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We Still Do: 3 Ways To Celebrate Your Wedding Anniversary

Although here at Waterlily Weddings we tend to focus on weddings and elopements in gorgeous Ireland, we do also love the idea of celebrating you already-married couples!

Vow renewals are gaining in popularity. Couples are looking to mark milestones in their marriage like a 25 year anniversary, or focus on something positive after a harrowing period of illness like overcoming cancer. Some couples change over the years, and maybe have a new spiritual outlook or philosophy on life, maybe converted to a different religion,  and want that to be formally reflected into the relationship. Still other couples just want to focus on themselves for a little bit and take a moment out of the busy day-to-day of work/family/kids/dinner prep and take a trip with their closest friends and family and have a celebration of love.

There are plenty of reasons why you can (and should!) consider celebrating your marriage.  And Ireland happens to be the perfect place to host such an occasion! But how do you get started?! No worries, as usual Waterlily Weddings is here to help!

First, we’ll break it down here into the three main categories a married couple can celebrate. Then we’ll take the rest of April to delve deeper into each option, give you some ideas on how you can conceptualize and execute these celebrations, and of course, an inspiration board for how it can look in Ireland. So make sure to check the BLOG often then next two months to get lots of information, inspiration, and pretty pictures to get you started on dreaming of your dream destination celebration! 

Let’s begin!

Renewing Your Vows

More and more couples have been considering renewing their vows. From small, intimate ceremonies to a larger party, couples are choosing to customize their renewals in a way that reflects them and their relationship. Some deliberately bring in elements from their wedding ceremony, while others take the opportunity to do something totally different than their wedding day. Since this is not a legally binding affair, there is a lot of flexibility in what you can do which really takes the pressure off. Many couples who’ve renewed their vows have enjoyed the experience far more than their original wedding day.

What Is It

A vow renewal is a ceremony where the couple renew or reaffirm their wedding vows. It doesn’t make sense to repeat the exact vows you already spoke to each other on your wedding day, as that was an oath sacred to the marriage ceremony itself. Instead, couples will write out or speak from the heart, reflecting on their relationship and what their spouse means to them. It is a chance to face each other, in private or in front of others, and affirm your love for one another. It may be the crux of the ceremony or a part of it. Some couples will have special readings, poems, music, or speeches and then build the vows into the ceremony while others will just come together, say their vows, and then seal it with a kiss.

What it isn’t is a redo of your wedding. You already said your marriage vows; you’re not saying them over again. You may reference them, but a vow renewal is not replacing your original wedding ceremony.

Why Do It

The answer to this question is a personal one that will vary from couple to couple. Asking why a couple wants to renew their vows is akin to asking their reasons for marrying in the first place (or divorcing!); they will depend on each couple’s individual life experiences and personal beliefs. That said, many couples choose to renew their vows to commemorate a milestone in their marriage: a particular anniversary year like a 10 year or 25 year anniversary for example. Others will choose to renew their vows after overcoming a particularly difficult period where one fell very ill; for example if one spouse successfully battles cancer and the couple want to share a fun and positive experience with their children after a period of fear and supreme stress. Other couples maybe weren’t fortunate to have had a good wedding day originally. As much as we prepare for things, sometimes things do happen we can’t control, like a hurricane destroying the venue two days before the wedding day or the photographer screwing up the pictures where the couple have none. Many couples experience a total lack of control on their wedding day, especially if culturally it involves many family members and opinions. Many brides will feel like they had no input on anything on their wedding day, not even their dress, and it creates bad feelings; having a renewal enables the couple to create a celebration more reflective of themselves rather than appeasing other. But most couples just have gotten to a point where they’ve shared so much with one another — kids, supporting each other through work, have gone through the good times and bad, sickness and health, etc. — and want to take a moment out of every day life to focus on themselves as a couple and just celebrate how far they’ve come.

When To Have It

There is no rule as to when a couple can or should renew their vows. It can be at the 1 year mark or year 34. Most couples choose a milestone mark — 10 years, 25, 50, etc. — to host a larger, more detailed celebration, but if you feel like celebrating at the 14 year mark is right for you, then go for it!

When Not To Have It

If there’s trouble in your marriage, you’re going through a rough patch, or something bad happened and you think renewing your vows will fix everything and put you both back on track, it’s a bad idea. Some people point to marriages where couples renewed their vows and then divorced shortly after. These aren’t because the vow renewal “is cursed,” but rather because the couple was ignoring trouble sings. A vow renewal is an honest reflection of each other and your relationship, and is expression of your journey together; it is not a band-aid to cover up deeper issues.

Where Can You Have The Ceremony

A vow renewal ceremony is not legally binding, therefore, you can host your vow renewal ceremony anywhere you like. Some religious institutions will not recognize or perform a “vow renewal” but they will perform a “marriage blessing” (see below). So if your heart is set on a church or religious house of worship, make sure you figure out you’re having the correct ceremony for the location. Anywhere outdoors is fine and in all honesty probably the best option for such an occasion, especially in Ireland. Take advantage of the incredible scenery!

