If you’re planning on saying “I do,” all over again, then you’re in luck. We’ve got everything you need to know about how to plan a perfect vow renewal from start to finish.
In this guide we’ll cover:
Vow renewals are generally less stressful than traditional weddings because you’ve already gone through the intricacies of wedding planning. Vow renewals offer more opportunities for creativity and a little casualness here and there to keep things fun and personal.
But— if you want to be able to kick back and enjoy your second round of “I dos”—vow renewals will require some level of planning.
When planning to renew your vows, ask yourself the following questions:
How big of a celebration do you want this to be? Some couples use vow renewals as an opportunity to throw a bigger party than the original. The bigger the party, the farther in advance you should start making arrangements. However, if you’re envisioning a small, intimate celebration with your nearest and dearest, you can create a lovely event with a few months’ (or even weeks’) worth of planning.
What’s your budget? Once you have an idea of how big you want this celebration to be, you and your partner can start talking numbers.
How do you want to commemorate the day? You’ve probably heard the saying that weddings are more for the family and friends than they are for the newlyweds. Vow renewals, on the other hand, have a bit more carte blanche when it comes to designing the event itself. Talk with your partner about how you want to celebrate in ways that are meaningful to the two of you. That might be a vow renewal at a church, or on a sandy beach.
Do you have a theme or colors in mind? Talk to your partner about how you want your celebration to look and feel. By nailing down the driving aesthetic aspects of your day, you will help your future planning self make more decisions. For example, if you and your partner want to create a beachy theme, you may want to choose vendors that offer more tropical cuisines. Try these questions to get started:
Once you have these vow renewal fundamentals checked off your list, it’s time to get planning.
Because vow renewals don’t necessarily work off of a traditional model or timeline, it can be difficult to navigate what tasks need to be prioritized and when. That’s why we’ve broken down this checklist into four key phases:
Phase 1: The People, The Places, The Vendors – Phase one items should be checked off in the earliest planning stages, whether that’s a year before the big event or just a month or two beforehand. These include booking a venue, vendors, and sending invites.
Part 2: Planning the Ceremony and Designing the Decor – Phase two is the ideal time to configure the special moments of the day, from the ceremony to any other events or entertainment you want to schedule.
Phase 3: The Outfits – Once you’ve figured out your guest list, ceremony, and booked a venue, it’s time to find your perfect vow renewal outfit, as well as any decorative additions to your venue.
Phase 4: The Final Touches – Phase four is all about finalizing headcounts, confirming with vendors, and taking a moment to get excited for the special day.
Phase one should accomplish three important aspects of your vow renewals:
Set the stage for your vow renewals by booking a venue. Venues tend to book up quickly, so checking this item off your list will help smooth the rest of the vow renewal planning journey. As you’re comparing venues, be sure to consider:
Budget – What’s listed on the website might not be a venue’s total costs. For example, if a venue doesn’t offer staff, tables, or linens, you’ll be expected to provide those yourself, which can increase the expense of the venue.
Capacity – Keep your ideal guest list number in mind as you browse venues to ensure that your venue can fit everyone you want in attendance.
Vendor lists – If you have a particular caterer in mind for your vow renewal, always check to see if the venue you’re considering allows outside vendors. Some places will require you to choose from a limited list of vendors.
Amenities – Make a list of features that you want your vow renewal venue to have. That can be anything, including an outdoor space, fancy bathrooms, or even unique architectural elements. As you search, keep these must-haves in mind to help you pinpoint your perfect choices.
Vendors help make any celebration special, and the sooner you book them, the better chance you’ll have of choosing vendors that you love. Be sure to snag:
Need help finding the perfect vendors for your special day sequel? Trust Zola to guide you to your match made in vow renewal heaven. Our vendor lists allow you to search and compare pre-screened service providers in your area. You can cross worrying about vendors off your list with a little support from Zola.
