Top ten tips for a wedding vow renewal ceremony

Top ten tips for a wedding vow renewal ceremony

Today we are looking at the topic of vow renewals, an expression of love that is becoming more and more popular across the UK. We have an intro to what exactly a vow renewal is and some top tips and vow renewal ideas from Humanist Ceremonies celebrant Dawn Rees for how to make your ceremony perfect for you.

What is a vow renewal ceremony?

Vow renewals are a celebration of a marriage, a relationship and a life lived together. Often linked to big moments in a couple’s life, vow renewal ceremonies offer the opportunity to re-affirm the commitments made on the wedding day and to look ahead to a bright future together.

Vow renewal ceremonies take many shapes. Some are grand, joyous affairs with lots of friends and family gathered together. Others are more intimate and informal, taking place in the garden or a special location with just a few people sharing the occasion.

Whatever you choose, a humanist celebrant can work with you to create a beautiful ceremony that’s bespoke and personal to you.

Two women dressed in white, their arms around each others' waists and heads together

Humanist celebrant Dawn Rees’ ceremonies are individual and humorous, but they include a touch of gravitas where needed – just to remind everyone that the ceremony is marking a momentous occasion.

An experienced celebrant and longstanding member of the Humanist Ceremonies network, Dawn agreed to share her top ten tips for planning a wedding vow renewal ceremony.

Why renew your wedding vows?

I love vow renewal ceremonies just as much as weddings. They have a strength and a sense of purpose. Where a wedding is about a leap into the unknown, a vow renewal is a time to draw breath and acknowledge the deep sense of belonging, survival identity, and togetherness.

But why would you renew your vows? I guess the alternative question should be, ‘Why not’?

Our lives change. We change. The world changes. Time, life, love, and loss give us a perspective that we simply cannot know when we set off on our relationship adventure.

Vow renewal celebrations are the outward expression of our survival, gratitude, patience, our adventures and growth as individuals, and as a couple.

The reasons for such a celebration are as different as the couples choosing them. Some couples want to share a day with their friends and family. Others want a simple and personal moment just between the two of them to stop, draw breath and re-commit to one another.

Ten top tips for vow renewals

1. Decide the reason for your celebration

Your celebrant will tell your story at the ceremony, but it’s up to you how much personal stuff you want to share with your guests.

Some couples I’ve worked with renewed their wedding vows because they had experienced serious health worries and their vow renewal was simply a celebration of life itself. And so their ceremonies were a benchmark, signifying hope and excitement for the future. For other couples a vow renewal ceremony is the perfect way to commemorate a big anniversary.

2. Agree on a location

At home, in your garden, at a favourite place with lots of memories, on the beach, in a wood, at a party, at your favourite hotel?

The location might be chosen for sentimental or practical reasons. Work out what’s best for you. There are no rules when it comes to renewing your vows, so do things your way.

Two women in white kiss, their children look on smiling up at them.

3. Agree your guestlist

Who would you like to be there with you to mark this occasion?

Perhaps you’d like the same guests who attended your wedding, or you may have different people in your life now who are important to you.

It might be just the two of you. One of my favourite ceremonies of all time was on a beach in North Norfolk, just me, Adam, and Susie. A simple re-commitment and expression of love.

A man and woman on a beach, the sea behind them, lighting sparklers and sharing a moment together full of joy and love

4. Involve others in your vow renewal

Is there someone who has been there for you both through the years who you would like to acknowledge and include? You could acknowledge them with a special reading.

Perhaps you have children or grandchildren, would you like them to take part in some way like Martin and Jane’s three grandchildren? They wrote their own story of the best things about staying with grandma and grandpa and then read it out. It included bedtime stories and also special breakfasts, bicycle rides with picnics, and school pick-ups.

5. Choose your vows

Do you want to renew your original vows – or, knowing what you know of one another now, do you want to write new ones?  It can be fun to write them together and then take a line each, adding some humorous touches. I’ll always remember the ‘I promise you will never again have to get up in the morning and come down to yesterday’s washing up’ – which had all the guests laughing!

6. Choose symbolic acts

Would you like to exchange rings again? Will you have new rings? Or perhaps you’d like to re-dedicate your original rings instead.

Think about whether a handfasting could be part of your celebration. If you have children, they could do the binding or you could have yours and your children’s hands bound together as a symbol of who you are as a family and all you have shared.

Humanist celebrants are experienced in a wide range of symbolic acts, such as lighting a unity candle, sand-blending, or sharing a quaich (a two-handled loving cup). Your celebrant will be happy to help you choose something meaningful to you and to write the ceremony in a way that fits with your day.

Hands pouring coloured sand for a sandblending ceremony
Photo by Sawyer & Sawyer Photography

7. Make it unique

Your vow renewal ceremony doesn’t need to be a rerun of your wedding; this is something entirely different, so make it unique and memorable.

Whatever you want, your celebrant can bring it alive for you by writing a ceremony that is entirely about you and your commitment to one another, acknowledging the hurdles, celebrating the triumphs!

8. Choose a theme

If you want to ramp up the vibe, then you could have a theme for your wedding vow renewal – it could be a colour, a film, a decade, a style, or it could be linked to the time of year. Encourage your guests to really get involved. Have fun with it!

A three tier, but simple cake with cherries and icing and autumn leaves all around

9. Combine your renewal of vows with your wedding anniversary

Many couples combine their vow renewal ceremony with a significant wedding anniversary, such as 10, 25, or 50 years.

Traditionally, there are wedding gifts attributed to each anniversary, such as paper, china, crystal, silver, and gold. These could form part of the theme for your ceremony. It can be a wonderful way to honour your relationship, celebrating the happiness you’ve enjoyed and the challenges you’ve faced over the years.

10. Arrange a surprise vow renewal ceremony

If you want to thank your spouse for their love, support, dedication, and help through the years, why not plan a surprise vow renewal ceremony? Your celebrant will be able to help you make it a memorable event.

This can be a wonderful surprise, but isn’t for everyone, so be certain that it’s the right option for your loved one before you take the leap!

A husband and wife post-ceremony, she looks at him delighted and he points at her with a cheeky expression

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Is a humanist wedding vow renewal ceremony for me?

A humanist wedding vow renewal ceremony is ideal for you if you’d like a non-religious ceremony that is unique, personalised, and meaningful. If you would like to mark a special moment in your relationship, or have a chance to ‘re-do’ your wedding day in a way that suits you, then this is a great choice.

How do I know if I’m a humanist?

Humanists are non-religious people who believe this is the one life we have, and in showing kindness and respect towards others. You don’t have to be a humanist to have a humanist ceremony, but if you take our quiz you might find out you share some of our humanist values! Or, enjoy this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.

Featured celebrant

Norfolk-based celebrant, Dawn Rees is available to conduct the full range of humanist ceremonies. Whether you’re looking for a simple ceremony just for the two of you, or a big blowout party, Dawn will be able to create the perfect non-religious vow renewal ceremony for you.

You can follow Dawn on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Find a celebrant near you

If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding vow renewal ceremony and would like to talk to a celebrant near you, you can find your ideal celebrant via our online map.

'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.