Annual Valentine's Day Free
Wedding Vow Renewal Service

2014

A Hundred Couples Say I Do Again

Gathering at Trunk Bay Valentines Day 2014

A hundred couples renewed their wedding vows Friday at the 12th annual
Celebration of Love ceremony held at Trunk Bay on St. John.

Click here to read more on our site
Daily News Article on annual Celebration of Love

Trunk Bay Valentines Day Celebration of Love 2014

Close up of 2014 Celebration of Love

2014 Celebration Of Love above photos by Albion Sewer

2013

The celebration is always free and everyone is welcome.
All 2013 Celebration Of Love photos by Eliza Magro.

Soul Singer, Tishelle, sings for the couples.



Anne Marie interviews couples married 40-50 years!
To What Do You Attribute Your Relationship Longevity?
"We Are Best Friends"

St. John Source

150 Couples Say ‘Yes Dear,’ Reaffirming Wedding Vows
By Lynda Lohr — February 14, 2013

Say “Yes dear” and your marriage will last a very long time, advised Leo Morrissey of Milton, Mass., on Thursday. He and his wife Margaret are married 62 years, giving them top honors for longevity at the 13th annual Celebration of Love Valentine’s Day Vow Renewal ceremony at Trunk Bay Beach. More from Lynda Lohr of the St. John Source...


Cover of the The Virgin Islands Daily News

2012

Bob Cheesing of Tropical Focus Photography is providing the photographs taken this special day at no cost so people can have their photos from the event.
You can download them by clicking on this link Tropicalfocus.com

Many thanks to all the folks who make this day happen.

St. John Source
Seventy-two Couples Renew Marriage Vows

The sound of waves crashing provided an audible backdrop for Tuesday’s 10th annual Valentine’s Day Vow Renewal at Trunk Bay on St. John.

“Let today’s I Do be really loud,” non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter told the 72 couples gathered at Trunk Bay’s pavilion to renew their marriage vows.

Porter added that the 72 couples have been married for over 2,000 years. While the ceremony is usually held on the beach, pounding waves eroded it to a point where only a sliver of sand remained. The location may have been a few yards further inland than usual, but it featured, as always, musical entertainment and nice words from Porter and her co-organizer, Cathy Dove.

“Marriage is work, but you all know that,” Dove said as many of the couples laughed knowingly at her remarks.

Bill and Phyllis Kikendall, married 62 years, took honors for being married the longest. They’re staying on St. Thomas visiting their son and his wife, Island View Guest House owners Ron and Beth Kikendall.

When asked what kept them together so long. Bill Kikendall had a quick response.

“She’s perfect to live with,” he said.

As for his wife, she said that working things out was the secret to a long marriage.

The couple has four children, 13 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

Their son and daughter-in-law also renewed their vows. Beth Kikendall organized the excursion across Pillsbury Sound to St. John. The younger Kikendalls have been married for 28 years.

Henry and Betty Costabel of Cornwall, N.Y., got second for marriage longevity: 57 years.

“You’ve got to know how to play cards,” Henry Costabel said, laughing as he revealed his secret for spending time with his wife.

Molly and Edward Chan came on vacation to St. John with three other couples. All were at the ceremony.

“We’re celebrating our first 12 and looking forward to the rest,” Okemis, Mich. resident Edward Chan said.

While many couples were in the Virgin Islands on vacation, or spend only winters in the territory, some are year-round residents who renew their wedding vows every Valentine’s Day.

St. John residents Terry and Jim Provost are repeat renewers, but Terri Provost said that while renewing her marriage vows is special, marriage to a special person like her husband is perfect.

“My marriage is perfect,” she said.

St. John residents Laurel Brannick and Marc Bigrigg have been married seven years.

“It solidifies our love for each other through tough times,” Bigrigg said, adding that the ceremony reminds them of the commitment made when they got married.

Martha and Jerry Hills of St. John have been married for 21 years. This was their second time renewing their marriage vows.

“We’re going to go home and have wine together and have an evening for two,” Jerry Hills said.

Local news
Copyright © V.I. Source Publications, Inc.

To see photographs click here


2011

Annual Valentine's Day Free
Wedding Vow Renewal Service

The celebration is always free and everyone is welcome.

