Renewing Our Vows

Martin and I renewed our vows during an informal gathering of friends and family in Cincinnati.

Way back when we made the decision to get married in Germany, we tempered it with the promise to one day have a reception for my stateside loved ones. We intended to do that sooner than later, but life got in the way as we moved to Italy, became parents, and moved to Washington D.C., and the idea fell by the wayside.

Then, about a month ago, Miss C was watching me digitize some video clips of my wedding reception, and asked a dozen questions about it before declaring it a shame that she wasn’t able to be there.

“I really wish I got to be at your wedding,” she said. “I would have had a really good time.”

I laughed, and pointed out that she got to be at her Aunt Jill’s wedding as the flower girl a few years ago.

“Yeah, but I would have been a great flower girl for you guys, too,” she declared.

That was enough to get me thinking. With our ten-year anniversary coming up, why not do something nice that would satisfy both that long-ago promise of a family gathering and Miss C’s wish to participate in our celebration?

Why not a vow renewal and reception?

Martin thought it was a great idea.

So did Miss C.

It worked out perfectly, too, that our anniversary fell on Easter weekend in the middle of Miss C’s spring break, meaning we wouldn’t have to pull her out of school to travel to Cincinnati, where my family lives.

The Bavarian Banquet Haus

Of course, we had to find a place for the event. I was familiar with some Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky venues, but something made me think of Mecklenburg Gardens, a well-known German restaurant in downtown Cincinnati that serves authentic dishes. I was ecstatic when I saw that it not only had banquet rooms, but a giant Bavarian Banquet Haus that would be perfect for what we had in mind.

We booked it immediately and spent all our free time in the evenings make invitations and coming up with ideas for the day, which I hinted at in an earlier post.

Our guests enjoying appetizers before the ceremony

I also reached out to my friend Rev. Deb and asked if she would officiate the vow renewal. Back when I was a teenager in Northern Kentucky, Rev. Deb was the Reverend at the local Episcopal church where my best friend, Amanda, attended with her family. Amanda and I were pretty inseparable, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to attend her church and its youth group events, which were led by Rev. Deb. There were youth group meetings and weekend retreats in other parts of the state. I even joined the children’s handbell group.

After a few years, Rev. Deb moved from Northern Kentucky with her family, which included her little daughter, Lindy, and we lost touch. However, thanks to Facebook, we reconnected a few years ago, and even though Rev. Deb is now retired, she was more than happy to perform the service for Martin and me.

I especially liked this connection, as Father Frank, who married us in Germany, was Martin’s mentor when Martin was a teenager.

The whole event was so much fun, if not typical for our family.

Moments before the renewal ceremony was to start, Jaz got super fussy, so my Aunt Sue took him just as Lola decided she wanted to be carried. But before we could reason with her, the music started, so to everyone’s amusement, Martin and I walked down the center aisle holding hands while he held Lola as Miss C dramatically tossed rose petals in front of us.

Once we got up front, Rev Deb started the ceremony as the two girls stood up with us, off to the side.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Lola was not happy. I could also see Miss C struggling to make a “big sister” decision. Without a word, Miss C finally decided to give Lola the flower basket in an effort to cheer her up.

Instead of cheering her up, though, receiving the basket merely tapped into Lola’s inherent German nature to have things neat and orderly.

Within seconds, she was down on the floor, picking up every single rose petal her sister had tossed just moments before.

She did this for the entire vow renewal, working her way back up the aisle until every petal was put back in the basket.

Throughout it all, Rev. Deb kept the ceremony going, performing the traditional vow renewal liturgy while making us laugh with some improvisations. She made bulletins for everyone to follow along, and included my anniversary blog post on the very back, which I thought was the sweetest gesture.

My most favorite part of the whole thing, though, was when Miss C got up on the stage and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. It’s the same reading my stepmom Linda read at our wedding ten years ago, and when Rev. Deb suggested it, I knew it would be perfect, especially since it’s so simple: both the text and the message. A few days before, I printed out a copy for Miss C to study and rehearse.

She did so well. I couldn’t stop smiling as she read clearly and with confidence.

After that, Martin and I both said our vows in English. This past decade, I occasionally teased that there were some things lost in translation the last time when we both said them in German, but this time, everything was perfectly clear. I especially liked that Martin squeezed my hands as we spoke.

Just before the final blessing, Rev. Deb’s daughter, Lindy, who was just a little toddler the last time I saw her, stood up and read some beautiful prayers for us and the family.

And then we sealed everything again with a kiss and the hope to another wonderful ten years and beyond.


Lindy, looking stunning and so grown up, reading prayers for us while Grandma Linda held Jaz.

Soft pretzels, beer cheese, and fruit for appetizers

A lunch feast of bratwurst, mettwurst, chicken spatzle, potatoes, mac and cheese, and sauerkraut.

For dessert, apple streusel, German chocolate cake, red velvet, carrot cake, and almond creme cake.
Oh, and a yellow sheet cake for the kids.

We filled up our family’s beer steins with spring flowers for the centerpieces.

My niece, Baby J. She and Jaz are the only ones in our family with such vibrant blue eyes.
Grandma MJ and Grandpa Charley, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last year.

My niece Baby J, who was clearly not pleased that we wanted yet another photo.

Yet a binkie and a kiss from Aunt Julie did the trick.

Linda was my high school German teacher who took me over there as part of the German-American Partnership Program exchange, during which I met Martin.
She still teaches, and was recently named World Languages Teacher of the Year.
Now we’re good family friends swapping parenting stories over Facebook all the time.
Funny how that works out!

Contrary to how it appears, Linda’s husband Kent and my father did not coordinate outfits ahead of time.

Family friends Dan and Sharyn were at our first wedding in Germany, too.

I’m so happy my amazing friend and fellow blogger Shawntel and her daughter Brynn came to the renewal! Shawntel will be moving into the hospital in a few days to begin several weeks in isolation during a bone marrow transplant. She will be on a limited diet then, and freely admitted stuffing oneself with cake was an excellent way to prepare for kicking cancer’s ass. 😉

My aunt Mary Ann with Jaz

My sister Jill and our babies