The Meaning Behind Vow Renewal In An Era Of Short-Term Relationships

Old Cow
6 min readApr 5, 2024

In a perfect world, relationships always evolve and stand the test of time. In today’s world, however, we have instilled a culture that craves immediacy: scrolling on Instagram, impulse shopping on TikTok, and swiping right to find your next big match on dating apps.

The topic of marriage vow renewal came into my life this past January, when I asked my parents what they wanted as a gift for their 30-year wedding anniversary. My dad said he wanted to be anywhere, “as long as it has a beach.” My mom, on the other hand, said she wanted to go to Vegas and get remarried.

I know what you’re thinking: this is so cliche! But if you knew my parents, you’d know that this silly little ceremony held as much value as the first day they said “I do”.

Growing up in a strict Albanian household, my mother never had the privilege to find the man of her dreams. To her, a marriage wasn’t valuable in terms of love, but seen rather as a one-way ticket that would get her out of her father’s house. My dad was that ticket.

I don’t want to say my parents were arranged, but I will say that they married young (my mom being 18 and my dad 24) and discovered who they were as people, and a couple only after they shared a set of rings. To today’s youth, that’s considered an arrangement — only second to TLC’s 90 Day Fiance.

The day of their wedding, my mom looked dazed in all the photos. It was as if she was physically there, but mentally somewhere else. When I asked her about it, she said it’s because “no decision was my own.” Her hair, her makeup, her dress — all of it. So when she said she wanted to renew her vows with my father, I knew above all else what she wanted: she wanted a wedding she could truly call her own.

Throughout history, marriage vow renewal ceremonies have taken various forms, adapting to the customs and beliefs of different cultures. In ancient Rome, married couples would exchange vows and tokens of love on milestone anniversaries. Similarly, in Hindu culture, the Saptapadi ceremony, where couples take seven steps together, is often repeated throughout a marriage to reaffirm their bond.

In medieval Europe, couples would often renew their vows in churches, seeking blessings from clergy to strengthen their union. During the Victorian era, marriage vow renewals were lavish celebrations, complete with elaborate ceremonies and grand receptions, became fashionable ways for couples to reaffirm their love and commitment publicly. In our era, it meant paying a stupid amount of money to get an Elvis Presley cosplayer to walk you down the aisle of a closet sized chapel.

Seeing my parents dress in dorky outfits and climb into the limo reminded me that this is what it’s really all about. We assume the end goal is a lavish wedding and a rock on your finger. But, down the line, materialism can’t make up for a lack of love. The renewal ceremony itself serves as a reminder that love is not just a fleeting emotion, but a lifelong journey filled with shared experiences, growth, and unwavering commitment between two people.

And for the first time ever, I saw my mother not just as my mom, my caretaker, or my parent, but as a woman. But more importantly, I finally realized she was still just a girl when she lifted her veil. A girl whose love knows absolutely no bounds.

As my father began to read his vows — something they didn’t exchange at their first wedding, I should add — there was not a dry eye in sight. I mean it, even Elvis’s spray tan was streaking.

And I saw my mom, standing there, soaking in every word like it was his last. After all, my father isn’t one to express his feelings. Yet there he was, voice cracking and everything, as he bared his heart. After 30 years, I guess you could say he had plenty of material to work with.

My brothers and I, only in our mid-20s, couldn’t begin to imagine the capacity it takes to love someone for 30 years. To build three decades of life with them. No one can, until they’re doing it. But we’re simply just stuck in a generation that can’t get their heads on the page that their hearts are on.

This isn’t to say my parents don’t fight and everything is all roses and champagne. They’re a living reminder of what commitment really looks like. There’s passion but also arguments. There’s support and then there’s disagreement.

My mother and father have set quite the standard for me when it comes to love. They taught me that love isn’t a term to throw around without meaning. It’s not a mere expression so much as a raw innate feeling. And it’s sure as hell not a description, it’s an action. And the act of loving someone can sometimes (almost always) feel bigger than yourself.

I get that explanation from my father, who isn’t too keen on saying when he loves someone as much as he shows it. Like he has the need to prove it every day. I know he loves my mom when he fixes things around the house, as if he knows good things have to be mended while they’re still good– otherwise they’re left to be fragile and broken.

From my mother, I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel deeply. To feel and care so strongly that sometimes your emotions get mixed up. To understand that there is no limit to what you’ll do to both protect and cherish those you care about. And I will forever admire her for the strength she finds in doing so.

Putting their two perspectives together, I can honestly say they’ve taught me why a connection like theirs is rare. It’s raw. It’s honest. And it’s real.

To a generation of 75% singles, the fear of that level of commitment is palpable. But if we’re afraid to put ourselves out there now, then what hope will we have down the line?

For me, down the line, I see myself in Vegas, choosing a chapel that’s even smaller than Graceland. Why? Because just like my parents, I want to prove that the kind of love that they have — the way they look at each other, hold each other, and support each other — exists and stood the test of time.

And I know from my parents that it’s tangible, and well within my reach.

Written By Anesa Feratovic

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