20 years, 3 kids, 1 hilarious vow renewal

Liz and Paul, of Windy Hill Photography, had their first date in October 1988, that's 27 years ago! They've been together ever since and just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. When I asked them to describe their marriage, it took only one word: LONG! But seriously, these two epitomize a loving, fun-filled, easy-going, enduring marriage. When I asked Paul "When did you know Liz was The One?" this was his reply:

If you spend every possible waking moment with a person (which we did), and you don't kill each other after a few years, you better tie that shit down. :)

That's the stuff of a happy marriage! Below are the photos I took at their vow renewal, which I had the pleasure of officiating. Rarely do I laugh so hard during a ceremony, but these two, and their friends and family, kept me in stitches through the whole thing!

All photos below by me. 

All photos above taken by me. 

Officiant: A Sweet Start
Venue: Private Residence
Cake: Liz and her family

Real Maine Vow Renewal | Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Justine and Justyn renewed their vows for the 10th time today! They were married nine years ago and every year since their Las Vegas wedding they have renewed their vows. They pick a different state each year and let the officiant choose the vows. Last year they were married inside the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio! They live in New Jersey but had never been to Maine before. What a fantastic way to enjoy our great State. 

There is no honor greater than marrying a couple, and today I had the pleasure of being the 10th officiant to marry these two sweeties. Their adorable and full-of-spirit daughter, Alexarya, littered their path with rose petals and implored them not to cry during the whole ceremony. Sorry, sweetie, the tears were flowing! 

All photos by A Sweet Start. 

Officiant: A Sweet Start
Ceremony Venue: Linekin Bay Resort, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Photographer: Kim Gillies

anniversaries: 50 years!

Louisa and Samuel in Ireland, 2013

This is a very special post for me because these two sweet people are my parents, Louisa and Samuel! They have been married for 50 years. FIFTY YEARS!!! What a milestone! I asked my mother to share some of her thoughts about their wedding and their marriage as she looked back over the last 1/2 century. 

I'm so grateful to my parents for showing me the meaning of marriage, that true love exists, that hard work on a relationship is rewarding, and that love can transform individuals, families, communities and the world. I love you two!

I hope you find my mother's thoughts interesting, inspiring, and insightful. 

When and where did you get married? In 1963 at Summerlane School, in New Jersey.

What did you like most about your wedding? We were surrounded by young children, all in a circle, each one with a flower in their hands, who witnessed our vows. Also, we chose to have Kahlil Gibran's poem about marriage read, and that was inspirational.

What would you have done differently about your wedding? I would have had a slightly larger wedding to include close relatives. We chose to have two friends as witnesses, which was nice, but I think family has a special place at a wedding.

What changed after you got married? The only change for us was that we now lived together.

What surprised you the most about being married? I don't recall being surprised! My husband tells me I should answer this question, "How much we have to compromise!"

What do you like most about being married? Sharing!!! I love sharing the enjoyment of our children and grandchildren. I love sharing everything – the worries, the anxieties, the happiness, the joys, the working together and resting together. I love all the memories we share of a long life together. Hmmm...probably should have said "togetherness" too!

What advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds? Relationships are NOT easy. But don't give up – persevere, be open to change and look for ways to work through the difficult times.  Struggling through the hard times and coming out the other side makes the sweet times so precious. (And see the words about Attitude at the end of this interview. Those words inspire me!)

If you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be? I honestly cannot think of anything I would change. It's so incredible (but not perfect) the way it is, I couldn't ask for any more.

Would you ever consider renewing your vows? We did consider renewing our vows for our 50th Anniversary and having a big party. But we decided to use our energy to plan a wonderful trip to Ireland to honor our 50 years "traveling" together, side by side!! Our song is: "Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money, maybe we're ragged and funny but we travel along singing our song, side by side!!" There are lots more verses, all which describe our life together!

Anything else? Yes! Some wise words to inspire!


The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than fact. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrce for that day. We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certin way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our Attitudes.

by Charles Swindoll

And...along those same lines.

I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it is only a choice of attitude.

by Judith M. Knowlton

anniversaries: 1 year

photo by a sweet start

Jen and Matt got married a year ago on a grand schooner in Casco Bay, Maine. I had the great honor of officiating their wedding, which was a relaxed, family-oriented, fun affair. I thought it would be fun for a newlywed couple to give us their advice after one year of marriage. I think they have some excellent advice, don't you?

Your names: Matt Jones and Jen Pepper

How many years have you been married? 1 year

When and where did you get married? June 16, 2012 – On Casco Bay aboard The Frances (sailboat).

What did you like most about your wedding?

