This year's National Marriage Week is being held from 7 to 14 February. Last year one and a half million people attended a Marriage Week event worldwide and the Big Promise adds a slightly new twist to the more recognisable marriage courses, marriage check-ups, Valentine suppers with after dinner speakers, communication workshops and other events held during the week.
The Big Promise is National Marriage Week's World Record attempt to get the most couples renewing their vows simultaneously. Calling it the BIG Promise, because marriage vows are the most long-term and far-reaching promise people ever make, the organisers are co-ordinating every venue that wishes to take part in this record attempt. It will be taking place on Saturday 8 February at 5.15pm.
The reason behind this? "More than 2/3 of families are headed by a married couple, and we want to draw attention to the tremendous work done by this silent majority," they explain. "Setting a world record is a practical and tangible way of getting the press to notice and report on the importance of marriage vows at the heart of society – it's a means to an end, not the end itself."
One couple celebrating 50 years of marriage together on the day of the Big Promise are Tom and Doreen Shaw from Sheffield. Taking part in the record attempt they will join with their friends, community and family to reaffirm their vows on their golden wedding anniversary at The Rock Christian Centre in Sheffield.
Says Doreen: "We started out with nothing but our marriage wasn't built on what we had, rather on who we were. Marriage has made us better people I hope. We are so excited to celebrate 50 years together on the same day as the Big Promise."
Now in its 18th year, Marriage Week's aim is to celebrate marriage, pointing out the benefits to society, media and governments and it is celebrated in countries right around the world. It has always attracted the support and attention of political, religious and media figures.
Then Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair both launched and endorsed the week from Downing Street in 1997 and 1998 respectively while in 2007 it was launched in the Palace of Westminster with Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, and Iain Duncan Smith.
Marriage Week went international in 2008, and in 2011 the Mayor of Hainichen, Germany announced that: "Since Marriage Week has come to Hainichen the divorce rate has dropped and the marriage rate increased."
Founded by Richard and Maria Kane, Marriage Week has always been a collaborative project and has the backing of many Christian organisations, including CARE, Care for the Family, The Marriage Course, the Evangelical Alliance and CWR. A huge emphasis is given to local events, which is where churches really come into their own running and hosting these and offering support and advice where necessary.
The week also provides churches with opportunities to engage and celebrate with their communities, and to launch other marriage resources and events off the back of it.
During Marriage Week 2013 there was a formal launch of the Big Promise in the Houses of Parliament with a range of speakers headed by Baroness Ruth Deech.
Lyndon Bowring, Executive Chairman of CARE has this to say about Marriage Week's new initiative for 2014: "What a fantastic opportunity to celebrate marriage. Celia and I celebrate our 40th anniversary this year and look back over the times of joy and pain with gratitude to God for the unique stability and security marriage provides. We will be reaffirming our vows at a Big Promise event on Saturday February 8 and look forward to breaking the world record.'
So, for a final word on the Big Promise from Richard Kane: "Marriage Week is always finding new ways to encourage couples in their marriages. The Big Promise will allow the whole nation to stand up and celebrate the value of marriage both to the couples taking part, and to society as a whole."
If you wish to take part in the Big Promise, click here to find your nearest venue here