It was a celebration of commitment in an age of instant gratification as 20 couples at Brittany Pointe Estates retirement home renewed their vows in a ceremony on Valentine's Day.
Brittany Pointe's first vow renewal celebration was suggested by its chaplain, the Rev. Darryl Lange, who noticed that Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday this year and saw the opportunity to do something special for resident couples.
"You have people here who have been married decades, and this is just a celebration of their commitment to one another and a renewal of what they've pledged to do for the years ahead," Lange said before the ceremony in the Brittany Pointe Estates auditorium.
Resident Services Director Terry Alburger said they had wanted to create an authentic wedding experience for the 20 couples who signed up for Sunday's services. Invitations were sent out, which she said were designed to mimic wedding invitations, and couples were greeted at the auditorium with live harp music by Mary Kay Mann.
Wives were handed a bouquet of flowers and husbands a boutonniere to wear on the way in, and the ceremony ended with cake and punch for couples and their guests to enjoy, courtesy of Brittany Pointe Estates. Lange gave a short service in the middle of which couples renewed their vows.
For residents such as David and Mary Ann Leventhal, the event was a treat. David said their wedding 41 years ago was a simple affair before a justice of the peace, and this was an opportunity to have the religious ceremony they never had. They even took the occasion to feed each other cake.
"I thought it was very romantic of him to sign us up," Mary Ann said, "and it was Valentine's Day! How could you not like this?"
For Lange, the vow renewal was a celebration of commitment. He spoke in the ceremony of how the marriage rate of younger generations has dropped off steeply and those who are getting married are doing so later in life, focusing instead on career and freedom.
"We all know romantic love is important, but it's not a way to make a foundation," Lange said. "That fresh vow that you're making this afternoon is not just for you as a couple; it is before God and it is before the world, a world that has seen so many marriages as a ball and chain ... Covenant love that is acted out before the world is a great evangelistic tool, if you will, to show the love of Christ to others."
Lange was preaching to the proverbial choir of couples with not just years in each marriage, but decades.
Mary Ann said her marriage, at 41 years, made her and her husband relative newcomers to the institution in a room where others, such as Joe and Helene Smith, have been going strong for 65 years.
Alburger said some who had lost spouses had also come to renew their commitment to those partners with whom they had spent their entire adult lives.
"I thought it was lovely that they would go through all this trouble, all this effort, to have a meaningful ceremony and then to treat us afterwards, complete with flowers," Helene Smith said after the service.
Helene and Joe had renewed their vows once before on the occasion of their 50th anniversary, and Joe said to be able to celebrate again brought back wonderful memories.
Rick Izard and Helen Angelina renewed their vows for the first time Sunday after 37 years of marriage, and for them, it was a reminder of why they are together after all those years.
"I keep saying she's the best thing that ever happened to me," Izard said.
"And I keep reminding him of that," Angelina answered back.