"Come with me and be my love" - C. Marlowe
On June 3rd 2022, Diane and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary. It is a milestone only a small percentage of couples are lucky enough to achieve and one we are incredibly happy to have experienced.
On June 4, 2022 we commemorated this event with a rededication ceremony in The Villages, Florida. We didn't want gifts, we didn't expect people to travel long distances to participate, but we did want everyone to share in the joy of this event with us. That what this webpage is about.
Fifty years together is an incredible journey. Thanks for celebrating this wonderful milestone along with us!
AMTHEM - HALF CENTURY
We began as newlyweds
Unsure what our life would be.
We couldn’t even imagine,
Half a century.
We never rested
On our courtship’s glory.
Instead, we spent our days
Growing our love story.
We raised a daughter,
Paid our bills.
Shared life’s adventures,
Life tested us sometimes harshly
But we still made it through.
You loved and supported me,
I loved and supported you.
Our days together became
Weeks, months, then years.
We survived decades of
Life's challenges, tears, fears.
It’s hard to believe that
Fifty years have passed.
It’s a lifetime ago,
Yet it’s flown by fast.
My life’s been a wonderous adventure.
But its greatest joy is easy to see.
It’s having you as my partner,
Best friend, lover for half a century.
We had our party at the beautiful Fenney Center in The Villages
On the day of our anniversary party, Bill Mitchell, the Associate Managing Editor of Photography for the Daily Sun Newspaper came to take a picture of our event. Truthfully, Bill was only there because our friend and presiding official, Joe Elliott, was a big wig in local politics. Joe said he had been having coffee one morning with the publisher of the Daily Sun and had asked him cover our event. Bill took a series of photos that day but only one actually appeared in the paper. Nearly a year later, in March of 2023, I was being interviewed by The Daily Sun in my role as President of the Writers League of The Villages. The photographer who showed up to take pictures was Bill Mitchell. We recognized each other and I asked him what had happened to the other pictures he had taken at our anniversary party, He said he would send them to me. A day or two later these four wonderful pictures appeared in my inbox.
In planning our rededication ceremony, we knew for sure what we didn't want. We had been to way too many events at this stage of our lives where you ate and then were subjected to some "it's all about me" DJ blasting music we had no interest in at ear drum bursting volumes that made it impossible to talk or even think. Maybe twice an hour there would be a slow dance that would draw us and other couples like us out onto to the dance floor. But that was it.
The rest of the time 3% or less of the people attending would be out on the dance floor while the other 97% of us sat angry and frustrated at our tables because we had to yell to carry on even the most rudimentary conversation with the person sitting next to us. This approach probably works for drunken, drugged out twenty-year olds on spring break, but it's boring, boring, boring in the extreme for people like Diane and me. We were certainly not going to subject ourselves and our friends to that nonsense.
So, if no DJ, what do you do at an event like this after the eating is over? Diane and I are incredibly blessed to have wonderfully talented friends and family members. The majority of attendees were published authors, presidents of highly successful Villages clubs, people who regularly do public speaking, and people who had started businesses or held executive management positions in corporations during their working lives. In other words, this was a very intellectual, very accomplished, very thoughtful group of people. We asked our daughter Erin and four of our friends to give an "up to five minute" reflection on their sense of what it what it meant for a couple like Diane and me to reach the milestone of being married 50 years. It was fantastic!
Our daughter Erin had us all laughing and made us proud. Our brother-in-law Dan Christian (Diane's sister Deb's husband) presented an erudite, sermon-quality mini talk on the significance of marriage in a Christian and biblical context. Our friend Doug Hughes reflected on the philosophic implications of two people dedicating their lives to each other. Our friend Bona Hayes did an eclectic presentation centered around a 'survival kit" for a long marriage that included things like advice to live by from Winnie the Poo: "If you live to be a 100, I want to live to be a 100 minus one day so I never have to live without you." Our friend Rita Boehm read and gave us a framed copy of a 50th anniversary poem by Genie Graveline that still hangs proudly in our home today.
