The majority of adults go onto get married at some point in life, but only a small fraction of those who wind up tying the knot also choose to have a vow renewal ceremony. This reaffirmation of a couple’s commitment to each other, which can be conducted any amount of time from their original wedding date, is most certainly not mandatory, but a decision made by the couple to renew their promises to each other. “It’s recreating the intent of your original wedding, but with updates that reflect your current state of life and journey together,” explains Juliana Morris, a marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor in Lexington, Kentucky. “It can also serve as a means to ask for support and celebration from friends, family and your community for your marriage as it is today.” Sometimes, however, a vow renewal carries a more significant meaning, sometimes serving as the start of a new chapter for a couple, perhaps after an impactful life event.
While, of course, there’s no rhyme or reason required for a couple to have a vow renewal ceremony, here are some of the key signs that your marriage may especially benefit from one.
You came back from the brink of divorce.
When conflict and disconnection is the norm for a marriage, one or both partners might start questioning whether they’re with the right person, explains Anita Chlipala, Chicago-based licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love. “When a couple throws around the ‘divorce’ word more frequently, it can crack the foundation of a marriage,” she says. “A vow renewal can be a deliberate action that both spouses take to show that divorce is not an option and they are committed to continually work on the marriage.”
One or both of you was unfaithful.
Faithfulness, after all, is one of the promises couples make when they get married. If, for whatever reason, this promise is broken, it might feel to either or both partners that the only way to truly move forward after, of course, making amends between the two of you and working on your issues as a couple, is a vow renewal. “After infidelity, not only is trust broken but a person struggles with what was real and what wasn’t in the marriage—it shatters your beliefs about your spouse and marriage,” says Chlipala. “A vow renewal can provide the unfaithful partner the opportunity to publicly recommit to the marriage and state their intentions.”
Your original marriage ceremony wasn’t ideal.
Perhaps weather or a family incident got in the way of your actual wedding date, causing it not to occur the way you had hoped. “Perhaps you got married quickly or didn’t have money to have the wedding of your dreams,” says Dr. Morris. “If either were the case, a vow renewal ceremony can serve as a way of making things right.”
You’ve gone to marriage therapy.
Therapy is a wonderful thing for couples, married or not. Working with a professional counselor together or the areas of your relationship that could use some fine-tuning is certainly something to be celebrated and can serve as the main reason for why a couple might choose to have a vow renewal ceremony in the first place. “A ceremony can help seal in the work you’ve been doing with this professional as a couple,” adds Dr. Morris.
To simply make your marriage a priority.
Of course, you don’t need a reason to have a vow renewal, nor do you need to wait for a certain amount of time to pass after your original wedding date. You can choose to have a vow renewal simply because you want to reaffirm the love you have for your significant other. What’s more, turning a vow renewal into a ritual—whether you do it yearly or at milestone years—can ensure that your focus stays on each other, according to Chlipala. “It can spark motivation to make sure that you both uphold the vows that you speak to each other,” she adds.