Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Category Planning
Planning a commitment ceremony requires just as much planning as a traditional marriage. There are however, some areas where you can create your own new traditions. This is a page about planning a commitment ceremony.


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My boyfriend and I have been together for about 8 years and we are planning to be together the rest of our lives. We want to have a vow exchange between the two of us and have a small get together after with family and some friends. We will do it legally later. Any suggestions on what we could do to make it intimate and meaningful, but keep it inexpensive? I don't want it to be tacky. Our funds are very low. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

By ann lehman


January 13, 20110 found this helpful

Hit the thrift stores, and dollar stores, looking for silk flowers. Balloons are really in for decorations at all kinds of affairs.


Candles aren't real expensive. Depending on the time of day you have the event, cake, coffee, tea, and punch would be appropriate.

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January 14, 20110 found this helpful

Ann, My husband just retired after 30 years in ministry. This is your celebration and anything you choose to do and the way you do it need to be meaningful to the two of you. Many couples now have potluck meals following their ceremonies. Maybe a friend or relative could gift you with some flowers. Keep it simple but make it as meaningful as you can. Ask a friend who is good at photography to take pictures, then pay for the processing. Ask friends to bake sheet cakes to serve guests but get a small decorated cake for yourselves. Your friends can be a great source of support for your ceremony.


Our church wedding forty years ago only cost us only $150 and that included my bridal gown which was made by a seamstress friend as her gift to us, so weddings can be done very inexpensively. It's the memories that count as well as the beauty of your lives together afterward. I wish you two many years of happiness!

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January 14, 20110 found this helpful

Get a few inexpensive journals and leave them around if you're going to have tables of some kind. It allows your friends and family to write something meaningful instead of just signing a guest book.

Good decorations are just plain candles on some thrift store or plastic crystal-looking plates. You could make it more fun by having outdoor games or charades. Potluck is definitely a good idea, I went to a friend's potluck wedding and the food was better than catering. Enjoy!

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January 14, 20110 found this helpful

My brother and his wife did this at their wedding, and this was also done at a house blessing I attended. Find some pretty stones; if you can get them from a stream, fine, and smooth river rocks are great, as are polished stones. Give each guest a stone, asking them to breathe a prayer of support into the stone.


Collect the stones, and keep them in a pretty (thrift store?) basket, near your door. You can even keep "fresh" stones, asking each guest, at your home, to breathe their own prayer into a stone, then placing it in the basket. You could even provide permanent markers, asking each person to write his or her name on it.

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January 15, 20110 found this helpful

It all depends on what you want-food, alcohol, dancing? Cake and punch would be cheapest, or cake and champagne. Finger foods are fairly inexpensive, i.e. veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, stuffed mushroom or mini-quiches. Costco, Sam's and Smart and Final have lots o ready-to-go party foods. Sandwich places and supermarkets with a deli can do party or wrap sandwiches, Figure out what you want to do, and , of course, the time and day of the ceremony and that will help you. Also, a breakfast reception with breakfast food would be cheaper than dinner.

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January 6, 2011

My girlfriend and I are looking to have a commitment ceremony. We want to do it for under $2,000 with the reception included. Any suggestions?


By seeking from Philadelphia


January 6, 20110 found this helpful

I could do it for a lot less than that, however, a lot depends on what all you want included. I wouldn't have a dance for one thing. For food I would serve cake, ice cream, punch, coffee and tea. I would ask friends and relatives to serve the lunch, and ask one that you know can take decent pictures to take the photos. People just don't need to have things real fancy. Have the whole thing at somebody's home and then you won't have to pay for a hall to hold it in.

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January 9, 20110 found this helpful

Target has a beautiful garden arbor for $89. From the looks of it it doesn't need any thing added to it. Purchase from ebay silk petals. Make a isle or simply make a round circle were you will stand. Have friends and loved bring a flower (ask them to remove thorns from rose) to give to each of you as you walk down the isle to make you bouquet. You know, from each side with giving hugs and kisses. This involves your loved ones. Check with your local rental store and friends to rent benches not chairs. Purchase the tulle in the color of your wedding to place either on the end side with borrowed brooches and pins for the center piece instead of bows or flowers. also, you could drape the tulle behind the benches. Tulle makes everything look elegant. If it is in the hot part of the day, make fans by having your picture pasted to heavy white card board and cut square and glue a stick on it.


A cute idea would make a collage of different pictures (this might not be very nice but the sticks you get free when you purchase paint would be good for the sticks. try getting them for free. If not just get friends to go in and say the didn't get their paint sticks. Then paint them your colors. After the ceremony turn the benches after for seating and mingling, more convenient.

