I Thee Wed, Again
Marriage Is Sweeter the Second Time
Every marriage needs a "job well done!" now and again. An unexpected (and well-timed) hug and kiss help, while a thoughtful anniversary dinner or a weekend away from the kids works wonders, too. But for more and more couples, what really defines their deepening commitment to each other is renewing their vows, whether it's at a bash attended by nearly as many guests as came to the original wedding or an ultra-private ceremony with handwritten poems and no witnesses at all.
Experts say couples' realization that if marriages aren't nurtured they're likely to wither is what's fueling the trend. "Renewing vows elevates the importance of the marital tie," says David Popenoe, PhD, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and codirector of the National Marriage Project. Couples aren't waiting for their 50th or even their 20th anniversary to do it.
"The terror attacks on September 11 illustrated how fragile life can be, and for many couples this prompted a desire to formally restate their commitment," says Gerard J. Monaghan, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, in New Milford, Connecticut.
A deeper meaning runs through even the most lighthearted vow-renewal party. "There's a new perception of marriage as a status symbol, meaning, if a couple manages to stay married for a number of years, that's a point of pride, and recommitting themselves adds even more value and meaning to the marriage," says Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, in Washington, D.C., and director of Smartmarriages.com, a national marriage-education clearinghouse.
For some the ceremony can also be tinged with poignancy. "Couples who have experienced a trauma may feel the need to reaffirm their commitment," explains Paul G. Schauble, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. Dr. Schauble is familiar with the sentiments. In August 2003, after he recovered from a severe spinal-cord injury, he and his wife re-exchanged wedding vows.
Vow renewals look forward, too. "I would say that affirming your commitment to your partner, and to the institution of marriage, is the single most important thing you can do to keep a marriage together," says Dr. Popenoe. Here are four such affirmations.