If you’ve been on the look out for alternatives to the traditional wedding ceremony, the chances are that you’ve heard the term “commitment ceremony” branded around? But what exactly is a commitment ceremony? Well fear not, over the course of this article we are going to explain the ins and outs of commitment ceremonies and provide the information you need to decide if a commitment ceremony is right for you.
We’ve been involved in weddings for nearly 15 years, 15 years of watching couples get married in all sorts of interesting situations. Elopements in Portugal, vow renewal ceremonies on a boat, heck, we’ve even climbed to the top of a Colorado mountain to watch two happy people say “I Do” in the snow! We really are rather well versed when it comes to alternative weddings.
With that in mind, let’s use our expertise to guide you through everything you need to know about commitment ceremonies, including their history, what they involve and the pro’s and con’s of choosing a commitment ceremony for yourself.
What is a commitment ceremony?
Let’s start by explaining what exactly is a commitment ceremony! Well, generally speaking it’s any type of ceremony that celebrates the partnership of a couple. Specifically their commitment to each other. However, here is the kicker, the major benefit of a commitment ceremony is that it doesn’t include any legal attributes. Just because you have a commitment ceremony doesn’t mean you will be legally married. Commitment ceremonies really are ones for the romantics. It’s kind of a way to get married without actually having a wedding.
Commitment Ceremony Definition
To add a little more clarity, let’s actually define what a commitment ceremony is…
A commitment ceremony is a ceremony or event where two people publicly announce their commitment to each other. In much the same way of a wedding ceremony, family, friends and loved ones are often in attendance. There is also usually an exchange of some kind of vows to express what the couple means to each other.
What is the history and meaning of a commitment ceremony?
Now you know what a commitment ceremony is, it’s a good idea to explore the history and meaning of a commitment ceremony. Well commitment ceremonies have actually been around since before the dinosaurs. Yes you heard that correctly, before the dinosaurs. Ok, I kid, but in all seriousness, commitment ceremonies are ancient. There are countless examples of different cultures holding significant events to publicly celebrate their love for each other.
In recent times, commitment ceremonies were popularized by couples traditionally not legally able to get married, for example same-sex couples. Up until the legalization of gay marriage in 2015 (US), couples would opt to throw an epically romantic wedding style ceremony to formally commit to each other. While these commitment ceremonies were not legal, they were a heartwarming way for couples to enjoy a wedding without a legally binding contract.
Since the legalization of gay marriage, commitment ceremonies have actually grown in popularity for couples wanting to enjoy all the festivities of a wedding day, without having to jump through hoops to get legally wed.
So what is the actual meaning of a commitment ceremony? Well, legally, nothing. Personally, everything! A commitment ceremony is a spiritual declaration of commitment to each other.
Benefits of a commitment ceremony
The benefits of a commitment ceremony are quite easy to distinguish when compared to a more traditional marriage ceremony. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly known benefits of commitment ceremonies.
Say “No” To Paperwork
Everybody hates paperwork right? Well, one of the stand out benefits of a commitment ceremony over a legal ceremony is the lack of paperwork. When choosing a commitment ceremony, your promise is all you need. Of course, the commitment ceremony won’t be legally binding however a lack of legal documents is a clear benefit of skipping a legally compliance marriage ceremony.
There are quite a few strange traditions that you need to follow when getting married following all the legal requirements. In the UK you even have to get married under an archway! WTH.
With a commitment ceremony, if you want to get married on top of a breathtaking hilltop, you can! Maybe you fancy saying “I Do” at Disneyland? No problem! Heck, if you want to get married underwater… Guess what?! You can!
When it comes to commitment ceremonies you can literally get married wherever you want (provided you are not breaking any laws of course), you’re not limited to your local church or marriage registry office. The sky’s the limit… or is it… Space wedding anyone?
One of the major benefits of a commitment ceremony over a traditional wedding ceremony is the flexibility. Generally speaking, when it comes to church weddings or just generally more traditional wedding ceremonies, you are limited to what the host of the event will allow. Whether that’s a fixed order of service or set number of legalities you need to complete. With a commitment ceremony, all this goes out the window. You are only limited to your imagination.
With the ability to customize your ceremony, you can tailor the event to your likes and dislikes. Want to read an hour long poem declaring your undying love for each other, no worries, knock yourself out. No, but in all seriousness, with a commitment ceremony you can create a truly special gathering that reflects you and your love for each other. You can include anything you want to include.
Whether you want to keep things short, or go in depth about your love for each other, you can create the perfect ceremony for yourself. This ability to customize the length, means you can plan the perfect wedding day without the stresses of keeping to the strict schedules of churches and more formal venues.
Worth A Read: How Long is a Traditional Wedding Ceremony?
Churches and commercial wedding venues are expensive. Moreover, most wedding specific venues will charge a premium just because it’s a wedding. With a commitment ceremony you aren’t limited to commercial or most commonly recognised wedding venues, you can get married anywhere.
