"I'd Marry You All Over Again!"
Shannon & Marvin Gilliard
Married July 30, 2005
Renewed at three months
Shannon and Marvin weren't close to even their first anniversary when they arrived in Jamaica to pledge themselves to each other yet again. "It was my mother's idea," explains Shannon. Her parents, Linda and Alfred Holmes, who were married on Valentine's Day in 1981, had planned all along to go to the renewal event and invited Shannon and Marvin to join them. Linda, a self-confessed "vow renewal nut," says that she and her husband do so every four or five years "to remind us that we're committed and a team." She wanted Shannon and Marvin to have the experience right away. "It was their wedding present to us," says Shannon, 36, a school psychologist.
And it was a wonderful one. "The second time we made our promises, in front of married couples of all ages, I finally understood the commitment," recalls Shannon. "Tears of joy were running down my cheeks. I was happier than I'd ever been in my life."
The Gilliards met in 1998 when they sat next to each other at a four-day training session for new employees of their school system. Shannon noticed her neighbor, though Marvin was less observant. "On the last day, I said, 'When are you going to ask me for my phone number?'" recalls Shannon.
Marvin, now 42, took the hint, and they dated for a few weeks before deciding they were just friends. "I just wasn't ready," he admits. In the fall of 2004, he had second thoughts about their separation. "I figured out which building she was working in and left a note on her desk. She called me, and I got a second chance!"
Marvin proposed the following February -- on Valentine's Day -- and the pair were married in her parents' living room with just a few family members present. "We were so busy with our jobs that we barely had time to plan the wedding," says Shannon. "After school let out in June, we crammed all the preparations into one month, during which Marvin landed a new job as the assistant principal at a middle school, we bought a house, and we adopted a calico kitten we named Cassie. I was so rushed that when we were saying our vows I didn't even get teary-eyed. That's why the renewal, although it was a short time later, was so powerful. My mother knew what she was doing!"
"The ceremony was lovely and calm," Marvin says. "It was exactly the bonding we needed. I was totally focused on Shannon, who looked so beautiful." She had brought her wedding gown with her, but she says it was too hot to wear it, so she decided on white cotton pants and top.
The peaceful pace of island life stayed with the couple even after they returned home. "In Jamaica we learned to focus on each other," Shannon says, "and not be in a hurry." She and Marvin wanted to attend Ladies' Home Journal's second vow renewal event, this time on Nassau, in the Bahamas, but they have a good reason to stay home instead. They're expecting their first child in December.
"I hope we can be the kind of parents mine are," says Shannon. "They are hopelessly romantic after 25 years of marriage. I can't thank them enough for the gift of that trip. It made our marriage the true union we wanted."