Commitment Ceremony

by Steve Pritchard-Jones

History and Meaning of a Commitment Ceremony

Commitment ceremonies have long been used as an alternative to a wedding ceremony and these types of ceremonies and informal unions have been happening for hundreds of years, mainly due to same-sex couples being forbidden to marry by many religions or just being frowned upon by certain cultures.

There are many reasons modern couples opt for commitment ceremonies instead of legally recognised marriages. Only 31 out of 190 countries allow same-sex marriage.

Commitment Ceremony Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Commitment Ceremony?

A commitment ceremony is a ceremony or service that allows a loving couple to commit to one another without legal rights or responsibilities. You can still say vows include readings, poems, or stories, have music, include beautiful rituals such as handfasting, unity candle or sand ritual, and exchange rings, sign a certificate, but the service isn’t legally binding and your marital status will not change. 

Can anyone have a commitment ceremony?

Yes! Any couple who wants to have a commitment ceremony can have one regardless of their sexual orientation, religion, nationality, race, etc. 

Are there any downsides to having a commitment ceremony?

The one major downside is that if you do not or cannot eventually make your marriage legally binding, you may miss out on some of the legal benefits. This might include tax and partner’s pension benefits etc.

Is a Commitment Ceremony legal?

It’s not a legal marriage ceremony. You don’t require anyone to bear witness to either the signing of the certificate or the ceremony itself, unlike at a legal wedding.

Who Can Officiate at a Commitment Ceremony?

It’s advised you select a celebrant registered with a professional body. Be clear that you’re seeking to organise a commitment ceremony rather than a civil wedding service.

Where can you have a commitment ceremony?

Anywhere! The world is your oyster! 

Do you have to follow a set script or format during a commitment ceremony?

No legal requirements. You can have whatever you want. 

Is there anyone you have to invite to a commitment ceremony?No, it’s your special day. You don’t even need to have a witness or an officiant if you don’t want one.

What do you wear to a commitment ceremony?

That is totally up to you and your partner. 

What do you say during a commitment ceremony?

Anything goes, which is the appeal of a civil commitment ceremony. The ceremony is unique and the words are perfectly written to suit the couple in question rather than the law or a religious text.

You can write your own vows, and choose readings or poems that are meaningful to you. 

A possible format could look like this,

  • Welcome and introduction by your celebrant
  • Reading, a poem, or story by one of your family or friends
  • Recite your promises to one another
  • Ritual
  • Vows 
  • Ring exchange
  • The signing of the certificate accompanied by music
  • Declaration of commitment by the celebrant, the kiss and parting words.

How much does a commitment ceremony cost?

Expect to pay around £250 for a basic commitment ceremony led by a civil celebrant and anywhere between £500 to £1,000 for more involved ceremonies. 

Can you have a commitment ceremony while you’re still married?

Technically yes because a commitment ceremony is not legally binding so you can have one. 

What is a Commitment Ring?

A commitment ring replaces the wedding ring, representing your vows and is a memory of your love for one another and your commitment to each other. A commitment ring is not compulsory, you don’t need to have one. You could decide to opt for a handfasting ceremony instead, whereby your hands are bound together and blessed by a celebrant. There are also many other rituals for you to choose from, your celebrant will be able to help you decide. 

Can you have a commitment ceremony in a church?

Commitment ceremonies are generally not permitted in religious buildings.

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Steve Pritchard-Jones

Steve Pritchard-Jones

I am an independent civil celebrant conducting weddings, celebration of life/funerals, commitment, civil partnership, renewal of vows, adoption welcoming, naming, pet funerals, internment or scatter of ashes, memorials service, and even divorce ceremonies in Shropshire, West Midlands, Mid and North Wales, Derbyshire, Staffordshire & throughout the UK.

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