So you have done the legals. You are married. Now’s the time to celebrate with a commitment ceremony also known as a wedding ceremony.
Yes. It’s a bit confusing but really a commitment ceremony and a wedding ceremony that has not been legalised are the same.
They are both ceremonial celebrations.
First and foremost to avoid any further confusion let me explain the difference between a legal marriage and a wedding or commitment ceremony.
The difference between a marriage and a wedding or commitment ceremony
Before I start explaining what a commitment ceremony is let’s begin with the difference between a marriage and a commitment ceremony and/or a wedding ceremony.
A wedding and a marriage are so NOT the same thing. Using these two terms simplifies the difference.
If you were to say “their marriage was a disaster” the implication is that the couple were not happy in their life together and the relationship has most likely ended in tears.
On the other hand if you were to say ‘the wedding was a disaster” this implies that something happened during the wedding like the marquee blew away or the ceremony didn’t go smoothly.
In other words a couple can go off and have the happiest of marriages but have had the most disastrous of weddings.
So wedding represents the celebration part of your day, the ceremony, reception and all the other shenanigans you might be planning. The fun part!
Whilst marriage is not only the legal contract between a couple but also the continued relationship between them long after their wedding day.
Legal marriage and a wedding or commitment ceremony do NOT need to be done together.
Would a commitment ceremony suit you?
Is this you? Have you recently got married with the minimum 30 friends and family members present because of government restrictions?
Do you feel a tiny bit short changed or robbed because you had hoped to share your big day with ALL your friends and family?
Or did you decide to get married using the most basic service provided by the registrar with just yourselves and a couple of witnesses present? Do you now want to celebrate with your friends and family.
If you are either of the aforementioned then a commitment ceremony may well suit you.
Why have a commitment ceremony?
Your celebration of your marriage can be very much along the lines of the wedding you might have been planning originally. The dilemma may be whether or not to include a ceremony at all in your celebrations.
As a wedding celebrant I am bound to recommend that you include a ceremony. A wedding after all is a ceremonial celebration.
A wedding or commitment ceremony is also important for your friends and family. They will want to celebrate with you and indeed witness you making that commitment to one another.
No event is more positive or celebratory than a wedding. Reuniting family members and friends across generations and sharing memories from days gone by is the ultimate personalisation and a formula for a great and happy day.
If you decide not to have a ceremony yes you will throw a wonderful and happy party but the reason for the celebration will be lost.
A commitment ceremony brings your love and the promises you make to one another to the forefront of the day and will resonate with everyone who attends.
So what is a commitment ceremony
A commitment ceremony has all the similarities of a traditional wedding ceremony with the added bonus that there is no need to follow a conventional format. But remember it is not legally binding.
A commitment ceremony can include readings, poems, involvement of family, personal vows and ring exchange, even down to having all the original bridal party.
Wedding celebrants write and present commitment ceremonies all the time. This type of ceremony is becoming increasingly popular and is now often described as a sequel wedding (this is the link to my blog on sequel weddings).
Personalise your commitment ceremony
Although a daunting prospect I always recommend to a couple that they have a go at writing their own vows.
As a rule of thumb they should represent the romance, humour, emotion and real promises to each other.
A short synopsis of the couple’s love story is also always a highlight of any ceremony. Making sure that hysterical anecdotes are included as well as the romance!
Most ceremonies include a reading or poem but to really personalise your ceremony ask a special member of the family or friend to write something or choose something themselves that reflects their relationship with you.
You could even ask multiple guests to stand and read one line from a reading.
Include a personalised wedding ritual into your commitment ceremony
Modern forward thinking couples are adapting ancient symbolic rituals and including them in their ceremony. These rituals are used to represent the love a couple have for one another and also their commitment.
Some couples use symbolic rituals to reflect their personalities and others to include a cultural element to their ceremony. Others incorporate them just because they want their ceremony to be individual and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
A commitment ceremony can be greatly enhanced by their introduction. These small acts of theatre definitely add a certain drama to the proceedings.
And it doesn’t just have to be the couple participating in these unity ceremonies. Gone are the days when your guests just have to be spectators. Get everyone involved and share in the joy of this celebration.
There are so many different rituals you can choose from. Handfasting or lighting unity candles, ring warming or even jumping the broom are just a few of the most popular ideas which can be incorporated into your wedding ceremony.
Flexibility of a commitment ceremony
You have no legal constraints at all so your commitment ceremony can be held anywhere and whenever. So start planning! Choose your venue, choose your wedding celebrant to help you write and create the ceremony of your dreams.
Let’s get the party started!
Many thanks to Amy Sampson Photography for the wonderful images.