Before the reflections on what it meant to be married 50 years, the speeches started off with the Best Man's toast. Our best man was Tom Kennedy. Tom and I were best friends in boy scouts and in high school. He was best man when Diane and I were married back in 1972. I was his best man at his first wedding and when he married his current wife, Chris. We visited with Tom and Chris in 2021 when we were on our big cross country RV trip. We told them of our plans for celebrating our anniversary. Tom agreed to reprise his role as our Best Man. He and Chris drove down from my former home town of Silver Creek in Western New York state to attend the event. Then, they stayed with us several days and the four of us just enjoyed hanging out in The Villages. Tom's toast talked about how long we had been friends and how happy he and Chris were that we had been able to make it all the way to 50 years together. It was wonderful to have Tom and Chris share this moment with us.
Finally, we will forever be grateful to Joe Elliot, our good friend who served as the presiding official. Joe led the entire event including performing the actual exchange of vows and rings. Throughout, he was substantive and authoritative with just the right amount of humor and devilishness mixed in. The audience loved him and we did too. It was a major task to take on and he delivered the program at a high level of professionalism and success.
Hearing talented, intelligent, articulate people reflect on the significance of our reaching 50 years of marriage was a memorable experience for us and everyone who attended. You can see snippets of Joe performing as presiding official and the individual presenters in the video on this webpage. We are grateful to everyone who attended this wonderful rededication ceremony especially our family members and friends who shared their, humor, wisdom, and talent with the rest of us!
Our Brother in Law, Dan Christian
Diane's sister, Deb Christian, is an artist. She offered to provide the centerpieces for the tables at our anniversary party. Together we explored many options. The pre-made centerpieces available to buy were either over the top or outright tacky. Flowers were nice but not really personal or unique to Diane and me as a couple.
Finally, I asked Deb for ideas about how we might use quotations from the poems that I had written to Diane as the basis for the centerpieces. Deb came up with a beautiful concept of creating tent cards with quotations on either side highlighted with battery twinkle lights as the basis for the centerpieces. I selected the quotations and produced the artwork for the centerpieces. They featured the same graphic "branding" that we used on all of the signage and the visual images projected on the front screen throughout the event. Each side of the tent cards had a different quotation.
The result was elegant, simple, and one-a-of kind uniquely personal. We weren't duplicating quotes from greeting cards or someone else's literature. We were sharing thoughts and feelings with our guests that came directly from our actual experience. As you walked from table to table you saw the story of our life together and all that it meant to us to be together for 50 years. These poems are all captured in my book of poetry Sunset Years: Poems for Seniors Who Still Love Life and Each Other. It was published on Amazon in December 2022. The next section shows the artwork that appeared on the table centerpieces.
We held the party in the afternoon on Saturday June 4th the day after our 50th anniversary.
We had a sheet of "Fun Facts" at every table.
We kept the party small. Many of the guests were friends from the Writers League of The Villages and Frank's Villagers clubs
The original plan was a party of 50 people to celebrate our 50 years. Alas, a few folks like our friends the Sasmor's got waylaid by COVID and couldn't make the event
We used the EVITE app to send invites and track attendees. It made things a lot easier.
Mangia! You're too thin! La Hacienda Catering provided food and beverages for the event. They put out a nine foot charcuterie board that was fantastic. They kept the food coming throughout the party. No one left hungry.
The room was organized with the head table and guest tables all facing an 8'x10' screen at the front of the room. Throughout the event, a slideshow explained what was going on, who was speaking, and provided a visual backdrop for whatever was underway. This is what you would have seen from the audience.
I developed a comprehensive recommitment ceremony script for Joe to use as a starting point for acting as presiding official. He added his own touch to the proceedings and a lot of humor and personality. However, as you read this script you are hearing the ceremony with about 90% fidelity. This document gives you a very good feel for how the ceremony sounded and flowed.
Joe Elliott, Wildwood City Commissioner, and a dear friend was our presiding official
We held a rehearsal on Friday night at the Fenney Rec Center. Our daughter Erin, Deb and Dan Christian, and Tom and Chris Kennedy all came into town early so they could participate. They joined the rest of us and our friends Dan Sprague and Joanie Palmer, and Karen and Mike Forino along with Joe Elliot. After the rehearsal, we all went to a wonderful rehearsal dinner at Wolfgang Puck's at the Brownwood Hotel. The dinner was special because the 3rd was our actual 50th anniversary and we were able to spend that evening with family and friends.
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