Elopement Planning

Commitment Ceremony Guide for Couples

Did you know a big majority of elopement adventures we feature are actually commitment ceremonies? You’re probably wondering… “what is a commitment ceremony?” “How is it different from a traditional wedding ceremony?” “Aren’t they both the same?” “How can I tell which one is right for us?” As more couples realize what it means to elope, more couples also seek to understand all their options when planning their elopement together. One of these options is to have a commitment ceremony. 

So what is a commitment ceremony?

Definition: A commitment ceremony is just like a marriage ceremony, without legal paperwork. Some couples opt to complete their marriage license on a different day or not at all. While some couples may not like getting legally married on a different day, planning a commitment ceremony allows a lot of flexibility on your wedding day.

Let’s break down what you need to know when deciding if you should plan a commitment ceremony together. Feel free to jump to the section you’re most interested in.

In this resource:

What is a Commitment Ceremony?

The biggest difference between a commitment ceremony and a wedding ceremony is one is legally binding and the other is not. A commitment ceremony is symbolic and used for couples to recognize their union together.

In the wedding industry, you may have heard a commitment ceremony called by other terms including “symbolic ceremonies” or even “spiritual ceremonies”

Many couples who decide to elope will usually plan a commitment ceremony.


A commitment ceremony can have everything a traditional wedding ceremony has. You can wear your wedding attire, exchange vows, and even invite your immediate family. The one thing missing would be that little piece of paper. 

The only way a commitment ceremony can be legal is if you and your partner sign your marriage license before your ceremony together. Remember, think of a commitment ceremony as exactly what it sounds like, a ceremony honoring your commitment to each other!

Reasons Couples Decide to Have a Commitment Ceremony

So why would someone opt for a commitment ceremony rather than a marriage ceremony?

While there are multiple reasons why couples do plan one, here are some of the reasons we hear about the most. 

Couples Who Can’t Get Legally Married 

LGBTQ+  couples are sometimes the ones who plan a commitment ceremony because they’re still limited to getting legally married in some parts of the world. While our society has made great strides to make it legal for couples of any sex to get married, there is still work to be done.

Our community at Wandering Weddings believes love is LOVE, and we have seen the most beautiful commitment ceremonies within the LGBTQ+ community. 

For more ideas, check out our wedding ideas for LGBTQ+ couples.

Another group of people who may not be able to get married legally is individuals who are already married to someone else or who can’t afford it. There are different circumstances couples go through that make them decide to have a commitment ceremony together.

An important note worth mentioning is that although the only difference between this type of ceremony is the piece of paper that comes along with it, we urge couples to please not be discouraged in planning this type of ceremony together.

Don’t let the legalities of things stop you from having a beautiful ceremony together to express how much you love each other. 

Couples Who Want to Elope Somewhere That’s Inconvenient to Get Legally Married

We have featured so many couples who elope at some of the most beautiful places in the world. A lot of these couples planned commitment ceremonies because it was super stressful or virtually impossible to legally get married at their destination. 

Planning a destination wedding or adventurous elopement sometimes makes it hard to legally get married the same day. While it’s not impossible, there are multiple steps and paperwork you need to complete before your wedding day.

Some places require a waiting period, endless paperwork and requests, blood tests, or even proof of residing in that place for a specific amount of time. There is also the language barrier you need to consider if you’re eloping somewhere abroad.

We go through each marriage certificate requirement in our location guides, but we have realized that many couples opt to have a commitment ceremony because they want to avoid any complications or extra stress. 

Our word of advice is to not let this set you back from planning an epic elopement together. Many couples usually take care of their legal paperwork before their big day, so they won’t have to worry about following up with their documentation later on. 

Remember, it’s just paperwork, and what really matters is you both promise to spend the rest of your lives together. 

Couples Who Don’t Want to Get Legally Married

The concept of marriage isn’t for everyone. Different couples worldwide have different views on marriage and what they hold important to them.

As elopement professionals, we’re all about the couple doing what they think is best for them. If that means having a commitment ceremony because you disagree with the idea of all the binding paperwork, then that’s completely fine!

During your wedding ceremony, you should be able to decide to do whatever you want. If you don’t want to get legally married because you don’t agree with it, then plan a commitment ceremony together!

How to Plan a Commitment Ceremony

If you made it this far, then we’re pretty sure you’re thinking about planning a commitment ceremony together. But how do couples go about planning this type of ceremony together?

Planning a commitment ceremony is actually no different than planning an elopement or micro wedding together. The main advice we have for couples is to simply think about what you both want to do that day.

Imagine your ideal wedding day, write down all the details that are important to you, and connect with a team of vendors to help you bring that vision together.

Here are some steps to consider when planning your commitment ceremony:

1. Where do you want to have your ceremony?

Since you don’t have to worry about the paperwork, you can get married anywhere in the world! 

Our list of places to elope is a great place to start your research.

2. Do you want to have an officiant hold your ceremony, or do you want to do your own thing?

You don’t need to have an officiant during a commitment ceremony. If you both want to exchange vows or have a close loved one help you with the ceremony, that’s ok too!

Check out our guide filled with tips and examples when writing your wedding vows.

3. Are you inviting anyone, or will it just be the two of you?

Remember, you can treat your commitment ceremony just like a wedding ceremony. Feel free to invite close friends and family if that’s what’s important to you two.

Check out our micro-wedding guide for inspiration on how to include your family and friends.

4. Team up with elopement vendors!

At Wandering Weddings, we have a huge selection of elopement vendors. These vendors range from photographers to officiants to help you plan your special day together. Feel free to browse through our members who specialize in planning elopement and intimate ceremonies around the world. 

If you’re still not sure where to start your planning process, then check out our how to elope guide

Commitment Ceremony Ideas

We love commitment ceremonies because you are not limited to what type of activities you can incorporate into your ceremony. From hiking and horseback riding to cliff jumping and surfing. You can make your ceremony completely your own. But what are some symbolic things you can incorporate during your commitment ceremony?

Check out our favorite commitment ceremony ideas:

  • Handfasting
  • Light a unity candle
  • Read affirmations/prayers
  • Sand pouring ceremony
  • Paint a unity canvas
  • Tie a unity knot
  • Have family or friends take turns reading something meaningful to the couple
  • Incorporate traditions from the location you decide to elope to

Check out more ceremony ideas for your elopement.

Tips for Planning Your Commitment Ceremony Together 

  • Think about what activity you both want to do during your ceremony. Some options can include exchanging personal vows, handfasting, or even taking a celebratory shot together. Remember, this is your ceremony, and it’s completely ok to personalize it. You can even plan your commitment ceremony while you go horseback riding, skiing, or even on a hot air balloon ride.
  • When planning a commitment ceremony, make sure you tell your officiant it will be a symbolic ceremony.
  • Plan your special day exactly how you imagine it to be. If this includes an awesome post-elopement party after your ceremony, then do it!
  • Have fun and don’t stress it.

Remember, commitment ceremonies can be the best route for you because it puts less stress on the couple on what needs to be done logistically. 

If you have more questions on how to plan this type of ceremony, then feel free to reach out to our team.

Are you thinking about eloping? Check out our featured elopement stories to get all the inspiration you need. 

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