Who Officiates

You don’t need anyone to officiate a vow renewal; you can simply walk up together and begin the ceremony yourselves if you want to, or renew your vows quietly to each other in private. But to keep things organized, many couples prefer to have someone officially take over the ceremony to keep things moving. Since this is not a legally binding ceremony, anyone can officiate it. Some couples will have a close family member or friend, even their children officiate! Others will prefer an official religious or spiritual minister or priest to perform the ceremony. It is entirely up to you and with whom you feel most comfortable.

Reception Afterwards?

Absolutely! You don’t have to, but etiquette dictates that if you invite guests to witness your vow renewal ceremony, then you bear the burden of refreshing them afterwards. It can be anything from a light and fun reception with champagne and snacks right at your ceremony location to a formal dinner to a fun night out in the town. There is no rule about how formal or casual this needs to be. Again, this is not a wedding so you can style the reception in any way you like!

Marriage Blessing

Similarly related but a little different is the marriage blessing. Many religions actually perform official marriage blessings. If you prefer to have a religious ceremony to mark your anniversary, or host it in a church, then an official marriage blessing ceremony is the way to go. It can be just as moving as your original wedding, and just as much fun to plan!

What Is It

A marriage blessing is a small ceremony where another person (or more) bestows upon the marriage couple a blessing and good intentions for the couple’s future. This blessing can be done in concurrence with renewal or reaffirming of vows, or be completely on its own. The blessing itself can be words spoken, or more ritualistic in nature. For example, a spiritual blessing can include invoking the elements in a natural setting and using incense to anoint the couple. The purpose of this ceremony is to formally recognize the married couple’s journey thus far, their continued dedication to one another, and encouraging positive energy to surround the couple. It can be religious in nature but doesn’t have to be. It is not a legally binding ceremony.

Why Do It

Some couples want to formally recognize their wedding anniversary or marriage but do not want to formally renew or reaffirm vows. This is a good option for them as it takes the same sentiment behind a vow renewal without that element. It can be extremely personalized, so each couple can really take the opportunity to include many details that reflect their personal beliefs and relationship that is unique to them. Some couples place value on having a rich spiritual or religious belief system, and take comfort from having someone representative of that bless them. As the years go by, people change, and sometimes a spouse may convert to another religion or together a couple may take on a different spiritual belief system; some couples wish to have their new spiritual or belief system formally recognize their marriage. Whatever the reason, the overall purpose is to again formally recognize a couple’s commitment to one another, their journey thus far, and honoring their hard work and dedication and love!

When To Have It

Again, there’s no set rule as to when it’s appropriate or correct to have a marriage blessing. Some couples will spontaneously ask for it one day after church service on a random Sunday if they feel so inspired! Others will make more elaborate plans in order to have their loved ones there to witness or take part in it. You can have the ceremony whenever you like. Couples usually use a wedding anniversary date as a natural date, but others will pick a favorite month or other day to host it. Again, it’s not a re-do of your wedding day so you can pick whatever time and day suits you best.

When Not To Have It

Again, any kind of ceremony done with the intent to “fix” something in the marriage is not a good idea; you’re not addressing the real issues and are only punting them down the line. If you’re going for a religious or spiritual ceremony here, make sure you both are on the same page or ok with the nature of the blessing. If you wanted a pagan-inspired ceremony but your husband is super die hard Catholic and fundamentally uncomfortable with pentagrams, maybe select a different combination of elements or blessings. If your spouse is considering converting to your religion and you think planning a marriage blessing is the perfect way to “push them over to your side,” probably not a great idea. The point is to make sure you’re both on the same page with what kind of blessing you want to have, and are in a good space within your relationship to receive it.

Where To Host

The location will depend on the kind of blessing you want done. Something spiritual in nature (i.e. non-denominational) can be done anywhere, but outdoors probably would be most ideal. If you are both religious then certainly talk to your priest or minister about what kind of blessing ceremonies your church offers. If you want a religious ceremony but not in a church, then ask if they’d be willing to do a ceremony outdoors. You want to pick a location that speaks to you, that has meaning, and is appropriate for the kind of blessing you want done.

Who Officiates

Again, because this is not a legally binding ceremony, anyone can officiate a marriage blessing. Couples tend to choose a spiritual adviser or figure they’ve grown up with to officiate the blessing, especially if they want it to be religious in nature or reflect a particular religious belief system. But other couples will ask a best friend or family members to do it.

Reception Afterwards

Same as vow renewals, if you take on inviting others to join you for your blessing ceremony, then yes you are obligated to host a reception of some kind afterwards. Again, this can be as casual or formal as you wish it to be.

Anniversary Celebrations

Ok some people want to skip the foreplay and move right to the party. If you’re happy with your original wedding day, and just want to take the chance to celebrate your anniversary, then an anniversary celebration is the right course for you! The theme of this is FUN. You want to invite your best friends and family, kids, create an environment where everyone is having a blast and celebrating you.

