From Vow Renewal Witnesses on a Hawaiian Cruise, to Friends

A couple renewing their vows
A couple renewing their vows

When I married Jim, we had to hunt around city hall to find a clerk to witness it. Fifty years later, it must have been that lingering memory that provoked me to volunteer my husband and me as witnesses at the vow renewal of two complete strangers.

We were having lunch with a few couples, when Drena and Robert Douglass asked if they could join the table. It was a few days into a 15-day cruise to Hawaii. Drena said she and Bob would be renewing their vows for their 47th anniversary, but alas, they had no one to witness it.

The thought of this happy occasion not being shared with a few friendly faces resonated with me. So, in a moment thoroughly out of character with my usually quite reserved personality, I volunteered my speechless husband and myself to stand alongside them at their vow renewal. I could feel Jim’s eyes boring into me, but it was too late. The Douglasses happily accepted the offer.

That evening, Jim put on his dinner jacket while I donned a nice dress. We watched the captain recite the traditional wedding vows and saw how happy Drena and Bob were to pledge anew their love.

Champagne was enjoyed by all and then we went on to dinner. Drena and Bob joined our table for the remainder of the journey and over the next 12 days, we bonded.

Over dinner, we discovered what we had in common and what made us tick individually. Jim and Drena actually used to work at the same defense contractor at one point, when the Douglasses lived in the Los Angeles area like us. Of course, we all love to travel.

Drena is more outgoing, more of a free spirit than I, but we got along great. She is a shopper and likes to spend her time browsing through the shopping onboard the cruise ships, while I am more apt to spend my days on a cozy deck chair, reading a book, or playing Trivial Pursuit.

Every lunch, we’d get together. We’d catch a show in the evening and then head to dinner. By the time the cruise ended, we were close friends.

Over the years, we’ve kept in touch. When Drena told me they were taking another Hawaiian cruise with Princess Cruises in February to escape the cold Indiana winter, Jim and I made the snap decision to join them.

Meanwhile, now in our 55th year of marriage, Jim and I decided to renew our vows during a Princess Alaska cruise this summer. When Drena and Bob heard about our plans, they booked the cruise so they could be our witnesses.

I think back to our wedding, when Jim and I, both living in Germany, traveled to Zurich to get married. It was a freezing morning that day, so cold that I was more concerned about how warm my clothes were than wearing a long, white gown. Our ceremony was scheduled for 8 a.m. We’d brought a friend with us, but last minute were told we needed a second witness, which had us dashing around, trying to find a stranger to step in that chilly morning.

Fifty-five years later, our vow renewal will be quite different. While I won’t be in a white dress, it’ll be at a comfortable hour. And I am excited to say that Jim and I will toast our past and bless our future in front of our son and daughter-in-law, and our good friends, Drena and Bob.

Doris and her husband, Jim, like living in Southern California, but have always loved to travel or probably would not have met each other in Europe many years ago.