Meant to Last: Local couple celebrates 50 years of marriage with a vow renewal celebration

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Posted October 1, 2021 | By Beth Whitehead


At 9 a.m. the morning of August 29, Belinda Atherton arrived at the hair salon. The hairdresser was instructed to primp those brown and gray waves into a style befitting a bride. Belinda wasn’t a new bride that day — she was a bride of 50 faithful, though some painful, years. Thanks to Wish Upon a Wedding and the generosity of local vendors, Belinda and her husband Michael renewed their vows last month at a beautiful and entirely donated ceremony.

Wish Upon a Wedding is a nonprofit organization that coordinates weddings and vow renewals for couples who have faced serious illnesses or life altering circumstances. The couples receive a celebration completely donated by the local vendors in their community.

When Belinda saw the email saying they had been chosen, the exhilaration darted up through her fingertips and she hurried to tell Michael the good news that Wish Upon a Wedding had granted them a vow renewal.

“That was a fun morning,” Belinda said. “I had to wake Mike up and drag him out here to show him.”

Belinda has Lewy body dementia, a progressive form of dementia often resulting in hallucinations, memory loss, and loss of certain movement control, and Michael has had to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach due to the effects of his cancer treatment decades prior.

“She’s always been there for me no matter what,” Michael said, “and when I say a prayer every day, I always ask God to help me to help her and help her to help me.”

Renewing their vows was to Belinda and Michael almost a sacred thing. When they gave their vows that day back in 1971 at the tender ages of 17 and 19, it wasn’t just to each other — it was before God and family.

At 1 p.m. on the afternoon of August 29, the couple exchanged vows for the second time, with 50 years of life behind them — 50 years of mornings to wake up and whisper, I love you, Dear.”

Then they took pictures and danced. And danced and danced and danced.

“That’s my favorite thing to do at weddings,” Belinda said, “so I got to dance with my grandchildren that were there — the boys — and my husband, and I can’t ask for better than that.”

Penny Baird from Blessed Magnolia Event Planning who planned the Atherton’s vow renewal rejoiced at the opportunity to help in the sweet celebration.

“They were just in awe of each other,” she said. “It was always the little things, it was just that they could look at each other and know almost what the other was thinking.”

With 50 years comes knowing the person you married, but with it also comes a sense of sacrifice.

“You are standing there for the other person no matter what,” Belinda said, “because that’s your spouse, that’s your God-given spouse.”

When Belinda and Michael said “Until death do us part” in 1971, they meant it, and despite the intense health struggles both have endured, they have been at each other’s side through it all.

“Belinda’s still the same person I fell in love with,” Michael said. “I’m just blessed, I don’t know what to say.”

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