How do we honor our serious commitment when marriage isn't an option?

I am married and have been poly since we started dating 10 years ago. In general, everything is very smooth and works well between us. Almost two years ago I started dating someone else who was a bit of a game changer - I've dated other people, but this has turned into a deep, serious long-term relationship. He has always been monogamous but was willing to explore poly to be with me and has taken to it wonderfully. My question is not so much advice about how to manage my multiple relationships, but if you have ideas of a way to acknowledge my other partner with a significant gesture or in a major way when we I can't legally marry him. We've discussed the fact that, in a different situation, we would have approached marriage by now, and while we both are content with the fact that we can't, I would like to do something tangible to demonstrate my long-term commitment. I know it will have to be something that is meaningful to both of us, but I'm struggling with even gathering ideas in the first place at this point!

Congrats on having found two deeply loving, committed relationship! Some ideas:

  • Saving to go on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that you'll enjoy together
  • Matching tattoos or an investment in high quality, daily-wear jewelry like rings or watches
  • A "commitment ceremony" that is not a legal wedding but includes traditions and people who are important to you
  • A joint project, like fixing up an old camper van, starting a chicken coop, organizing a community event/meetup, etc. together
  • Adopting a pet together
  • Moving in together
  • Working together on a new term for your partnership (spouse, partner, lifeshare, etc. also, you can say 'husband' even if you're not legally married.)
  • Legal name changes - a blended last name, adding each other's last names as middle names, etc.

Do you have thoughts or ideas for this letter writer? You can leave them in the comments on the main blog,

My partner and I have been married for almost ten years. We recently decided to have a commitment ceremony with our mutual lifemate. I’m finding very few resources on planning our ceremony. Any help?

The thing about forging a new and mostly untrodden path is that you get to forge the path yourself! That can be simultaneously liberating and terrifying. 

Take a step back and identify what you’re looking for resources in. If it’s general event planning, lots of resources for wedding planning should be easy to tweak. Things like invitations, budgeting, venue, food, decorations, etc. for your event can be as traditional as you want.

If you mean planning the content of the ceremony itself, you may have to patch together things from your life that you find meaningful. If you’re having an officiant or someone with a similar role, hopefully you chose them because you respect their perspective on life in general and their insight into your relationship. Talk to them about what they recommend!

Is there anything from your partner’s and your marriage that you’d like to bring back in? A renewal of your vows? A family tradition you want to welcome your lifemate into? Think about ways to include that.

Is there a book excerpt, a poem, song lyrics, or something else that you and your partners find especially moving, or that you feel strongly reflects your relationship? You can read something in unison or have each person share something important to them.

Are there people in your life who provide support and guidance for your relationship? Consider asking them to share a short reflection or choose a reading to share.

If any of you belong to any spiritual or cultural traditions that have wedding practices, think about including those. Candle lighting, hand-fasting, prayer, sand pouring - anything that speaks to you. You can also make up your own symbolic ritual with anything from water to crystals to ribbons to paint.

Is there a way you want to include all the guests, or engage with the wedding party? You could do a shared dance in a circle, a guided meditation together, a ring-warming, 

This ceremony is truly yours to create. You can stick to the traditional “wedding” script of an officiant’s blessing, exchanged vows, some recitations, and a kiss, and just make each section yours with your own content. You can add anything else that works for who you are - art, dancing, silence, primal screaming - whatever feels right to you!

Some other resources:

Offbeat Bride (try searching for polyamory - there’s tons of stuff there, like this great resource)

Commitment Ceremonies section in Unmarried Equality

Polyamorous Wedding Ceremony

Wedding ritual ideas