As for cake, ask friends that bake to help or go to the local bakery and get a full sheet cake covered all over in beautiful flowers leaving room for a classic center piece for in the middle. they be able to place a heart shape cake in the create a staging location.3 tier cakes are over $100 but a full size is only about $60. At least in TN. Place this in the center of a table covered by a color plastic table cloth and the measure to purchase tulle to cover the table in a swirly way. Get some tea light candles and holders from dollar tree and place around the cake and then scatter through out the table. You can even put some petals on it.

Try the Do a raspberry tea, coffee and water. For any diabetics have a fruit tray, a cheese ball and crackers tray, different cube cheese and a veggie tray. Try Ipod for music or check out a small starter band. You can find them in High School. Be sure to interview them though. Some came be really good. Maybe musical friends could help out. You may think tacky but there are clear decorative plastic plates, silver forks and just use hard clear cups all for on Ebay. You could even go with color square plates, white silverware and colored napkins.

Again Ebay. Walmart is a good place to purchase the invitations and print them on your computer. For any bugs problems you can you torch lamps or cheaper just fill the whole yard of the party with citronella candled inside those candle bags.

Take advantage of those that say "can I do anything for you". Have a get together one night to help make invitations, address them, put postage (you pay for that). To put together fans and programs. If they ask about food, ask them to bring may one or two items that you think will go quickly. For instance, "Do you mind maybe a bag of baby carrots and/or strawberry's" If people ask, they like to feel they contributed to you special day. Or just say "make my day and bring your special dessert". Can't help you with the clothes. Oh, if unity candle in the ceremony and no attendances place a small round table with the 3 candles on it and then place the rings on each tapered candle. It's a little backwards because the rings come first but its your ceremony, do it the way you want to.

Okay, this is really going to sound bad and cheesy but keep the box for the arbor and receipt take it back afterward. Don't open all the plates, napkins ect. you may not need them all and you can return extra. Soapy hot water will help to remove candle wax from the glass votive holders to return. Make a guest list before buying invitations. I you come up and need 60 and they come in fifty, just make 10 with small blank note cards. Make your own programs from poster board, do this either way, take colored paper or cardboard print you program twice on the same sheet of paper. Use a paper cutter to cut everything straight, glue on to cardboard, punch two holes and tie a small bow at the top or 2 at the top and bottom along one side. oh maybe cut sandwiches. It's a little more expensive because you only get one sandwich instead of 4 but buy your bread from the bread store. Find out when the fresh bread comes in, make different sandwiches and take a heart shaped cookie cutter and cut sandwiches. A little wasteful but very cute. My husband left me at 2 am cutting them because he needed to get some rest. I made it to bed by 5 am.

I made everything for my wedding and have decorated and made flowers for others. I am as fugal as it comes. Hope you like some of my ideas. Best wishes! Oh venue, don't there but try to find a park with a lake, or stream. Family back yard is good. That makes for a handy bathroom. If you will be going off to your dream honeymoon, ask someone to make a basket of love, which means with reception food. You may get caught up in fun and mingling and forget to eat and then when you get to your destination you will be starved. Try to get pictures before if you are not superstitious.

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January 10, 20110 found this helpful

How about a rose garden with an english tea and brunch for the reception. Call a caterer and ask about renting the appropriate dishes and check their prices on an english style brunch, line your walkway with roses. The china could probably be rented in the colors of your ceremony and this would look very rich.

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Answer this Question...

December 18, 2013

My boyfriend and I want to have a commitment ceremony, but have very little space to have one, and not much money to have it somewhere else. What should we do? Can a commitment ceremony be done with less than $500? We are on a tight budget.

By Moniquka W.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

January 6, 2011

My girlfriend and I are planning on having our commitment ceremony within the next year or two (haven't set a date yet and trying to budget correctly first so we can see when it'll work out the best for us financially).

We'd ideally like an outdoor venue where we can have the ceremony and reception together. We'd also love for it to be as DYI as possible, our own food/drinks, decorations, iPod instead of DJ, etc. For food, we don't want to go as casual as a BBQ, but we would like it to be way more casual than a sit down dinner. Any food ideas or venue ideas in PA, NJ area that anyone can give us? Thank you so much for any help or advice.

By Clueless326 from Philadelphia, PA


Planning a Commitment Ceremony

First of all congratulations on your upcoming commitment ceremony. I do not have any necessarily specific locations to suggest, but I do have some items you may want to consider when searching for your outdoor venue.

  1. Look for sites that offer shelter in case of poor weather or that allow tents.
  2. Ensure that food can be cooked on-site and there is water nearby. Otherwise you will need to rent washing stations.
  3. See if there are restrooms available or again they will need to be rented.

Larger state parks may be ideal and have great scenery. Other considerations are beach side sites, or public gardens. Or if you know someone with a large home on several acres this would work too.

As for a reception I would suggest going with a cocktail style with heavier hors devours served via buffet or themed table. You can also mix in some carving stations, or have a Mexican station, sweet table, etc. I would use hy-boy cocktail tables and then create lounge areas for people to sit down and rest.

