Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vow Renewals as the New Marriage Trend

From the New York Times:

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon did it earlier this year at their Beverly Hills Estate. This was the second vow renewal for the couple in as many years of marriage. To mark the occasion, he presented her with a diamond-and-sapphire-encrusted Ring Pop-shaped ring. Heidi Klum and Seal, who wed five years ago, give a vow-renewal celebration each year of their marriage; the events have become a kind of springtime version of the Ms. Klum’s yearly Halloween parties. Last year, she had a “white trash” theme. Guests, dressed in their trailer park finest, gathered while a cornrowed Ms. Klum and a mullet-wearing Seal were joined in matrimony again. An Elvis impersonator officiated. This year the vow renewal was done in Mexico and had a wedding theme: all the guests wore tuxedos and white dresses.

Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, renewed theirs this year as well. This was a second vow-renewal ceremony for Mr. Anthony. His first one was to the former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres in 2002. The two separated the next year.

It seems that restating vows is not a panacea for the evils of divorce, and may even bring into question the sturdiness of the original utterances. The first time, you mean it, but if there’s the chance that down the line you’ll really really mean it, then does that change the way you might have felt the first time?

Then again, perhaps the desire to reaffirm commitment is a healthy reaction to the changing state of marriage.

The path to divorce is increasingly well trod and holds less stigma than it did a generation ago. What’s more, we live longer than many of our married ancestors, which can mean more years and opportunity for failure. The result is, arguably, an increasingly delicate kind of union that perhaps needs a certain degree of coddling.

“It’s an institution that might now need renewing,” said W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project. “People have these blowout weddings, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with having a long marriage and maintaining it. A vow renewal can be a signifier to oneself and to the larger community that something has endured and that there is a commitment to keep it going.”

Indeed, modern marriage also requires more communication than in unions dictated by gender roles. “What keeps a marriage going today is so different than in the past,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage: A History” and the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. “In other times, couples didn’t need to renew their vows unless they were quite exceptional in the way they saw their relationship.

“Women were dependent on men,” she continued. “He had economic leverage, and she had to keep the marriage working by either changing her husband or changing herself. Today, we come to marriage expecting it to be truly fair and even and to negotiate in a way that didn’t happen before.”

And what better reason to have a party.

Read the full article here.


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