Celebrating Love with a Commitment Ceremony

Couple sitting together overlooking the city after their commitment ceremony.

Image Source: Nathan Dumlao

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There are no set rules for how to show your special someone your commitment and love. Many couples choose to celebrate their relationship with traditional weddings, but this is not the only path for joining together

Commitment ceremonies are a popular option for uniting with your partner without the legal aspects of a classic wedding. They were traditionally used as de facto weddings for couples that did not have access to legal options for marriage, such as LGBTQIA+ couples in previous decades. With greater representation of all types of couples in traditional weddings today, commitment ceremonies are no longer the only option for most groups. Still, many couples from all walks of life choose a commitment ceremony over a legally binding union. 

Image Source: Katherine Hanlon

Today, commitment ceremonies are leading choices for couples looking to join together without the legal aspects of marriage. These ceremonies are just as romantic and meaningful as any wedding, and many commitment ceremonies can look a lot like weddings. 

What is a Commitment Ceremony?

A commitment ceremony is an event in which two people make a lifelong commitment to each other. Many commitment ceremonies can include vows, classic wedding attire, exchanging of rings and a reception following the ceremony. The key difference is that a commitment ceremony has no marriage license or legally binding elements. 

Reasons for Choosing Commitment Ceremonies

Historically, commitment ceremonies were the only option for some couples looking to tie the knot. But today, these ceremonies are more of a personal choice than a requirement. Couples looking to join together without the legal aspects of marriage often choose commitment ceremonies. 

Photo of a couple’s hands on a commitment ceremony bouquet. 

Image Source: Nick Karvounis

In many states and countries, weddings must have an officiant, paperwork and other obligations to constitute as a binding union. For some couples, these requirements can hinder the kinds of celebrations they’re looking to have. Commitment ceremonies, on the other hand, have no formal requirements or obligations. These ceremonies can be entirely tailored to a couple’s individual needs.

Recommitment Ceremonies for Spouses

Some spouses may also choose commitment ceremonies to celebrate a milestone anniversary or major life event with their partner. In these instances, a commitment ceremony becomes a recommitment ceremony in which an already married couple renews their promises to one another. These are often events such as vow renewals, showcasing continued love above all else

Planning a Personalized Ceremony

Image Source: Erika Fletcher

When it comes to commitment ceremonies, there are no exact rules. You do not have to engage in any traditions that do not serve you or your partner, though many couples choose to have commitment ceremonies that resemble the most classic aspects of weddings. This may look like wearing a wedding dress, writing your own vows, having a first dance and sharing wedding cake after your ceremony. But the exact approach you take to planning your commitment ceremony will be unique to you and your partner. 

Common elements of commitment ceremonies include: 

  1. Exchanging of wedding rings 
  2. Reading vows 
  3. A first kiss between the couple  
  4. Sharing of cake or sweets  
  5. A party following the ceremony 

Many of these elements are also parts of traditional weddings, with legal and/or religiously binding elements also taking place during a wedding. Commitment ceremonies, on the other hand, have no legal aspect to them. These symbolic celebrations are just as meaningful, taking a different approach to showcasing love.  

Many wedding planners also offer their services for commitment ceremonies. When planning your ceremony, focus on choosing elements that have meaning for you, your partner and your relationship. 

Signifying Your New Commitment

Jewelry is an excellent option for showcasing your new commitment to each other. Commitment ceremony jewelry styles include engagement rings, women’s and men’s wedding bands, couple bracelets and matching or engraved necklaces. You and your partner can choose matching jewelry or unique styles that speak to each of your personalities. 

In addition to exchanging women’s and men’s engagement rings and other fine jewelry, many couples also choose to commemorate their commitment ceremony with a certificate. There are also hands on unity ceremony traditions that can symbolize the joining of two partners. Popular unity ceremonies for commitment celebrations include the unity sand ceremony, the unity candle ceremony and the literal tying of a knot. There are also many creative unity ceremonies that couples can choose to incorporate into their special day.

Questions About Commitment Ceremonies

No, commitment ceremonies are not legally binding. They are symbolic and meaningful occasions, but they do not have any legal elements

Yes, many couples plan commitment ceremonies that look just like traditional weddings. But there are no set rules, and every couple can choose the ceremony elements that best represent their personalities, beliefs and relationship. 

There is no precise uniform for what to wear to your own commitment ceremony or as a guest at someone else’s event. Many couples choose to wear standard wedding attire to their commitment ceremony, such as a wedding dress or tuxedo. But there is no rule that you have to dress up in this way.

If you are attending someone’s commitment ceremony, refer to your invitation to learn more about the dress code. Just as with legally binding weddings, commitment ceremony attire can be entirely formal or informal, all depending on the couple. 

As with many other elements of commitment ceremonies, it all depends on the couple. For commitment ceremonies resembling weddings, it’s likely customary to give a wedding gift. If you are in doubt, refer to your invitation for a gift registry or ask the couple directly 

Your commitment ceremony can be as large or low-key as you’d like. Some ceremonies are just the two individuals committing to each other, while others are lavish events with seemingly countless guests. It all depends on what you and your partner prefer. 

Because commitment ceremonies have no government involvement, couples who choose these ceremonies may miss out on some of the legal benefits of being married. 

Celebrating Your Love

Two women embracing during their commitment ceremony.

Image Source: Sofia Hernandez

Commitment ceremonies are beautiful events showcasing the love shared between two people. Though these events are not legally binding, they do represent relationship milestones. Whether you are attending someone else’s commitment ceremony or planning your own, these events are truly memorable. 

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