Anne Marie Porter with Bill and Cathy Dove


photo by Don Blumenthal

St. John Source

Record 110 Couples Renew Vows
By Lynda Lohr — February 14, 2011

Howard and Jackie Levine punctuate their 'I Dos' with a kiss Monday at Trunk Bay.

In good times and bad, the 110 couples who renewed their wedding vows at Monday’s ninth annual Valentine’s Day Celebration of Love ceremony, stuck together.

“We didn’t think we’d have any more years,” Howard Levine said, standing front and center at Trunk Bay Beach.

He and his wife, Jackie, of West Orange, N.J. and St. Thomas, were married the longest with 62 years together. Jackie Levine recently suffered a serious illness, giving rise to doubts about how many years they’d have left together.

She had advice for those married a shorter number of years.

“Stay in love,” she said.

It was a rough year with lots of losses for Mark and Laurie Lind of Seabrook, N.H.

“It made us appreciate what we have,” Laurie Lind said, explaining why she and her husband of 15 years decided to renew their vows.

Darrell and Carol Pusateri of Warren, Penn., had 40 years of wedded life together. She said they had their ups and downs, but their secret was just to hang in there.

Her husband took it further, commenting that unlike many younger people, he and his wife took their wedding vows seriously.

“You made a commitment…,” he said.

Those 110 couples came from St. John, St. Thomas and all over the country.

Toni Lacer and Moe Chabuz had only a short drive from their St. John home to renew wedding vows made five years ago.

“It’s a meaningful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” Toni Lacer said.

Bonnie Harma and John Lenich of Woodbury, Minn. are married 14 years. Like several couples, they’re celebrating their anniversary on or around Valentine’s Day. They got married at Caneel Bay Resort and have returned nearly every year to celebrate their Valentine’s Day wedding anniversary.

Ben Henderson and Mary Underwood of Boone, N.C., will be married 25 years on Tuesday.

“We’ve been romancing each other all week,” Henderson said.

Sandy and Chuck Kottwitz of Elmira, N.Y., honeymooned in 1973 at Cinnamon Bay Campground.

“It’s nice thing to do after this many years,” Sandy Kottwitz said.

The event is organized by non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter, who officiates, and Cathy Dove. Dove spent the ceremony holding a pair of electrical plugs together, while her husband, Bill, did the same further along the series of extension cords that powered the microphone.

The power flickered off and on, but came back just in time for all the couples to pledge their love.

“I do,” they said in unison.


Click to read Tradwinds Article
Page 1 - Page 2

2010

Re Marry your Mate for free on Trunk Bay

 

St. John Source

About 100 Couples Attend Marriage Vow Renewal

By Lynda Lohr — February 14, 2010

Barbara and John Achzet married 62 years

Barbara and John Achzet, married 62 years, renew their vows at Trunk Bay ceremony.As they have been for many years, St. John snowbirds John and Barbara Achzet were the longest-married couple at the eighth annual Valentine's Day vow renewal ceremony at Trunk Bay.

The two, who call Penn Yan, N.Y., home during the summer, have been married 62 years.

The secret to their success?

"It's saying yes and being agreeable," John Achzet, 82, said.

Indeed, he had on his "Yes Dear" T-shirt.

Barbara Achzet, 81, suggested that give and take was the key to a long marriage.

"If some younger people would do this more, there wouldn't be so many divorces," she said.

Another long-married couple, Tom and Joanne Brown of Hilton Head, N.C., agreed that reaffirming their vows was a good thing. They've been married 45 years.

"And it's a beautiful setting for this," she said of the Trunk Bay location.

Larry and Jo Etler of Moville, Iowa, tried to renew their vows several years ago at the Valentine's Day ceremony but didn't get to Trunk Bay on time. They've been married 42 years.

"We thought it was time to renew them," Larry Etler said.

Nedra and Joe Fetterman of Bryn Mawr, Pa. honeymooned on St. John after their wedding 30 years ago. Nedra Fetterman said she thought it was fitting to renew their vows because she's a marriage therapist.

"I thought how amazing it would be to see people renew their vows," she said.


Thanks to Don Blumenthal for his wonderful photography.

Valentines Day 2010  Vow Renewal on Trunk Bay


I Do - St. John, US Virgin Islands

























Thanks to Don Blumenthal for the wonderful photography.

Caribbean Connection
I Do. Again!

