The 9 ways I’m making our vow renewal better than our not-so-great wedding

Guest post by Danielle

P O L K A . D O TI first found Offbeat Bride during a search for non-floral bouquets. After overcoming some trepidation because I didn't understand “porn” and “STDs” in the Offbeat Empire context, I joined a wonderful, supportive community of people who were united in their desire to be authentic.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to properly handle the treasure trove. Offbeat Bride and The Offbeat Bride Tribe became my Cave of Wonders. There were so many amazing things I'd never seen or imagined! Seriously, SO many! But Offbeat Bride and the Tribe are so much more, and that's where I missed the boat. Or, I found the boat, and got in, but forgot to use the sail, or something.

Our wedding planning began well; it did not continue that way. Our 2009 wedding was endured rather than enjoyed by our guests and ourselves. Blame is useless. I cannot undo what has been done.

But I knew there was a way to create new, happy, memories… my husband and I could have a vow renewal! This time I want to enjoy the planning. I want to look forward to the day. I want to have fun. I want our family and friends to enjoy the event. I want to celebrate our relationship.

In the five years since our wedding, I've reflected on how I can make the vow renewal planning a much better experience than wedding planning was. Here are my top nine realizations…

1. Stop telling everyone everything

Resist the urge to talk about your wedding with everyone. Some people are not going to love your decisions. Sometimes those same people will tell you exactly why what you're doing is [insert negative word here].

2. Read Offbeat Bride articles, not just porn posts

Definitely read all the philosophizing, advice, and WTF category posts. I totally read articles in these categories while I planned. However, in the midst of the difficulties in planning the wedding, and the “OOOH shiny” aspects of planning the wedding, I will admit I got a little lost in looking at too much porn.

3. Remember that you are (or can be) part of the Offbeat Bride Tribe

The Offbeat Bride Tribe‘s forums and journals are a great resource for communicating with awesome people. It's a safe space and that is invaluable. It's worth taking the time to sign up, and really explore the community's tools.

4. Accept that you will probably spend money on the wedding

Spending money is difficult for me. Sticker shock hit me hard. I went down the rabbit hole and thought, “This money could be used for [insert practical thing], NOT just one day of my life.” Although this is true, it was not helpful. A budget and saving money are helpful.

5. Care about the wedding

After a really difficult point, my husband and I told ourselves and everyone else we “didn't care” about the wedding, we only cared about our marriage. Everyone should care about their relationship more than their wedding, but our apathy was contagious — leaving others to not care about the wedding either. And because, duh, we did care about the wedding, that hurt us.

6. Do not decide in spite

Some of our wedding decisions were based in frustration, hurt, and anger. Doing this may feel good in the moment, but it will not in the forever. It was acceptable to be frustrated, hurt, and angry. It was not acceptable when we became petty and immature.

7. Remember that things are just things

I love symbolism. I love meaning. I love the why. But not everything needs to mean something. You can incorporate something into your day because it is pretty/makes you smile/is funny. Just because it CAN all mean something, does not mean it HAS to.

8. Share the day, don't give it away

People told me and my husband that “a wedding is for the guests.” I do not agree. A wedding is your day that can be shared with others. You should make as many or as few decisions about the event as you want.

9. Be authentic

It is great to go against the grain, but be true to yourself while you do so. We are not one thing, one category, or one piece. We are many. Embracing one trait does not negate the others. One can be offbeat and traditional, masculine and feminine, Trekkie and Jedi. Offbeat Bride and long white gowns are both part of the wedding industry.

Five years later, accepting my desire for another ceremony has been hard. I've wrestled with this want for years. At times it still feels frivolous, selfish, and indulgent. We are married, a new ceremony won't change that.

So I reject the name “vow renewal” for the ceremony. I do not want to renew our vows. I've decided instead to call our celebration a “vow rejoicing.” The phrase best expresses what I hope our new day will be.

People will probably judge. Some may treat our invitation like a chore. The day won't be perfect, as I learned before. But so long as there is happiness, laughter, and love (and I follow my own advice this time), it will be more than enough.

