We chat to Kate Firth, General Manager of the beautiful Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa on the borders of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire regarding the trend for vow renewals
An increase in couples deciding to renew their vows, often celebrating with full-on ceremonies and parties with friends and families.
Dating back to the 17th Century the hotel is perfect for couples wanting to celebrate vow renewals and combines the traditional with the contemporary to offer a romantic quintessentially English venue whatever the season.
When did you notice a trend for an increase in vow renewal?
Vow renewals have always been popular but we’ve definitely seen an increase in the last five years or so.
I’m not sure why… maybe in these difficult times we are all seizing the opportunity to come together to celebrate.
What’s the difference for couples second time around?
Second time around couples tend to be more relaxed… they would be I suppose, they’ve usually had years together so are comfortable and at ease with each other.
The couples are often supported by their children and sometimes grandchildren who may have some part in the service.
I’ve heard some beautiful poems written and read by children, there’s rarely a dry eye including my own!
Second time around couples tend to have a clearer idea of how they want the day to run, they have the confidence to really make it their own. One of the most memorable one for me was when our gardens were transformed into a fabulous funfair complete with helter-skelter, carousel, coconut shies, hook a duck and various other thrills and spills. It was an amazing day and everyone had such incredible fun.
Why do you think couples choose to renew vows?
There are many reasons, couples often choose to renew vows when they reach a milestone anniversary, it’s a celebration of all the work that goes into a successful marriage.
Sometimes it’s about reliving the experience, I was married 34 years ago and although we had an early service at 11am the day just passed in a flash, I wanted time to slow down so I could savour every moment but of course it wouldn’t.
Perhaps money had been tight first time around and the marriage had to be a fairly modest affair, as people get older they often have more disposable income so they opt for a more lavish vow renewal ceremony where they can extend the guest list and celebrate in style.
Many couples face some degree of hardship during their marriage; it could be financial, or perhaps as a result of ill health. When they’ve weathered the storm and want to mark the end of that difficult journey, a vow renewal celebration seems a perfect tribute.
What does the vow ceremony entail?
They invariably follow a similar format to a civil wedding but there can be religious content if desired.
A celebrant, registrar or family member will conduct the service, often repeating original vows and encouraging couples to make new promises to focus on in the coming years.
There are often readings or anecdotes about the couple and the ups and downs of their marriage so far.
There is an exchanging of rings, sometimes the original wedding rings and sometimes new ones.
Children often pay tribute to their parents and thank them for all the love and support they have shown during their formative years and beyond.
The ceremony is usually followed by a celebratory meal and then a party until the small hours.
I understand you are able to conduct the ceremonies yourself, does this make you feel special to be part of the day?
The first time I conducted a ceremony it happened by complete accident but it was a very lovely thing to be able to do.
The couple were in their 80s and wanted to celebrate 50 years of marriage, both thought the other had booked a celebrant when in reality neither had.
It was one of those heart stopping moments but I thought to myself… I’ve seen this done hundreds of times surely I can step in. A quick dash to the office to download a typical service and we were back on track.
The couple were incredibly grateful and I loved doing it.
Since then I’ve actively offered my services, it’s a real honour to be part of something so special.
Does the ceremony have any legalities or require any official formalities?
None whatsoever which always for the great degree of flexibility, anyone can perform the ceremony and close family members are often chosen to do so which makes the whole thing unique and personal.
What is the difference between renewals and weddings?
Very little really, renewals tend to be less formal but still have a great sense of occasion.
What advice would you give couples looking to renew their vows?
Do it! We should bring our family and friends together at every possible opportunity and I can think of no better reason to do so.
I’d also encourage them to put a great deal of thought into vows and promises. Marriage can be hard work and couples should congratulate each other on a job well done as every year passes.
Are you noticing an increase in older couples getting married at Ye Olde Bell?
Not necessarily, we’ve always had a wide spectrum of ages.
I really enjoy getting to know couples as we go through the planning stages especially hearing what brought them together. Some amazing stories emerge regardless of age. A few times we’ve had mature couples who were childhood sweethearts, gone their separate ways and then found each other again after they’d suffered bereavement. Always heart-warming.
For more information on Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa visit https://www.yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk/