WHAT HAPPENS AT A COMMITMENT CEREMONY
Tim Manger - Commitment
What is the structure
and form of a Commitment Ceremony?
A commitment ceremony is a non-legally
binding mechanism by which gay, lesbian,or transgender couples
can make a public commitment to one other. Commitment ceremonies
are the result of the Australian Marriage Act 1961 and it's failure
to recognise gay, lesbian,or transgender couples in a statutory
or legally binding marriage within Australia.
There is primarily 2 distinct
forms of Commitment Ceremonies, Tim has a look at both types in
more detail below.
Secular commitment ceremonies are non-religious ceremonies,
that are performed in a location
or venue of the couple's choice. Secular ceremonies are officiated
by a qualified Celebrant, and may involve a range of traditions,
rituals, and cultural inclusions.
Offering creativity and flexibility, secular ceremonies are
the perfect option for gay, lesbian,or transgender couples wanting
something that defines their relationship more aptly.
Religious ceremonies are less
flexible than their secular counterpart, quite simply because
of the historical and traditional aspects. The rigidity of a
religious commitment ceremony will depend largely on the denomination
itself , which in-turn may restrict the couple's choice of music,
readings, vows and possible locations. Having said that, much
of the flexibility may also depend largely on the minister of
religion who will be performing the ceremony.
For the purposes of relevance, we will look at secular (non-religious)
On the day of the commitment ceremony, guests will arrive at
the chapel, home, beach, park or other location, music
will be played (often referred to as the Prelude) as the guests
mingle prior to the main event. The music selected for the Prelude
can be either classical, contemporary, jazz, rock, pop, or basically
anything that provides an appropriate and suspenseful build-up
to the main commitment ceremony.
Arrival & Welcome
The Celebrant will introduce himself (or herself) to the guests,
and officially welcome everyone (acknowledging guests from interstate
The couple wishing to make the commitment may choose how they
will enter or arrive at the ceremony, and ultimately where they
would like to physically stand during the exchange of vows.
Much like traditional marriage ceremonies, couples can choose
to arrive by car, limousine, horse drawn carriage, helicopter,
parachute or by any other means.
Couples may also choose to 'walk down the aisle', and may choose
to be 'given away' by a friend, parent, or other family member.
Music may be played during the couple's entry to the ceremony
(referred to as the Processional).
There are a couple of common introductory variations that
the Celebrant may perform at this juncture, there are:
1) The Celebrant may open with a 'Welcome to Country'. This
is where the Celebrant acknowledges the traditional custodians
of the land. This is especially important if you are planning
a commitment ceremony in
or garden or on public land.
2) The Celebrant may open with a few anecdotes about the couple
who are about to make the commitment.
It is common after the introduction by the Celebrant, for a
friend or family member to perform a reading on behalf of the
couple. Readings can be
borrowed from a range of literary sources including, poetry,
prose, song lyrics, religious scripture.
There is a range of options for declaring vows during a commitment
ceremony. Vows can be either created from scratch, borrowed
from text, or the traditional 'love in sickness and in health,
for richer or for poorer, till death do us part'.
Whatever a couple decides, the most important aspect to consider
is whether the vows being exchanged, define the couple making
the commitment. Vows should also take into consideration the
theme of the day, the demeanor of the guests witnessing the
exchange, and the couple's future intentions.
of Rings & Other Rituals
It is common during gay, lesbian and transgender commitment
ceremonies, for couples to exchange rings. Whilst there is no
strict rule regarding the exchange of wording, couples can choose
to offer a pledge as they place the ring on their partner's
Some simple ideas are "...With this ring, I wed thee..."
or "...I offer this ring as a symbol of my eternal love
and commitment to you...".
As with traditional ring ceremonies, rings are worn on the
fourth finger of the left hand, to signify unity and to display
the commitment publicly. Note that the circle that forms the
rings is representative of the eternal nature of love, whilst
the metal therein is a symbol of the precious nature of the
At this juncture, couples may choose to include any rituals
of traditions, such as a
butterfly or dove
release, or hand fasting
ceremony. Rituals and traditions act as symbols of love,
unity and eternal commitment.
Once the vows have been exchanged, the rings placed on fingers,
and the rituals performed, the Celebrant will pronounce the
couple married. This can be in the traditional form of "...I
hereby declare the couple to be husband and wife..." or
The Celebrant may also ask the couple to share a kiss, although
this may present an issue for some gay, lesbian,or transgender
couples, especially if those who are not adept to openly displaying
affection in public.
As the ceremony draws to a close, music may be played (often
referred to as the Recessional), and the couple will depart
the ceremony, saying thank-you to their guests.
It is also common for the couple to have a Reception following
the commitment ceremony.
Tim P Manger (Celebrant)