Vows get wows on this special day

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Judge Stephen Walker will lead the love for a second straight year on a day that’s the ultimate escape from his duties

By Jane Bartnett

On Valentine’s Day, hundreds of couples are expected to take part in the annual Say “I Do” Again ceremony on Siesta Beach. Beginning at 6 p.m., as the sun sets on the horizon, Sarasota County 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stephen Walker lead couples in renewing their wedding vows.
The non-denominational Feb. 14 ceremony will conclude at 7 p.m. Held each year under the auspices of the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, the event has become a treasured Siesta Key moment.
Check-in at Siesta Beach begins at 4:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., the music begins and light refreshments are served as couples mingle and find their place on the beach where they will once again say those magic words.
This year marks Walker’s second year serving as officiant stationed upon a roses-adorned podium. He recalled last year’s Valentine’s Day ceremony, his first, as a very special day.
“It was a great ceremony,” he said. “The sun was out, the water was calm, and it was perfect. Getting to be a part of something like this is very uplifting.
“From my vantage point, I have the best view.”

Judge Stephen Walker addresses the lovebirds on Siesta Beach during the annual Say “I Do” Again ceremony. (photo courtesy of Sarasota County)

And looking ahead to the joyous occasion like this is meaningful for him, especially when you consider his occupation.
“We often see families in distress,” Walker said. “Looking out at a sea of people where everyone is smiling is special.
“Last year, when the ceremony was over, people came to tell me how important it was to them. This is an opportunity to give back to the public.”
In 2023, 310 couples attended the vow renewal. Dating back some four decades ago, the tradition has become an annual and important event for many couples.
In years past, brides have come to the beach wearing the wedding veils that they first wore on their wedding day. Some couples arrive in what fashion critics might call “formal beach attire.”
There are couples who have been married for many years, newlyweds, and those who come to simply publicly share their love for their each other.
And when Walker concludes the ceremony there’s a chance to dance on the sandy shores and snap a few photos at the beautifully designed heart-shaped photo displays and kissing booths that have been set up to capture happy memories of the special day.
To learn more about the ceremony on Wednesday, visit Sarasotacountyparks.com. To register, call the central reservation number at (941) 861-7275.
The pre-registration fee for those who sign up prior to Feb. 11 is $15; for those who sign on afterward it is $25.
Participants who sign-up in advance receive a commemorative certificate and small gift bag. On-site registration is also allowed at $25, but does not include the keepsakes.

This beautiful sculpture helped set the mood at sunset. (photo courtesy of Sarasota County)
Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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