Whether we celebrate the day we met, or started dating, or married our partner, most of us are familiar with the usual ways to mark a special anniversary – a nice dinner, some wine, maybe flowers. If it’s a milestone year – our 10th, 25th or 50th – we might go away for a weekend, vacation somewhere romantic, have a party to celebrate, or renew our vows.
But what will help us to really feel, hear and see the significance of the day, and fully appreciate the incredible love we have found and continue to enjoy?
What will make this anniversary the Best One Ever?
Compelled to create something meaningful
My husband and I were faced with this question as we approached our 20th Anniversary in 2017. Other than special dinners, I think the most adventurous (and perhaps risky) thing we had done for an anniversary was continue to eat the remainder of our frozen wedding cake, three or four years after our wedding.
So, I was determined to do something special for our 20th – a little ceremony that would include our 12-year-old son, Cooper. We weren’t interested in having anything formal, public or traditional. It needed to be unique, truly meaningful and fun. Lots of fun.
The power of reflection and taking stock
Having witnessed the benefits of the process with client couples, we decided to take time to reflect on our relationship. We each wrote thoughtful answers to several questions such as “What are you most grateful for in your spouse?” and “What would you like your relationship to be like in another 10-20 years?” We took some time to privately work on our questions in the week leading up to the anniversary and kept the answers secret from each other. This alone brought me more in touch with what we were really celebrating and how we could use this day as catalyst for what we wanted to create in the years to come. Meanwhile, I also worked away on a ceremony script that focused on our past, present and future, with a few little surprises.
Making it fun
When the day arrived the three of us gathered in our living room. I handed Cooper – our impromptu Celebrant – the ceremony script in a binder. It was written to mimic a formal ceremony structure, but in his voice, from his perspective, with the hope that he would get a laugh or two out of it.
“Welcome Neil and Laura. In case you don’t know me, my name is Cooper. I am your son. I’m indifferent or perhaps reluctant to be your Celebrant today, but I love you anyway, so here I am.
Mommy and Daddy, today we take time to celebrate your 20th anniversary. Life is messy. Love is messy. And so it is fitting that we celebrate your anniversary in the middle of our house, which is also messy…”
We began by looking to our past as a couple. Unbeknownst to Neil, I had rediscovered a silly poem I had written on our 4th anniversary, which I read aloud. Here is a sample of a couple of the (purposely badly-written) later verses:
“But they’ve loved one another
through thick and through thin
breathing sweet words of love through the screen door
when Laura locks it and Neil cannot get in.
After four years of a different climate zone
for each side of the bed
it’s only the beginning: babies
and doggies and more still ahead.”
Getting to the heart of it
Then, moving forward to honour the present, Cooper invited us to each share the reflection we had written to express what we were grateful for about the other. The thoughtful words Neil read out to me moved my heart and reminded me of how much I was loved. Expressing my gratitude to Neil for all he has been to me, was also a powerful gift for both of us.
After this we shifted focus to the future, and Cooper invited us to share what we envision for our future relationship. Hearing what Neil had in mind was so inspiring, and I loved sharing with him the hopes and dreams I had for us. Having been through a lot of personal losses – especially of loved ones – we have typically shied away from looking ahead too far. This was a wonderful way to boost our hope and excitement about the years to come.
Then, Cooper asked, “Mommy, if you could grant a wish for Daddy, what would it be?” Neil was asked a similar question. I think Neil’s answer to this question touched me the most out of everything he shared.
We were experiencing the magic I had seen so often in the ceremonies I write for couples: That wonderful entanglement of love that grows when it is expressed and received more fully, through descriptive and thoughtful words and actions.
Then there was a twist. Yes, I knew Neil didn’t want to do vows, but how could he say no to Pirate Vows? I had managed to ask him earlier in the week, without raising suspicion, what his name would be if he was a pirate. “Rusty Bucket” did not suspect a thing.
“As the ceremonial Ship’s Captain I hereby compel ye to make these pirate vows to one another or ye’ll walk the plank and I’ll sick me Puppy Puddles on ye with a cuddle nastier and stinkier than ye’ve ever known! And not in that order!”
He handed us our vows, which were adapted/stolen from the hilarious pirate vows I found on the Internet on many different pages:
“I, Salty Gale, take ye, Rusty Bucket as me Heart, me Soul, me Salty Jack with a fiery tongue, the foggy haze of each new day and the lumpy mattress of each day’s night. I promise to love ye and honour ye; to make ye laugh so hard the rum comes out yer nose and pretend to listen to ye when ye babble on about nothin’ in particular. I will protect you from my wrath and from giraffes which I understand are very tall and will sometimes step on people because they are not looking where they are stepping…”(and so on).
After voicing these heart-stirring declarations, we finished with a lovely blessing from our son…
“Mommy and Daddy,
May the giraffes and elephants forever be pleasant in your company,
May your life’s compass always be led by the heart,
May your life’s map note many locations to buy me ice cream, fresh tea and grilled cheese,
May the planks you walk always be above soft waters,
May you be the wind in each other’s sails, not just hot air in each other’s armpits,
May your love grow more as the years pass, so that it’s bigger than the Kraken, and as faithful as the tides.
And may you always be one another’s greatest treasure.
Well, except for me. I’m your greatest treasure. No competition.
None at all.
By the power vested in me by you giving me all this stuff to read, and by giraffes and elephants and krakens and other large creatures,
I now pronounce you Anniversaried! Daddy you may kiss your wife!”
It was absolutely perfect.
How to add that special something to your anniversary
Would you dare to express your love more fully on your anniversary if you knew it would allow you and your partner to feel more loved, heard, seen and adored?
Good relationships are unique creations between people who live an extraordinary love. No matter what you choose to do to celebrate your anniversary, I invite you to take a few moments to really stop, reflect on and appreciate this special thing you have together:
What do you love and admire about this person?
Why are they still the one for you?
What are you grateful to them for?
What future do you want to create together?
Put it into words, whether spoken in person, recorded, or written.
Yes, it may require more thought and time than the usual things we do to celebrate. Yes, it can feel vulnerable, scary and challenging to put our feelings into words beyond “I love you.”
It is magical.
Want assistance with creating something special? I’m happy to help as a consultant, ceremony writer, unity ritual creator, love letter ghost-writer and/or officiant. Let’s talk!
Laura Higgins, Life-Cycle Celebrant
Writer, Consultant, Coach