Couples find it a treat to repeat their wedding vows


January 10, 1993|By JoAnne C. Broadwater

An anniversary can be more than just a time to dust off your wedding album and remember that very special day.

It can also be a time to relive it.

Three Baltimore-area couples did just that, marking their anniversaries by renewing the vows that they made to each other 25 to 50 years ago. They celebrated with wedding cake, flowers, gowns and receptions. And surrounded by family and friends, they said "I do" once again.

Edward Dempsey has always loved home movies.

While his four children were growing up, he was there with camera in hand to record important events. His film library includes a half-century of his family's history. Among the movies is one recorded Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1942, the day he and his wife, Jean, were married at St. Mary's Church in Hamburg, Pa. The bride wore an off-white satin gown and the groom wore his Army uniform. A relative acted as cameraman.

When 70 friends and relatives gathered recently at Peerce's Plantation in Phoenix for a celebration of the Dempseys' golden anniversary, they watched the 50-year-old movie and shared in the moment when the Parkville couple first exchanged wedding vows.

Earlier that same day, as their children and grandchildren looked on, Mr. and Mrs. Dempsey renewed their vows in a private Mass celebrated by a family friend, Monsignor Myles McGowan, at the Carney home of their youngest daughter, Pamela Pusloskie. The bride wore a silky, blue two-piece dress; the groom wore a charcoal pin-stripe suit.

Monsignor McGowan, the retired pastor of St. Ursula's Roman Catholic Church, says he has celebrated many Masses in which couples have "thanked God for their years of healthy, happy married life" as they renewed their marriage vows.

"It was beautiful," says Mrs. Dempsey, who is 76. "It makes you feel close and it's something that helps you to go over old times. It's more meaningful than the first ceremony. You're just so grateful to have normal, healthy children who are so good to you. But I can't believe it's been 50 years."

This was not the first time the Dempseys renewed their vows. On their 40th anniversary they drove to the church where they were married, renewed their vows after a weekday Mass and then went out to breakfast with the priest.

They celebrated their 25th anniversary with an overnight family trip to Oakland, Garrett County, where they renewed their vows in a private Mass.

And just last year they joined hundreds of couples in renewing their vows during the annual Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on World Marriage Day.

"It's a sentimental thing to do," adds Mr. Dempsey, who is 81. "It reminds you of how lucky you are, in a way."

On the day she was married, Shirley Fenwick began counting off the years until her 25th wedding anniversary.

"I had always looked forward to celebrating 25 years of marriage," recalls Mrs. Fenwick, a 55-year-old beautician. "We had a nice wedding ceremony the first time but we didn't have a high Mass and I wanted that."

So when their silver anniversary finally arrived, Mrs. Fenwick and her husband, John, a former postal worker, celebrated with a "second" marriage -- renewing their vows during a Saturday morning Mass at St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church.

More than 300 guests watched as Mrs. Fenwick marched down the aisle wearing a floor-length, sky-blue gown and carrying a bouquet of carnations. Her matron of honor and bridesmaid wore gowns of yellow and peach. Mr. Fenwick was dressed in a light gray tuxedo. All but one of the original members of the wedding party were there.

They exchanged new wedding rings of white gold.

"It was the most beautiful thing that could ever happen to anybody," Mrs. Fenwick says. "Our two children were just amazed. That was the beautiful part of it, for them to see their parents renew their vows, still in love with each other as much as they were the first time. They say they will never forget that day."

After the Mass, the couple served light refreshments in the church hall. Later, there was a traditional wedding reception at Martin's West, where they were introduced as "Mr. and Mrs." They danced to rhythm and blues music -- just like they had enjoyed when they were courting.

"At the time we were first married, my wife and I didn't know the Lord as we knew him on our 25th anniversary," says Mr. Fenwick, who is 57. "At our second marriage . . . I realized that this was the lady that God intended for me to be married to. We did this to celebrate being together for 25 years and realizing mature love."

Eleven years have passed since the Fenwicks celebrated their 25th anniversary, but they still enjoy reminiscing about renewing their vows. They show a visitor photographs of similar scenes from their first and second weddings and remark that as their 40th anniversary approaches, they are looking forward to that celebration.

"I believe if you've had a good marriage, a good relationship together, you should do something to celebrate," Mrs. Fenwick says. "Our marriage was blessed by the Lord."

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