Your number of guests will depend entirely on how large you want your vows ceremony to be. Like with your wedding, you’ll have to balance the size of your venue with the size of your guest list.
As far as proper etiquette goes, you don’t need to invite everyone who attended your wedding to your vow renewal. In fact, many vow renewal ceremonies are far more intimate than traditional weddings, with only a few close family members in attendance. There isn’t the same pressure to invite certain family and friends to your vow renewal ceremony as there was to include them in your wedding.
On the other hand, if you had a small wedding or chose to elope, now may be the time to invite everyone you want to raise a glass with for this celebratory ceremony.
Once you’ve decided who is going to come to the vow renewal ceremony (using Zola’s handy Wedding Guest List Manager), it’s time to send out the invites and the Save the Dates. But how does that work for a vow renewal celebration?
Save the Dates – When it comes to bigger, more formal celebrations, send your Save the Dates six to eight months before the celebration. If you’re planning a destination wedding, send the Save the Dates eight to 10 months ahead of schedule, so as to give your guests extra time to arrange for flights and time off. If you’re planning a more casual affair, you can opt out of Save the Dates altogether, but a little heads up through an email or group text a few months in advance (or as soon as you’ve booked the venue) can go a long way.
Invitations – When you’re inviting loved ones to come celebrate your vow renewal, send out the invitations two to four weeks in advance. Use the invitations to provide additional information about the day, such as the venue location, expected attire, and other helpful details.
Vow renewal website – Vow renewal celebrations are certainly a growing trend, but chances are that many of your guests haven’t been to such an exciting event and might need a few clues about the day. Direct your guests to a vow renewal website with all the information that they’ll need to know, such as directions to the venue, the celebration itinerary, accommodation information, and dress code. You can use Zola’s free, easy-to-use website builder to create a digital homebase for your vow renewal celebration.
A Word on Gifts: This is perhaps the only stringent etiquette rule to follow when it comes to vow renewal ceremonies—let your guests know upfront that there are no gifts required.
Simply put, creating a vow renewal registry might be poor taste, but that doesn’t mean you’ll walk away empty-handed. Your loved ones may not purchase special silverware or kitchen appliances for you this time around, but they’re likely to offer a sentimental gift in the form of a letter, toast, or small keepsake.
Vow renewal ceremonies are beautiful, because you can really make them your own. You can reach out to your community’s religious leaders and follow a traditional, time-honored script, or go off-book and create a vow renewal program that’s all your own.
As you’re considering the vow renewal itself, here are a few things to keep in mind:
A vow renewal ceremony doesn’t require a license, so when it comes to who will officiate your renewal, the sky's the limit. If you have children, this could be an exciting way to include them in the ceremony. Perhaps your beloved (and eloquent) college roommate wasn’t able to attend your original wedding—this would be a great time to invite them to participate in your vow renewal.
No matter who you decide should officiate, be sure to choose someone who is comfortable with public speaking, and who knows you and your partner well.
If you and your partner want to design your own vow renewal ceremony, your day is a stunning blank canvas. Typically, those participating in this celebratory ceremony will write their own vows—that’s why this is called a “vow renewal” after all!
If the idea of creating your own vows still makes you cringe a bit, that’s okay. Your vow renewal ceremony does not have to include a thousand-word, gushing love letter. You may choose to share your feelings for your partner by telling a particularly funny or heartwarming anecdote, or by quoting your favorite lines from a book or song.
Here are a few ways to add a little creativity to your vow renewals:
Re-reading of the vows you had then with updated versions after a life full of love and adventure.
A ceremonial planting of a tree in your backyard.
Let your cultural traditions take center stage, such as the Iranian practice of feeding honey to one another, or the German practice of sawing a log together.
Your vow renewal ceremony is the main event, but decorative items can help turn a few words said to a loved one into a fairytale. During phase two, make some moves in the decor department by considering:
When in doubt, always go back to the vow renewal aesthetic you’re aiming for. Chances are, you’ll find your answer there. Or, at Zola’s fabulous decor boutique.
