What is a vow renewal? [Ultimate Vow Renewal Guide 2024]

Renewing your wedding vows is nothing new. People have been doing it for generations in one way or another. Yet, I still get asked the question ‘what is a vow renewal’? I believe, most people know what a vow renewal is, but what they are wondering, is what is a ‘modern’ vow renewal? I actually asked a bunch of my previous couples and they all basically said the same thing, that a vow renewal is effectively a ‘re-do’ of your wedding. While this is technically true, it doesn’t cover the spectrum of what a vow renewal is. So let me go ahead, and break it down for you now.

What is a vow renewal?

A vow renewal in it’s simplest form, is basically a commitment ceremony. The only difference to this one, is that the person you are committing too, is already married to you. So in that sense, it’s more like a ‘recommitment ceremony’.

When you get married, you make some vows, or promises to the person you’re marrying. That’s a fairly standard practice in most cases, so if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already done that. However, as you grow together as a married couple, your love, and lives change. Maybe you have kids. Maybe you move to a different country to take on a whole new challenge. Perhaps you start a small business together. Whatever it may be, the promises you made in the past, often need updating.

Now, there is no rule stating you have to do a vow renewal ceremony to ‘update’ these promises. You could simply sit down at your kitchen table, get a pen and paper, and write out your new promises to one another. However, some people prefer to celebrate these new vows, and to once again celebrate their relationship. For those people, a vow renewal ceremony might be the answer.

So the long and short of it is that a vow renewal is simply 2 people, reaffirming a set of updated vows to one another. It can be as lavish, or as basic as you want. So what are the rules of a vow renewal?

What is the difference between a ‘wedding’ and an ‘elopement’ style vow renewal?

As far as a modern vow renewal goes, there are two ‘types’. The more wedding focused type of vow renewal is exactly what it sounds like, and is actually what most people think of when they hear the term. It is basically a wedding, but without the legalities and paperwork. So if you had a traditional wedding, it’s going to be basically just like that, following the same formula. This type of vow renewal is also much more likely to be held at a wedding venue.

An elopement styled renewal is more like an elopement, it’s about the adventure and the journey. there is no strict formula, and there isn’t really a defined structure for the day and it’s layout. This type of vow renewal is more likely to be held in the mountains, on a cliff, and is more likely to be held in a destination location, as opposed to locally. Both result in the same thing, but clearly in two very different ways.

What are the rules when renewing your vows?

When it comes to a vow renewal, unlike a wedding, there are no rules. There’s no legalities to consider since you’re already married. So you can do whatever you want, go nuts, have fun with it.

Do you need a celebrant? You’re already legally married, so legally speaking you don’t need one. You’re friend or a sibling could do it, or you could just not have anyone and just read vows to one another. Remember, a celebrant can cost $2000, so probably a cost to avoid, in my opinion.

Does it have to be a ‘wedding’? A lot of people assume a vow renewal is just a ‘wedding redo’. That can be true, if you want it to be, but it could also be a weekend getaway to Byron Bay, no guests, no stress, to renew your vows on the beach with a pizza and bottle of wine. Vow renewals can be anything you want them to be.

Basically, there are no rules, is what I am getting at. So you are free to create a day, a moment that truly reflects you and your family. The sky is the limits.

Why do people renew their vows?

There are a variety of reasons that people choose to renew their vows. It’s usually quite a personal decision, but there are 3 main reasons people (in my experience) tend to do a vow renewal.

A lot of my couples who have done a session with me have just come through a major life battle. Sometimes it’s a financial hurdle, or even a health scare. Whatever the reason, they made it through and now they want to celebrate their love.

Having a growing family is probably the most common reason. People get married, and for many of them, the next step is to start thinking about a growing family. As a dad myself, I can tell you, my promises to my wife changed as soon as I became a dad. Your promises will have changed too, so maybe it’s time to update them.

Another reason I get a lot, is that people never had the wedding of their dreams. Maybe they were financially restricted when they were younger, or they just didn’t realise how important the day was, so they see a vow renewal as a chance to have their dream adventure wedding!

When do people do a vow renewal?

The most obvious time for a vow renewal would be on (or around) your anniversary. But do you need to wait for 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? Can you do a renewal any time you want? Can these rules be broken? Yes, yes they can.

Some people choose to do a vow renewal on their anniversary. They could do this yearly, every 2nd year, or every 5. It’s totally up to them. The bottom line is they chose to renew their vows on their anniversary. Some people choose to do a vow renewal only on major milestone anniversaries. So these people will only do a vow renewal every 5 or 10 years, as they reach a new major milestone in their marriage. A lot of people choose to renew vows when life circumstances change drastically. Like I said, that could be kids or a major location change. Whatever it is, maybe you want to renew the promises and vows you made to each other with all of this in mind, what an awesome idea.

4 Tips for Renewing your Vows

When it comes to renewing your vows, things can be as simple, or as complex as you want. Now obviously if you go for the ‘wedding’ style vow renewal, you’re going to find there is more to plan, more to pay for, so it’s going to be more stressful. Here are my top 4 tips to help you plan the best day for you and your partner.

Understand why you’re doing this.

