PARAMUS, N.J. — As the men donned red rose boutonnieres and their wives held a miniature bouquet of white roses, four dozen senior citizen couples who were gathered outside Stew Leonard’s inside the Paramus Park Mall in a modest wedding ceremony Thursday afternoon faced each other from their seats while holding hands as they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes to renew the vows they initially exchanged more than a half-century ago to love one another for life.
Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera officiated the succinct vow renewal ceremony to the 50 area couples who were in attendance. The gourmet grocery store, which opened its first New Jersey outpost in Paramus this past September, was the first of its six other locations in New York and Connecticut that started a tradition Thursday that Stew Leonard, Sr. said he hopes will continue next year.
“Many people believe that marriage is the final step in a romantic relationship,” said LaBarbiera to the couples before he read off the vows. “As they see it, a couple meets, gets to know each other, falls in love, decides they want to go through life together, and then take the final step — marriage. Well, marriage is not meant to be the final step in a couple’s relationship. It is really just the beginning of a grand adventure that has been long and fruitful for each couple here today.”
He continued, “You have shared the joyous blessings, and yes, challenges in married life. And today, we wish to reconfirm your commitment to working together to make your marriage grow and blossom in the years to come. May this ceremony of renewing your vows you took to become a married couple on your wedding day remind you that your love, respect, trust and understanding of each other will continue to increase.”
Thursday’s celebration was Kathy and Bob Stevenson of Mahwah’s third vow renewal since tying the know 51 years ago. Their first renewal was for their 25th wedding anniversary and their second was last year after their 50-year milestone — both in church. Kathy said Bob sent her an email asking if she’d accompany him to the Stew Leonard’s ceremony, a place the couple goes for their weekly grocery-shopping, and said “yes.”
“My husband sent me an email asking if I want to be his Valentine,” she says with a laugh after the ceremony. “To come to Stew Leonard’s where we come to shop anyway. I thought he was joking.”
Bob and Kathy met on the beach in Long Island circa 1950 when she was in college and he was out of college through mutual friends. When asked what attracted the two to one another, she paused for a moment to recall that whimsical time in the sand. It was his sense of humor that drew her in.
To this day, the Stevensons takes pleasure in strolling the beach together.
Another couple, Jidin Der and Sethi Trilok of Paramus, happened to be celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary. They married on Feb. 7, 1965 in New Delhi, India’s capital city.
The couple were childhood sweethearts, and their family’s knew one another. But their connection, Sethi says, is much deeper.
“We’ve known each other in past lives,” says Sethi of his soulmate.
This wasn’t the first time the couple have renewed their vows.
“We go to other ceremonies to renew our vows,” said Sethi. “This is the first we’re doing it here.”
Jidin Der and Sethi moved to the United States in 1967. The Paramus residents are the proud parents of two grown boys and four grandchildren.
“Wherever we go, we go together,” says Jidin, adding that her and her husband have not been apart for more than three days.
During the ceremony, the couples promised to be faithful to each other, continue to cherish one another, reaffirm their love in sickness and in health for better, for worse, to forgive each other and not hold grudges, and to comfort and take refuge in good times and in bad.
After the couples sharing a sweet kiss to seal the deal of their renewal, Mayor LaBarbiera wished them health, happiness and good fortune in the future. While grabbing a glass of apple cider, which served as a “champagne toast,” couples sauntered beneath the proverbial flower bedecked arch as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played softly in the background.