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Tim Manger - Commitment Celebrant

What happnes at a commitment ceremony

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 CeremoniesSecular Commitment Ceremonies

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 Commitment Ceremonies Religious Commitment Ceremonies

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) ceremonies below.

The PreludeThe Prelude

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.

ExperienceThe Arrival & Welcome

The Celebrant will introduce himself (or herself) to the guests, and officially welcome everyone (acknowledging guests from interstate or overseas).

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 park 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.

Readings & MusicReadings

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.

Exchange of Rings & Other Ritruals Exchange 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 finger.

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 commitment.

At this juncture, couples may choose to include any rituals of traditions, such as a sand ceremony, butterfly or dove release, or hand fasting ceremony. Rituals and traditions act as symbols of love, unity and eternal commitment.

Pronouncement of MarriagePronouncement of Marriage

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 something similar.

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.

Recessional & DepartureRecessional & Departure

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.

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