Love on the Beach

Every Valentine’s Day, committed couples from around the world gather on Siesta Public Beach to renew their wedding vows. While many have participated faithfully for years, for us, it was a first that came gift-wrapped in wonderful surprises, including a personalized certificate and carnation.

Patrick and Lisa

Once upon a time in a land far away, my husband and I said, “I do.” We were thousands of miles from home, on a beautiful beach at sunset. A handful of locals, with sighs and smiles, looked on. Recently, we said it again, this time, just minutes from home, on a beautiful beach at sunset. And 800 others, with sighs and smiles, said it, too.

Every Valentine’s Day, committed couples from around the world gather on Siesta Public Beach to renew their wedding vows. While many have participated faithfully for years, for us, it was a first that came gift-wrapped in wonderful surprises, including a personalized certificate and carnation.

The event’s only “cost” is pre-registration, consisting of a phone call or completion of a short online form. Unregistered participants are welcome but will not receive the customized certificate that couples love to collect over the years.

We planned to participate with dear friends, who met us at the Pavilion with bright red, heart-shaped helium balloons imprinted with “I love you.” The congregation grew steadily, and we all chatted, sharing “how we met” stories and other heart-warming memories. The waves lapped gently on the shore, brisk Gulf breezes made our cheeks and noses rosy and the setting sun bathed us in a warm glow. It was sheer romance. And the ceremony hadn’t even begun.

“I promise you my love, to see the beauty that is uniquely yours; to trust you and rely on you…for today is the renaissance of our union. And from this day forward I will feel no rain, for you are my shelter. You have become my world and my life. The future is ours…always.”

Hundreds of couples renew their vowsAt 6 p.m., 400 couples recited these lines, and more, in unison – lovely sentiments written by Judge Becky Titus and her husband for use during the ceremony, which has a more than 25-year history. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” she said. “It’s very special to the people that come, and a very special event, personally, for my husband and me.” It’s a stark contrast from Judge Titus’ daily courtroom tasks, which she said, aren’t always pleasant. “In my job we see all of the dysfunctional marriages, the ones that fall apart,” she explained. “But this brings me back to reality. It’s wonderful to see the people that are committed to each other.”

Prizes were awarded to couples married the longest – 64 years – and the shortest – one hour!

Mode of attire was just as varied. Most were dressed casually, though the event draws people wearing everything from bathing suits to wedding gowns.

One woman wore a veil with jeans; one couple sported baseball caps embroidered with the words “Bride” and “Groom.”

Cameras clicked constantly as couples photographed each other under the archway standing for just that purpose; but photo ops elsewhere were plentiful on this picture-perfect beach.

“In as much as you gentlemen and you ladies have this day consented together in Holy Wedlock and have given and pledged your love to each other in the presence of this company, by the virtue of authority vested in me, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife.”

The sun merged with the sea, 400 couples kissed and the music began: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” sung by the Valentine’s Quartet from the Sarasota Chorus of the Keys, four charming gents in red- and white-striped jackets.

Couples enjoyed sweets for the sweValentine's Quartetet… tasty cupcakes and refreshing punch. Some strolled to the water’s edge, others set up a barbeque; many left to join the Valentine Stroll in Siesta Key Village, where shopkeepers stayed open, live music continued and people spilled onto the streets from outdoor cafés.

As darkness descended we made yet another commitment… to attend again next year. What a loving way, what a perfect day, to say, “I do” – again.

If you go:
* The Siesta Public Beach Pavilion is located at 948 Beach Rd., Siesta Key.
* Pre-register by February 12th online at www.parksonline.scgov.net or call 861-PARK (7275). This very special event is only $2 per couple!
* “Say ‘I Do’ Again – A Renewal of Marriage Vows” is sponsored by the Sarasota County Community Services Business Center, Parks & Recreation Department.

Written by Lisa Codianne Fowler * Reprinted from Sarasota and Her Islands: www.sarasotafl.org

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