Written by Jamie Elliot

Sunday February 15, 2009

While Valentine’s Day usually harkens images of happy couples canoodling at lavish restaurants, there are many different ways to celebrate the Christian martyr who smuggled letters to his doomed love. When I lived in Italy, the holiday was a national girls-night-out affair. In New York City we’d usually throw a small dinner party for a few friends. Married couples here in the islands celebrate Valentine’s Day by going to a perennially favorite locale - the beach. But February 14th at Trunk Bay isn’t just another afternoon of fun in the sun.

Since 2003, hundreds of couples have renewed their wedding vows in what has become a cherished tradition on St. John. The V.I. Vow renewal was started by Bill and Cathy Dove who were celebrating their own 30th wedding anniversary. The couple thought it would be great to re-new their vows for the occasion. Cathy asked her friend, popular wedding officiant Anne Marie Porter, to do the honors.

“It was Cathy’s idea to re-new her and Bill’s vows to celebrate their anniversary,” said Porter. “She asked if I would do the ceremony. She also asked if she could invite her church members and, if anyone wanted to, if they could renew their vows at the same time. I said, ‘why don’t we ask all of St. John to participate?’”

And VI Vow was born. Since then, 550 couples - marking thousands of years of marriage - have gathered at Trunk Bay beach at sunset on February 14th to say “I do,” again.

“It’s the most meaningful way for couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” Porter said. “The thing that is so delicious about it is that these couples have done all the work. They understand what the commitment means and they let life’s challenges bring them closer together rather than separate them.”

The urge to look into your loved one’s eyes on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world - Trunk Bay routinely ranks among the top ten on those lists - and renew your sacred vows proves irresistible for many couples, even ones who have just tied the knot that very morning.

“One year a couple came who I had just married that morning at Hawksnest Beach,” said Porter. “They had heard how great the ceremony is and how beautiful it was at sunset. So they renewed their vows the day they got married.”

Anne Marie gives each couple a certificate of marriage re-affirmation and the ladies are also given long-stem roses. Oh, and it’s all free of charge.

“There’s flute music and it’s just elegant, really,” said Porter. “Everyone there feels the magic."

 

Besides Valentine’s Day, Porter marries couples all year long. In her 12-year career, Porter estimates that she has officiated for abut 3,000 weddings and vow renewals - as many as five a day - and she still gets excited about each one.

“I don’t get sick of it,” she said. “Every couple is different and every wedding has its own beauty. It’s a joy for me.”
St. John is one of the most popular wedding destination sites in the world, yet Anne Marie - who was termed the island’s barefoot minister by Caribbean Travel and Life magazine - makes each bride feel special.

“I ask what their vision is and what’s in their hearts,” she said. “It’s24 s usually about keeping it simple - barefoot at the beach, no demands, no family expectations, no production. Just a soft, simple, meaningful service. It’s really about them. My intention is to be a channel of blessing for each couple - whatever that means to them.”

Anne Marie claims to never have had a “bridezilla” - or a “groomzilla” for that matter - on her hands. Coming from this calm woman with an excited smile and a sparkle in her eyes, you know she’s not just saying it.

“To be with people when their hearts are open in one of the most beautiful places in the world, it’s a fabulous way to make a living,” she said.

Not bad work if you can get it. Anne Marie presides over vow renewals all year as well, not just Valentine’s Day.

“I always promote couples renewing their vows,” said Porter. “I say make your vacation a honeymoon and remarry your mate. As fantastic as St. John is, it’s something that makes a vacation even better.”

To make your next vacation a honeymoon, check out Anne Marie Porter’s website www.stjohnweddings.com, or www.re-marryyourmate.com



Pairs Of Hearts Hold Winning Hands At Vow Renewal
by Lynda Lohr

Feb. 14, 2009 -- "Today when you say 'I do,'" said the minister, "it's with a lot more information." St. John snowbirds John and Barbara Achzet got the honors for being married the longest -- 61 years -- at the 7th annual Valentine's Day vow renewal ceremony at Trunk Bay Beach. .

A total of 67 couples, from the Achzets to a pair married that day, joined hands and hearts at the ceremony, presided over by non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter. Love was in the air, as organizer Cathy Dove urged the couples to say those three little words regularly.

"We need to take that time every day," she said.


Pat and Ron Seitz of Webster, N.Y., married 51 years, share a kiss.
The Achzets house guests, Pat and Ron Seitz of Webster, N.Y., were no slouches in the longevity department either with 51 years of marriage under their sandy bare feet. And renewing vows is getting to be a habit with them. "We've done these three or four times," Pat Seitz said.

