"I'd Marry You All Over Again!"
Saying It Again
When couples renew their wedding vows, they're looking back and forward. The first time around, their relationship was brand new; now they have a history that provides a context for this emotional turning point. They're commemorating their past, even as they figure out how to ensure their "happily ever after" future.
"A vow renewal is a time for a couple to celebrate what works in their relationship and what they want to keep," says Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Chicago-based Council on Contemporary Families. "It can also be a time of renegotiating as they adjust to a new stage of life by making positive changes." Alterations in the very nature of wedlock make this possible, says Coontz. "Marriage used to have rigid roles and rules," she says, adding that now there's more flexibility.
Practically speaking, today's worrisome divorce rate probably means that couples don't want to take their marriages for granted. "Saying vows again is a way of strengthening the original commitment, meant to last for the rest of your lives," says David Popenoe, PhD, codirector of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, in Piscataway, New Jersey.
And what do the couples say? Studies completed in 1995 and 2002 found that husbands and wives offered several reasons for repeating their vows. "Some wanted the dream wedding they missed out on the first time," says researcher Dawn O. Braithwaite, PhD, a professor of communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who studies families. "Others expressed a desire to recommit, make amends, or set a good example for their children." Read on to see how these motivations played out in the heartwarming stories of four couples who decided it was time to recommit. They renewed their vows in October 2005 during Ladies' Home Journal's first annual "Celebrate Your Love" getaway in the Caribbean.