Photo: Anya Berkut

We still do! Here, why more people are renewing their vows and rejuvenating their bliss.

Tracy Moore says she and her husband, Lio Perron, were initially skeptical about the idea of renewing their vows. But then, Moore, the host of Cityline, started chatting with Jessica Mulroney about how great a destination ceremony could be, complete with their kids and a fuss-free experience that would make renewing an entirely different experience than their wedding 10 years earlier.

"What I didn't realize," says Moore, "was how beautiful it is to acknowledge all the work that goes into building a family and a marriage. A wedding that your kids can come to is a special thing. And a marriage that makes you happy is nothing to take for granted."

Moore, now 43, recalls that the planning for her original wedding was "so stressful," a sentiment echoed by most brides of any age or stage around the world. "I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders trying to please family members and friends and pulling off the biggest party of my life."

By contrast, she says, "Our vow renewal was sheer joy. We did none of the planning (which I loved) and just enjoyed the experience of celebrating together as a family. It's something we'll never forget."

Moore and Perron chose the Royalton Riviera Cancun, and Mulroney went the extra mile, even acting as the officiant for the ceremony. And this time, Moore went for "the big dress" that she skipped the first time around. She has been proud of a chic second-hand halter dress that matched her mood and her life a decade ago but this time, she calls the choice she made guided by Mulroney "a dream. I wanted something with enough flash to mark a big day but subtle enough to wear to a low-key affair."

Mulroney is currently on quite the professional roll, from dressing SGT (that's Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, of course) for the world stage and talking up Canadian fashion to the international press. Mulroney's profile has also grown through her close friendship—seen on Instagram and captured by paparazzi—with Suits actor and humanitarian Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's paramour. But it is Mulroney's work with Kleinfeld Hudson's Bay and Sunwing Vacations (which owns Royalton Riviera Cancun as well as several other resorts) as a bridal expert, stylist and planner, where she has her perfectly manicured finger on the pulse of this burgeoning trend.

Mulroney says she is seeing interest and booking on the rise in the last year, with clients of all ages. "These things are cyclical," she says. "We heard a lot about renewing vows, probably 15 years ago. What is different now is that couples are starting with the idea of a vacation. A very relaxed setting with margaritas!"

Renewing vows is a phenomenon custom-made for the 45-and-over set. Think about it: you have to have some time together under your belt, to have a real accomplishment to celebrate. And you can make up for what you didn't do (or anything you may regret: hello, 1992 cap sleeves and poufy updo framed with orange-can ringlets).

And better, this time you are free (and can afford) to express your love for each other anyway you see fit.

As in most things pop cultural, celebrities lead the way on this trend. Newly minted Oscar winner Viola Davis, 51, renewed her vows with husband, Julius Tennon, in 2016 on Valentine's Day. The pair who have been married since 2003 made the rounds discussing their elegant recommitment everywhere from People to Martha Stewart Weddings. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have done it recently, as have Victoria and David Beckham. And coverage of these ceremonies likely inspired the most heart-warming story of 2017, when all the couples at a Saskatchewan retirement home did a mass vow renewal ceremony together, also on Valentine's Day.

So why take the re-plunge? On the positive end of the spectrum, like Moore and the Saskatchewan seniors, you can use the vow renewal moment to mark an anniversary or a romantic day.

The contrast, as Moore pointed out, to a first wedding is one of relief. "A wedding is so stressful and exhausting. You are hosting people for an event you have spent the year planning, and it goes by in a second. It is really hard as a bride and a groom to enjoy their own day.

Being able to enjoy your big day, renewing your vows, without all the craziness, is a gift to yourselves. Tradition and family and bringing people you love together. Throw in some sun and sand, and what could be better?"

Couples will often use a vow renewal as a way of rebooting after illness or a major life change, such as an emptied nest, retirement or career change. But there is a trickier reason, found at the less-positive end of the spectrum: marking a moving forward together, a healing after something has gone wrong.

And celebrities lead us into this darker side of the phenomenon as well. Many high-profile couples, from Madonna and Guy Ritchie to Kris and Caitlin [then Bruce] Jenner, have busted up right after a vow renewal. If there has been a rift and you haven't gone deep with the work, then there is indeed a risk a vow renewal can add more pressure to a dodgy union, says Tom Foster, who works in Vancouver with Bianca Rucker and Associates, a group that specializes in relationship and sexual issues. A 30-year veteran of recalibrating the dynamics of intimate relationships, Foster says: "A lot of the renewal I end up seeing is around a breach of trust or a crisis that occurs in a relationship."

Thus, he recommends you ask yourself and discuss with each other, the same kinds of things you should put on the table at the front end of a relationship, in terms of gauging values, compatibilities and treating each other with compassion and respect. This is an opportunity to reboot thoughtfully, he says, and hone your interest-based negotiating skills by learning to really listen to each other (and employing what Foster euphemistically calls "quite a bit of self-regulation").

Because whatever you do, you don't want a false renewal. "Betrayal can create such a wound that it takes quite a bit of repair. The work has to go deep," he says. "Or you're more likely to be triggered again, revive destructive habits, beat each other up emotionally and then it would seem renewal was all window dressing."

But if you are sure the state of your union is strong, then feel free to take it on the road. "Destinations work for vow renewals," says Mulroney, "because you are someplace out of time and place, away from the daily grind, where you and the small select group of people you love most can all enjoy each other."

That doesn't mean you can scrimp on style. After all, the vow renewal phenomenon is basically a second chance to spend money to show off your love (and buy a fancy dress). And it is a chance to get that elusive "perfect dress." There are two kinds of vow renewal brides, says Mulroney. The first ones have regretted that they didn't really do it the way they wanted the first time. "They look back on pictures and see a dress they don't like anymore, or maybe the dress was imposed on them by someone else, or maybe for religious or venue reasons they had to choose a specific style." But when they finally find the dress they secretly yearned for and finally get to have for a renewal: "It is a very emotional moment."

Then there is the bride who doesn't want to be blushing and wants to keep it simple and easy, especially if the ceremony is to be on a beach. In that case, Mulroney suggests tea-length or a shorter hemline, very streamlined, simple lace or silk chiffon.

Which brings us to the state of modern weddings and vow renewals: in this age of Pinterest and Instagram, unusual and individually crafted "experiences" are de rigueur. So forget about what you had to do or couldn't do or couldn't afford to do, and take this glorious second swing at the altar. If a veil and a meringue or a mermaid will fulfill a deep-seated princess itch, the great thing about a vow renewal is that this ceremony is all about the couple. In an industry that was built around tut-tut etiquette and rules, this is the happy occasion where you can toss that book out the window. Just don't litter on the beach because there is a lineup of couples following you to their own rejuvenated bliss.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2017 issue with the headline, "We Still Do!", p. 75-76.

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