Vow Renewal Reception Question


Vow Renewal Reception Question: My husband and I will be renewing our vows on our 15th wedding anniversary March 2008. We eloped the first time without any friends or family present. Our original witnesses at the civil wedding were a couple in line with us at the City Hall.

So no one we knew was present at the time. Since we never had a wedding, we would like to have some of the traditions but not make this a huge deal. We will be having a church wedding, we will be in formal attire (I’m getting to wear the wedding dress I never got to wear the first time). So this part of the ceremony will be somewhat fancy.

My question then turns to the actual reception. We are definitely on a budget. We will be having several out of town and out of state guests. My mom doesn’t have much money so we will be paying for her plane ticket and accommodations. My dad and his wife have always been huge supporters of us and have helped us out over the years with money for buying our house and paid for our vacation last summer to go see him and my stepmom. Since he’s done all of this, my husband and I want to pay for their plane tickets and accommodations as well.

Since this will be quite an expense already, some of my friends have suggested having a “potluck” type of informal reception/party afterwards. Several have offered to bring food and desserts. My step-mom has even offered to cook for the reception. Is this tacky or should we be taking care of all this? I obviously wouldn’t ask out of towners to bring something. But my friends have offered out of kindness to help out. Would having a somewhat fancy ceremony and then an informal party afterwards be wrong? Also, do I have to have arranged seating for the reception/party?

Rebecca Black, Etiquette Consultant, Etiquette Now

Dear Monique,

Congratulations on your 15 years of marriage.

I’m sorry, but all of this is improper and could be viewed as tacky. Wives shouldn’t dress up as brides and a vow renewal shouldn’t appear to be a wedding. You and your husband decided to wed at City Hall, which is a proper wedding and it was your decision.

However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t or couldn’t have a proper vow renewal, after all yours is a bench mark anniversary. The key words here is ‘anniversary’ though. The vow renewal and the party afterward is basically an anniversary celebration.

The vow renewal itself should be a small family affair, especially if it is a blessing of your marriage. Of course a few close friends could share in the vows. There shouldn’t be any wedding elements, but the ceremony could be very special. Children definitely could and should be involved. This is a ceremony where you and your husband declare your continued love and commitment for each other, so it makes sense that children should be involved (if you have children).

The party is not a wedding reception, but you are hosting. This means that you should be providing the party. It is considered very impolite to invite guests and expect them to provide the party. A pot luck is not proper.

We have very many posts concerning this issue. It may be best to read them. This is also mentioned in etiquette books as well. Please read more about proper vow renewal etiquette, because if you are inviting guests, this should appear as proper and polite.

Arranged seating could be included if your party is formal. And, the party should be the same formality as the vow renewal.

Best wishes,