Donna and Chris Bredlow of Moorhead, Minn., will celebrate a half-century of marriage on May 30. The couple are camping at Cinnamon Bay Campground. "We're very traditional, but maybe this is a newer tradition," Donna Bredlow said.

With 44 years of marriage on their wedding rings, Dottye and Jay Bessette of Pawcatuck, Conn., agreed that renewing their vows was important to them. "It's a sexy thing to do after being married 44 years. It's an accomplishment to make it to 44 years," Dottye Bessette said.

Andy and Linsey Jewitt of Rapid City, S.D. were first timers at seconding vows. "We thought it was really neat thing to do," Andy Jewitt, married 22 years, said.

Bob and Jane Karako, both dressed in pink tops, are three years married. They wed three years ago at Trunk Bay Beach -- in pink. "We're just confirming our commitment to one and other," Bob Karako said.

Dan Smallwood of Atlanta was ready to renew his vows because he wanted to let his wife, Dianne Smallwood, know how much he loves her. "I waited a long time to find Dianne and I don't want to mess up," he said.

St. Thomas residents Mary Ellen and Jesse Thomas, married 15 years, were on hand with their children, Savannah, 14, and Gage, 9. Jesse Thomas said he thought the ceremony would be fun for the kids, and, his wife said, "to know their parents still love each other."

Peggy and David Spoth are new St. John residents who said they found it a wonderful way to spend Valentine's Day. They were chatting with another pair of St. John residents, Chuck and Terry Pishko. "It's good to remember why we're together and set aside a little time to think about it," Chuck Pishko said.



Renew Your Marriage Vows on Valentine's Day
by Lynda Lohr


Jan. 27, 2009 -- Love will be in the air Feb. 14 when local and visiting couples renew their vows at the 7th annual Celebration of Love at Trunk Bay Beach on St. John.

"It's a wonderful way to honor their relationship and celebrate Valentine's Day," Anne Marie Porter said.
Porter and another St. John resident, Kathy Dove, have organized the vow-renewal ceremony for the past six years.

The celebration is free, and Porter said everyone is welcome. It begins at 5 p.m.
Last year 100 couple renewed their vows. Over those six years 550 couples have participated, representing more than 8,000 years of marriage.

"There's something powerful about renewing vows with other couples," Porter said.

The couples are welcomed as they approach Trunk Bay Beach by Michael Banzhaf playing flute. Lee Morris and Livy Hitchcock will serenade them as they reach the beach.

Porter, who is a non-denominational minister, performs the ceremony. Each woman will receive a rose and couples go home with a certificate to remember the occasion.

For more information, call Porter at 693-5153 or 626-4658.

 



Annual Valentine's Day Free
Wedding Vow Renewal Service

2008

I do, I do, I do ...
Married couples renew vows beachside on St. John


By LYNN FREEHILL

Friday, February 15th 2008


Daily News Photo by Nick Schneeman.
Jack and Barbara Yellen and Arthur and Judi Rosenthal pour champagne after renewing their vows.

ST. JOHN - Love was on the lips of 95 married couples who renewed their devotion the island way on Valentine's Day: beachside.

For the sixth year in a row, Trunk Bay hosted a poignant "Celebration of Love" vow renewal ceremony at sunset. The event is organized annually by the Dove family and presided over by the Rev. Anne Marie Porter as a way to honor the commitment, sacrifice and beauty that marriages entail.

The pairs represented a collective 2,065 years of marriage - and 60 of those years belonged to one couple, Barbara and John Achzet of St. John. As the group clustered in a semicircle, Barbara Achzet beamed and pumped her fist in the air as the length of her marriage was announced, and everyone cheered.

Not far behind in duration were Bob and Nancy Barlow of St. John, at 57 years together. They renewed their vows Thursday for the fifth time. "It's very romantic and brings back lots of happy memories - lots and lots," Bob said.

This year, the Barlows' son, Greg, also renewed his vows with Cheryl, his wife of precisely "three years, seven months and 25 days."

Greg, who lives in Maryland, said he was inspired by his parents' marital philosophy: sharing. "You're in it together and you do things as a team," he said. The younger couple said their goal wasn't necessarily to match the elder Barlows in length of marriage, however - to accomplish that, they would have to live to be 105.

