A commitment ceremony has always been an option for those couples that, for whatever reason, do not wish to tie the knot in the legal sense. But wish to publicly display, in a ceremonial manner, that they are “Committed” to each other. That their connection is unwavering, permanent and has the outward appearance of a marriage but without the legality.
A commitment ceremony may have to be conducted in place of a legally binding marriage ceremony if on the wedding day certain criteria have still not been met. This can be, amongst other things, that divorce papers of one of the couple have not been processed and therefore sighted by the celebrant prior to the wedding taking place. Arrangements may have been made, expenses incurred and so a commitment ceremony can be conducted on the day with a legal ceremony taking place at a later date.
If either of the parties are, in the opinion of the celebrant, intoxicated or under the influence of drugs to the extent that the celebrant believes they are, at the time, not fully able to comprehend the significance of the occasion and what they are signing. The same applies to the two witnesses, though replacement witnesses would mean the ceremony could take place under those circumstances.
Until the law and the marriage act was changed in 2017, same-sex couples would often undertake a commitment ceremony as it had the ceremonial aspects of a wedding, if not the legal. Now that same-sex marriage is common place across Australia, fewer are opting for a commitment ceremony. But that does not mean that any couples should under-estimate the power of a ceremony that has them standing in front of their family and friends sharing their feelings and making promises of lifetime commitment to their partner.
In the same way a couple married of many years may choose to have a renewal of vows, a commitment ceremony can have a depth of feeling that rivals a legal ceremony.
Most often the celebrant will create a commemorative certificate for signing on the day and the many aspects that are so familiar in a legal wedding ceremony can be presented in a commitment ceremony; so only slight changes in, or deletion of, certain legal statements may differentiate the two.
If you are interested in knowing more, then I would be delighted to discuss what can and what cannot be said during a commitment ceremony as there are rules that prevent an authorised marriage celebrant from misrepresenting a commitment ceremony as a legal marriage, but having said that, the differences in verbiage can be minimal.
Regards, Ron Gallagher