I hope that gets your creative juices flowing. Good luck with your planning and if I can be of any other help just drop me a message. (06/05/2010)

By theflowerlady

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Ridley Creek state park in Delaware County outside Philadelphia has a great indoor and outdoor sites at the mansion. If I remember correctly, no alcohol allowed outside only. And there's a question about what actual cooking can he done on site.

Moonlight Caterers out in the Brandywine area, at has reasonable prices, out of this world food, even for vegetarians (one of the best hummus recipes I've ever tasted). All cooking is done right out of their van, fresh at the site.

Good luck with whatever choices you make! (06/05/2010)

By Nica

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May 21, 2010

We are planning a commitment ceremony (lesbian wedding),in the D.C. area for April of 2007. We are trying to stay under $10,000 for everything (ceremony, reception, flowers, catering, decorations, gown, location, etc.).

Please help.
Tina from Washington, DC


Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Why don't you plan a vacation up to Canada and get legally married?
$10K US will get you much further here, wedding planners would be very happy to help you.
Just a thought. Best wishes to both of you.

D. in Nova Scotia (12/10/2005)

By Doreen

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

If you can get legally married in Canada, I would do that, then have the commitment ceremony and reception back in DC. for family and friends. My daughter bought her wedding gown from eBay. It's hard to see here, but the bodice was covered in beads and it was beautiful. The flowers were from a local grocery chain (Kroger). They made the bouquet and flowers for the men and women. The reception was luau style with decorations from the outlet card store and the stores where everything is $1.00. The food was buffet style with ham, BBQ meatballs and wieners, cheese, fruit, salad, etc., that family and friends fixed. The wedding cake was made by someone who worked in the bakery at the local grocery chain. The reception was held in the VFW because we had a veteran in the family and he could rent the place for $25.00. The bar was available for anyone who wanted alcohol, but they had to pay for it themselves. That cut down on the drunks and the cost. If you know anyone in a club or organization that could rent their facilities for you, you could save a lot. (Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Veterans Organizations, etc.) Good luck and best wishes. (12/11/2005)

By Terri

RE: Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Does your local library have books on flower arranging and decorating for special occasions? These are free and usually full of great ideas and advice. Gowns, can either of you sew or know of somebody willing to lend a sewing machine to you? Food, we have TAFE here (it's a technical college, not university) and they have hospitality students that you can sometimes acquire "cheaply" as wait-staff and cooks. Do you have something similar ? A friend recently married in her friend's backyard, all decorated and beautifully done by themselves with fairy lights; tulle; and lots of fabric bows, etc. It truly looked wonderful and cost next to nothing (most stuff sourced at local Goodwill shops). It can be done cheaply and stylishly, just think outside the square and be prepared to DIY a fair bit.
Best wishes to you both and good luck! (12/12/2005)

By KB in Australia

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Ten grand sounds like a lot of money. If you follow Mckaysatt's advice, you should have some left over. Also, think about not using a professional photographer on the day and pass out disposable cameras to attendees. They can get candid snaps of the ceremony and reception. If you also want a more formal, commemorative shot, you can go to a photo studio (even Sears/Penney's, etc.) and have a few posed shots of you two in your ceremony "duds". Best wishes for a lovely event and a happy life together. (12/12/2005)

By Claudia - MD

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Congratulations to you guys! Civil Partnerships have just become legal in the UK (what is this? - Victorian Era!) Me and my husband got married in April and didn't have a professional photographer. It saved us a fortune and everyone loved not being bossed around by a random stranger. We made all the invites ourselves, table decorations, and the cake. We had karaoke, so even made the entertainment ourselves. Our biggest saving was having a barbecue in the evening, with the best people ever. It was ace! The whole shebang cost around 3000 pounds, what's that in dollars?, about $5000, that included outfits. (rented of course) Good luck to you both, sincerely. Keep an eye on ThriftyFun, I got ideas for cootie catchers and wedding favours, even had an idea about decorating the cake from this little gem, if you need an e-hand give us a shout.

Julie in London x (12/19/2005)

By Julie

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

Congrats! When hubby and I married, I did it without going broke. We had lots of $$ money to spend on honeymoon. Our photos were great we married on Valentines Day and went to a bar later
and got pictures in the booth they had set up for $5.00 dollars had professional photos. Plus we had
several people take photos and had a video of service by a friend, wonderful. Saved big $$, then we
got married outside in a local park overlooking the ocean, gorgeous and free. It was a Spanish mission, so the backdrop was gorgeous, too. Then we had a champagne cake reception with lots of finger snacks, champagne and beer and cake. It was great and without thinking too much saved so much money, as my parents gave me set amount and told me it was up to me so I used little of that and saved it for honeymoon and it was the best. Oh, still married 10 years later and remember some days or years are longer than others.
Much happiness in your new lives. (12/22/2005)

By Annie Rios Hill

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