Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon

Adventure Rabbi in the News:

Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon

Happily Ever After:
Why Couples Renew Their Vows

March 28, 2003
By Bev Bennett

The Osbournes’ New Year’s Eve ceremony marked 20 years of marriage
Whether a reaffirmation, a “road check,” or the party you couldn’t afford when starting out, vow renewal is a glorious celebration of continued commitment.

When Kathy and Dale Bissette first married they were so young and so strapped for cash that their wedding party could have been mistaken for dinner with the family.

Their guest list was limited to seven relatives — mothers, aunts and siblings.
What a difference 20 years of married life and savings in the bank made when the Bissettes renewed their wedding vows.

“We wanted the whole shebang: white wedding gown, big church, big limo, caterers and flowers. There were over 200 guests,” says Kathy Bissette, who lives in Phoenix.

The extravaganza, which went on for a full week, cost “well over $15,000” and included visits from out-of-town friends, backyard barbecues and a whirlwind of activities.

“We wanted it all. I didn’t want to half-step it,” Bissette says.

Although there are few statistics to confirm it, wedding experts say they’re getting more requests for vow renewal events. A yearning for strong family ties and the after-shock of September 11 motivate couples to re-affirm their love, say the marriage pros.

Even Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, the offbeat couple whose family antics are a weekly obsession on MTV’s The Osbournes, see the value of vow renewal. “We wrote our own vows and had our marriage blessed again,” Sharon told People magazine. The ceremony, set for New Year’s Eve with 500 guests, marked 20 years of marriage.

The spiritual component, which many couples weave into their renewal ceremonies, pleases Rabbi Jamie Korngold.

“What I love about the renewal of vows is that it’s about the marriage,” says Rabbi Korngold of Boulder, Colo.

“The wedding is about who should be invited and the napkins and the flowers. It’s a struggle to get a couple to think about the marriage. In a renewal of vows the couple thinks about their marriage,” says the rabbi.

“Some couples will go through sessions with their rabbi and look at their goals for the future of their marriage. It’s like getting the 50,000 mile tune-up on the car and feeling good about it. That’s how couples feel coming out of this [the vow renewal] experience,” says Rabbi Korngold.

She sometimes sees couples at their 10th or 15th anniversary. Then the vow renewal is a road check, rather than a golden wedding commemoration.

The Bissettes decided at their 15th anniversary to renew their vows after 20 years of marriage because they wanted to do so while they had the energy for all the planning involved.

Traditionally, couples renew their vows at significant anniversary dates, such as the 30th or the 50th. Then it becomes a celebration of a marriage that works, says Rev. Dr. David Glusker, minister of the First Radio Parish Church in Portland, Maine.

“When you commit at age 22 or 26 you’re a different person from 30 years later. It’s a new commitment,” says Rev. Glusker.

Although some couples ask their religious leader to preside over the ceremony, a renewal shouldn’t be confused with a wedding, says the minister. The language and intent are different.

“Instead of saying you’re ‘taking’ the person, you say ‘once again I commit myself to you as your wedded wife,’ ” he says.

According to Rev. Glusker, most couples aren’t comfortable creating their own language for commitment. He included wedding renewal vows in his book, Words for Your Wedding: the Wedding Service Book (Harper San Francisco, 1994).

A handbook for Reform rabbis also includes a renewal ceremony with appropriate prayers. Couples considering the experience can get recommendations from their religious leaders as well.

However, exchanging personal vows, as the Bissettes did, can be even more meaningful.

“We had butterflies in our stomachs and could hardly talk. My vows were short. Dale went on about how I was the angel in his life. We teared up as we exchanged vows,” says Bissette.

For some couples, exchanging vows is a personal and private experience. For others, it’s a way to mark a milestone anniversary with family and friends. Destination parties at vacation resorts are very popular, according to wedding planners. A vow renewal occasion can be modest or luxurious and even off-beat.

How does a Jewish renewal service in the Rockies sound? Rabbi Korngold conducts them. She is affiliated with Boulder, Colo.-based Adventure Rabbi, and a company for those who find their spirituality in nature. “I have a couple coming from New York to Aspen for a long weekend. We’ll do different outdoor activities, then go for a hike and do a renewal of vows in the wilderness,” says the rabbi.

Another renewal ceremony, arranged by a wedding planner, called for Northern California’s Mill Valley Outdoor Arts festival as a backdrop to a dinner dance. The original wedding invitations were transformed into menu cards and the tables were adorned with green and yellow flowers, the wife’s favorite colors.

The Bissettes’ renewal experience was part church service and part reunion of extended family and friends.

“It was a big organizational thing,” Bissette says. “It was absolutely huge. But it wasn’t as stressful as getting married would be. This was a re-do. The biggest thing was to have fun.”

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