"My husband and I renewed our vows."
"Aw, that's so sweet. How long have you been married?"
"About three and a half years."
"Oh . . . so, why now?"
Certainly a valid question considering there is no milestone anniversary or momentous occasion on the horizon. I generally follow this awkward interaction with a brief elevator pitch (filtered accordingly to the inquiring party): "Well, we were never married in a church" or "Because the first marriage was rocky as hell." But, simply put, it is because our relationship is deserving of celebration.
When we got engaged (nearly five years ago), we were already six years in to the relationship. At that point, we had survived all of the potential pitfalls that accompany the early stages of a relationship and felt ready to embark on the next rite of passage into wedded bliss. However, besides deciding on the venue, band, and menu, we didn't really give much thought at all to what a marriage actually meant to either of us. Sure, we had some conversations around our vows and questioned the concept of soulmates, but our marriage prep ended there.
Still, our wedding came and went without a hitch, and it was undoubtedly the most magical day we had ever experienced. We took pictures, signed our marriage license, and read our vows. We didn't just make a commitment to each other, but (unbeknownst to us at the time) to the universe as well. As we danced under the full moon, we symbolically allowed the universe to bring all that is darkness to light as we began our marital journey. The universe kept its promise, and at the culmination of our first year of marriage, we were rocked with the first of many dark times.
Our vow renewal was more meaningful to us than our wedding day for the simple fact that we worked like hell for it.
Though we meant every vow on our wedding day, we did not fully understand the magnitude of their meaning until the discovery that those vows had been broken. Vows, like mirrors, reflect who you are, who you are not, and who you commit to be, especially after they shatter. As we began to glue the pieces of our marriage back together, we discovered the blessing that comes from seeing ourselves and our marriage reflected back to us. This image indicated what our marriage is, what it is not, and what we wanted it to be. And what we wanted it to be was going to take the marriage prep that we overlooked before we said, "I do."
The challenges of our marriage demanded that we ask ourselves and each other important questions — How do you define marriage? What does it mean to you? What do you want from it? Why do you choose me? — and answer those questions truthfully, soulfully, and wholly. Doing the work, individually and together, was the first step toward cultivating the honest, intimate, and authentic relationship that we were blessed to celebrate at our vow renewal.
Our vow renewal was more meaningful to us than our wedding day for the simple fact that we worked like hell for it. But more, the work that we put in resulted in a sense of pride, confidence, and trust, in each other and our love, that our wedding day simply lacked. At our wedding, our vows were merely words: hopeful intentions and optimistic wishes for the family we hoped to be. At our renewal, we were the living embodiment of those vows, exemplified by the family we've become. At our wedding, friends and family gathered in our light. At our renewal, we were surrounded by the friends and family who stood by us in the dark.
Following our ceremony, we toasted to the champions who saw the best in us individually and together and we toasted each other — for who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming. We ceremoniously gifted each other a bespoke necklace that symbolizes our "new" union and the five pillars that now define our family's values. These are the pillars that we built, with intention, as we rebuilt the home that houses our past, present, and future. When the evening was over, we were like newlyweds chasing the new moon, never wanting the evening to end (and thanks to our babysitter, it didn't have to!). At the end of our vow renewal weekend, we were overwhelmed with peace, gratitude, and hope. While we won't be able to control the darkness in our future, we found the light that is within each other, and that will always be worth celebrating.
So, if renewing our vows means celebrating our relationship (and each other), honoring the broken pieces, and recommitting to the willingness to put those pieces back together — then I do, I do, and I do, over and over again.