SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Savannah Valentine’s Day tradition will continue Sunday as couples renew their wedding vows in a ceremony that could be bigger than ever before.
Reverend Billy Hester from Asbury Memorial Church and his wife Cheri have been leading a Valentine’s Day renewal ceremony at City Market for more than 25 years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the church to move the event online, but it may turn out to be an even greater blessing.
“We’re getting the opportunity to have this experience be shared by a lot more couples,” Rev. Hester said.
The free ceremony will be held live on Zoom at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 14. Hester says the ceremony usually draws between 50 and 60 couples every year in person, but holding the virtual ceremony will allow couples to join from all over the world.
The Hester’s have noticed couples from outside Savannah who make the trip to the Hostess City each year to take part.
“I think that a lot of the couples that come return,” Cheri said. “Once they’ve come they’re like, oh, this is such a beautiful tradition to have and so it just keeps growing every year.”
The vow renewal ceremony carries extra significance to Steve and Laurie Piscitelli. They’ve been traveling to Savannah from the Jacksonville area for years.
“Our anniversary happens to be on Valentine’s Day,” Steve Piscitelli said. “We were up there one anniversary and we went to City Market and sure enough, here’s this event. We just decided we’d keep coming back, and I guess we’ve been there about 20 different years with this.”
Reverend Hester says the vows aren’t meant to be exactly like the wedding vows but their importance can’t be understated.
“These vows aren’t any less significant than the ones they first took on their wedding day,” Rev. Hester said. “Perhaps they’re even more significant because now you know what it means to be married to this person through the ups and downs of a marriage.”
The ceremony Sunday will also be the first since Asbury Memorial Church disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church in support of LGBTQ rights. Hester says he’ll be able to lead the ceremony for some couples he wasn’t allowed to marry under the church laws.
If you’d like to participate in the ceremony, you can join the Zoom meeting by clicking here.