Ethical non-monogamy and polyamory are gaining more and more visibility and acceptability. With this many people wonder about polyamorous weddings and how they can have one. There are some pretty important things to know about polyamorous weddings regarding legality, and there are shockingly few resources for those trying to pursue this to guide and inspire them. This article provides some of those resources, so keep scrolling to read or use these links to get down to the nitty gritty of what you want to know.
Is a polyamorous wedding legal?
In short, no. Most places in the world do not permit a legally recognized marriage union between more than two people (often a man and a woman). There are some places in the world where a man can marry more than one woman, but a woman can’t have multiple spouses. In countries where any type of polyamorous structure is legal, they’ll be in Africa or Asia. In the United States, polyamorous marriages are not legal. In Utah, the criminal punishment for polygamy has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and in Massachusetts multi-person domestic partnerships are recognized in Somerville, Cambridge, and Arlington.
How do polyamorous weddings work?
Because polyamorous marriage is not legal, the majority of polyamorous weddings are commitment ceremonies with no legal backing. Unlike legal marriage or civil unions, these ceremonies do not provide any special rights or privileges for its members. Instead, these are ceremonies for members of a polycule to formalize their relationship and take “the next step” in a way that expresses who they are.
In some polycules, there is a couple who is legally married and then one or both of them may choose to have a commitment ceremony with another partner, whether it’s different partners for each of them or the same partner for both of them. No matter what your relationship structure is, there’s a way to recognize it and the different relationship dynamics going on during your commitment ceremony.
Whether it’s a legally binding marriage/civil union or a commitment ceremony, choosing to have a wedding with your partner(s) is a big deal. You are still “getting married” and making a declaration that you intend to be with this person/these people for life. After all, marriage has existed for a lot longer than it became an institution with legal implications (which was during the Middle Ages).
Polyamorous wedding ideas
When is comes to your poly wedding, you don’t need to treat it any differently than if you were two people getting legally married. You could elope, have a small gathering or go all out with a big to-do. Invite your family and friends (or don’t). This day is completely about you and what feels right.
I will say that you want to make sure the people you invite and the vendors you choose are fully on board. Some venues or wedding service providers may decline you for being polyam (which is forking bull shirt) so be sure to be upfront about what you are doing so there’s no unnecessary drama on the day.
When it comes to the formalities of the day, the wedding industrial complex has some very deeply ingrained, outdated ideas of how things should be done. But you don’t have to do that. Ladies getting married don’t need to be escorted down the aisle by their fathers, one of you doesn’t have to be waiting at the ceremony site for the other to arrive, and you don’t need to stand directly across from each other at the ceremony site.
For the arrival into the ceremony site, you could be escorted by both parents, by another partner who isn’t a part of the ceremony, or you and your committing partners could all walk in together (though admittedly three or four abreast down a typical aisle is a tight squeeze). Any person who is committing themselves to their partners in the ceremony can walk down the aisle in the same manner as the others, as opposed to the very common “groom walks in from the side with his bros” that hetero-normative two-person weddings see.
The great thing about the actual ceremony is that there are so many fabulous ideas for unity ceremonies! My personal favorite is a handfasting ceremony, but things like a unity sand or glass, tree planting, anniversary box, or braiding of the cord (a Christian ritual) are all great options to incorporate into your commitment ceremony.
I do feel like one of the most important things a polycule can do during their ceremony is to stand together facing out to their guests. This way everyone can see everyone’s faces and the people getting married can still turn to look at and talk to each other. If 3 or more people are participating in the ceremony are facing each other, it creates a closed ring that makes it difficult for guests to appreciate the emotion in the faces of those getting married (and harder for your photographer to capture your faces while you get married).
Polyamorous wedding ceremony script ideas
Fortunately, since marriages have stopped being exclusively religious ceremonies officiants have a lot of methods and options for writing a ceremony. It can be hard for some of them to wrap their head around writing for a polycule, but there are a plethora of resources out there to help inspire them.
If the commitment ceremony is not in service to a legally binding marriage between two members of the polycule, then there is no reason for the officiant to be legally ordained to perform marriage. That said, a person who is ordained can be a better option for your commitment ceremony because they are familiar with speaking publicly and performing the kinds of rituals you want to include. I’m ordained through American Marriage Ministries and as a result I have access to dozens of template scripts to help inspire me and customize to my clients.
The script below is an example of a ceremony that would work well for a multi-person commitment ceremony. I used an AMM template as the base and edited and added my own language to polish it for a polyamorous wedding.