Any other vow renewals in the house? What are you doing differently this time?

Comments on The 9 ways I’m making our vow renewal better than our not-so-great wedding

  1. I love this idea. My fiance and I battled with the idea of a destination wedding (something we both dreamed of) vs. staying local. In the a local wedding was the best way our close family and friends could be apart of our day. Even though I am happy with the wedding we are planning I love the idea of someday doing a destination “vow rejoicing.” Thanks for your insight Danielle!

    • You are welcome! I hope that whatever you decide to do in the future is everything you want it to be.

  2. THANK YOU for posting this. 4 months later, I am still struggling really hard with the difficulties that surrounded my wedding day, and the fall-out afterwards. My husband and I both have regrets, and both still occasionally reflect that we should have eloped, something we didn’t do for the sake of people who, in the end, didn’t treat us very well during or after the wedding. It’s been really hard. So I really thank you for putting your wedding regrets out there, and tips for having a “rejoicing” – the husband and I are thinking of having a small elopement renewal at our 5 year anniversary, so I appreciate your perspective so much!

    • It was and still is very hard for me to reconcile my feelings about our wedding. When I figured out that what I really, really wanted was a day of joy and love, it was much easier for me to be at peace with the decision to someday have a vow renewal. I tend to be private, but I am glad to share a bit of my story if it helps someone else.

    • Hi Christi, Thank you also for sharing. Im 3 months out and still feeling the hurt and regret. I guess this is a rhetorical question but can you believe we feel this? I never in my life thought that others would have the power or right to take my joy. I cant get past it. So as Danielle put it we are talking about doing another ceremony. Yet it does at times feel indulgent. Will others also be so judgmental as to consider it just a gift grab? But there I go letting others affect me again. I think the decision if whether or not to invite anyone will be the hardest part.

  3. I hate it when people say that weddings are for the guests. Nor wedding was for us, 100%, and keeping that thought in our heads during planning kept all the negative talk and the nay sayers from overwhelming us. It was our day that we were choosing to share with other people, and I think the fact that we remembered this, and reaffirmed it often, is one of the reasons this went so well. Thanks for sharing this list!

    • Balance is key in everything! Congratulations on keeping that very important fact in mind. And you’re welcome!

  4. As someone who’s mother in law had a huge two hour crying fight with her son this morning when he told her we wanted to have 40 people there and not 250, and has been dealing with a series of issues the last few weeks that culminated in her breakdown, I needed so much to hear all of this.

    • I’m glad the post helped you. I’m sorry you’re dealing with difficulties, but I hope they get better. One thing I’ve also tried to remember is that I can only control myself, my actions, my words, my reactions. I cannot control other people. I also try to remember the needs and wants of others, but also do not let them consume or overwhelm me.

  5. My wedding 5 years ago did not go well for us. I forgot my vows, the ribbon for lacing up my wedding dress had to use wrapping ribbon because it was all I had there for decorations, and I also forgot my second dress because I knew it would be hot the day of the park wedding. Our wedding cake had the wrong color flowers on it and only three showed up out of 30 invitations. So we ended up being hot, too much food left over, and miserable. We knew we should have planned to just have a ceremony at the park and go to a restaurant afterwards but wanted to have a party. Since then I have lost the photos of the wedding and our sand unity had broke. So we are planning on a fifth anniversary renewal of vows and treat it like a wedding we wanted. A nice ceremony and go through town to have pictures taken, have dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards. I hope this will help bring new nice memories for the wedding vows. So this is a great thing to talk about renewing vows or rejoicing wedding vows when others look at you like you are nuts to plan another wedding when they do not understand what happened to the first wedding.

  6. We are having a vow renewal handfasting ceremony for our tenth anniversary. Our initial handfasting ceremony turned into a disaster.

