Clarification on Vow Renewal Etiquette

Hi! My husband and I are planning a vow renewal for right after our 13th wedding anniversary. I wasn’t really planning on recreating a wedding per se, but my husband felt strongly about having his three good friends stand with him as they’ve been a huge source of support through us over the years and for family polticial reasons, they did not stand with him at our wedding. I wanted my orginal maid of honor and matron of honor and a good friend (who didn’t stand with me either) who have been, again, incredibly supportive, to stand with me as well as our two children. We’d like to have a family unity candle, especially since my older son is adopted and we feel he’d really get something out of us also reaffirming our familyhood. I did find an ivory informal wedding dress (with a chapel length train) that I’d love to wear. It’s very simple with only a little beading… is this ok? My original wedding dress is very poofy and very, well, young. I think it would look a little odd to wear now.

We’re having the entire event at a winery with a Quaker meeting/ceremony and would also like to have the Quaker certificate with our reaffirmation ‘vows’ for our friends and family to sign in the tradition of Friends.

We also see this as a great opportunity to gather all the folks we love, some of whom have moved away, together to thank them for standing by us through some rough times in our marriage and supporting us through creating our family. All in all about 70 guests. We’ll have dancing just to make it a fun party and a photographer to capture the event. Also, since I’m a professional photographer and several of our guests are as well, a pro photographer on site will allow those guests to kick back a bit and not feel pressured to capture every moment.

Does all this sound ok? No wedding cake, just a good cake and a birthday cake for my older son (it will be his 10th birthday as well and he’s very excited to have the party on his birthday!), no gifts, no showers, no veil… oh yes, and flowers, we would like flowers but I’ve seen from other posts that that’s not a problem. Oh, and my husband would like the gentlemen, our boys and he to wear tuxes.

I don’t want to come off as tacky but this day really is about us reaffirming our relationship. My husband and I are doing some ‘fine tuning’ to our relationship and look at this as a way of giving ourselves a new start… a better one, with the people we love.

Thanks! sorry this is so long!


Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

Dear Clarifying,

You say that you don’t want to create a wedding, but yours is as close to any wedding I’ve attended. It will appear to be a wedding, which is a negative. Please read more about vow renewal etiquette.

This should be a family reaffirming experience, so it is wonderful and proper that you are including your children. But, since you are already married, including attendants who were not part of your original wedding and wearing a ‘wedding’ dress (not original) appears as if you are marrying each other. It would be better just to focus on family.

This is your decision, but if it is to appear proper, please consider proper planning.

Best wishes,


I read that it was ok to wear a dress with a train (and yes I’ve read I Do Take Two but I guess I misunderstood) but it shouldn’t be white or in my case ivory? It was more informal so I thought it was ok… should I be shooting for a color? I’m just trying to understand.

OK scrap the attendants except our kids. Anything else I’m missing?

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

Trains are typically attached to the wedding gown and this is something we try to avoid, unless you are wearing your original gown. The color really doesn’t matter. It is the style of the dress. So, any color you choose is fine.

I didn’t address your husband’s attire. Sorry. Tuxes are worn in the evening. So, if yours is a formal evening affair, he can wear a tux. The others may as well.

Just because your friends shouldn’t be attendants doesn’t mean that they cannot participate in some creative way. Because this isn’t a wedding, you can create special duties for them, such as reading a poem or bringing the unity candles to you. The vow renewal can actually be very special and unique due to the flexibility of few expected traditions.

As long as you create an event that doesn’t mirror the wedding ceremony, you can do just about anything. That’s the beauty of it.


One more thing… in the Quaker Tradition, there is a certificate with the couple’s vows written on it and signed by all in attendance who take the place of an officiant. Since some vow renewals are performed by clergy and there is no such thing in most Quaker Meetings, would a document like this, propery worded, be appropriate. Something like, “In celebration of this afirmation of vows, we set our hands below” or is that, again, too wedding? Again, just wasn’t sure since the Quaker faith works a little differntly or is a meeting for worship only appropriate.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

I absolutely love the Quaker certificate and ways. Your traditions are refreshing.

There really is nothing wrong with this. It isn’t a marriage license or wedding certificate. It is just a continuation of your reaffirmation. But, talk to your friends who will be in attendance and find out how they feel about it. More than likely they will be fine with it as well.