Wives arrived wearing everything from an original, 30-year-old wedding dress to a bikini. Hand-in-hand with their husbands, many strolled to the beach to the bright notes of David Banzhof's flute, then kicked off their shoes on the sand.

Vocalist Shikima Jones sang "What a Wonderful World" as the ceremony opened, inviting the participants to join in on the signature lines.

Porter opened to chuckles from many when she said, "Today when you say I do, it's with a lot more information than the first time."

The couples took deep, relaxing breaths as she instructed them to "focus on this sacred moment," then to turn and face each other. Some had tears in their eyes as they gazed, while others bent in to rest their noses and foreheads together.

Then, as the sun sank behind Peace Hill, the couples said "I do" once again, pledging to love, honor, comfort and keep each other for life. Afterward, Porter asked them to step toward the water's edge as she bestowed an island blessing.

Celebration and cheering followed. Judi and Arthur Rosenthal and Barbara and Jack Yellen, a set of friends from St. Thomas, were all smiles as they popped open a bottle of Champagne they had brought along.

Judi and Arthur remembered how they had met and dated in eighth grade, when they both had braces. "Everyone was afraid we would hook them together," he said. And Barbara and Jack had decided to get married on their second date.

The secret to the Rosenthals' 40 years of marriage and the Yellens' 49, they all agreed, was humor. "We have words every so often," Jack said, jokingly. "I'm just still waiting to use mine."

On. St. Croix, Capt. John Macy led a vow renewal ceremony at the Carambola Beach Resort at sunset Thursday.

Macy, who has been presiding over marriage ceremonies for 21 years, has lead vow renewal ceremonies on Valentine's Day for several years on St. Croix in an attempt to match the annual vow renewal ceremony on St. John.

Six couples participated in the ceremony, which was complimentary from the Carambola Beach Resort and Macy.

Contact Lynn Freehill at 774-8772 ext. 311 or e-mail lfreehill@dailynews.vi.





St John Source, February 16, 2008

1,900 Years of Marriage: Couples Renew Vows on St. John

by Lynda Lohr


Feb. 14, 2008 -- As they have for several years running, St. John snowbirds John and Barbara Achzet took top honors for being married the longest at the sixth annual Celebration of Love Valentine's Day vow-renewal ceremony Thursday at Trunk Bay, St. John.
They have been married for 60 years. "I can't believe it myself," Barbara said.
Another St. John snowbird couple, Nan and Bob Barlow, are right behind the Achzets: They've celebrated 57 wedding anniversaries. Wearing a Mayan wedding dress she bought on a trip to the Yucatan back in 1972, Barbara said she wouldn't know what to do without her husband by her side.

A record 95 couples attended the sunset ceremony, said organizer Cathy Dove. That represented about 1,900 years of marriage. Non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter led the couples in renewing their wedding vows. "Every moment of your lives brought you to this one," she said, as John waggled his eyebrows at Barbara.

The Achzets attended the ceremony with Webster, N.Y., residents Pat and Ron Seitz. They've been married 50 years. When asked why he stayed with his wife all these years, Ron Seitz said, "Well look at her -- who'd leave her?" Laughing, he added, "And she isn't even rich." They have a lot of fun together, Pat said.

Others offered more serious answers. "I want to reassure Mary that I do love her and am committed to her," said Gary Crain of Muskegon, Mich., who has been married 15 years. Mary has everything figured out, he said, but he's still trying to learn. The Seitzes are vacationing at Best Western Emerald Beach Resort on St. Thomas.
Another vacationing couple, Jo and Frank Fachman of Minneapolis, got married 14 years ago on St. Thomas.
"We're here to remind ourselves," Frank Fachman said. Carolyn and Rich Sells of Richmond, Va., got married on Valentine's Day two years ago. After a morning wedding on St. John, they attended the vow-renewal ceremony in their wedding finery. They weren't quite as dressed up for this year's ceremony, but the feelings were still the same.
"We keep renewing our vows to recapture that feeling of getting married here," Carolyn said. "It's an excellent memory." Joe and Pam Hudka of Lakeside-Marblehead, Ohio, are on St. John for the winter. Married for 39 years, the two said they thought renewing their vows would be a fun thing to do.