    I wasn’t getting along with my in-laws at that point and unfortunately some of the decisions made about the wedding at that time were made in anger, hurt and frustration and did nothing but stroke egos (mostly mine)–So, I have to agree with No. 6 in the list because I know how bad doing that can be. But, I was a young and hard-headed 23 year old at that point. Now, that I have a much better relationship with my in-laws I’d like to have a happy memory for us concerning our handfasting.

    The wedding party fell a part about 2 weeks before the ceremony because one of my bridesmaids who was engaged to one of the groomsmen had a huge and nasty breakup. The guy flat out refused to participate if “she was going to be there” and the other groomsmen who was a friend of this guy (and married to my matron-of-honor) decided he needed to stand by his friend at the time and stayed with him the day of the handfasting because he felt like people were picking on him and felt bad that he was going to be alone that day.

    So yeah…total disaster….

    So we’re having a casual handfasting at a park with a potluck picnic reception. It’s going to be August and terribly hot so I’m not wearing a big dress. I’m torn between a sun dress and wearing dressy shorts, a cute top and my sandals. Our daughter is going to be a jr bridesmaid in her favorite “punk rock dress” and my niece and nephew will be a flower girl and ring bearer respectively (which I’ve done to make sure the kids feel included in the whole thing)

    I trust this will be much better than the first go-around and will keep all these things on this list in mind this time..now that I know better. 🙂

  7. Thank you for your comment! With regard to your relationship with your in-laws, I also agree that my bonds with mine and my husbands families are stronger now and that is also a big part of whey I want to have a vow renewal. I was also 23, and totally agree that the woman I am now is quite different from the woman I was. I’m sorry that those things happened at your wedding, but your second ceremony sounds great. I hope you enjoy it!

  8. Our wedding was beautiful and still fraught with heartache and hurt. We were and are still working through issues with his parents and sister, issues that were brought to a head by the wedding. We did the best we could given the circumstances and we put a tonne of effort into making our day full of love and commitment and joy. It mostly worked. And part of the reason why is because every time my Skipper saw it was getting to me, he’d whisper in my ear, “This is only our first wedding. I am going to marry you a million times more, after today.” It strengthened me to remember that it was only one day, and to make the most of it but if it wasn’t everything I had dreamed of it being, thats ok, because there are so many more days ahead of him and I for us to fill with even more love and commitment and joy. And we are totally going to have vow renewals as often as we feel like it!

    • Sometimes your best effort does not make everything perfect, but that doesn’t void what you are experiencing. My wedding was not perfect, but it was not without its joys. Congratulations on finding the positive in the midst of what was a difficult process.

  9. Awesome article! Thank you for bringing this subject to light! Planning my september blended family wedding, I like to call the Ultimate do over, I started this journey first we were eloping then well with the kids (2 mine/2 his) research i did says should be included to solidify the family, OK so now ceremony/wedding! Casual at renassiance festival was to be 20 invited thought at first total easy, simple, unique! What I thought was perfect, nothing like the 250+ church, reception text book (aka boring) I planned for first wedding at age 23. Well…..simple small ren fest wedding nothing has been simple!!!! What started as 20 invited turned to 65. Because thing about unique EVERYONE wants to be apart of something different! I have people I only casually know hinting about being invited (started sticking to my guns lol) well now budget is about blown, and requirement for wedding party needs to in costume! Ever try to walk into a store to buy Renaissance attire? Yep nope, all online! My Dress came in huge, has to be altered for $200 more. Many other little mini headaches! And life happens as life does raising 4 kids and keeps chipping away our savings for wedding! I know the day will be beautiful and joyful, kids are excited “we” as in whole family is getting married , so that part of me can’t wait,excited, happy then there is a part of me that can’t wait for it to be over, and go on with life cause I can really use some no stress time! I feel bad to feel that way, and actually first time I admitted that! We are in the home stretch now no turning back, going to hang on to rollercoaster and afterwards I get to sigh relief its over in the arms of the man I am crazy in love with!

    • Good for you for holding up your boundaries while exercising some flexibility. Your wedding sounds great. You sound like a great Mom!

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