Welcome. We are here today to celebrate the love that [PARTNER NAMES] have for each other, and to recognize and witness their decision to journey forward in their lives together. While you are separate individuals, you walk along one path together. Your every gesture, word, expression, and action, and those you withhold or omit, will determine the quality of your experience together. It is through loving, kindness, caring, and sharing that a successful marriage journey is created. A good marriage takes patience, dedication, humor, and forgiveness. You keep your love alive through the choices you make moment by moment, day after day, and year after year. Through practice, you learn how to love yourselves and each other with devotion and freedom.
THESIS OF NATURAL COMMUNITY
Spiders build webs, birds build nests, and we build safe and comfortable havens through love. [PARTNER NAMES], through your marriage, and through your love, may you give the gifts of tenderness, comfort, joy, and peace to each other to nurture you throughout the years. [PARTNER NAMES] have brought us together here for an occasion of great joy and a cause for great celebration. Having found each other, they have built the kind of relationship that will serve them well as they journey together through life.
They have chosen each and every one of us to be here with them to witness their vows as they join together. Each of us knows that a marriage is not created by a law or a ceremony; rather it occurs in the hearts of human beings. It grows out of loving, caring, and sharing ourselves. And so it is that [PARTNER NAMES] have connected their hearts and souls, drawing upon the depths of their being, into the deep well of human need the need to live united, loving, and complete.
So, in witnessing this ceremony today, we are observing only an outward sign of an inward union that already exists between [PARTNER NAMES]. Today, they have come before us to publicly affirm their love; to promise to nurture themselves, each other, and this union; and to acknowledge its centrality in their lives. They do so knowing that marriage is at once the most tender, yet challenging, of all relations in life.
There is a gentleness to the presence of love that softens life’s rough edges. It makes us somehow braver to go forth into the world knowing that the shelter of someone’s love awaits us at day end. We are most vulnerable when we love. We place our trust in another to honor us and to care for us, to treasure us and to receive our love.
In love, we trust that the other will provide a safe haven in which we can experience and share the fullness of our being with one another. And in so doing, we trust that our lives will be far richer than had we chosen separate journeys through this world. We trust that our love will fill us full and make us wiser and more beautiful beings. We find that our union graces our lives with balance, a sweetness beyond any we have ever tasted, and a treasure beyond any measure of value we have ever known.
SELF WRITTEN VOWS SHARED BY PARTNERS
** This is for each partner to share a personalized commitment to participating partners **
** This is a place for partners to participate in a unity ceremony if desired **
DECLARATION OF INTENT
OFFICIANT TO EACH PARTNER IN TURN
Do you take [Partner Names] to be your lifelong partner(s), to cherish them always, to honor and sustain them, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, until death alone shall part you?
** “I Do” Response before officiant addresses next partner **
[PARTNER NAMES], with these vows, you commit to choosing each other each day to love, support, grow and celebrate with. As a symbol of your union and the commitments you have made to each other, you may now kiss!
Tips for polyamorous wedding vows
When writing your own vows, you should always write from the heart. In general, self-written vows are much less formal than the vows the officiant will read out for you, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important. In your self-written vows, you should talk about what it is you appreciate in your partner(s) and choose your own promises to fulfill in your partnership going forward.
In a polyamorous wedding, it can be helpful to keep the following tips in mind:
- No matter how many partners are participating in your commitment ceremony, it’s a good idea to recognize the members of the polycule as individuals and as a group.
- If your commitment ceremony is for 3 or more people, be specific in who you’re talking to through the use of names regularly.
About Emma: Polyamorous Wedding Photographer & Officiant
I’m a wedding photographer and officiant, and I’m polyamorous. This may seem pretty shocking since weddings are kinda the pinnacle of monogamous bliss. Declaring that I’m polyamorous seems like it would be a betrayal to the values of marriage to a lot of people. However, I believe is makes me a better wedding photographer and officiant to all my clients, not just the polyam ones.
Love is an amazing thing; it cannot be diminished by having too much of it in your life and you can gain more of it by giving it to more people. That is part of the beauty of polyamory, and I can extend this principle to my work as a wedding photographer. Because I can express love so freely, I am able to make connections with a wide variety of people – my poly nature helps me to form bonds with my clients and I become very invested in them, their well being and their wedding day.
I love my clients, but don’t freak out – I’m not in love with my clients and I’m not trying to have sex with you. 😅
If you are a monogamous client of mine who doesn’t know a lot about all this, please do not freak out. I have figured out I was this way my whole life, I just never knew how to put it into words until my mid-twenties (I am 36 at the time of this writing). I was polyamorous before you booked me, and I will be poly for the rest of my life. I’m the same weirdly funny, kinda-awkward but still BAMF photographer you booked for your wedding who is going to document your day with extra-awesomesauce. I’m just not staying silent about this part of my life anymore because it makes me feel sad not to be able to talk openly about a person who makes my life fuller and happier.
To find out more about if I’m the best photographer & officiant to perform your polyamorous wedding, click here.