While the ceremony brought out lots of vacationers, many local residents also renewed their vows.
"I share such a deep love for my husband," said St. Thomas resident Judith Savage. She had her husband, Walter, have been married 30 years, Walter. "I thought this moment was right to express my love."




St John Sun Times, Feb 28, '08

Valentine’s Day is always extra-special on St. John, with couples flocking to Trunk Bay at sunset to renew their vows in the annual ceremony. Presided over by St. John’s own “Barefoot Minister,” Anne Marie Porter, this year’s ceremony was a beautiful reminder of why marriage is still a valued institution. Many couples return every year to gaze into one another’s eyes and remember why they’re still together and in love.



Monday, 18 February 2008
Written by Andrea Milam  
Used with permission by Tradewinds Publishing

Nearly 100 Couples Say “I Do” Again at Vow Renewal Ceremony Feb 14, '08

Couples renew their commitment to one another at the Valentine’s Day vow renewal at Trunk Bay beach. Photo by Andrea Milam.

Ninety-five couples representing 2,065 years of marriage renewed their vows to one another at the idyllic setting of Trunk Bay beach on Valentine’s Day as the sun dipped into the sky below Peace Hill.

The Thursday evening, February 14, sixth annual vow renewal ceremony organized by Bill and Cathy Dove and conducted by St. John’s barefoot minister Anne Marie Porter, drew a record number of couples — including Barbara and John Achzet, who will celebrate their 60th year of marriage this year. The Achzets are regulars at the yearly vow renewal ceremony.

“It’s good for young people to see us oldies hang in there for a while,” said Barbara Achzet.
“Life is too short to be unhappy,” added John Achzet. “I can’t imagine being with anybody else. We just consider ourselves blessed.” A “yes dear” mentality has helped the couple persevere through good times and bad, John Achzet added. “Doing What Comes Naturally”

Echoing that advice was Bob Barlow, who’s been married to his wife Nan Barlow for 57 years. The couple has renewed their vows five times at the annual Valentine’s Day ceremony. “‘Yes dear’ is good advice,” said Bob Barlow. “We enjoy the ceremony because it’s very romantic, and it brings back a lot of memories.” “We just wouldn’t want to miss it,” added Nan Barlow, who credited the couple’s 57 years of happiness to “doing what comes naturally.”

Newlyweds were also on hand at the ceremony, including Rich and Carolyn Sells of Richmond, Virginia. The couple, who renewed their vows just hours after their wedding in 2006, celebrated their two-year anniversary at the ceremony. “If we keep renewing our vows, we know we’ll stay married,” said Carolyn Sells. “It helps us capture that feeling again.” The first two years of marriage have been “excellent” for the couple, Rich Sells added.

Couples gathered on the beach as Cathy Dove, who herself has been married to husband Bill Dove for 35 years, opened the ceremony. “Marriage is a work in progress,” said Cathy Dove. “There never seems to be enough time, or enough days in the year to say I love you.” Dove urged couples to share their feelings of love openly and often, as one is never guaranteed their loved ones will be around tomorrow.

Local singer Shikima Jones then sang “What a Wonderful World,” encouraging the crowd to join in singing with her.

Porter lightened the mood as she addressed the couples before the renewal of vows began.
“Today when you say ‘I do,’ it’s with a lot more information than the first time,” said Porter. “You know yourselves so much more deeply than you did years ago when you had the hopefulness and courage to say ‘I do.’ Every moment of your relationship has prepared you for this one.” Porter urged couples to let go of past hurt and resentment. The couples gazed into one another’s eyes with their hands placed on each other’s hearts as they renewed their commitment to one another.

The couples then walked to the sea to ponder their future together, and some celebrated with champagne. Couples were given a rose and a vow renewal certificate at the culmination of the ceremony.



2007

St John Sun Times, Feb 21, '07

 

Many and heartful thanks to Anne Marie Porter who officiated at the Renewal of Wedding Vows at Trunk Bay on Valentines Day: Anne Marie, you exude love, and everyone who comes within your aura is filled with grace.

-Anonymous



Written by Jaime Elliott
Monday, 19 February 2007
Used with permission by Tradewinds Publishing

2,299 Years of Marriage Celebrated on Trunk Bay Valentine's Day 2007

"I Do..Again"

Love City couples like Mollie and Dave Keuten, above, professed their continued commitment to each other and said "I do... again" at the fifth annual vow renewal ceremony.