What Is It

A party celebrating your wedding anniversary. This event can be as formal or casual as you like, you can invite whomever you want, and it can be as quirky or sophisticated as you want it to be. The only “rule” to this is that it does need to reflect your marriage in some way, or else it’s just a plain ol’ party. Consider adding lots of personalized touches to this party: pictures of you both over the years, involving kids to help in the elements, choosing a venue or destination that holds some particular importance to your relationship. The overall vibe of this is fun and celebratory, not a drag.

If you wanted something more intimate, take an incredible trip together to celebrate. Or have a smaller affair with only closest friends and family and center it around an amazing destination you can all explore together. Instead of a big party, consider an intimate celebration at an incredible restaurant or rent a venue exclusively for a long weekend and relax, indulge, and celebrate on your own terms!

Why Do It

You never need an excuse to have a good party, in my opinion. And with all the celebrating we do during the year for all sorts of things, why not take a moment to celebrate your anniversary! We take time to celebrate a couple just starting out on their life together, and now divorce parties has us celebrating people who break up. Why not celebrate the times couples are together?!

When To Have It

As the name suggests, this one you’re going to have to center around your actual wedding anniversary. Doesn’t have to be the exact date, but it does need to be thereabouts.

When Not To Have It

If you’re having financial hardships, probably not a good time to host an anniversary party. This is meant to be a fun experience to look forward to, not stress you out further. Put all financial affairs in order, make your mental notes, and when you’re good and ready to celebrate without worry, open the coffers and let lose on some fun! Again the purpose of this is enjoy and celebrate, so make sure it’s a good time in your schedule, works with your financial situation, work/kid schedule, and if you’re inviting friends adn family (especially if it’s a destination celebration), that it works for them too.

Where Can You Host

Anywhere! Anything from a casual country style BBQ with red checkered table cloths and lemonade out of mason jars to a masquerade ball in a vintage estate in tuxedos and gowns, you can plan literally any theme and vibe for your anniversary party.

Who’s Invited

This is up to you, but etiquette dictates your guest list is complimentary to your event. So if you’re planning a huge lavish affair then everyone on your guest list for your wedding who you still talk to are invited along with any new friends and colleagues you’ve made since. A smaller more intimate destination celebration is a great way to focus the party down to the core people you want to party with. Or, take an incredible vacation with your kids or just the two of you and have a one-of-a-kind celebration.

Gifts or No Gifts

This gets a little tricky. Now, for a vow renewal or marriage blessing etiquette actually dictates that it is not appropriate for the couple to register for or ask for gifts. If a guest insists on giving you something, you may graciously accept. But it is considered poor form to register for gifts or ask for cash because this is not a wedding. However, an anniversary party does fall into more of a grey area situation. It is completely appropriate for guests to bring you gifts for your anniversary party (as it’s viewed more in line with a birthday party). It is considered tacky to register for gifts, even for your anniversary party, but it is considered socially acceptable to provided a charity of your choice for your guests to donate to in honor of your anniversary. You may provide that information at the bottom of your invitation. But do not expect your guests to provide any gifts of donations.

Why Ireland Is the Perfect Place

Now that you are familiar with the different options of how you can celebrate your marriage and anniversaries, why are we talking about this on a BLOG that specializes in destination weddings in Ireland? Well, because Ireland truly is the perfect place to host your anniversary celebrations as well.

  1. Incredible Scenery and Lots To Choose From.   There are so many options to choose from in Ireland to host the perfect anniversary celebration. Plenty of outdoor locations from incredible natural scenery to monastery and castle ruins are the perfect backdrop for your spiritual ceremony and pictures. Estates, manor houses, castles, cozy country lodges and five star hotels are the perfect places to stay and host your celebration afterwards, some even available for private use. And with plenty to see, sight-see, discover, and experience, you and your guests will never forget this destination celebration!
  2. Irish Traditions.   Ireland is rich in its history and traditions. Dating back to the ancient Celtic people, Ireland has always been a place of deep spiritual reverence, embracing the elements and the Circle of Life, their cultural traditions weaving effortlessly these beliefs and rituals and traditions throughout the ages that are a perfect way to honor and express your anniversary. Blessings, rituals, done with utmost reverence and sincerity, in a romantic and peaceful setting is literally the perfect place to host your vow renewal or marriage blessing ceremony.
  3. Live. Love. Laugh.    No one parties like the Irish. Music and dancing, singing and toasting, blessing and toasting and honoring and story telling are the first 30 minutes of your entrance into an Irish pub any given evening. They embrace you instantly, relish in your triumphs and relate to your struggles, and know better than most how important it is to celebrate the important things in life. It is not just the words of your vows or blessing you’ll be receiving, but the feeling of being fully embraced into a culture that effortlessly celebrates Love.

There are of course many more reasons, but we’ll visit those in some posts in the near future. For now, hopefully you’ve gained some clarity about what options are available if you were thinking about celebrating your anniversary or renewing your vows. And remember to check back often for inspiration boards and more detailed ideas on how to celebrate your marriage in Ireland!

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