How to celebrate 50 years of marriage in Boquete, Panama?

Blog by Terry Richmeier and Joy Huppe


Celebrating a “Golden Anniversary”…

Recently, family members of Casa De Montaña Bed & Breakfast telephoned to let us know they would like to come down and celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary here with us. We were thrilled, elated, ecstatic… and then, the panic set in!   How does one do justice to honoring such a milestone? How to create a memorable experience that reflects the love and commitment a 50th anniversary represents?

First… well… ok, what to do? Think, think, think, what can we do???

There is always the ability to have a celebration here at Casa de Montaña. We can hire a band… perhaps, the popular Dos Amigos! We can ask a good friend to make a wonderful cake. We can create delicious food and serve some bubbly! We can send out invitations to all our Boquete friends and celebrate with dancing.

Then, the thought occurs to us that this would be “our” friends that we have invited and not anyone that the family knows. Why celebrate your 50th with strangers? Or do we?

Well, how about an upscale dinner out at one of the finest Boquete, Panama restaurants? How does that sound? It sounds great, but not really all that different than any other special day… and this need to be really special.

How about a dinner cruise? That would be right up their alley! Ok, checked on that and it’s just not available in the Chiriqui region…

Well, feeling somewhat let down and without further ideas, we started reflecting on marriage in general… with the hope that it would lead to the idea of what will create a perfect celebration of sharing your life with someone for 50 years!

Continuing on this train of thought, we started asking questions… many, many questions…


What is the secret to making love last?

What would it take to stay together in a marriage for 50 years? What kind of sacrifices would a person have to endure? Can love remain when all else is going wrong? Does each person in the marriage lift each other up or tear each other down? With so many failed marriages, what can we learn from a couple that has been married for 50 years? Why are there so many failed marriages? What brings people together and more importantly what keeps them together?

Well, first of all, marriage has changed a lot in the past fifty years. Currently in the United States a shocking 53% of all marriages end in divorce, while in Panama that number drops to 27%.   So for a couple to stay together for half a decade is not only an accomplishment, but a rarity! In the United States only 6% of all marriages make it to the 50 year milestone, though recent studies have shown slight increases in relationship longevity.

There are countless studies and research on marriage trends that have revealed some interesting information. For example, it has been shown that the more money a couple makes the less likely they are to divorce… though interestingly, the more expensive the actual wedding ceremony (and ring) the more likely a divorce. Also, couples that date for three or more years before becoming wed have a greater chance of remaining together. Not surprisingly, couples that dated less than 6 months before marriage have a greater increase of divorce. It has also been shown that there is a “four year itch” trend where many couples decide to divorce in their fourth year of marriage. Also noted was the tendency for the first two years of marriage to “set the tone” for the remaining duration of the relationship.


Just one of the many statistics out there on marriage/divorce…

Another interesting find was that, according to a new study, after 50 years of marriage, your sex life may actually improve! This was cited as being due to a renewed sense of trust and commitment. The same study also states that “older couples” (age 57-85) who are sexually satisfied feel happier in their marriages.

With all the data available, we could spout marriage statistics until we’re blue in the face… but the juiciest information comes from direct experience. So, what are the couples who are in long-term marriages saying on this topic? What is the “secret” to a long, happy married life? Here is a sampling of responses:

“We made a pact to never fight about money. Financial problems lead to divorce. We didn’t want our relationship to deteriorate over something as inconsequential as money. We’ve been through financial ups and downs, including bouts of unemployment and significant credit-card debt. But we never cast blame and remain calm during financial discussions.”

“Always find things to laugh about. Laugh together. Times are tough. Tragedy happens in all families. Things will go wrong. But if you find ways to laugh about “it” you’ll form a special bond and can overcome anything!”

“Each person should seek to do good for the other person, instead of fighting over ‘what about me.’ Then the experience is one where each person is giving and serving the other. A win-win solution.”

“If you’re in it for life, you’re both going to do a lot of growing up and maturing over the years—you have to stay intimately in touch with each other’s growth over all this time or you end up not knowing the person you’re married to as he/she changes over the years.”

“Dump friends, family and situations which have a negative effect on your life and marriage—and expect your spouse to do the same. Keep your sex life interesting. Listen to each other’s fantasies. Do not be afraid to dress and act sensual in the bedroom. And plan exciting vacations together.”

If video is more your style, here is a recent “What you don’t know about marriage” Ted Talk you might enjoy.

For those with less time, here is a truncated version on the secret to a happy marriage.  🙂


Thus far we have been viewing marriage through the lens of North-American culture. But what about Panamanians, and in particular the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle tribe with whom we share this region?

While love is a universal language (or so we like to believe!)… the institution of marriage is approached differently in various cultures. Here in Panama, as in the United States, the majority of people choose their spouses. (Read: arranged marriage is not common.) Couples in the rural lower to middle classes often decide to marry and have children together, though an official wedding ceremony may not happen for several years, if ever. The practice of cohabitation without official marriage in Panama rose in popularity in the 1960s and has remained high ever since. In fact, half of all cohabitating couples (both married and unmarried) remain unwed. In the upper classes, couples are more likely to choose to participate in a formal marriage ceremony before starting a life with another person.

The Ngobe-Bugle Indians view marriage as the most important event in one’s life. In this sub-culture, it is typical for fathers to arrange their children’s marriage, based on the selected spouses’ land, wealth, and position in the group. Polygamy (the “art” of having more than one wife) is accepted and practiced, though slowly becoming less common with the cost of living on the rise.

For both the indigenous groups and the local Panamanians, it is generally accepted that the man may or may not have a mistress “on the side” and, if so, he is to be financially responsible in supporting the children his mistress may bear him. Married women, however, are expected to be faithful to their husbands.

In Boquete and in Panama, weddings happen all year long. In fact, Boquete is a popular wedding destination for Panamanians and visitors alike. And with the area’s natural beauty, it is no surprise as to why this is.

Casa de Montaña is a great place to stay when in town for a wedding – yours or somebody else’s! Did you know that we offer a special discount to wedding parties that book our entire bed and breakfast?

Anyway… to come back full circle… even after all our research and reflection on long-term marriages, we are no closer to finding an ideal way to celebrate with our loved ones. Our desire is to honor a 50 year marriage of our parents with the best and most wonderful 50 year anniversary possible… And we are asking for your help!


Seriously… we’d love your suggestions!

We would welcome your thoughts and ideas with open arms… just send us a note or two with what would make a celebration of this sort, special for you.  Thank you in advance for your input. We are looking forward to brainstorming together on this.

In closing, we’ll leave you with this heart-warming quote from Osho:  “Real love is not an escape from loneliness, real love is an overflowing aloneness. One is so happy in being alone that one would like to share.”   (Imagine that!)

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