Matt: Having the wedding on a boat.  It allowed us to avoid the more traditional aspects of a wedding.  We walked to the boat together and didn't have the ceremony until an hour into the sail.  That allowed us to interact with our guests and each other rather than being hidden away from each other and waiting until the reception to talk to everyone.

Jen: I really loved how it didn't feel over the top and grand. To me it felt like a family reunion, where of course everyone wore something a bit nicer than jean shorts. We were all able to catch up and chat on the sail around the harbor before the ceremony began. I think that was my favorite part of the day. While of course our guests were all there to celebrate our marriage, it didn't feel as if all eyes were on us, everyone got to mingle and relax, and most of all we weren't nervous about saying our vows. The entire day was low key and filled with love.

What would you have done differently about your wedding?

Matt: Honestly, nothing.  The whole thing was fantastic and really exactly what we wanted.

Jen: I can honestly say nothing. There were a few hiccups with some place cards and I didn't think about how I was going to get our parents flowers from the hotel to the sail boat - but really the day was great.

What changed after you got married?

Matt: We had already lived together for several years so there wasn't much that could be very different. I think we both knew who we were and what we expected of each other long before we ever got engaged.

Jen: I want to say nothing changed, but I guess that isn't true. While I always knew that Matt had my back and cared for me deeply, somewhere in Augusta, Maine there is a piece of paper that proves it. It's comforting to know that he really is there for me forever and that we are true partners. There is a sense of security that has only been made stinger since we said our vows.

What surprised you the most about being married?

Matt: Going in I had some preconceived notions that, in our situation, getting married would have very little impact on our relationship.  After all, we were already happily living together and making plans for the future.  But I do think that it strengthened our relationship in some subtle ways that make it easier to deal with bigger life decisions.

Jen: Probably that not a lot changed. I didn't expect anything to change really - but I'm happy to report that we still have as much fun as we did before were were married. We didn't become an uber serious couple once there was a ring on our fingers. We still  make up songs about nothing, over quote ridiculous tv shows and just enjoy being around each other.

What do you like most about being married?

Matt: Not having to deal with a wedding ;-).  But seriously, it has been feeling like we can move forward with all our plans for the future with both of us ready and willing.

Jen: I like calling him my husband. It has quite a ring to it.

What advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?


1. Living together for a number of years was really great for us.  Sure it meant there wasn't a dramatic difference before and after the wedding but it also meant we both knew what we were in for.

2. Your budget was probably just a guess anyway, so don't assume you're going to hit it.

3. Have some sort of project that you want to work on right after you get married / get back from your honeymoon to avoid going stir crazy.

Jen: Have fun. Marriage doesn't change people, and if one of you has some grand idea that once you are married things will be different, that once there is a ring your partner will change their ways or treat you differently, I don't think that is how it is meant to work.  Love them now for who they are and love them just the same once you say I do.

If you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?

Matt: Nothing, I think (hope) we both went into the marriage with our eyes wide open so it has been nothing but great.

Jen: Sometimes we both can be a bit of a push over. Neither one of us will push the other to do something if they don't want to do it. While it's nice to never feel forced to do something you don't want to do, occasionally we need a kick in the pants to get the ball rolling.

Would you ever consider renewing your vows?

Matt: No, but then we haven't been married for that long.

Jen: Possibly. If we ever felt like we were growing apart, but right now we both know how much we care about each other.

anniversaries: 6 years

craig and darrell have had three weddings, so they know a bit about what some of you are going through. with 17 years and two children under their belt, you could surely learn something from them. here, craig answers my questions about his wedding, his marriage, and his husband. by the way, you might want a box of tissues handy, craig is a fantastic writer and this one made me tear up!

How many years have you been married?
Well, that depends.  We have been together almost 17 years. Legally married for almost 6 years now.

When and where did you get married? 
We got married a few times.  It’s a long story but, here goes:  Neither Darrell or I really had much interest in getting married.  We assumed that, in our lifetime, gay marriage was not going to ever be a reality.  But society progresses in unexpected ways and suddenly, in 2004 the discussion about gay marriage burst onto the scene when the Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, legalized marriage licenses for gay couples for a brief period.  Suddenly everyone was talking about gay marriage and this provoked a response from then-president George Bush in which he said he would amend the constitution to permanently prevent gay couples from getting married.  I am convinced that this approach by Bush was the very thing that galvanized the movement and gave it the most momentum because suddenly many gay people cared a great deal more about our rights to marry than we ever had previously.   So, I quickly learned that the mayor of New Paltz, a small town in upstate New York, was attempting to take the same action as San Francisco by illegally issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  I made some calls and got us on a list.  They called us back the day before the event and said that about 20 couples would be meeting at a secret location, told me the materials we needed and swore me to secrecy around certain elements of the planning.  We called all our friends and drove from our home in Brooklyn to New Paltz the next day.  The day was full of anxiety and energy – a combination of defiant protest and loving excitement.  We were married with our friends all around us and our first daughter asleep in our arms. 

