When Susan Breslow and Geri Bain, two writers with extensive backgrounds in romance travel, discerned a rising interest in couples renewing their vows, they saw a market that needed to be addressed. “Vow renewals are different from weddings in many ways, yet there was very little planning guidance available,” says Bain.
Together, Breslow, editor of the award-winning honeymoons site at About.com (now TripSavvy) and originator of New York magazine’s Weddings issue, and Bain, a former editor at Travel Agent who was also travel editor at Modern Bride for 12 years, wrote “The Complete Guide to Vow Renewals” as a way to walk couples through every aspect of planning such events.
“In the past few years, we’ve been noticing growing numbers of couples renewing their vows — often accompanied by children, grandchildren, extended family and friends,” says Bain. “Surprisingly, most renew their vows without much forethought, despite the fact that vow renewals can be as expensive and elaborate as weddings.”
We reached out to the authors who provided tips on how travel advisors can best tap into this growing market.
Suggest a Vow Renewal: “I see the destination vow renewal market at the stage that destination weddings were a generation ago when engaged couples in every economic stratum were just starting to recognize the romance and advantages,” says Bain. “At that time, I often advised travel agents to suggest getting married away to couples who came to them for honeymoon planning. Similarly, these days, making the suggestion to renew vows could convert an anniversary trip for two into a destination vow renewal for 20 guests or more.”
Recognize the Opportunity: Increasing numbers of resorts and cruise lines appear to be offering vow renewal packages. Some lines and all-inclusives are doing hundreds of vow renewals a year with zero promotion, and in many cases, with no specific packages geared to this option.
Bain recently returned from a trip to Budapest, where, she says, “Aria Hotel Budapest by LHC and Four Seasons Budapest Gresham Palace are each hosting several U.S. vow renewals a year — business that is coming to them with no outreach at all. The idea of renewing vows is coming of age through demand. However, increasingly, I’m seeing suppliers catering to the concept, and in the case of AmaWaterways and Aruba, even promoting it.”
Get Positioned for Success: Include wedding date, complete with year, in your clients’ records so you can suggest vow renewals at milestone anniversaries. Learn which destinations and suppliers offer the best vow renewal programs and what special touches can be added. Breslow and Bain’s website, www.ourvowrenewal.com, offers a starting point to learn about key destination, cruise and hotel offerings.
Know the Rules and Regulations: There are none. Unlike weddings, there are no legal requirements for vow renewals. This is one reason why destination vow renewals have been steadily growing in popularity. Couples can even renew their “I do’s” without an officiant. This leaves a lot of room for personalization. “The Complete Guide to Vow Renewals” has sections on writing your own vows, choosing an officiant, and religious considerations.
Get Creative: Also highlighted in the book, the décor, ceremony and guest list can reflect the life the couple has built together. There are many suggestions that travel agents can share with their clients. One example: Travel advisors might suggest that a couple theme a dinner party to the year they met or were married and display photo montages for each decade they’ve been together.
Broadcast Your Expertise: Add vow renewals to your specialties on your website, your business cards and your social media. When you plan a vow renewal for a couple, encourage them to share their photos and story with you. And if they are interesting stories and your clients are amenable, Bain invites you to please share them with her at [email protected] for use in consumer and / or trade press articles about vow renewals.
Promote Packages: When suppliers send you information on attractive vow renewal packages or you see a romantic spot for such an event, you can share that directly with clients who you think might be interested and include it in your newsletter, Facebook page and other social media, as well as on your website. For example, Sandals and other all-inclusive resorts and a number of cruise lines have value-laden destination vow renewal packages, while Aruba hosts a free annual group event that drew more than 500 guests last year. You can check out www.ourvowrenewal.com to find resorts and cruise lines that are great for vow renewals.
Set a Google Alert: News announcements of famous couples renewing their vows can be a way to raise the idea for clients to follow suit. What do Dolly Parton and Beyoncé have in common? They both said “I do” all over again to their respective spouses. You can set an alert for such celebrity announcements as well as for vow renewal packages.
Get Press Coverage: Ask couples if they’d like the reaffirming of their marital commitment announced in their local newspaper. “Additionally, I’m always looking for stories about vow renewals to share on social media and potentially, in interviews,” says Bain. “So if you have a great vow renewal trip, idea or photo you’d like me to retweet or share, please connect at @vowrenewalinfo on Twitter; and yourvowrenewal on Facebook or e-mail me at [email protected].”
One Agent’s Perspective
Roberta Kelleher, a travel agent with Protravel International based in New York City, whose specialties include celebration travel, has this advice for agents seeking to build their vow renewal business: “Promote them in your social media saying ‘This is a perfect place for a vow renewal.’ If you do a blog or newsletter, include the question, ‘Did you ever think about renewing your vows?’ And when planning an anniversary, ask the couple if they’d ever considered renewing their vows.”
When it comes to vow renewals, there are no set expectations and far fewer “shoulds” and preconceptions than with a wedding. Some couples know exactly the kind of ceremony they desire; others start with a vague feeling that this is something they want to do, but don’t have an actual picture in mind. This is where a travel advisor’s expertise comes in — and where “The Complete Guide to Vow Renewals” can serve as a handy tool.
Bain observes that the travel industry overall is beginning to see the potential of vow renewals. “It’s hard to put a dollar amount on it yet,” she says, “but if it’s anything like destination weddings, once the industry catches on, the response will be tremendous.”
For more tips and suggestions on vow renewals, including destination and resort recommendations, visit www.ourvowrenewal.com, which also has a link to order the guide.