Our Vows For Two Voices Celebration


We got married on May 5, 1996. That date was chosen because we thought it would make it really, really hard for me to forget our anniversary. You know how men are. If I could just remember the month, I would have no problem remembering the day.

We wanted to get married in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic in April, but “the judge” was always too busy to fit us into our schedule — unless we came up with $500. I don’t think we had $500 between the two of us back then. So we went down to the beach at midnight, waded out into the warm waters of the Caribbean, and told each other what was in our hearts under a beautiful full moon.

Wedding 2

When we got home to Rhode Island, we arranged a very small, very private ceremony at our home. It was just a reverend, a neighbor couple to be witnesses and us. Our Golden Retriever, Max, and Casimir, our chocolate point Siamese completed the wedding party.  Actually, the cat couldn’t be bothered and was off chasing chipmunks the whole time.

This past winter, we decided to invite a few friends and family members to come join us as we renewed our vows following our 20th anniversary. We expected 20 to 30 people. More than 60 showed up.

The weather was uncooperative. A light drizzle began about an hour before our guests arrived and continued most of the afternoon. Instead of being outside on the wraparound deck, everybody congregated in the house to avoid getting wet. It was an intimate gathering, to say the least. I doubt our home has ever had so many people crammed into it.

It didn’t matter. In a way, the rain forced people to talk to each other. It was hot and boisterous and a lot of fun. People came from Marblehead and Mattatuck, Stafford Springs and Cumberland, Torrington and Providence. We were thrilled that so many people would put their own lives on hold for an afternoon to come help us celebrate the renewal of our wedding vows.

Carolyn and I put together a short presentation. We recounted our lives together and promised to continue sharing our love for each other. Then the food was served. It disappeared in a matter of minutes. This group had some healthy appetites!

In lieu of traditional gifts, we asked people to bring only growing things. What a collection of beautiful plants we had at the end of the day! They will be planted all around the property to remind us of the wonderful people we hold dear.


The afternoon was a celebration of love and caring. Our friend Odile made a wonderful speech. She is a native French speaker and has a fine appreciation for the linguistic distinctions that apply to the various states of mind included in the English word “love.” You can read her beautiful thoughts here.

Here is a collection of photos from our special day.

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Some of you may wonder how this all started. I attribute it to something Carolyn did one afternoon after a snow storm. We had been living together for some time by then. I came home one day to find the most adorable snow sculpture gracing the front yard. That’s when I knew she was the one.

Wedding 3

Thank you to everyone who stopped by. We felt honored by our kindness and caring. We truly enjoyed our special day, so much so that we plan to do it again — in 2036.


Odile’s Remarks

Our good friend Odile added her own thoughts to our celebration. We would like to share her warm and hope filled words with you.

Hello everyone, I am honored and excited to contribute to Carolyn and Steve’s day : A declaration of commitment and love.   It’s fair to say that Love is a great preoccupation in our culture though rarely interrogated except maybe for the question of “how to make it last”!

So, I ask you: What is love? Lola, the heroin of a book I like by Marie Cardinal is trying to understand how her feelings towards her husband differ from his towards her.  She looks up the word “amour.”   She finds two pages full almost three.  She says: “One loves God, one loves one’s husband, one loves one’s lover, one’s children, one’s parents.  One loves one’s canary.  One loves chocolate, one loves philosophy.” This is confusing, especially since the French verb “aimer” means both to like and to love.

What makes it even more confusing are the many expressions and cultural narratives around romantic love learned, among other things, from popular culture: we fall in love, our heart is captured, we are “in” love more as a condition than as an action.  And sometimes such expressions are used inaccurately:  i.e. I was surprised years ago when first watching the movie Amélie to see the expression “coup de foudre” translated in the subtitles by True love instead of love at first sight  Big difference!

For bell hooks, the expression falling in love implies that if the chemistry is present, love will just click, it will happen to us.  It’s as if love takes control of us.  Often, in our culture, finding a partner seems more important than “knowing love.”  hooks argues that, on the contrary, love is an “Act of will,” that we do not have to love, we choose to love.  

So what does true love mean? Sebastien & Balthazar, two men in love with each other in an XVIIIth century tale vow their love to each other as Carolyn and Steve today: “Let us never part.  We shall never part” they say. So, is true love about time?

In one of my daughter’s favorite book growing up, Falling up, the poet Shel Silverstein offers more advice about true love: “Tell me I’m clever, tell me I’m kind, tell me I’m talented, tell me I’m cute, tell me I’m sensitive, graceful and wise, tell me I’m perfect, but tell me the truth.” So, is true love about telling the truth?

Perhaps true love is what happens when our feelings move from romantic attraction and instant gratification to intimacy and educated pleasure, when intention moves from the idea of perfect passion to the practice of passionate caring, respecting and knowing, one in which time becomes irrelevant, and our commitment to listen becomes as strong as or stronger even than the one to speak the truth?

In the end, Carolyn and Steve, one thing you know about true love is that it is an ever evolving commitment to… work but certainly one of the sweetest and most rewarding kinds [of work].  Congratulations!   Marriage pluvieux, marriage heureux — A rainy wedding makes for a happy marriage. 


About Steve Hanley

Totally enamored with my family, my grandkids, and seeing the world.
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4 Responses to Our Vows For Two Voices Celebration

  1. Ellen Dunn says:

    Just beautiful. True love. Congratulations to two wonderful people!

  2. Ken Anderson says:

    Hooray for you! So happy that you included us in your day! The refreshing precip made it more special. Ken & Tracey

    • Steve Hanley says:

      Thanks to both of you for plugging in your GPS and finding our little spot in the woods. Others have tried and failed! It was a treat to have you both share this moment with us.

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