Joan and Jim Graves celebrated Valentine’s Day early in a way that they said rivals all others.
After 53 years of marriage, the Huntley couple renewed the vows they took when they were 21 years old and confirmed the love and companionship they have shared since. They were surrounded by their congregation in a church that abounded with love Sunday as other couples decided to reaffirm their love as well.
During three ceremonies last weekend, 19 couples who have been married for at least five years affirmed their love in front of their congregation and God at Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore.
“We had talked about (renewing our vows) for our 50th anniversary,” Joan said. “So we decided to do this. It’s something special that you don’t forget.”
Six other couples joined the Graves at the altar on Sunday.
Salem Lutheran has hosted the vow renewal ceremony once before. Though Pastor Rob Kinnear, who joined the church as the intentional interim pastor two years ago, said a vow affirmation ceremony happens in many different churches. The ceremony is a special way to celebrate the commitment people make in marriage close to the cultural Valentine’s Day holiday.
“It makes me happy to share this with the congregation so people can see that marriage is supposed to be long-lived,” Kinnear said. “It’s true that when you live everyday, you forget some of those things.”
During the ceremony, husbands and wives gazed into each other’s eyes as Kinnear took a few minutes to celebrate their love and devotion. Kinnear read a marriage ceremony passage from the Lutheran Book of Worship, which highlights the joy and hard work marriage requires.
Kinnear then asked the couples to say one another’s names before reciting the affirmation.
“With thanksgiving I now renew my promise to be your loving partner, faithful to you, until death parts us,” the husbands and wives said after Kinnear.
Kim and Eric Simmons, of Sycamore, stood hand-in-hand facing one another Sunday morning in the same place where they uttered their first vows 17 years ago. On top of being a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it was Kim’s birthday.
“This opportunity to renew our vows was something we couldn’t pass up,” Eric said.
They started dating when they met at a barn dance as students at Illinois State University and were married five years later. Now, the Simmons have three children.
“It was very emotional to think about how far we have come,” Kim said. “I love him more today than I did that day.”