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Love, honour and déja vu

Renewing marriage vows in paradise

Love, honour and déja vu
Renewing marriage vows in paradise

By Gillian Beckett

What could be more romantic than saying “I do” to the man or woman of your dreams on a beautiful beach under a canopy of gently swaying palm trees?

How about saying “I do” again, and again … and again?

The Bahamas may be one of the world’s top destinations for engagements, weddings and honeymoons, but it is also gathering momentum as a popular setting for vow renewal ceremonies.

“Vow renewals are still not as popular as weddings [in The Bahamas], but yes, they are gaining ground,” says Karen Adderley, president of the Bahamas Bridal Association. “They are usually much smaller in size than weddings and are frequently just for the couple alone. However, some do have as many as 40 to 50 guests.”

Depending on the couple’s tastes, vow renewal ceremonies can be small with only a few family or friends present, or they can be just as elaborate as their wedding day.

Since 2005, Island Destination Services (IDS), a leading full-service destination and special events firm in The Bahamas, has been making weddings and vow renewals especially memorable occasions.

“One of my favourite ceremonies was a rooftop ceremony overlooking the ocean underneath a canopy of hanging crystals and orchids,” recalls Lonise Carey, IDS’s general manager. “We created a cabana of gold curly willow branches and orchids for guests and it was absolutely breathtaking.

“Above all, we ensured that persons close to the couple participated in the ceremony with poetry, scripture readings and musical performances. It was truly an unforgettable day.”

Carey adds that vow renewal ceremonies are “usually very intimate affairs where close family members or friends officiate the service.”

Vow renewals can also be just as, if not more, emotional than wedding ceremonies.

“Vow renewals differ from weddings in that renewals are not legal ceremonies,” explains Carey. “However, they allow for persons who are legally married to express their commitment and dedication to one another.”

Adds Adderley, “I have always felt that a vow renewal is even more of a commitment than the original marriage. The couple has now lived with one another for years, and they still want to reiterate their love to one another, usually in front of their children and other witnesses.

“Many vow renewal ceremonies are quite emotional and meaningful.”

Denise Bastian, wedding coordinator for the Wyndham Nassau Resort, remembers attending a few such ceremonies.

“I had a couple who celebrated 50 years and it was a very emotional and touching ceremony,” she says. “Another experience was a groom who survived what was thought to be terminal cancer. The couple dedicated the ceremony to celebrate new life and beginnings.”

Although most vow renewals are undertaken by couples wishing to celebrate milestone anniversaries, such as their 25th or even 50th anniversary, wedding planners are seeing more and more younger couples renewing their “I dos.”

“Ten [year anniversaries] tend to pop up a lot,” says Adderley, noting that 20- and 30-year anniversary vow renewals are also popular.

An annual event
However, there are a few couples who choose to celebrate their commitment to each other every year.

One such couple is Richard and Mary Netzer of Maryland. Every year they return to the SuperClubs Breezes resort on Cable Beach, where they were married in August 1996, to renew their vows.

“[The Netzers] are our most memorable renewal couple,” says Yasmine Mills-Strachan, wedding coordinator for SuperClubs Breezes.

Unfortunately, 2011 was the first time in 15 years the Netzers had to postpone their vow renewal until November because the resort was closed for repairs from damage by Hurricane Irene. That didn’t dampen the Netzers’ spirits, though.

“They thoroughly enjoyed themselves,” says Mills-Strachan.

In 2009, Sandals Royal Bahamian resort, also on Cable Beach, was the setting of another highly memorable vow renewal ceremony where 106 couples renewed their vows in the resort’s elegant Royal Theatre.

Sandals public relations representative Julia Baker says the event was held in conjunction with the resort’s “Reunion Week,” a week-long celebration dedicated to returning guests.

Baker notes it was Sandals’s largest vow renewal ceremony to date and was a “very moving experience for all.”

Same, but different
On the surface, vow renewals are very much like weddings but without the stress of paperwork and overall pre-wedding jitters.
Unlike civil ceremonies, vow renewals require no legal documents as there is nothing legally binding.
“The couple will receive a renewal certificate and not a legal marriage certificate from the Bahamian government because they are already married,” says Bastian.
Also, while many vow renewal couples request the services of a marriage official, anyone can officiate, even a close friend or a family member.
“Sometimes couples actually bring their own minister to conduct their vow renewals,” says Adderley.

Where to say “I do”
Renewal ceremonies can be as formal or informal as the couple wishes. It can be as simple as an intimate beach setting with only a few friends and family present, or no one at all. Or, the renewal can be as grand and opulent as the original celebration.

Many Bahamian resorts, particularly in Nassau and on Paradise Island, offer a variety of renewal packages to suit all tastes and budgets.

At the Wyndham Nassau Resort, their Say “I Do” Again Vow Renewal package includes a minister, a renewal certificate, a tropical bouquet and boutonniere for the bride and groom, a bottle of champagne, a site set up and use of the resort’s wedding consultant.

