories you and your partner share, and the qualities in your partner that you’ve grown to cherish especially. And there’s no pressure to memorize them. “There’s nothing wrong with reading your notes if you feel nervous,” advises Buttaccio. “Just make sure to look at your spouse in the eye a few times during your comments. The feelings and connection that comes from eye contact with your life partner is like nothing else in the world. It’s magical!” he says.

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Don’t feel compelled to spend a lot of money

The cost to hire vendors for your vow renewal will vary depending on your location, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you have extra money to spend, fantastic! If not, your renewal ceremony can be just as special in an intimate setting. “Set up some Italian lights in a tree in your backyard; have a barbecue; buy cupcakes instead of a cake; and get a handful of close friends and family members together to celebrate and witness your love. After all, that’s really what a vow renewal is all about,” says Buttaccio.

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Do make a point of saying “no gifts”

This event is about your love for one another—it’s not an opportunity to refresh your cookware set or score an upgraded standing mixer. Be sure to specify “no gifts” on the invitation, and don’t even think of registering at a department store. Then, if a few people are moved to buy you a token present, that’s their choice, and you should be sure to send a hand-written thank-you note. (Here’s how to write a truly thoughtful thank-you note.)

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Don’t line up bridesmaids and groomsmen

Unless you originally took vows before a justice of the peace and have felt deprived of a “real wedding” all these years, it’s unnecessary to have a formal bridal party. (Speaking of, here’s why bridesmaids all wear the same color.) Besides that it will feel over-the-top for a vow renewal ceremony, it’s also an added layer of planning and extra expenses for the guests you ask to participate. That said, it’s perfectly fine to ask a relative or close friend to stand by to help in case new rings are being exchanged. (And whether you refresh the bands on your left hand is entirely optional.)

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Do have a special dance together

Do you and your spouse have a significant song that you love? Make it a point to do a special dance with each other. Use a song that reminds you of your first date, the day you first laid eyes on each other, or another defining moment. You don’t have to do anything complicated or take dance lessons; just do a slow dance, and feel each other’s love. Guests always enjoy watching this, and it looks lovely in photos and videos.

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Don’t forget to have a good time

When planning a vow renewal, don’t forget to have fun and focus on the love you have for one another. While it’s unclear just how many people renew their vows each year, Buttaccio says, “I personally feel vow renewals should be more popular. It’s a really powerful thing to say to each other along with friends and family, ‘We did it. We’ve made it this far, and we know we can make it to the very end together. Nothing and no one can stop us!'” And most of all, take time to create new memories, relive old ones, and enjoy your time with family and friends. This is an opportunity to reignite and re-energize your love for one another.