This one goes without saying, you obviously want to know why you’re choosing to renew your vows. But it goes deeper than this. Are you doing this because you never had the wedding you wanted? Maybe you wanted a small intimate ceremony with close friends and family, but you ended up with a 300 person mega wedding. But maybe you chose to elope, and you regret never having had a big reception with a dancefloor and all your friends there. Perhaps you’re doing this because you just beat a major health scare, and you want to celebrate your family, the group of people (whether that’s just your partner, or extended family) who helped you pull through. Understanding your ‘why’ will help you to better plan your day.

Pick the right location

Do you want to renew your vows at a vineyard? A church? Or maybe even a local Airbnb in the yard? Perhaps you want to travel somewhere epic, and do it on top of a mountain? Or on a beautiful exotic beach. The key here is to make sure you choose the right location. Better understanding your ‘why’ will help with this. Let’s say you’re the person who had a small wedding, but feels like they missed out on that epic reception & dancefloor with all your mates. You probably need to pick a venue, somewhere that can host a large number of guests and vendors. If you’re that person who had a mega wedding, but actually wanted to elope on a mountain with your parents and a few friends, skip the venue, maybe consider flying somewhere cool with your people and having that intimate, private ceremony.

Whichever way you go, you need to make sure the location is right for you. If you get this wrong, the entire feel of the day, and the balance between what you wanted, and what you’ll get, will be wrong.

Guests, or no guests?

Again, if you go back to your ‘why’, this is going to be much easier to determine. There is no right or wrong answer, just know that. Only what is right or wrong for you. So if you always wanted that big wedding and never got it, make sure you invite guests. If you always wanted something a bit more private, then maybe you invite only a select few people. And for some, they don’t want to share this moment with anyone, in which case opt to do it just the two of you. Again, there’s no right or wrong, it’s totally up to you!

Discuss vows before writing them

This one is a biggie. I actually have an entire Vow Renewal Ultimate Guide which runs through my step by step guide on how to write vows, so if you haven’t already seen that, click here to grab your copy (over 140 pages of vow renewal information). The biggest mistake I see people make (and this goes for weddings and elopements) is not being on the same page when it comes to their vows. So here is a simplified breakdown of that guide

Make sure to agree on a tone, you don’t want to be a comedian while your partner is pouring out their soul. Make sure to think about your promises. Are you promising things you will follow through on, or just promising the moon because it sounds good? Strike a balance between funny and emotional, try to not make it all of one, keep it interesting. Make sure you’re not inappropriate or embarrassing. If you want to roast one another, that’s fine, I love it, but make sure you both agree to boundaries.

Basically, just have a conversation before you start writing and ensure you’re both on the same page about all of the above. The last thing you will want to do is have someone who is impartial (a celebrant, photographer, or even family/friend) listen to, or read over both sets of vows and provide feedback.

Do you need a license or a celebrant to do a vow renewal?

You’re already legally married, so legally speaking you don’t need one. You’re friend or a sibling could do it, or you could just not have anyone and just read vows to one another. Remember, a celebrant can cost $2,000, so probably a cost to avoid, in my opinion. The only time I recommend having a celebrant is if you are having more of a wedding style day. If you’re having lots of guests, you will want someone who knows how to run a ceremony at the helm, not your mate from high school.

However, if you’re having something less formal and more intimate, feel free to absolutely have someone close to you ‘officiate’ the ceremony. They will add a personal touch to things, they genuinely know and care about you both, so they will deliver the ceremony with more passion, plus, they’ll probably do it for a few beers and a feed, making them a far cheaper option. Because of this, you also do not need any paperwork. You don’t need a license, and you don’t need to inform anyone of your decision, just go ahead and do it, have a ball, and don’t look back.

So how do you start planning a vow renewal?

If you’ve downloaded my guide, you can simply start going through the process step by step and start planning. Will it take some time? Yes, especially if you’ve never done this before. There is an easier way of course, which is having me photograph your vow renewal. All of my couples get planning and coordination services included in all packages. This means, I will plan the entire day for you, exactly as you want, taking away all the legwork and time consuming, overwhelming parts of the planning process. If you want to know more about what I offer, and how I can help make this day an absolute dream for you, fill out my form below (or contact me here) and I’ll be in touch!

What is a vow renewal FAQ’s

  1. What are the rules for a vow renewal?
    There are no rules. Since you’re already legally married, you can do this anywhere, anytime, in any way you want.
  2. What do you say when renewing your vows?
    You can say whatever you want, but basically you will want to take your wedding vows, and update them to reflect your lives now, whatever that means to you. Just make sure that before you start, you’re on the same page.
  3. What year should you do a vow renewal?
    Some people choose to do a vow renewal only on major milestones, like 5, 10 or 20 years of marriage. Other people do it whenever they feel like they want to, usually on or around an anniversary, but again, there are no rules. You could do a vow renewal 13 days after your wedding if you felt like it.
  4. How much does it cost to renew wedding vows?
    It totally depends on the type of vow renewal you want to do. If you want to have one that feels more like a wedding, it will probably cost you what a wedding would, between $40,000 and $60,000 in NSW in 2024. If you want to do it elopement style, with just a photographer, hair and makeup and maybe a bouquet, it could cost as little as $6000 for an epic adventure!
  5. Can I renew my vows anywhere?
    Yes, you can. Pick anywhere in the world.
  6. Do I need witnesses to renew my wedding vows?
    No, you don’t remember, this is not a legally binding ceremony, so you can have guests if you want, but you don’t need them.

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