Bastian says couples “have the option of hosting their special celebrations at the beach gazebo” located on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean, or on the beach itself.

“We do suggest that couples speak with a wedding planner who will plan, organize and facilitate their event from start to finish,” she adds, especially if the couple plans to conduct their vow renewal with the “same attention and detail as that of a civil ceremony.”

Just east of the Wyndham, SuperClubs Breezes offers three wedding packages that can be tailored for vow renewals. The Dream package is free for couples who book at least 21 days in advance and are staying six nights or more. It includes a minister, wedding planner, decorated location, cake, champagne, flowers, music and a framed photo.

Mills-Strachan says couples have a choice of four locations–the beach gazebo, water’s edge, the “Grassy Mound” and the Garden of Eden.

“Our renewals are very popular,” she says. “Each year we host between 50 to 100 ceremonies.”

Sandals Royal Bahamian is also a very popular place for vow renewals where packages include a bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, marriage officiate, commemorative certificate, pre-recorded music and an elegant reception for the couple and two guests with chilled hors d’oeuvres, sparkling wine and a two-tiered wedding cake. Couples also receive a Continental breakfast in bed, honeymoon photo and tote bag.

“From start to finish, every vow renewal ceremony includes all the touches a couple could want,” says Baker. “Sandals Royal Bahamian is blessed with beautiful grounds, stunning white sand beaches and a private offshore island for an even more unique setting. Couples can choose any of these areas.”

On Paradise Island, the Atlantis resort is frequently in high demand for weddings and vow renewals–so much so that couples are requested to reserve their dates six months or more in advance.

The resort’s Love, Atlantis theme offers a special package just for vow renewals called Renewed Love. It includes use of a wedding specialist, officiant, bridal bouquet and groom’s boutonniere, an hour of photography and a wedding album with up to
50 photos.

Couples have a choice of one of five wedding sites including Stingray Falls, a beautiful garden setting next to a waterfall; Ocean Overlook, a charming gazebo perched on a powder white beach overlooking the ocean; Dragon’s Patio, an intimate balcony with views of Paradise Lagoon; Paradise Beach, Atlantis’s most secluded beach location; and Cove Point, a natural peninsula located at the tip of Cove Beach.

Of course Atlantis is not the only place on Paradise Island to hold a vow renewal. There are several other picturesque venues including the exclusive One&Only Ocean Club, home to two beautiful settings, Versailles Gardens and the 14th century reconstructed Cloister, overlooking scenic Nassau Harbour.

The Cloister was part of an Augustinian monastery in France before it was purchased by American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who shipped it to the United States in the 1920s.

Millionaire and former Paradise Island resident Huntington Hartford II bought The Cloister in 1962 and reconstructed the ruins where it stands today.

Whether you’re promising to love, honour and cherish each other for the first or tenth time, there are many places in New Providence that can help make your special day a memorable one.


Did you know?
• The history of Christian wedding vows dates back to 1549 when the Book of Common Prayer was published. Used by the Anglican Church of England, the original vows included the words “love, cherish and obey” for the bride and “love and cherish” for the groom. The Episcopal church removed “obey” from wedding vows in 1922. “Love, honour and cherish” are the vows most commonly used today.

• In June 2009, Miami University broke the Guinness World Record for hosting the most couples renewing their vows at one time–1,087 couples.

• A Tennessee couple, married in 1984, broke the Guinness World Record for renewing their vows 100 times.

• Vow renewals are becoming fashionable for Hollywood stars. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon recently renewed their vows after two years of marriage.

Wedding essentials
Marriage licence requirements

Marriage licences are issued at the Office of the Registrar General, 50 Shirley St, Nassau, open Mon-Fri 9am-4:30pm (closed weekends and Bahamian public holidays), tel (242) 323-0594/5/6.

• Couples must be in The Bahamas at the time of application.

• Couples may apply for the licence at the Registrar General’s office 24 hours after their arrival. Proof of the arrival date must be provided (airline ticket, stamped passport), along with a government-issued photo ID from their home country such as a passport. No blood test is necessary. Licences are usually issued within 48 hours. The licence fee is $100.

• If either party is a minor (under 18), parental consent is required. Consent forms may be obtained at the Registrar General’s office.

• If either party has been divorced, the original final decree or a court-certified copy must be produced.

• If either party is widowed, an original or certified copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse must be produced.

• If either party is a citizen or resident of the US, a declaration certifying he/she is not married must be sworn before a US Consul at the American Embassy in Nassau (fee required) or a Bahamian notary public.

• If either party is a citizen or resident of a country other than
the US, a declaration certifying he/she is not married must be sworn before a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths in that country and this document must accompany the application.

• Persons who want to be married on a Family Island (any island outside New Providence) can obtain a marriage licence from the Family Island administrator.



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