Celebrating 20 years together in NYC

Posted 6/16/19

Standing in the middle of Central Park in New York City, Andrea and I celebrated 20 years together on June 5 with a simple vow renewal. For two people who grew up in rural Alabama, that was a pretty big deal.

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Celebrating 20 years together in NYC


Standing in the middle of Central Park in New York City, Andrea and I celebrated 20 years together on June 5 with a simple vow renewal. For two people who grew up in rural Alabama, that was a pretty big deal.

We spent four days in the Big Apple on the week of our anniversary. It was the first time either of us had ever been to New York. After the fun that we had, I sure hope it is not our last trip there.

20 years is a pretty significant amount of time to put up with each other in this day and age. We had seen that number on the horizon for a few years, so our “bucket list” trip is something we had planned for several years. And for a little while, I had planned out our little ceremony in Central Park without Andrea knowing it.

Being in the newspaper business for more than two decades has allowed me to meet some fantastic people and make friends around the globe. I know someone in most major cities, so I had to think about who I knew in NYC, and if I knew anyone who might could perform a vow renewal ceremony. It didn’t take me long to come up with the perfect person if he would agree to do it.

The Rev. Vince Anderson is a New York-based musician who has had a regular show with his “Love Choir” for decades at Union Pool in Brooklyn. Google him. He’s a cool guy. I first heard about Vince via a mutual friend, Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye). Jay had a church in Brooklyn for several years, and Vince led music there. Vince and I have been “friends” on Facebook for quite a few years, so I sent him a message back in March to see if he would help me with this surprise vow renewal that I had in mind. I was ecstatic when Vince replied that he would love to help.

The two of us talked a few more time before the anniversary date to plan out exactly how this surprise would go down. We basically decided that Andrea and I would show up at a particular time, while Vince would just be sitting in the park. I would notice him, realize that I know him and go up to chat. At that point, I’d get down on a knee and propose again. If everything went smooth and Andrea said “yes” again, then we’d renew the vows. If she didn’t answer in the affirmative, it was going to be a long couple more days in New York.

A day before we were set to meet, Vince said a filmmaker had been following him around for a couple of years, filming a documentary about his life. The filmmaker had asked if he could document the ceremony. I felt like having a camera in her face would ensure Andrea would say “yes,” whether she really meant it or not.

Long story short, I got on the knee, told her how much she meant to me and how much I didn’t deserve her. She agreed that I didn’t deserve her, but she happily accepted my offer to renew our vows anyway. Vince said some beautiful words, and our new friend Nick Canfield documented it all, agreeing to give us the footage, which reminds me that I haven’t emailed him yet to actually get that.

Andrea was surprised, even though, she said there was a feeling that something was up, but she wouldn’t have ever guessed what it was. She had no idea that I had any friends in New York to pull something like that off. Both of us cried a little and smiled a lot during the ceremony. I am terrible at surprising anyone, especially her, so I was just happy that it went down as smoothly as it did.

I’m very blessed to be with someone who understands me, cares for me and is always there for me. I can truly be a difficult person to live with, and our fast-pace lifestyle between running a newspaper and having five kids can be overwhelming at times. Andrea meets it all with a smile on her face, most of the time. Life can be very difficult, and life can be incredibly amazing. I’m just happy that I get to share it with her. Before we reach our 40th anniversary, I’m hoping that I can have her designated as a saint for all she would have had to put up with by that point.

New York City was a perfect getaway for us. It was fun and different from our normal. The city and its people welcomed us, and we had a great time. I would recommend it to anyone looking to get out of their Walker County comfort zone.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.