Rev. Anne Marie Porter address the nearly 100 couples at Trunk Bay during sunset.
As the sun dipped low in the sky and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean lapped at Trunk Bay’s powder white sand, an estimated record crowd of couples renewed their commitment to one another on Valentine’s Day at the eighth annual vow renewal ceremony conducted by Love City minister Anne Marie Porter.
The nearly 100 couples — married for anywhere from one day to 62 years — hailed from St. John, St. Thomas and the U.S.
St. John residents Paul and Heather Crutchley, who recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary, came to renew their vows for the first time.
“We read it in the newspaper and we decided to give it a shot,” said Heather Crutchley, who arranged to take off work for the 5 p.m. ceremony.
Marc and Laurel Bigrigg, also St. John residents, attended the ceremony in an effort to look forward to better days after having a tough year.
Tampa residents George and Debi Corcoran decided to attend the ceremony after reading about it in the St. John Tradewinds. The couple first met during their senior year of high school, but would not realize their true love until nearly two decades later.
“She transferred into my government class senior year,” said George Corcoran. “She was the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life.”
At the age of 21, George told Debi he would marry her one day. Sixteen years later found the couple living at opposite ends of the country – she, in Seattle, and he, in Florida. Neither had married during their time apart.
“I asked her to come for a visit, and boom,” said George Corcoran.
The couple has now been married for seven years. Although a tally of the couples was not taken, as has been custom in the past, the approximately 100 couples who attended the vow renewal are a testament to marriage, explained ceremony organizer Cathy Dove.
Cathy and Billy Dove
“Today is not about how many people are here, but about the people who are here to renew their commitment,” said Dove. “Marriage is hard work, and it’s not roses every day of the year. Renewing your vows really can make a difference.”
One of the reasons for the annual ceremony is to provide inspiration to young people, and to show them that there are still people committed to the sanctity of marriage.
“I want your ‘I do’ to be heard by the whole St. John community,” said Porter, who conducted the ceremony. “Visitors, I want you to make sure your home town hears your ‘I do.’”
Barbara and John Achzet, who have been married for 62 years, cited inspiring local youth as one of the reasons they attend the vow renewal ceremony each year.
“It’s a lot of give and take,” said Barbara Achzet of their long, successful marriage. “It’s never easy. People today don’t give enough effort.”
For Yvonne and Harry Freeman, who made the trek from St. Thomas for the ceremony, renewing their vows is about remembering the reason they chose to marry one another 21 years ago.
“It gives us the opportunity to remember why we did this in the first place,” said Yvonne Freeman. “It gives us strength to see how many couples still believe in marriage.”
Porter asked the couples during the ceremony to let go of past hurts and resentments, and to keep sharing their love for one another openly.
Couples were serenaded by Shikima Jones, who sang selections including “What a Wonderful World,” and “From This Moment On,” and by Michael Banzhaf, who played the flute. Everyone involved in the ceremony, from the musicians to the taxi drivers who brought people to Trunk Bay, volunteered their services.