With a flexibility of venue, a flexibility of everything else occurs. From choosing a more casual wedding suit, to skipping on the flowers. You don’t have to stick to the norms of a traditional wedding. As a result, your budget is much more flexible. You can spend as little or as much as you want. Perhaps you can save on the wedding and spend more time on your honeymoon. An extra mojito never hurt anyone (not factually correct)!
Unique To You
We get it, many wedding traditions don’t quite fit the personalities of modern couples. Many seem a little outdated in today’s world. So why should you go through something that doesn’t represent you? Well you shouldn’t! That’s another of the main benefits of commitment ceremonies.
A commitment ceremony is an opportunity to create a meaningful experience that is unique to you. The chances are that with the flexibility of a commitment ceremony, you will create a ceremony that is much more personal to you and your love for each other.
Cons of a commitment ceremony
We’ve gone through the benefits of a commitment ceremony, but it’s only right to look into the cons. In truth, there are quite a few that you will need to consider before taking the plunge and opting for a non traditional commitment ceremony.
Not Legally Binding
Obviously the biggest downfall of a commitment ceremony is that it’s not a legally binding contract. As a result, all the perks that come with a legal marriage are non-existent.
Whether we like to admit it, getting married legally offers quite a bit of protection, both financially and logistically. Receiving your marriage license is an important step in most relationships and skipping this step can leave either member of the marriage exposed.
It’s a decision you need to consider seriously as a couple. Take your time and try to think about all the negative and positive aspects of ignoring the legal aspects of a marriage registry.
Whether you like it or not, some families are rooted in tradition. Whether that’s religious or otherwise, many family members may disapprove if you skip the more traditional wedding day and opt for something a little more out there.
It’s a difficult aspect that you will have to consider. Only you know whether certain family members will look negatively on your marriage. From a Story Amour team POV, we firmly believe that your wedding day is about you. It’s not done for your family. It’s done to celebrate your love for each other as a couple. Your family is important, if your family is not willing to support your love and whatever or however you choose to celebrate it, then you probably have bigger issues to consider rather than where you are getting married.
Rules are there for a reason
Everybody likes to think that they are rebels following their own path. No rules will hold them back. However, in reality, we hate to admit it but rules can actually be a good thing… Sorry sorry. Perhaps we would be following Darth Vador into battle rather than heroically signing up to support Lukes cause. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Knowing a rough outline to follow, or certain aspects that are required can actually add structure to your day. It can give you a starting point. Remember, most couples have not done this before, if so, you probably don’t know where to start and with a commitment ceremony, there isn’t a definitive starting position, unlike a more traditional wedding ceremony.
What happens at a commitment ceremony (timeline)
It might seem a little silly to put together a timeline of what happens at a commitment ceremony, especially after we’ve just spent the last 10 minutes telling you anything goes. However, here at Story Amour, we are committed to giving you all the information you can possibly think of! So here are our suggestions for what you COULD include if you opt for a commitment ceremony over the more traditional wedding ceremony.
- Introduction/Welcome – Let the people know why they are gathered here. Kinda simple really.
- Exchange of Vows – You don’t need to follow the traditional wedding vows here. Say what you want to say. Declare how much you love each and make promises that mean something to you personally.
- Exchange of Rings – Rings are kinda convenient. They are something you can carry on your person at all times without ever really knowing they are there. It’s kinda obvious why they became popular. While you of course aren’t limited to rings, exchanging something meaningful is still a great aspect to include in your commitment ceremony.
- Some kind of reading – This can be anything, a story of you as a couple, a cute little poem, generally just something to bulk out the ceremony and add a bit of something different to your commitment.
- Promises – The main reason you are here. Make your promises and commitments to each other. They can be as long or as short as you like.
How to plan a commitment ceremony
Decide if it is right for you
Of course, let’s not beat around the bush here! The first major part of planning a commitment ceremony is deciding if it’s the best option for you. Hopefully, after what you’ve just read in our article, you’ve decided that a commitment ceremony is the perfect option for you as a couple. Good. Now let’s get started on the planning!
Choose a location
The popular Channel 4 UK TV series “Location. Location. Location” really did nail their name. It’s all about location and with the flexibility allowed with a commitment ceremony, you really can pick an epic location that’s right for you.
With a commitment ceremony, we’d recommend choosing somewhere that is either special to you, or is a particularly beautiful place to commit your love to each other. Think the place you met, or a romantic sunset location on the beach, maybe your favorite place to eat? The list of possibilities is endless.
Story Amour Quick Tip: Try to consider various aspects when choosing your location. Try to think about time of year and weather conditions. Maybe you have elderly guests, so trekking up Everest might not be for the best. Logistics are important and can easily make or break your wedding day. Guest happiness is a vital aspect to ensuring you have a wonderful wedding day.
