'We Renewed Our Wedding Vows in All 50 U.S. States'

Bucky and I met in June of 2010 at a mixer in Sabattus, Maine where they play 50s and 60s music. He walked through the door and a friend of mine grabbed his arm, brought him over and sat him beside me. We sat and talked and then we danced and had a great time. It was really noisy that night, so we decided to meet in a park another day so that we could sit and talk. That day, Bucky explained that he was talking with a woman online too. He was torn between who to choose but he had to make a decision about which relationship to pursue.

Eventually he decided that because he and I lived an hour's drive away from each other, he was going to date this other lady because she was closer to him. I was heartbroken, but I told him I was going to a country and western dance and that if he wanted to come, he could.

He followed me to the dance and we danced and both had a fantastic time. At that point Bucky knew that I was the one he wanted to be with. We decided to start seeing each other officially and the first time we said "I love you" was in September of 2010. Bucky then proposed to me in November, 2012.

Our mutual love for travel was part of what brought us together. Bucky's dad was a TV repair man so he grew up travelling a lot over different states for his dad's job, and I travelled a lot with my family on vacations. We had talked about travelling together and I had the idea of doing something where we could travel and celebrate our love; travel to all 50 states in the U.S and renew our wedding vows at one place in each state. I didn't tell Bucky until I asked him to write his vows, so I had to make all the plans and get a wedding dress, because we were still not married yet. It all started before our actual wedding. Eventually we got married in 2013 but the first five "weddings" we did all by ourselves with a camera on a tripod.

The very first time we said our wedding vows was at Niagara Falls in New York in June 2012. Mine to him were: "You are my angel of love. Life is a journey and love makes that journey worthwhile. I give you my hand and promise my love to you as we set off on this journey across all 50 states. I will love you for the rest of my life." And his were: "I love you. I'm so grateful that we found each other. You are the perfect girl for me, I thank God for that every day and I thank you for being so good to me. For the first time in a long time, I look forward to the rest of my life. I love you, and I always will."

After New York, we said our wedding vows in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maine. In each state, before we took a picture, we faced each other and said those vows. I had one dress that I paid $350 for. I altered it to take the train off because it needed to be clean and not drag on the ground. I wore that dress, the same shoes and the same red or blue jewellery each time. I have a red heart necklace and a red ring, and a blue heart necklace and a blue ring, and in each state I alternated between the red and blue jewelry.

Bucky had a shirt with the United States flag on it; with stars on one sleeve, stripes on the other and stripes across the middle and he wore that with black pants at each of our vow renewals.

Michigan was the sixth state we planned to visit and we decided to say our vows there in a little town called Hell. I had seen the town on TV years before and it seemed like a fun place to go to, with a fun name. As the date of the trip neared, Bucky asked me if I'd like to get married in Hell for real. I said yes! Our marriage certificate says: "After all, a marriage that starts in Hell has nowhere to go but up."

Sandy and Bucky Delano married in Hell
Sandy and Bucky Delano officially married in Hell, Michigan in 2013. Sandy Delano

Our wedding day was June 19, and the chapel in Hell was so tiny it only held about 10 people. We told friends and family in Maine that we were getting married, but we didn't think anyone was coming. I was at the altar in the church when the celebrant said that she had to go out and get some witnesses from the gift shop. She came back with daughter and my grandson. It was a big shock. I found out afterwards that my daughter had planned with Bucky that she would surprise me.

The next states we renewed our vows in were Illinois and Pennsylvania, we managed to travel to 25 states in total before Bucky retired in 2017.

All our vow renewals had something individual that we loved about them. We did something a little different for each one to make it amazing. When we said our vows in Maine, we had wanted to photograph our wedding vows during a blizzard at a lighthouse. We went in the morning at 9.30am, the snow was coming in and there were 35 p/hr winds and a temperature of 9 degrees. When we got home, we had 32 inches of snow on the ground. That was a memorable wedding.

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In 2014, we flew to Hawaii. We renewed our vows on the beach in Honolulu and I wore a lei around my neck and a flower headband. Then we toured that island, flew to Hawaii Island and visited a volcano. In North Carolina, we said our vows at Cape Hatteras lighthouse. It was beautiful. In Iowa, we said our vows in front of the house that inspired the painting 'American Gothic,' we wore our wedding clothes but we dressed up in the outfits from the painting for a photo there too. We even said our wedding vows at the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.

After Bucky retired in 2017, we got an RV campervan. It was really both of our idea to renew our vows in the remaining 25 states by traveling together in the campervan. The first state we went to in the RV was Virginia, we renewed our vows at Virginia Beach by the statue of King Neptune. It took us four more years to complete the second 25 states, and although on our fifth wedding anniversary we renewed our vows in Hell, Michigan again with the woman who married us, all the other 49 states we did on our own. The final state we renewed our vows in was Alaska in 2020. We took a small eight passenger airplane and flew up over Denali National Park to Mount Denali. We circled the mountain in the airplane, dressed in our wedding clothes, and the pilot then landed the plane on a glacier. All the passengers got out, and we said our wedding vows in front of the airplane.

Sandy and Bucky Delano renewing their vows
Sandy and Bucky Delano renewing their vows
Sandy and Bucky Delano renewing their vows
Sandy and Bucky Delano renewing their vows

It gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes when I think about what people we met along the way said to us. When people saw us they would say: ""What's the occasion? Are you getting married or is it an anniversary?" We would tell them that we were travelling to each state and renewing our wedding vows there. People loved it and told us it was a wonderful idea. They were amazed. When we had finished all 50 states we were kind of sad that it was over, we wanted to do more.

The way I think of it is that we weren't just doing the wedding vow renewal when we visited each state. We have seen wagon trains traveling across the country; we stood on Pikes Peak in Colorado, the mountain that inspired "America is Beautiful,"; we went to The Flag House in Maryland on Flag Day and I even helped lower a flag at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

This whole experience has made us closer, our love for each other has grown stronger and deeper. I am 73 now and Bucky is 69 and we enjoy every day and do everything together. We shared so much living in the camper van, seeing all these places together and saying our vows to each other. What we did is just an expression of our love.

Sandy Delano lives in Maine with her husband Bucky Delano

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.