I have been together with my partner for almost six years. We always spoke about marriage in the abstract, talking about “someday.” Recently my partner confessed that he had been thinking about asking me to be engaged, but he doesn't really want to get legally married. I was confused because engagement, to me, means preparing to get legally married.
But legal marriage has never been a priority or dream for me, so I don't really care about not getting married.
I have, however, been thinking about alternative, non-legal ceremonies where we could invite friends to symbolize our commitment without the legal aspect.
What kinds of non-wedding commitment ceremonies are there?
There are many reasons that committed people don't get legally married — from not being allowed to by law, to just not being comfortable with the concept.
Ultimately, it's no-ones business why you don't want to make it legal! Here at Offbeat Bride, we just love the fact that you want to celebrate your commitment to one another. So here are some forms of non-legal wedding ceremonies you can do instead of getting legally married…
Scroll through our archives of awesome unity ceremonies — we've seen unity ceremonies that go way beyond the common shapes of “unity candle” or even “unity sand.” The idea is just to each contribute to uniting something. Unity sandwich? LOVE IT! Unity cocktail? YES!
Pick your favorite idea, or come up with something all your own and throw a unity ceremony party.
This idea comes from Lith & Ealesy's Formal Feminist *Not Legal* Wedding:
We actually refer to [our non-legal wedding] as a unity celebration rather than a wedding because it was not a legally official or recognised occasion.
There are some guests who will get crabby if they thing you're getting legally married but aren't. Using language like “a unity celebration” helps avoid any confusion with guests who may have a lot of assumptions abut what the word “wedding” means.
Exchange vows without a contract
Take inspiration from Ben and Joriel's non-legal wedding and just exchange vows:
It did take some effort to get all our friends and family on board with the whole not-technically-a-wedding thing, but we felt good about making people think… Saying our vows to each other was the high point of the evening and, in many ways, the high point of our lives thus far. We printed the words in the program, so we didn't have to worry about speaking up for everyone to hear, and there was no officiant, so we were speaking directly to each other. It was powerful and weepy and unforgettable.At the end when we kissed, the crowd went wild, encouraged by the note in the program that said, “Please feel free to whoop and holler if you are so moved.
Handfasting as a non-legal commitment ceremony
Doing a handfasting is an awesome way of having a wedding-type ceremony without the legalities. You may want to check out our handfasting archives for inspiration as well as these posts:
Just say nice things
Sarah and Tim, of Kermit and Miss Piggy fame, had a great idea when they got weddinged. Since they had already exchanged vows when they eloped, they used their party a year later as an excuse to say nice things to each other…
My husband and I decided that since it wasn't actually a wedding, we would just say nice things to each other instead of actual vows. We kept everything secret until we recited them at the reception and it was too sweet. -Sarah
Throw a commitment party instead of an engagement party
Just like engagement parties celebrate the fact that you've reached a new place in your relationship, you can throw a party for your non-legal commitment. You can either surprise people with the news of your new commitment and throw a surprise ceremony, or go ahead and whip up fancy non-wedding invitations and throw a big ‘ol party for your new level of commitment. Sans paperwork.
We know you have non-legal ceremony ideas. Leave 'em in the comments!