Once all the elements of the day have come together, it’s time to start figuring out how you want to look.
No ivory white wedding gowns or black-tie tuxedos are required for this ceremony—you and your partner have complete freedom when it comes to your vow renewal clothing choices.
The only rule (that’s only a rule if you want to follow it) is to try and match your outfit with the formality of your event. So, sundress for a daytime garden party or a silk number for an evening affair. There is a tendency, at least according to fashion trends, to veer toward an untraditional white outfit for your vow renewal. These looks, like traditional wedding attire, could be boho, glam, minimalist, rustic, bedazzled, or whatever speaks to you.
Whether you’re booking a hair stylist or makeup artist, or just relying on a friend to doll you up for the big day, try on your look ahead of time. Make adjustments as needed to ensure that everything feels right.
If you’re trying a new makeup brand, be sure to take it for a test run a few weeks before the vow renewal: that way, if you don’t like the look (or if your skin has an adverse reaction to the product) you have plenty of time to try something new.
For your vow renewal ceremony, you want to look good from head to toe—literally. Here are a few tips to help you decide what to wear from the ankles down:
Try the shoes on with your wedding outfit and take them for a walk to ensure that nothing snags or feels out of place.
Feel free to let your shoes be the stars of the show, whether they’re bright red sneakers or sparkling stilettos.
If your shoes are easier on the eyes than they are on your feet, don’t be afraid to have a pair of back-up shoes on hand, in case you want to dance the night away.
In the week or two before the big day, take some time to cross your t’s and dot your i’s so you can enjoy the day.
Confirm with all your vendors.
Check the weather (and communicate with the venue and vendors if you need to opt for your back-up plans).
Try your vow renewal look on one more time to make sure that everything feels good.
Practice your vows.
Take some time to take care of yourself with a massage, a mani-pedi, or even just an evening away from your to-do list.
Then, finally, you’re ready to say I do (again!).
Vow renewals are meant to be a joyful experience for you, your partner, and everyone involved. To spark your imagination, here are three creative vow renewal themes that can be done on a large or small scale.
Vow renewals are excellent opportunities to go on that vacation that you’ve always dreamed of, just with a few friends tagging along.
When it comes to choosing a destination for your vow renewal, you may choose a spot as luxe as the Amalfi Coast, or as low-key as a Colorado mountain top. Just keep in mind that if you do have a destination ceremony, you’ll want to send out vow renewal invitations at least as far in advance as possible, so that guests can make travel arrangements.
A potluck doesn’t have to be the drab event that you may be picturing from your childhood. A potluck-themed vow renewal can be an excellent way to reconnect with family and friends, while also keeping your vow renewal celebration relaxed and budget-friendly.
Invite your closest friends and family to bring their favorite dish—perhaps something that reminds them of you or your relationship. Or, maybe suggest that everyone bring a certain cuisine so that your table represents a global love affair.
If you do choose this route, you’ll want to keep your guest list on the smaller side. One hundred people bringing their own dishes to a single event could get messy.
Maybe, while planning your vow renewal and reminiscing about your wedding day, you come to the conclusion that the original can’t be beaten. You don’t have to complicate matters, just use your wedding as a template for this celebration.
Don your original attire, have a similar wedding cake made and take it to the dance floor for a first dance, round two. Have the DJ play your original special day song, or maybe find a decent remixed version. Even if you don’t throw the same party, your guests will remember—and appreciate— the repeated details.
It’s quite literally a walk down memory lane.
From your engagement to your vow renewal ceremony, here at Zola, we provide all the services you need to cement your forever love.
Zola is home to all things wedding-related, with resources such as a comprehensive vendor database, personalized invites, and over 300 website design templates. No matter your milestone, we’re here to help you celebrate it.
With this vow renewal checklist, we hope that you’re well on your way to reaffirming the same love that has carried you through to this touchpoint.