The second time we got married it was still not legal – we had a big commitment ceremony in New York City in 2007 with family and friends.  It was a beautiful, fun party filled with love.

The last time we got married it was FINALLY the real deal.  We were in MA for vacation in 2007 when, by chance, the ban on out of state couples getting marriage licenses was finally lifted (when Mitt Romney was Governor of MA he invoked an old law prohibiting non-MA based same sex couples from getting marriage licenses.)  We went to the town hall and applied on a Friday and got married on a Monday.  Some friends attended the short ceremony on the town hall steps in Provincetown while Darrell and I held our two daughters in our arms.  We were the first out of state couple to be married in MA.  Nevertheless, it was not recognized in our home state of NY for several more years.  And since that time we have moved our family to PA where it is still not recognized.

What did you like most about your wedding?
I guess I will talk about the big, planned wedding.  Of course it was nice to have my family and friends around us to bless and support our union.  The party was fun too!  But I think I liked the ceremony the best.  A friend of ours officiated and our families participated with readings that we chose.  My Dad and I wrote a speech together that he read about the significance of marriage and the need for marriage equality for all.   We asked if our friends would support us through our future together and I truly felt the support and love in the room.

What would you have done differently about your wedding?
I wish I could remember it more!  The evening was a whirlwind and it kind of just flew past.  I would probably take some time every now and then to stop and make sure I am taking it all in.  But, no, it was pretty perfect. 

What changed after you got married?
Honestly, not much.  The fact that our marriages had no legal merit undermined much of the lasting significance.  By the time we got married we had been together for about 10 years, we had two kids and were living a married life.  In the eyes of the law, the world, we were no different for having gotten married.  In reality, I felt more significance after leaving our lawyers office after executing and filing our wills.  I don’t think many straight people fully understand what it means to be told your relationship is not valid, not fully recognized.  Even though marriage is about a loving union, it is also a contract – legal as well as spiritual.  Imagine being told that you can’t have that.  However, Darrell and I made a commitment to each other to never again refer to the other as a partner or a boyfriend.  We owned the word husband and we don’t shy away from using it – no matter the circumstances.  So that was probably the biggest change.

What surprised you the most about being married?
The love I felt in the room.  I am sometimes shy.  I don’t like to be in front of groups.  But when I looked out on the room full of people from my past – old family friends, school friends from long ago, etc. – it was very affirming.  It was like bringing our whole lives to that point into a room together and taking a huge step forward into another phase of life.  Feeling all that love in the room was truly, magnificently joyous.

What do you like most about being married?
I like having a partner.  Even in the hard times it is affirming to know that I have his company as I pass through the world.  People always say that marriage is a lot of work.  It is.  But it’s not.  The work for me is not hard – it’s purposeful.  When I am a better husband I am a better person.  Sure, there is compromise and there can be conflict.  But that’s what life is – navigating the terrain of the ever-shifting ground under your feet.   With my marriage, I feel I have a hand to hold along the journey.  Could I make this journey alone?  Probably.  But I have chosen not to and I am grateful for that. 

What advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?
For those engaged – know that you will probably fight about your wedding.  Planning a wedding is stressful but, like the marriage ahead, there will need to be compromise and understanding!  For newlyweds, enjoy.

If you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?
Not a thing!  We are great partners and great parents.  Our support for one another is constant.   The best part is the laughter.  It’s the fact that we can still laugh together that keeps it fresh. 

How do you celebrate your anniversary?
Because we have so many, we don’t really celebrate our anniversary.  When we got married we gave each other rings with 24 small diamonds on the inside edge of the rings to signify 24 hours in each day.  We decided that our commitment was not about “being together for ever” but about being fully present with and for each other in our lives.  We acknowledge that our time together is a choice that we freely make each and every minute.  So when we exchanged rings we said the words:  “Today I choose you.”  Now, whenever we put our rings back on, we hand it to the other and he puts it on and says those same words: “Today I choose you.”  It’s our way of reminding ourselves that our partnership is always a choice and, no matter the time that passes (or the number of anniversaries that pass) it’s really about how we feel today, in this moment. 

Would you ever consider renewing your vows?
After 3 weddings we have sworn off another… for now!