Choose your guests
Once you’ve chosen your location, it’s time to decide on how many wedding guests you are inviting. Once again, one of the major plus points of having a smaller celebration is that you decide who you want to invite. Your guest list can be as small or as big as you want.
If you are wary of budget, it’s much easier to keep the guest list to a select number of people. A smaller number of guests will allow for a beautiful, more intimate wedding experience. Of course, generally speaking… Less guests equals less money spent.
Now you’ve chosen your guests, it’s time to choose your wedding invites and start sending out save the date cards. Notifying guests early in the process will allow for changes to be made and any unnecessary disappointments to be kept to a minimum.
Choose your activities
Bungee jumping as you exchange rings? Why not? With a commitment ceremony you can plan any sort of activities you want. Want to exchange cupcakes rather than wedding rings? No problem! Want to dance down the aisle together? Dance away! Maybe you are skipping the first kiss and going straight for the first romp. Yes I just said that! Maybe hold fire until the wedding night as it might be a bit off putting to your guests.
No, in all seriousness, with a commitment ceremony you can introduce your own personal activities and elements. Do what you love as you commit your love to each other. It’s your day.
If you had a dollar for everytime we said “plan ahead” you’d be a very rich person by now!
Just because a commitment ceremony is less formal, you should still plan ahead and get booking leaving plenty of time. Many of the frustrations with wedding planning will still be present with a commitment ceremony. Chances are you are still planning a summer weekend wedding, guest what, so is everyone else. Allowing time will ensure you aren’t left disappointed when you can’t find your perfect wedding vendors.
Make a list of everything you need to book, and start ticking off the list. Leave time for everything to ensure you are able to plan the most amazing wedding day and commitment ceremony.
Commitment Ceremony Ideas
Chances are high that sooner rather than later you will see us putting together a highly detailed article on all the wonderful commitment ceremony ideas we have! However, for the purpose of this article, we’ve highlighted a couple of the most popular options. Just to give you a bit of an idea of what you could plan for your big day.
Get away from the crowd and elope in an exotic destination of your choosing. Yes, that’s right, in 2023 elopements are getting more and more popular. This intimate affair usually consisting of just yourselves, an epic location and a couple of glasses of bubbly, is a perfect way to host a commitment ceremony. Plus, after you’ve eloped, you can throw yourself an epic elopement party and invite all the guests that you love and want to celebrate with.
Time for an adventure!
Commitment ceremonies can be a great opportunity to go explore the outdoors and plan an awesome adventure together. There really are so many possibilities that it’s almost impossible to suggest. Chances are that you already know what you love doing together, so try to include this in your ceremony. However, remember this is your wedding day. Go all out! Just because you love walking doesn’t mean you should stick to your local park. Choose somewhere amazing and plan a once in a lifetime adventure!
Make your own traditions
With commitment ceremonies being so flexible, it means that you don’t need to stick to outdated and sometimes silly traditions. With commitment ceremonies you get to make your traditions!
Why not exchange the first dance, for a line dance? Get the entire guest list involved. It will be something you can talk about for years to come. Heck, maybe some of the attendees will even take it into their own wedding day. Setting the trend for traditions rather than following!
Commitment Ceremony FAQ’s
Hopefully now you are a little more knowledgeable when it comes to commitment ceremonies. Before you dive in and decide that it’s 100% for you, you should read a few of the frequently asked questions by our brides. These questions come from our past brides, couples we’ve actually had experience with and worked with.
Can a pastor do a commitment ceremony?
Absolutely. Anyone can lead a commitment ceremony as it’s completely under your control. We’ve even seen couples pets lead the ceremony. Joking. Although incorporating your pets into your big day can be amazing!
Will a commitment ceremony be legal?
Simply put, no! Commitment ceremonies tend to be symbolic and spiritual in nature, rather than legal. Of course, you can add legal aspects to your commitment ceremony to ensure you are protected; however the reason most couples opt for commitment over traditional ceremonies is to skip the legal aspect.
Can I get a divorce from a commitment ceremony?
Erm, you could get a symbolic divorce… But as we’ve said, commitment ceremonies don’t tend to be legally binding meaning there is no need for a divorce.
What are the rules of a commitment ceremony?
There are no rules! That’s kind of the point! You create rules, you create the traditions! You have the wedding ceremony you want!
So there you have it. Our complete guide to commitment ceremonies. Everything you need to know about planning and hosting your very own personalized commitment ceremony.
A commitment ceremony can be a unique and emotional alternative to a wedding ceremony. The flexibility allowed without strict rules that need to be followed, allows the possibility for the most amazingly intimate wedding celebration.
While you will still need to take time to plan a perfect celebration, the options are endless. Commitment ceremonies can be a sensational way to tie the knot, without the stresses and rules associated with traditional wedding parties.