Why Have a Commitment Ceremony?

A commitment ceremony is similar to a wedding ceremony, except for the fact that this kind of ceremony is not legally binding. A commitment ceremony is not the same as a marriage but it can be a part of your elopement day & having a commitment ceremony can actually make your day easier!

Did you know? Most of the elopements you see with just two people & no officiant are actually commitment ceremonies? Colorado makes it easy to get married since you can self solemnize, but other states don’t make it quite as easy. Read on to learn more about commitment ceremonies.

Need a photographer for your ceremony? Let’s talk about ideas!

What is a Commitment Ceremony?

A commitment ceremony is defined as a ceremony to mark the uniting of two people. This ceremony is not a legal ceremony such as with weddings. These ceremonies are not legally binding in themselves, but you can later go to a place such as a courthouse to get legally married. A commitment ceremony can include traditional things like an exchange of rings & can look much like a wedding ceremony.

Is a Commitment Ceremony the Same as a Marriage?

A commitment ceremony is not the same thing as a marriage. Marriage is the legal union of two people in a relationship. A commitment ceremony is not in itself legally binding without some sort of marriage license.

Who Can Perform a Commitment Ceremony?

Anyone can perform a commitment ceremony, they do not need to be ordained since it isn’t a legal ceremony. Or you don’t even need anyone to officiate if you don’t want! The two of you can just say your vows together to each other. If someone is performing a commitment ceremony for you though, it is usually best to inform them that this will not be a legally binding ceremony.

Is a Commitment Ceremony Legally Binding?

A commitment ceremony by itself is not legally binding. For a ceremony to be legally binding, it has to be paired with the right legal paperwork & sometimes certain words have to be said.

Bride and groom have a hand fasting commitment ceremony for their elopement in Olympic National Park.

A commitment ceremony with handfasting at an elopement in Olympic National Park

Why have a Commitment Ceremony?

One of the biggest reasons couples have a commitment ceremony is just to make the day of the elopement easier! With a commitment ceremony during your elopement, you don’t have to go to the courthouse, you don’t need an officiant, you can say your own private vows, you don’t need witnesses, & you can take care of the legal stuff later. Some couples even get legally married before their elopement day for reasons such as tax purposes, visa or immigration requirements, & other purposes.

Some couples choose to have a commitment ceremony, because sometimes laws are not inclusive of their relationship. In some areas LGBTQIA+ couples are not allowed to legally marry or poly weddings are not legally recognized.

Doing the legal stuff to get married isn’t always fun. But having a commitment ceremony before or after you get legally married still allows you to have a special day. Because of this, there can be two “wedding dates” so to speak, but it is up to you which anniversary you want to celebrate, or celebrate both! Depending on how you plan things, some couples have a commitment ceremony & get legally married in the same day. But if you want to make it easy & less stressful, plan for different days.

Many couples decide to go on vacation during their elopement in other locations & do a sort of mini honeymoon. Simply having a commitment ceremony instead of dealing with the legalities of getting married allows you to have more time with each other & you won’t have to spend time planning on going to & from the courthouse. Getting legally married in your home state before or after you get married is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of planning you may have to do in more remote locations.

Lake Mead commitment ceremony during an elopement at sunrise in Nevada.

Having a commitment ceremony allows you to skip the stress of the legal process & have elopement in all sorts of epic places! You can also “self solemnize” without going to a state like Colorado.

Planning Your Commitment Ceremony

If you’re planning just for a commitment ceremony, there really isn’t a location that is off limits! With elopement like this, you can plan to go off roading in the remote deserts of southern Arizona, backpacking in the mountains of Colorado, climbing in Moab, & all sorts of other fun adventures! Even if you’re not doing something that adventurous, taking care of the legal stuff before or after your elopement will definitely reduce the stress.

1. Think about location

Where do you want to go? What do you want to experience? Do you want to stay someplace special or go camping? Your locations are wide open with a commitment ceremony. At this point, just let yourself dream, let your mind wander, & don’t think too much about the logistics right now. Want to see some photos of awesome places? View these galleries! You don’t have to decide on a specific location at this point though, an elopement photographer can help you plan for specific locations!

2. Consider if you’ll have a few guests or no guests

It is up to both of you if you want to invite guests. The more people you want to invite, the more you do have to think about logistics. Even if you are having guests & need to keep to an easier to access location for the ceremony, you can go off on your adventure together as a couple like this couple did. It allows you to have some alone time & get some epic photos in other locations.

3. Decide on a season & choose a date

To make some more solid plans, you need to nail down a specific date. You could choose a date of some significance for the both of you or choose a date that has the weather you want or a date where the location you want is at its best. It can be helpful to view an elopement planning checklist to help you with planning your day.

4. Book your lodging & other vendors

Your commitment ceremony is still a special day! So if you want, book some place nice. Depending on where you book, your lodging may also be a part of your elopement photos. And if you are vacationing after your day, you’ll want to book a nice place to stay. Or if it’s more your style, go camping! Keep in mind a lot of popular elopement locations are also popular for tourists so be sure to book early. You’ll also want to book any other vendors such as photographers, videographers, florists, etc.

Booking a Photographer for Your Commitment Ceremony

Yeah, I’m a bit biased because I am a photographer, but regardless of if you hire me or another photographer for your commitment ceremony, I think you really should have these memories captured in some way, shape, or form. Committing your lives together is a big deal even if it isn’t a big wedding. Your commitment ceremony doesn’t have to be a quickie thing that you just do to “get it over with”. Make your day special, celebrate, have fun, & do something true to you!

5. Plan for some fun activities together

Your elopement does not have to be just a commitment ceremony & some quick photos afterwards. Doing some fun activities like packrafting, hiking, Jeeping, having a picnic, having a private chef, or something else can definitely make your day special.

6. Have an amazing day together!

Your day is finally here! Have fun & enjoy it! Things may not go exactly according to plan but if you can go with the flow, you’ll have an amazing day together no matter what.

Want to learn more about planning your elopement? Be sure to read more about how to elope!

Bride and groom in pack rafts for an elopement in western Colorado.

These two had a commitment ceremony so they could go backpacking & have epic adventures like this!

Want some help planning your elopement day or commitment ceremony? Reach out & ask how I can help!


Give me the details! Let’s talk about your wedding or elopement day. Just fill out the form & I’ll be in touch with you soon. The more info you give me the better! You can also view pricing info.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *