Vow renewals often come with many questions...and when you incorporate faith into the mix, you’re served a whole set of new ones. When is a wedding vow renewal appropriate? What format should it be done in? Does the ceremony need to be in a place of worship? Are you supposed to send vow renewal invitations?
Since Catholic weddings are much more common than Catholic vow renewals, there’s naturally going to be more guidance available to couples getting married than those renewing their wedding vows. If you want your vow renewal ceremony to be closely linked with your Catholic faith, then there are some additional steps and questions to ask to make sure the ceremony is aligned with the church.
Just like any other vow renewal or marriage-related celebration, Catholic vow renewals can come in many different forms. If what’s most important to you is having your union validated by the church, then make sure you take all the proper steps and gather insight from advisors within the organization on how to do so. However, if you would like to incorporate parts of your faith without going through all of the proper processes, that’s okay, too. Just make sure you have a firm idea of where you stand as a couple before making any big decisions or financial commitments (like booking a wedding venue).
If you want the vow renewal ceremony to be approved by the church, it’s extremely important to discuss the necessities and logistics with a Catholic priest or someone who can serve as your advisor. They’re not only helpful for providing spiritual guidance, but they’re also the ones who make sure that the church can bless your current union. In some cases, they may also be the ones “officiating” the vow renewal ceremony, depending on the route you choose to take.
In the Catholic faith, a convalidation ceremony is a way of recognizing an otherwise legal marriage that was performed without Catholic oversight. Couples who married a partner of another faith, used a non-denominational officiant, or simply didn’t go through the proper process to have their marriage approved by the church (i.e. elopements) often consider convalidation ceremonies to legitimize their union.
Nonetheless, a vow renewal can (and sometimes, must) take the form of a convalidation ceremony or require one before the vow renewal can take place. If you and your partner eloped or fit any of the other descriptions above, your marriage may not formally be recognized by the Catholic Church until a convalidation ceremony takes place.
As mentioned above, even if you and your partner are legally married, there may be some stipulations that mean your union isn’t yet recognized by the Catholic Church. This isn’t a reason to fret, though—it just might mean taking a few extra steps to have your marriage validated by the church first.
If your partner is of another faith or denomination, it’s best to talk with a Catholic priest about your diocese’s policy on convalidation of marriage for interchurch couples. Even if you decide convalidation isn’t for you, there are many other ways you can incorporate your faith into the ceremony (or wedding vows themselves).
The church may be the most obvious place to hold a Catholic vow renewal, but that doesn’t mean your backyard is out of the question for your vow renewal ceremony. And it's not uncommon for faith-based vow renewals to take place on a big anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you’re forced to wait 20 years to reaffirm your commitment to one another. While tradition may be important, what’s most important is that you plan a ceremony that feels most authentic to you as a couple.
This is a tricky one if your main priority is to validate your marriage through the church. However, if you’re the couple that’s looking to simply incorporate Catholic elements, there are plenty of other ways to acknowledge your faith. Consider having your pastor read a scripture that really resonates with you or including a cross as a backdrop to your renewal wedding ceremony. You can even find ways to include mentions of your faith in your vows themselves. Most importantly: Do what you feel most aligns with you and your beliefs.