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Is a Commitment Ceremony Legally Binding

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Maybe the traditions of weddings are making you feel overwhelmed. You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for one day, you don’t want to do months or even years of planning, and you don’t want all the nit-picky things that will make your special day stressful rather than wonderful.

All you want is to gather together and celebrate your devotion to your significant other. Nothing fancy. Well, a commitment ceremony would be a great option for you!

wedding ceremony in the forest

What Is a Commitment Ceremony?

A commitment ceremony is an event where two people come together and proclaim their love and devotion to one another, promising to spend the rest of their lives side by side. Essentially, they are committing their lives to each other.

Commitment ceremonies are usually performed like weddings, or, if wedding traditions are undesired, can be done in whatever way the couple wishes.

Commitment ceremonies are bound by no traditions, and although no one must perform all the expected practices at weddings, at a commitment ceremony not following the script is a much more understood and accepted practice than at weddings.

Who Would Have A Commitment Ceremony?

Commitment ceremonies are for anyone who wants a ceremony celebrating their love but doesn’t want all of the preparation and rules of a typical wedding. Commitment ceremonies can be grand or simple and can establish their own rules and traditions to mark their individual path in life together.

In the past, commitment ceremonies were performed mainly by gay couples who could not legally wed in most, if not all countries.

In America, same-sex marriage has become more accepted and laws have passed allowing gay marriage rights, so commitment ceremonies may still be used but are not the only option. However, around the world only 29 countries have legalized gay marriage, so overall commitment ceremonies remain in full force.

Couples who do not believe in the binding of common law marriage may also prefer a commitment ceremony. They may wish to feel free and held accountable only by their loyalty to each other and not the laws of the land. They may want to avoid any legal obligations marriages contain.

bride holding groom's wedding ring on his hand

These Ceremonies Sound Great! So, What’s the Catch?

I wish I could say nothing, that you should have at it and vow your undying love for each other today! But unfortunately, there is a catch, and rather a major one if you aren’t the couple I described in the last paragraph.

Commitment ceremonies are not legally binding, so it’s a major consideration for people who want something official. Both church and state do not recognize commitment ceremonies as legal common-law marriages. Because of this, any legal benefits such as partner health plans and tax benefits are null.

Along with church and state, couples may find that their cultures, family, and friends may not accept their ceremony as a marriage.

If you struggle with the idea of people dismissing your communion as null, a wedding may be a better option for you if possible.

Why Are Commitment Ceremonies Not Accepted as Legally Binding?

These ceremonies omit the involvement of laws and government agencies. Weddings have a minister or some other figure of authority licensed to declare a couple legally wed. Married couples receive a certificate or license, stating their marriage and changing their legal status.

Commitment ceremonies omit all of this legal stuff. As a result, a commitment ceremony means a couple cannot state on any official documents that they are married.

If you would like to change your last name, you still can. However, it must be done through a court order. Marriages allow spouses to change their last name without one.

You can still have someone officiate your ceremony if you desire a religious figure such as a rabbi or a clergyman, but they just cannot use their state license to declare you lawfully married.

I’m Still Game! Where Should I Start?

It’s all up to you! Commitment ceremonies have no legal obligations and no customs attached, so you may plan them in any way you please!

You can have vows and other traditional wedding features if you desire, but you also have the freedom to omit any you don’t want.

wedding ceremony at the beach

Where Can I Have My Ceremony?

Unlike weddings, which sometimes require specific venues based on the laws of the state or country, commitment ceremonies, once again, do not need to follow any of these rules. That means you can have your ceremony anywhere you like!

Get together with your significant other and brainstorm dream destinations. Think about the one place you’ve always wanted to go to, and find venues there!

Or, if you want, you can find places closer to home so your family and friends can join the fun. You can even have it in your home or somewhere else that holds sentimental value! Maybe a location that is significant to you as a couple, like the first place you met.

How Should We Celebrate?

Once again, get together and discuss, write down, or draw out what you picture when you imagine your ceremony.

Do you want a big, ornate celebration? Or a small, intimate communion? Do you want to walk down the aisle or come in together?

Honestly, anything goes. You can exchange vows or  have someone officiate. A big reception with a cake and dancing is an option or you can plug in anything else from traditional weddings you prefer.

You may also choose to do everything opposite what a wedding would! The choice is up to you and your significant other. Whatever makes you happy, makes the day extra special, and feels like a celebration worthy of your love.

friends walking together on sandy coast

What Should We Wear?

I thought you’d get the picture by now: whatever you’d like! A white wedding dress is perfectly fine. Tuxedos, dresses, whatever! If you’d like to go fancy, go fancy! If you’d like to make it casual, everyone will happily show up in sweatpants!

If you’d like to do a costume party where everyone is dressed as pirates, or a Victorian impressionist ceremony, go for it, it’ll certainly be something to tell the grandchildren!

Usually, couples prefer their ceremonies to be more elegant to allow for beautiful photos and videography, but whatever makes you happiest is the thing to do.

Bride and groom with their guest in the backyard

Who Should We Invite?

No legal representation is necessary. If you would like to perform a religious ceremony, invite your religious authority to officiate. Or you can have your parents do it, or a good friend!

Find someone who can make you smile and feel extra special.

And of course, don’t forget to invite the family! Family and friends, loved ones in general, are a must at your commitment ceremony.

Don’t you want a standing ovation at the end, and to see their wet eyes at how happy they are for you? Don’t you want to celebrate the person who means the most with the people who care the most?

You Get to Choose

A commitment ceremony is a celebration of your love for your significant other. There you honor each other, and promise to be there for each other for the rest of your life. As it is not a legal ceremony like a wedding with a licensed state minister officiating, it cannot be considered legally binding. It is, however, still meaningful to the people involved.

Unlike weddings, commitment ceremonies have the freedom to be performed any way you choose, free from any rules or customs attached like a wedding. This ceremony can be truly your own.

So, make it the most uniquely you, celebrating you. Picture your dream ceremony and create it. Have it in your ideal destination. Fill it with your loved ones. Wear whatever you want to wear, say whatever you want to say, do whatever you want to do.

Just make sure it is special and celebrates the love between you and your significant other. Because, really, what else matters other than love?