The afternoon sun cast a shower of golden rays, the crystal-clear Caribbean sea kissed the shoreline and 77 couples gazed into each other's eyes.

Love City was true to its name on Valentine's Day, February 14, as couples with a combined 2,299 years of marriage renewed their wedding vows on the white sand beach of Trunk Bay.

Now a St. John tradition, the Celebration of Love, was the brainchild of both Cathy Dove and the "Barefoot Minister" Anne Marie Porter, who held the first vow renewal ceremony five years ago.

It's just so heart-filled and joyful to see how many people honor their relationships, said Porter. No one takes Valentine's Day more to the heart as Virgin Islanders. In no town I've ever been to do you know it's Valentine's Day like you do here.

More Than Chocolate
The vow renewal ceremony is the opportunity to delve deeper into the meaning of the holiday, Porter explained.

"This takes it deeper than flowers and chocolate," she said. "It's truthfully about honoring your partner."

Knowing the fragility of life makes the wedding union even more special, explained Dove.

"I was recently shown just how fragile life is," Dove said. "Make sure the sun doesn't go down on your anger and that all those around you know you love them. You can be gone in a second and it doesn't matter if your 20 or 70."

Newlyweds to Silver Anniversary
From newlyweds to couples celebrating almost 60 years of marriage, the Celebration of Love attracted a wide range of residents and visitors.

John and Barbara Achzet were still the reigning king and queen of the day, with 59 years of marriage under their belts and counting.

The couple, who have been at every vow renewal ceremony, changed things up this year by dressing more casually.

"I'm not in my long dress this year," said Barbara Achzet, who wore a matching white and red skirt ensemble. "I'm saving it for next year for our 60th anniversary, God willing."

Married for 59 years,so far,Barbara and John Achzet renewed their vows for the fifth time and looked forward to next year. 

Yes Dear
John Achzet, on the other hand wore a T-shirt printed with the saying "Yes Dear" which was the secret to the couple's long marriage, he explained.

"That and she's a keeper," John Achzet said about his wife.

Mollie and Dave Keuten, who were wed a year and a half ago in Michigan, had a different reason for attending the ceremony.

"We always wanted a beach wedding with Anne Marie and we're moving back to Michigan in a few weeks," said Mollie Keuten. "We figured this was our chance."

The day was extra-special for Jim and Bonnie Michaels from Harvey's Lake, PA, who were celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary.

"We got married on Valentine's Day and honeymooned on St. John," said Bonnie Michaels. "We just had to come back."

Couples gazed into the Caribbean sea as the Rev. Anne Marie Porter offered an island blessing after the vow renewal ceremony.

Keeping It Simple

For Saffia and Don Durante the reason was simple.

We're here because love is grand, said Don Durante.

The couples placed their hands over each other's hearts and pledged their commitment to each other while asking for forgiveness.

I give thanks for this present moment and I am grateful for you, the couples repeated after Porter. Please forgive me for any hurt I've caused as I give you my full forgiveness.

Porter then led the couples in the renewal of their vows.
With this ring I wed you anew and with all that I am, the couples repeated after the Barefoot Minister.

After Porter bestowed an island blessing, each bride was given a long-stemmed rose as the couples walked off the beach to the sound of Michael Banzhaf on flute. Back to the top


2006

St. John Sun Times
St John Sun Times, Feb 8, 2006

Vow Renewal at Trunk Bay; Feb 14!
The love couple who started it all!

We are always excited about the Valentine’s Day Marriage Vow Renewal at Trunk Bay. If you are married, consider coming to Trunk Bay for this free celebration of love, led by St. John’s lovely Anne Marie Porter.

We love this love event, because it is a St. John creation, and so clearly a product of the spirit of Love City at its best.

This year, we decided to see how preparations were going, so we dropped by to see Kathy Dove, co-founder with Anne Marie of the event, at the Book-It VI office in the Lumberyard.

