Question: I have used the search tool and gone through several threads but have not come across a thread as unique as mine, so I am going to give this a shot…
My husband and I will be married for five years in May 2010. We originally had planned to renew our vows on our 1st anniversary, but our son was born 3 days before the date. We were married at his uncle’s church, but my family is from up north (1000 miles away) and short on funds at the time, so with the exception of my brother who gave me away, none of my family or friends were able to attend, even though we gave nearly a years notice. Some of his family could also not attend (brother’s wife on serious bed rest from pregnancy, aunt had recently passed away)
Now, nearly 5 years later, my husband and I are more financially stable and able to afford a ceremony and reception. In addition to that, my great-aunt, grandmother, and parents would like to be able to attend something formal because they were not able to originally. I know it is not proper ettiquette for my father to give me away, but can he not walk me down the aisle or dance with me at the reception? My great aunt, who is very old, keeps pointing out that she wants to dance at one more “wedding”. And, I chose not to wear my “wedding” dress at our original ceremony due to our circumstances (my parents not being there or my family and our intentions to renew a year later). I am unsure now of what to do since it will now be 5 years. I don’t feel comfortable wearing my wedding dress because it is just that, a wedding dress and I am sure it is inappropriate for the renewal ceremony. But I do want a formal event, not just for my family, but for me and my husband as well.
Rebecca Black, Etiquette Consultant, Etiquette Now
Dear Mrs. Rutherford,
By your moniker, you are stating that you are married. So, it seems that you would understand that there is no way that you could appear to be a bride as well. A bride is someone who is not married.
Remove all of the personal information in your post and your situation is exactly the same as many of our posts. So, the advice is the same. You are married, so to host a wedding-like event is not proper, considerate of guests, and is illogical.
Even if you hosted a vow renewal after a year, it wouldn’t have appeared proper. What could you have possibly needed to renew? Renewing after five years would be fine. But, it would be to renew your vows to each other. It is not a redo of your wedding. That’s not supposed to be the reason to host one.
If you still plan on hosting a vow renewal for yourself, it is simply a ceremony in which you two renew your vows. It is supposed to be a small family affair. There are no wedding-like elements. Your father doesn’t escort you, because there is no procession, no bride, no groom, no wedding dress, no attendants, no prewedding parties, and no gifts. If there is a party, it isn’t a wedding reception, because it isn’t a wedding. It could be an anniversary party, because it is an anniversary. But, this isn’t a bench mark anniversary. So, it still may seem a bit odd to those invited.
Please read more about vow renewal etiquette. All of this advice is in etiquette books and in articles written by credible etiquette professionals such as Miss Manners (Judith Martin).
Wedding Expert Answers
At the end of the day what ultimately matter is why you want to renew your vows. To celebrate. Perhaps you’ve made it to 5 years together and you want the world to know that you’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Maybe you want to reaffirm your commitment to each other after a rough period in your relationship. There’s no wrong reason to renew. Just think about the timing — don’t do it the same year you get married, unless you’ve had a small, faraway ceremony and want to make your vows public upon your return. Also, I agree with Rebecca, it is a vow renewal, not a marriage ceremony so you can’t dress up like the bride again.