It's that time of year again! Last Friday was our 6th wedding anniversary and my husband and I returned to the top of Box Hill to recreate our favourite wedding photo (minus the white dress and kilt; plus a couple of kids!). This is a tradition we observe every year and we plan to continue it for as long as we can. I just love the fact that while we are inevitably ageing and our children are growing, the beautiful view from the top of the hill remains the same, year after year. Rough winds can't shake it, rain clouds can obscure it but only for a short time, and sunshine only highlights the simple beauty that has always been there - it's really a great analogy for a marriage!
Another tradition we follow (as many couples do) is to exchange small gifts to tie in with the theme of the anniversary. The wedding planning website Hitched provides a helpful list of all the traditional anniversary meanings, along with some gift ideas for each one. For 6 years the modern theme is iron, while the traditional theme is sugar - can you guess which one we chose?! Any excuse to overindulge!
This got me thinking about other anniversary traditions that people follow. So I asked around, and here are some ideas I just love:
Stuart and Laura bring out their wedding guest book, cosy up on the sofa and read it together. It's a lovely reminder of their wedding day and they find it also motivates them to get in touch with friends they haven't seen for a while.
Ben and Simon buy each other experiences instead of gifts so that they have two unique activities to enjoy together during the year ahead. So far these have included tea at the Ritz, a yoga retreat, and even skydiving.
Beckie and Edd eat Thai food for dinner as it reminds them of their amazing honeymoon in Thailand. They also go on holiday to Norway - their favourite country - every other anniversary. To quote Beckie: "In Norway the wind blows and the snow falls, so Edd and I have to work together to make it back home, and when we do, we close the door, light the fire, drink red wine and eat cheese and biscuits. No matter what the world outside has thrown at us, we have battled through and are both inside our tiny log cabin in pure safety."
I do... again Many people choose to renew their marriage vows on their anniversary (some people do it every year!). Renewal of vows ceremonies are often conducted to mark significant milestones such as silver or golden anniversaries, but for some couples this rededication takes place earlier in their marriage. Perhaps they have gone through a difficult time and their focus has moved away from their relationship, or perhaps they are embarking on a new chapter in their lives together. Whatever the reason, it's a lovely thing to do to reaffirm your commitment.
Marriage vows usually focus on loving each other and remaining faithful in both good times and bad - traditionally 'for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health'. It's so easy to say these words, especially when they sound so familiar to us, but not so easy to picture what they actually mean and to envisage the trials your relationship may go through over the years. And it is not just major life events that test a marriage, it is the everyday. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to make the effort to spend quality time together, learn to tolerate each other's annoying habits, remember to be respectful and considerate towards one another despite the fact that with them, we are safe to reveal the very worst of ourselves.
Couples who decide to renew their vows come to the ceremony with greater insight - their view of marriage is realistic, not rose-tinted. They have walked the road and bought the t-shirt, but they remain best friends in love, and there is no one they would rather share their life with.
No matter how anniversaries are celebrated, I believe they are perfect occasions to remind yourselves of what you promised to do on that special day, reflecting on what those vows really mean in the everyday reality of your marriage. It's a day to consider how your relationship may have changed over the past year - is there anything you are especially grateful for, or anything you could do better? But above all, it's a day to remember and celebrate who you are and who you will always be - a married couple in love. Here's a little poem that reminds us of just that:
Marriage means being in love Marriage is love walking hand in hand together. It's laughing with each other about silly little things, and learning to discuss big things with care and tenderness. In marriage, love is trusting each other when you're apart It's getting over disappointments and hurts, knowing that these are present in all relationships. It's the realisation that there is no one else in this world that you'd rather be with than the one you're married to. It's thinking of new things to do together; It's growing old together. Marriage is being in love for the rest of your life.
Sophie Easton is a qualified, independent celebrant specialising in conducting bespoke weddings, vow renewals and naming ceremonies. She works mostly in London and Surrey, but is able to travel further afield if required.
She feels passionately that your ceremony should reflect your needs and personalities. Her role is to listen intently to your wishes, guide you and inspire you with ideas, and work closely with you at every stage to devise and deliver your perfect ceremony.
Sophie would be delighted to hear from you to discuss your big day plans and to answer any questions you may have:
Photographs used are copyright to Sophie Easton and Paul Talbot Photography.