A commitment ceremony is a common wedding alternative for same-sex couples who are not allowed to marry in their home states, but it is also a common option for any couple that feels traditional weddings do not reflect their values, or for couples who want to formalize their unions without the legal implications of conventional marriage. Whether you are planning or attending a commitment ceremony, etiquette experts like those at the Emily Post Institute recommend deferring to traditional wedding etiquette.

Planning a Commitment Ceremony

As with any wedding, the couple is free to decide which religious or cultural traditions to integrate. But whatever you decide about the walk down the aisle or the officiant, the one convention you should not change is consideration of your guests. Start with a clear, informative invitation. In lieu of “wedding,” Martha Stewart recommends using phrases like “the celebration marking the commitment of,” “the civil union ceremony of,” or “the ceremony of commitment.” Invitations should contain all relevant information about date, time, location and whether a reception will follow. Find a way to individually thank guests for attending, perhaps with a receiving line after the ceremony, or by taking the time at the reception.

Attending a Commitment Ceremony

Your best rule of thumb is to treat the ceremony with the same amount of deference you would a wedding. RSVP to the ceremony invitation in a timely manner, and send a gift whether or not you can attend.