Anything else?
Thanks Maine for the legal recognition!

anniversaries: 10 years

i love dan and aubrey! they own an awesome pet supply store called the animal house here in damariscotta, maine. they've been married for 10 years and are the best couple. it's inspiring to hear how sweetly aubrey talks about dan. they have two beautiful boys, a bunch of dogs, and a whole lotta friends who adore them. here aubrey answers questions about what it's like to be married for 10 years. 

when and where did you get married?
august 2002, providence, rhode island 

what did you like most about your wedding?
it was a daytime, casual wedding - the food and music were outstanding

what would you have done differently about your wedding?
i would not have gotten married in august- it was incredibly humid

what changed after you got married?
i felt more settled

what surprised you the most about being married?
that not much changed after we got married - in a good way

what do you like most about being married?
who i am married to - he knows me better than anyone and accepts and loves me the way i am

what advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?
a marriage has little to do with the wedding - the wedding is a party, and it will all come together. what matters more is what happens after the dust settles.

if you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?
sometimes we get a little complacent

would you ever consider renewing your vows?

anything else?
i was addicted to the drama in previous relationships - the ups & downs, etc...and i don’t miss it one bit!

anniversaries: 15 years

elaine and frank just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. it's so inspiring to read about real marriages that have been together for a long time and continue to thrive! 

when and where did you get married
rogers island, off of stony creek, connecticut

what did you like most about your wedding?
everything.  it was on a privately owned island – we brought guests over by boat.  we had a quintet from the new haven symphony play for us while we ate fresh alaskan salmon (flown in from my husband’s best friend who is an alaskan fisherman) under the stars.  it really was an elegant, simple and beautiful wedding and reception.  a good friend married us which made it even more special.

what would you have done differently about your wedding? 
i would have had my father-in-law stay in a hotel…not in our house the night of our wedding!

what changed after you got married?
it’s gotten better.  we know each other better and are more comfortable with each other.

what surprised you the most about being married?
that i like it so much.  my first marriage wasn’t wonderful and i was hesitant about getting married a second time. 

what do you like most about being married?
i have a best friend who has my back all the time!  he really is my best cheerleader…as i am, his.

what advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?
talk, talk, talk.  be honest.  it’s difficult to do that, but it makes for a stronger marriage. 

if you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?
i would like it if my husband liked to travel more…but i travel with friends – so that’s good. 

would you ever consider renewing your vows?
yes – we talk about it – we figure if we add up both of our previous marriages and the current marriage – we should be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in two years….we may just call you to officiate!

anniversaries: 7 years

carol and jesse have been married for seven years. carol, who is from costa rica, answered the following questions about her wedding and her marriage. 

when and where did you get married? 
legally sept 22, 2005 in nyc, but our wedding was april 4, 2007 in costa rica.

what did you like most about your wedding?
the people who attended. the people who danced.

what would you have done differently about your wedding? 
not gone swimming in "stagnant" water, going to the hospital at 11 p.m. the night before your wedding isn't fun! and sipping on ginger ale and antibiotics during [your wedding] isn't exactly my idea of a party, although for some it may be. no judgment here.

what changed after you got married?
i became a legal u.s. resident.

what surprised you the most about being married?
the benefits i got from jes. i finally had health insurance,  just like that. 

what do you like most about being married?
when you argue, you can't just break up (divorcing takes a while), you find yourself actually talking and trying to find solutions, as a couple. which i think helps you grow as a person.

what advice do you have for engaged couples or newlyweds?
every couple's story is different. don't compare yourself to anyone else. and remember, just because you are married doesn't mean you become one person. 

if you could change one thing about your marriage, what would it be?
better communication. 

would you ever consider renewing your vows?
yes, at 10 years.

anything else?
do you want to come to costa rica and renew our vows in 3 years? [um..YES I DO!]

vow renewals

Source: inspiredbythis.com via a sweet start on Pinterest

as a notary public in maine, i am vested with the authority to perform weddings AND vow renewals. someone suggested i let you know about the vow renewals since most of my site is geared towards weddings.

so, i'm reaching out to the couples who are already married and want to reaffirm their commitment and love. i can't wait to have a vow renewal myself. i've been married six years now and the plan is to have a renewal ceremony at 10 years. if it were up to me, i'd do a "heidi klum" (before the break-up) and renew my vows every year with a great party, but my husband's patience and our budget can't really handle a mini-wedding every year. 

renewing vows can run the gamut (is that really a word?) from simple ceremonies with just the husband and wife (and maybe kids, if they have them) to an elaborate second wedding. it totally depends on your style. it also depends on why you want to renew. some folks just want to say "hey we made it ___ years, that's awesome. let's commit to another ___ years!" or "we just made it through a really rough patch, let's re-commit ourselves to this marriage." or "now that we have kids, let's make them part of the commitment." or... whatever feels right for you. 

gimme a shout and we can discuss ceremonies and styles.