Caroline and Josh came to New York from their home in Huddersfield in West Yorkshire in England to renew their marriage vows with us in April. They are in their early fifties and were marking their thirtieth wedding anniversary. They met in the late 1980s, when they were teenagers. Caroline was friends with Josh’s sister when they worked in a riding stable together on weekends. On Saturday mornings Josh would walk part of the way to work with the girls as he was catching the bus to his own job. They were together for six years before they got married.
Their wedding back in 1992 was a family affair with a big party – a joint wedding with Josh’s sister and her husband. “We both come from broken homes and had complicated families with half siblings,” Caroline told me. “We wanted to build a strong marriage and be able to rely on each other. We had a shared vision and ambitions for what we wanted our life to be like. Caroline and Josh have two grown up children; Luke and Ashleigh, who they are very proud of. “We have worked hard to give them better opportunities in life than we had,” Caroline told me.
Caroline contacted me at the very start of the year with the idea to surprise Josh with the vow renewal. She told me that she wanted to recognise their commitment to each other, and have a celebration that was private for just the two of them, “we didn’t want anything big or showy,” she said. I asked Caroline what her advice would be to anyone considering getting married or renewing their vows in Central Park, “think about what you want as a couple and not worry about anyone else, it’s your ceremony so enjoy it your way,” she said. I couldn’t agree with her more. “It was a really special way to renew our vows in Central Park and I wouldn’t change anything about it,” she added.
I asked Caroline if she had any concerns about holding the ceremony outdoors in Central Park “No, none at all,” she said. “Obviously good weather is preferred but a little bit of rain cannot put off us Brits!” Caroline felt that it would be lovely to be outside while renewing heir vows, but chose Wagner Cove for its privacy and because the small wooden structure would provide some shelter for the two of them and the officiant if they did have rain. They both follow their local football team avidly (soccer for any Americans reading!), which is Huddersfield Town. They were playing on the day of the vow renewal and we mentioned this in the ceremony, so their officiant checked in advance of the ceremony how the team had done and happily for Caroline and Josh, they had won!
Caroline told me lots about the challenges that life had thrown at them over their thirty years together so that I could write their ceremony. In it, the officiant told the edited story of how they had supported each other through the tougher times and shared the joys of the good times. Newlywed couples do sometimes have a history this long together but it is rare, so both myself and their officiant felt really privileged to have shared in a celebration of such enduring love. Caroline was happy with how the ceremony turned out. “The officiant began by talking about our life together and our milestones, it was very moving, but she made us feel relaxed and made it all enjoyable,” she said.
Caroline had planned the vow renewal as a surprise for Josh. She told him about it on the way over to New York. So, of course it was a surprise for all of their loved ones when they learnt about it after it had happened. “Our children were delighted for us,” Caroline told me. They stayed in New York for a week, at the Hotel Riu Plaza, Times Square. They said that it was well placed for lots of tourist attractions.
After the ceremony, they took photos around Central Park for a little while. “My favourite photos are on Bethesda Terrace and by the Fountain,” Caroline said. “They’re so iconic to Central Park.” She said that their photographer Florencia made sure that there weren’t too many bystanders in the photos, which gets increasingly difficult as the weather gets better in New York! “She did very well, considering how many people were in the park,” Caroline said. I know from talking to the photographers that they use a mixture of standing in the right place, timing the shot well, and good editing!
Caroline said she found us on Google, “and I was very lucky to have found Claire whose communication was brilliant. She clearly explained the service and made planning the ceremony very simple and easy to understand,” she said. “The officiant made us feel at ease immediately. The photographer was professional and gave us directions clearly and did a fabulous job at our photographs,” she added. “Our vow renewal was everything we could have asked for and made our anniversary a very special day indeed,” Caroline said.
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