What is a Commitment Ceremony and How to Plan a Commitment Ceremony
What exactly is a commitment ceremony? And how do I plan one? This post covers everything you need to know, including ideas, planning steps, and more!
- What is a Commitment Ceremony and How to Plan a Commitment Ceremony
- What is a commitment ceremony?
- How is a commitment ceremony different from a wedding?
- Why couples choose to have a commitment ceremony
- Are commitment ceremonies legally binding?
- Do I need an officiant or witnesses?
- How to plan a commitment ceremony
- Commitment ceremony ideas
- Commitment ceremony script and vows
- Commitment ceremony FAQ
Updated: April 12, 2023
What is a commitment ceremony?
A commitment ceremony is a ceremony in which two people commit their lives to one another, through vows, exchanging rings, or other similar means. A commitment ceremony is not legally binding and does not affect the legal marital status of the two people.
How is a commitment ceremony different from a wedding?
A commitment ceremony can be very similar to a wedding ceremony in form, but the difference is the legal implications. A wedding ceremony results in the couple becoming legally married once the ceremony is performed, and the marriage license is signed and returned to appropriate local government offices. On the other hand, a commitment ceremony does not result in the couple becoming legally married.
Why couples choose to have a commitment ceremony
There are several reasons why a couple might choose to have a commitment ceremony:
- Some couples, such as LGBTQ+ couples, unfortunately still cannot legally marry in certain geographic areas outside the United States.
- It could be a personal decision by the couple to commit to one another but not make the union legal.
- Couples might decide to have a commitment ceremony if they want to have their ceremony in a fun location such as a foreign country, but just want the ease of taking care of their legal paperwork back home.
- Legal ceremonies in some geographic areas require certain language/wording or specific instructions that don’t fit with what the couple wants to have as a part of their ceremony. Commitment ceremonies allow couples to avoid this type of red tape.
- Some legal ceremonies require officiants or witnesses, and a couple might want to have a friend or family member lead their ceremony instead.
Are commitment ceremonies legally binding?
A commitment ceremony is not legally binding.
If you are wondering whether being legally married or not makes a difference to you, here are a few things to consider:
- There are certain tax implications of a legal marriage to consider.
- If you are legally married, you can jointly have employment benefits, such as health insurance.
- There are estate planning and government benefit (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, etc.) implications as well.
- When you legally get married, you combine your financial assets (subject to prenuptial agreements).
- There are also decision making benefits or implications resulting from being legally married, such as making medical decisions if your spouse becomes incapacitated.
Do I need an officiant or witnesses?
Because a commitment ceremony is not legally binding, you do not need an officiant or witness. You could also choose to have a friend or family member lead your ceremony in place of an officiant since one is not necessary.
How to plan a commitment ceremony
A commitment ceremony is generally planned similarly to a typical wedding or elopement ceremony. Elopement ceremonies tend to be simpler than traditional weddings, and commitment ceremonies often follow this simpler path as well. You can find a complete elopement checklist here, but here’s a general overview:
- Start daydreaming about what your special day might look like! Where do you want to have your ceremony? What time of year? Who do you want to invite, if anyone? Check out sites like Pinterest for inspiration.
- Decide on your perfect ceremony location.
- Choose a date.
- Hire vendors, such as a photographer, videographer, florist, hair and makeup artists, etc.
- Book any travel needed, such as lodging, flights, rental car, etc.
- Finalize details for your day.
- Enjoy your special day!
Not sure about whether to plan a “just us” commitment ceremony or invite guests?
A common dilemma I see with couples planning an elopement, vow renewal, or any other type of commitment ceremony is whether or not to invite friends and family.
For a lot of couples, the privacy and intimacy of a “just us” day is very appealing. You can be completely free to be yourselves and there are a lot more options for where to go and what to do when you don’t have the think about the logistics of including a larger group.
On the other hand, your friends and family are special to you, and being able to celebrate this special occasion with them also means a lot to you!
If this sounds like you and you’re just completely torn, I’m here to tell you that you actually can have the best of both worlds and do both!
One option is to split up your day, going off by yourselves for part of the day and rejoining friends and family for the rest. The other option is to split your celebration into two days, and this option is becoming very popular with couples. I have elopement packages for both of these options so you don’t have to decide! If you still have questions about how this type of thing might work, feel free to reach out!
Commitment ceremony ideas
If you’re looking for some ideas for what to do during your commitment ceremony, here are several that you might want to consider:
- Exchanging vows
- Exchanging rings
- Writing letters to one another and reading them aloud
- A first kiss
- A celebratory toast or other celebration after, such as a picnic or meal together
- An adventure together
- Sage smudging
- Hand fasting
- Unity ceremony, such as lighting a unity candle, wine blending, tree planting, etc.
- Religious rites
- First dance together
- Involving friends and family, either who are or are not physically present. Check out this post for more ideas.
Photos above from Etsy product listings
Commitment ceremony script and vows
If you choose, you can make your commitment ceremony very similar to a wedding ceremony. Your commitment ceremony script would include the following elements:
- Welcome and greeting to the guests
- Readings by the couple or chosen special guests
- Your vows to one another
- Exchanging of the rings
- Declaration of the commitment by the celebrant
- First kiss
- Conclusion of the ceremony
Although this is a typical script for a wedding ceremony, you can choose to include or exclude whatever parts you wish. You can choose to write your own vows, or find meaningful ones on the internet that speak to you and your partner.
Commitment ceremony FAQ
Although a commitment ceremony can be very similar to a wedding ceremony, commitment ceremonies are not legally binding like a marriage.
A commitment ceremony can be very similar to a traditional wedding ceremony, including the exchanging of vows and rings, and a first kiss.
Since a commitment ceremony is not legally binding, you do not need an officiant. Anyone can lead a commitment ceremony, including a friend or family member.
A commitment ceremony is held for two people to commit to one another, similar to couples getting married. Couples might choose to have a commitment ceremony for a number of personal reasons, or they may not legally be able to get married (such as a LGBTQ+ couples in certain parts of the world).
A civil ceremony is a legally binding ceremony, but is not religious. A civil ceremony is often performed in a courthouse or similar location. Commitment ceremonies are similar to wedding or elopement ceremonies, but they are not legally binding.
Since a commitment ceremony is not a legal binding ceremony, you can really say whatever you want! Typically, a commitment ceremony is similar to a traditional wedding or elopement ceremony, and includes elements such as the welcome and greeting by the celebrant, readings, exchanging of vows and rings, the declaration of the committed couple by the celebrant, the first kiss, and the conclusion of the ceremony.
Are you planning a commitment ceremony?
I’m more than just a photographer. Helping couples create their dream day is what I do best!
Or check out more elopement planning resources…
Hi I’m Kim, a Denver, Colorado based photographer specializing in Adventure Elopements in Colorado and worldwide! Photographing couples on the most special day of their lives is a true honor for me. But I’ve made it my mission to take it one step further than that. When you work with me, you’re getting more than just a photographer. I’m here to help you with all of the planning resources you need to have the most amazing elopement day ever! That includes everything from assistance with location ideas, timeline planning, and lots more free resources. So you can forget the work, and focus on having fun!
This post contains affiliate links. While I may receive a small amount through affiliate links, it is always at no cost to you and all opinions are entirely my own.