Earlier this year, I was contacted about creating and conducting a renewal of vows ceremony. I had studied how to create such a ceremony as part of my celebrant UKCAPSA Diploma training so I felt confident about taking on the challenge.

That feeling changed slightly when I discovered that Stefi was not the client, but rather, it was her Gran and Grandad, Barbara & Dayo who were looking to renew their vows as a celebration of having achieved 50 years of marriage! 

Photo credit: Wardrope Photography

My jaw dropped even further when I saw a picture of the couple as they certainly didn’t look like they were old enough to have been married for all of 50 years.

As celebrants our aim is to always do our best and ensure that we give our clients the very best possible experience by writing and telling their story perfectly.

A vow renewal ceremony is where a married couple renew or reaffirm their marriage vows to one another and can happen at any point during their married life together. In Barbara and Dayo’s case they had a half century of renewing to reaffirm to each other.

If we could read minds, it would be the ultimate celebrant superpower, but more often than not, it’s akin to going to the hairdressers and asking for a certain style you have in mind and hoping that your hairdresser sees in their mind what you see in yours. 

Of course the safety net we celebrants have that a hairdresser doesn’t is the draft approval. With this we can carve out, shave off, extract, add, expand and extrapolate until our client can go to bed on the eve of their big day knowing that whatever else the next day brings…the ceremony is in the bag!

Photo credit: Wardrope Photography

A renewal of vows is just as important as the first time round marriage itself, if not a little more. For Barbara and Dayo’s vow renewal ceremony I kept asking myself one simple question…how do you write a ceremony that does justice to a 50-year love story? Well, to understand that you have to understand the process and to me that process is summed up in one word………….communication and connecting with the client.

Meeting Barbara & Dayo was a joy, she was a dynamo, a go-getter, a woman who knew who she was and more importantly, knew what she wanted. Dayo was her polar opposite, he was laid back, assured, and measured. 

Together they were a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes. If anything, they had more stories and chapters contained within their five decades as a couple than the time factor would allow for. 

So, the question I asked myself whilst staring at the blank screen then turned on its head, and the question now became what will Barbara & Dayo choose to include and what has to be cut! 

I was once told that the biggest decisions in life make themselves, and this was one such time, and it was both Barbara & Dayo who were able to give me enough of the stuff that really mattered to them, to begin to put down the foundations of what would become their ceremony. 

My job now was to weave their shared memories into a sequential order so that their story would have a beginning, middle and end. The end in this case being the exact moment in time we had arrived at on the ceremony day itself. 

Photo credit: Wardrope Photography

Over the course of their story we took their guests back in time to the beginning, passed through each decade, bringing their guests with them on the journey. This was an easy thing to do incidentally as people love a good story, more so if it is written and performed well. 

Every ceremony we write and create as celebrants are as individual and as unique as the people we serve. So too is each learning experience from those ceremonies and in this case what I hadn’t prepared for, was just how emotional an experience this ceremony would be, not just for Barbara & Dayo and their guests, but for me too. 

Yes, I was invested in them as the couple I had grown to know, respect and care for, but more than that I was in awe of the range of emotions on display throughout the ceremony. There was much laughter, there were tears, tears of joy, joy in the memories of family life and milestones reached. 

Before me stood a couple, unafraid and unapologetic for living a life in devotion to each other. I swear that in some of those moments it was like they both reconnected with their inner youth, feeling once again the flutter of fledgling love as they looked into each other’s eyes.

Standing so close to them, I witnessed every sharp intake of breath that preceded every loving gaze. I witnessed every unspoken word, each supportive caress when the other was tearing up, or choking back emotion as they recited their honest and heartfelt vows of love to each other. 

It’s a cliché, but it has been said that the very essence of love is vulnerability and here it was on display for all to see, so you could say I’m a sucker for a cliché…especially if it’s true!

So, in closing, and to answer the question I posed to myself at the beginning of this story, how do you do justice to a love story that is 50 years in the making within the confines of a ceremony? 

Well, the answer is that you can’t! But what you can do is give it your all, trust in your training, trust in your couple, and on the day itself…love will take care of the rest! Your ceremony, your way!

 

Douglas Gilgallon
Celebrant at Fuze Ceremonies

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