‘I do,’ again

I just had a vow-renewal celebration ceremony — with my beloved husband, Bill — to celebrate 20 years of marriage. Now, we’ve had vow renewals several times in our years together, and it’s a great idea. (More on that in a minute).

We wanted our 20th to be something special. So we booked a week in an Over-the-Water Bungalow at Sandals South Coast, a beautiful resort in Jamaica, where the wedding team coddled us left, right and center as we got ready to ReTie the Knot.

Why get married again in a vow renewal? We’re not the first ones to tell you that being married — and staying happily married — can be hard. The divorce rate is almost 70% last time I checked. Marriage takes compromise, sacrifice and a dedication to be committed to both of you as a team. We’re lucky — before we married, we completed couples’ therapy based on the work of Harville Hendrix, who frequently was a guest on Oprah’s former TV show. Hendrix wrote a book, “Getting The Love You Want” and another, “Keeping the Love You Find,” which explains probably the two most important things everyone should know about marriage. A great deal of the struggles that can develop between couples unconsciously originates from emotional wounds suffered in childhood. Having a “conscious marriage,” and stretching and growing to meet your partner’s needs, winds up being, ironically, the thing you need to do for yourself, to create wholeness within yourself. That book changed my life and I recommend it to everyone who wants to have a happy relationship.

The beauty of a vow renewal, I believe, is that it reminds you of why you married your partner in the first place. And it also provides a reminder that you continually need to nurture the relationship in important ways, in order to maintain a happy union. It can certainly fan the flames of passion.

It was twice-as-nice to re-tie the knot at Sandals South Coast — about one and 1/2 hours from Montego Bay, in the town of Whitehouse and the parish of Westmoreland. Indeed, the resort hosts about 500 weddings and vow renewals annually. It’s easy to see why. Sandals South Coast is a luxury all-inclusive resort, which means that all of your meals, alcohol and watersports are included — at no extra cost. After you check in and place your wallet in the safe — your credit cards stay there and are not up-charged. And every room there has an ocean view. It’s essentially five-star service in an idyllic physical and geographical environment.

The resort wedding team at Sandals South Coast — Rita Johnson and Rochelle Barnes — met with us, several days in advance of our vow renewal, to attend to all the arrangements so that getting re-hitched would go off without a hitch. Pink-and-white rose bouquet — check. Sparkling cider and ginger beer for the toast — check. Wedding dress ironed — check.

On our big day, we happily posed by the pink golf cart known as the “wedding chariot” as we made our way to the Over-the-Water Serenity Wedding Chapel onsite. The boardwalk all along the way was decorated with white flowers and offered a stunning backdrop to the ocean surrounding us. The wedding chapel also has a glass floor, so that you can literally “walk on water” to get to your minister.

I wore a flowing Greek-goddess type of dress and Bill wore an light-green polo shirt and white linen trousers.

Rev. Joseph Campbell welcomed us with beautiful words explaining that marriage is a serious commitment that must be looked and entered into soberly. Bill and I also rewrote our marriage vows. Bill said that I was God’s gift to him, and that he grows and changes every day of our marriage to give me a happy childhood within our adult lives. I vowed to continue also to give him the same and to savor every day of our journey together. Our day had all the special characteristics you would find at a marriage ceremony — special cake (carrot), beautiful music (we danced to our song, “Some Enchanted Evening,” from “South Pacific”), and a delicious meal. We had a cocktail party (bring on the coconut shrimp, my favorite) and, later that evening, had a fabulous celebratory dinner in Eleanor’s (one of nine restaurants on the resort), where we were well taken care of by the maître d’, Sir Earl. His charm and graciousness flowed like the Caribbean Sea, as he enthusiastically enveloped us in his hospitality.

Later, we returned to our Over-the-Water Bungalow. We had previously only stayed in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, and to have this delightful option in the Caribbean was a thrill. “Some guests never leave their Over-the-Water Bungalow the entire time they are here,” says Sandals South Coast General Manager Adrian Whitehead. The Over-the-Water Bungalows are so popular, that they average a 97% occupancy rate throughout the year (not just high season, during winter). What’s not to love? From the moment you wake up in your comfy bed, you walk a few steps and you can jump right into the ocean. “There’s one pair of butlers for every two bungalows, plus a night butler,” Whitehead told us. And they are there to cater to your every need.

So when you see my butler on your way out — can you do me a favor? Order me a plate of grilled shrimp for lunch.

For more about Debbi, visit Debbikickham.com.

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