DEAR ABBY: I couldn't help but be touched by the letter from Steve W. in Phoenix (Jan. 12), the retired Vietnam vet who wanted to give his wife of 40 years the "full-blown wedding she deserved."
My husband and I are retired and recently celebrated our 30th with a "renewal of vows" ceremony. It doesn't have to break the bank.
We planned a year in advance and saved money just for that occasion. I wore a secondhand wedding gown. My daughter and I shopped for decorations (instead of flowers) at the dollar store. It was beautiful.
Since I am retired military, I was able to use the chapel and the club on base, which was quite reasonable. But there are all kinds of other relatively inexpensive options for a reception -- local fire hall, church basement or, in the summer, a public park.
My grown children are musicians, and they "gifted" us with their music at the chapel. We hired a DJ -- which didn't cost much -- and friends took photos and videos for us.
Abby, our first wedding was nice, but it was mostly for others. Our second wedding was for me and my husband -- and it was everything we hoped it would be. -- BOBBIE IN NORRISTOWN, PA.
DEAR BOBBIE: Congratulations on your 30th anniversary, and thank you for sharing your experience with me and my readers. Read on for several excellent comments and suggestions from others:
DEAR ABBY: You don't have to spend a lot of money for a renewal of vows. If you belong to a church, it will usually donate use of its social hall or sanctuary. The church surely will have some talented members who can help with decorations. Food shouldn't be a problem -- you can do punch/coffee/cake for less than $50. The entire event could be handled for under $300.
To Steve W.'s "children": Think of your parents. You don't know how long you'll have them. Chip in (yes, use some of YOUR money) and make this a memorable occasion for them. -- BECKI IN GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: We asked our new priest if he would give us a special blessing on our 45th. To our surprise, we were called up to the altar after Mass, and he renewed our vows in front of the entire congregation.
Since then, the priest has done this for other couples. Some dress up and wear corsages. Pews are reserved for family and friends. What a beautiful tradition he has started. The congregation is happy to be included in this wonderful event. There is no cost involved. Afterward couples can have a small reception in their homes. -- BOB AND KAREN IN EAST MOLINE, ILL.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have survived a lot in our marriage, and are each other's best friend and soul mate. When we decided to renew our vows, we found a good deal on a three-day trip to Las Vegas last April, and had the ceremony at an Elvis chapel there. Please tell Steve that if his wife liked Elvis, having an impersonator officiate the ceremony, then sing and escort your "bride" is an awesome way to do it. Our four kids still laugh and dance to our DVD copy almost a year later.
Airlines and hotels always have deals for going to Vegas, and since you are married already, no license or minister is necessary. Silly as it sounds, it's a great time your wife will never forget. -- LORIANN IN WASHINGTON STATE
DEAR ABBY: For their 50th anniversary, my siblings and I decided to give our parents the big wedding they never had. Their sacrifice, love and spiritual guidance have shown us how to live wonderful lives. We gave them the party we could afford. The happiness on their faces that day will warm our hearts forever. Dad still asks, "How much did it cost?" to which I kiddingly respond, "That's none of your business!" -- HAPPY IN TEXAS