Cathy was working in the back with her husband, Bill and daughter, Christy, and their two dogs, Lilly and Mandy. She said she was hoping for a great turnout this year at Trunk Bay on Valentine’s Day, and that now, in the event’s fourth year, the organization for the event went pretty smoothly. Cathy said the whole ceremony always fills her with a sense of hope. “When we started this four years ago we had no idea how many people would show up, how many people would come and take part,” said Cathy. “I like the fact that Anne Marie (the famous Minister) always talks about forgiveness. In a marriage, people are bound to do things that hurt their partner, and Anne Marie speaks of letting go of that, and returning to the original bond.” Cathy met her own love, Bill, while running for president of the senior class at Penn State. She became friends with him, and one day left her number on a list of girl’s numbers she found on the wall of his student apartment. When Bill was looking for a date one weekend, there was Cathy’s number at the top of the list. Bill called, the two went out on a date, and then, “the next night I told him I loved him...”

They were engaged, but then something went awry, and they only saw each other three times over the next four years. Then one year when Bill went home for Christmas his mother said, “There is a Christmas card from Kathy. She’s in Hawaii.” Bill called, and the two spent $2,000 on phone calls until Cathy said, “I’m coming to Peoria. We’re going to see if this works.” They were engaged again two weeks later. “People thought we were out of our minds. But we were both grown up now and knew what we wanted,” said Cathy. “And we’ve been married ever since. Bill always backs me. He has that deep caring that supports a marriage. And that deep caring is what we celebrate at Trunk Bay on Valentine’s Day.”

And it was on Cathy and Bill’s thirtieth anniversary, four year’s ago, that a visiting Catholic priest named Father Paul said to Cathy, “You should renew your vows.” “I was sitting with Anne Marie (the minister) at Chilly Billy’s, and she said ‘you should do it and share it with the whole island...”

That first year there were 72 couples.
Surprise your partner. Suggest a trip to Trunk on Valentine’s Day.
It is fun, free, relaxed and a beautiful way to reaffirm your love bond called marriage.


Monday, 20 February 2006
Written by  Andrea Milam
Used with permission by Tradewinds Publishing

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.

I'ts not only a renewal for these couples, she said. It is 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.” Back to the top


2005
52 Couples Renew Vows on Valentines Day

by Lynda Lohr

Sue and Hank Frederickson

   Feb. 14, 2005 –– Married anywhere from nine days to 57 and a half years, 52 couples with a total of 1,206 years, seven months and nine days of wedded bliss among them renewed their vows Monday at the third annual Valentine's Day Vow Renewal Ceremony.
   It was planned for Trunk Bay Beach, St. John, but drizzling skies forced organizers Cathy Dove and Anne Marie Porter to move inland a hundred feet to the beach's pavilion.
   "Rain on a wedding day is a sign of good luck, and for you young couples, a sign of fertility," Porter said as she began the ceremony.
   Kerry and Matt Green, married nine days and honeymooning on St. John from their home in Columbus, Ohio, tallied the shortest time married. Kerry Green said renewing their vows was a good way to "memorialize" their honeymoon.
   She said she was going to solicit advice from those married longer.
   The couple could start with John and Barbara Achzet, married 57 and a half years. This made them the longest-married couple at the ceremony. The part-time St. John couple were one of a handful who attended the event three years running.
   John Achzet said laughing together was the key to their success.
   "And we never had any children to quibble over," Barbara Achzet added.
   Noting that they've seen couples get divorced even at their age, Barbara Achzet laughed when she said that neither one of them "had time to train a new one." She is 76 and her husband, 77.
   Dove also had advice for all the couples attending.
   "The key is work. It's not easy to live with another person," she said.
   While many of the couples who attended live on St. John, the event also attracts tourists who time their vacation for the vow renewal ceremony.
   Cincinnati residents Diane and Reed Shank, married eight years, said they just happened to be on St. John last year for Valentine's Day, but specifically came this year for the ceremony.
   "It reminds us once a year why we stay together and why we gave up the grudge list," Diane Shank said.
Leighton Mears, visiting St. John from Stoneybrook, N.Y. with his wife of 15 years, Mimi, said renewing their vows seemed like a wonderful thing to do on Valentine's Day. No stress. Not like the first time around," he said.
 St. John resident Sue Frederickson said she and her husband of 46 years, Hank, decided to renew their vows because Dove urged them to.
"Just in case the first one wasn't legitimate," Hank Frederickson said, laughing.
Sue Frederickson said the couple was heading out to Ten Tables, a Cruz Bay restaurant, to celebrate after the ceremony was over.
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Anne Marie Porter
5000 ESTATE ENIGHED, PMB #7
ST. JOHN VI 00830
Toll free 888-676-5701 or 340-626-4658

annemarieweddings@gmail.com

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