Everything you need to know about humanist wedding vow renewal ceremonies

Everything you need to know about humanist wedding vow renewal ceremonies

Here is our guide to everything you need to know about renewing your wedding vows. From what is a vow renewal to where can you have the ceremony, we’ve got you covered.

What is a wedding vow renewal ceremony?

A vow renewal ceremony is an ideal way to celebrate your marriage — and you get to say ‘I do’ all over again. Renewing your wedding vows means declaring your love and re-making a commitment to one another in front of those you hold dear. Each ceremony tells a unique story of what the couple has achieved and experienced together through the years. It can be a great way to celebrate the big moments in your relationship, whether that’s overcoming a difficult time or a landmark anniversary (10 years, 25 years, 50 years).

A bride and groom hold colourful smoke in each hand as they kiss in the woods

Why renew wedding vows?

If you felt bound by etiquette, bowed to family pressure, or were on a tight budget originally, you may not have had the type of wedding you really wanted, but with a humanist vow renewal ceremony, it’s your day, your way!

You can have an intimate ceremony just for the two of you or a grand party with all your family and friends. When you renew wedding vows you’re not restricted by any technicalities or legalities, so the choice is yours!

Many couples choose to combine their vow renewal ceremony with a significant wedding anniversary. And, for couples who have endured difficult times, such as critical illness or a period of separation, wedding vow renewal can be especially meaningful and signify a new start or turning point in their relationship, which they want to mark with a celebration.

Vow Renewal Celebrant

Ed Petrie – Humanist wedding celebrant and TV presenter

Humanist Ceremonies celebrant Ed Petrie, best known for his TV role as the presenter of CBBC show ‘Marrying Mum and Dad‘ said:

‘So much has changed in the UK as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, and many of us have been reevaluating what’s most important in our lives. 

‘Relationships have particularly come under pressure during the lockdown and, through humanist ceremonies, we want to offer people a way of celebrating their marriage and ongoing commitment to one another. After so much sadness, it’s now the perfect time for people to celebrate.’ 

Humanist wedding celebrant Ginny Collins told us:

After all the hardship of 2020, a focus on celebrating love was more important than ever. That is just as true for long-standing couples as for engaged couples. Renewing your marriage vows means declaring your love and making a commitment to one another in front of those you hold dear.

‘Every relationship faces hardships and strains, and this year that’s sure to be more true than ever. A vow renewal ceremony is a beautiful way of telling the unique story of a couple has grown, both individually and as a unit.’

What happens when you renew wedding vows?

Our wedding celebrants plan and deliver a vow renewal ceremony in exactly the same way as a wedding — and with the same amount of personalisation and attention to detail.

A Humanist Ceremonies celebrant can help you to create a non-religious ceremony that is personal and meaningful to you. You can renew your original vows, expand on them, or write entirely new ones.

Your celebrant can also advise on the inclusion of a range of symbolic rituals to consider, such as a handfasting ceremony, lighting a unity candle, or drinking from a quaich (a two-handled loving cup) – something meaningful to you as a couple.

People often like to include readings when they renew wedding vows, so your celebrant can advise on that too. Or read our other blog posts on the topic.

Photo by Ben Jenkins

Where can you renew wedding vows?

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are purely symbolic; they have no legal aspect to them, which means they can take place pretty much anywhere — even in your own garden.

Outdoor ceremonies are particularly popular and, if you choose to host your ceremony in your garden, you can add your own decorations such as a decorative arch, garlands, candles, bunting, and fairy lights.

Lots of people choose a location that is special to them – the place they got married, where they got engaged and so on. Other people choose something which is convenient for guests to travel to, like a hotel. For those who want to hold the ceremony outdoors there are lots of options, from forests to the beach. Choose what suits you best.

Sparklers at a wedding

Can children take part in the ceremony?

Of course! Children can take part in the ceremony by giving a reading, singing, or participating in a symbolic act such as a sand-blending ceremony or a handfasting. When you renew wedding vows you can choose who you want to be there on the day and who you want to be part of the ceremony. It’s flexible and can be made to suit you and your family.

Are same-sex ceremonies available?

They are! All our wedding celebrants conduct same-sex weddings and vow renewals, so you don’t need to ask — it’s a given.

If you had a civil partnership, you too can have a vow renewal ceremony!

Two brides renew wedding vows

Do we need to be humanists to have a humanist ceremony?

Our ceremonies are for all couples wanting a non-religious ceremony.

Many people share humanist ideals without realising or putting a label on them. As Humanists UK President Alice Roberts recently told The Scotsman:

‘More and more people are discovering humanism or, perhaps a better way of putting it, discovering that humanism describes how they already think. Sometimes that discovery or realisation comes along at a time when people might want to mark an event – a birth, a marriage, a death – and find that the religious options just don’t represent what they really believe. For a lot of people, humanism really does encapsulate what they already think about the world, and how to live a good life.’

How do you know if you’re a humanist? Take our quiz and find out — or watch this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.

Next steps

'My humanist ceremony was the most special day of my life. All my family were blown away. Both my parents said that they'd never been to a wedding that was more personal or heartfelt.'
Madeleine, 34

Read our wedding blog for feature ideas, inspiration, top tips, and real-life humanist wedding stories.

If you're planning your wedding now, then contact a celebrant as early as possible.