54 Couples Renew Wedding Vows in Sunset Ceremony at Trunk Bay

54 couples gathered on Trunk Bay beach to recite their vows to each other on Valentine’s Day.

Fifty-four couples, representing a total of 1,116 years of marriage, dipped their toes into the sand and surf at Trunk Bay in a Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 14, vow renewal ceremony.

The fourth annual ceremony attracted couples who had been married for anywhere from five hours to 57 years.

“Everyone has a rich and delicious story,” said Anne Marie Porter, St. John’s own barefoot minister, who officiated at the ceremony. “I enjoy doing this because it gives couples an opportunity to have a fresh start in their relationship. I do it because it’s a gift that they can give each other and I always focus on forgiveness, gratitude and a new beginning.”

The ceremony evolved through a brainstorming session between Porter and Cathy Dove, who approached Porter four years ago about performing a vow renewal ceremony for her and her husband Bill’s 30-year anniversary.

Good Example for Youth
“We started talking about how much bad news there was in the papers, and we thought it would be a good thing to do, because it would show the youth of our community that there was something other than people abusing one another,” said Dove. “It would show them that there were people who believed in marriage. That was our main thought in this, that it would be a good example for the young people that we have in our community.”

Porter credits the Doves for bringing the ceremony to the community.

“It was really due to the generosity of Cathy and Bill Dove, and their commitment to their relationship, as well as relationships in the community,” she said.

The vow renewal ceremony has been attracting more tourists every year, said Dove.

Better Advertising
“I think they’re finding out about it on the Internet,” she said. “We advertise in some magazines now, like Caribbean Life.”

Steve and Patty Meredith, who were visiting St. John for the first time, said they discovered the ceremony in a magazine. The couple was staying on St. Thomas, but came to St. John for the ceremony, to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

Porter said that the meaningful experience she provides for couples makes the time, money and energy she puts into the ceremony worthwhile.

“I had a man thank me with tears in his eyes, and say ‘this is the first time that I had looked into my wife’s eyes for any length of time in I don’t know how long,’” she said. “That’s why I do this.”

All Walks of Life
Dove, who spent time talking with the couples before and after the ceremony, said she encountered quite a few memorable people, from all walks of life.

“One woman had been told by her doctor three years ago that she had less than a year to live,” said Dove. “She wasn’t supposed to be there and be taking part in the ceremony. She hadn’t expected to be alive at this point in time.”

Another couple, who were married on St. John two years ago, came back for this year’s ceremony with a new addition—a baby.

“She had just found out she was pregnant when she was here the last time,” said Dove.

Another couple, who have been married for 20 years, brought their teenage daughters to the ceremony.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing to show children at that age,” said Dove. “It’s great to have them take part in something like that, and to see all of these different couples.”

Many couples at the ceremony had participated in the ceremony in previous years, and some had even been married by Porter.

“There were quite a few couples there that I had married,” she said. “One was Nancy and Mark Shekelton.”

“We have a lot of couples who come to the ceremony year after year,” she added.

St. John residents Chuck and Terry Pishko, who have been married for 24 years, have participated in the ceremony for the past three years.

“It’s kind of fun,” said Chuck. “It gives you a nice feeling.”

Positive for Community
The vow renewal ceremony benefits the community, as well as the couples who attend, said Porter.

“It’s not only a renewal for these couples,” she said. “It’s a renewal for the community, when we honor these people who keep the covenant, and people who have the wisdom and courage to renew that covenant.”