For same-sex couples who do not live in a state that has legalized gay marriage, there is the option of holding a private commitment ceremony instead. While this is by no means an equal substitution for all of the legal benefits that go along with the formal institution of marriage recognized by the state, it can be an important declaration in a relationship-the declaration of life-long commitment in front of close friends and family. Until our laws reflect all of the people who reside here, don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands and celebrate your loving partnerships-your way.

Planning a commitment ceremony is really just like planning any other wedding ceremony. There are only just a few planning details most heterosexual couples don’t have to think about in traditional wedding planning. To help you out I’ve listed a few common questions that can crop up when planning a same-sex commitment ceremony below.

Who Should Marry You?
If you are planning a ceremony separate from state law, you have the freedom to choose any officiant you’d like. They do not have to be sanctioned by the state-so you can choose any friend or family member you’d like. Many couples, however, do hire a traditional wedding officiant because of their previous experience conducting ceremonies. If you’d like to have a religious ceremony go ahead and ask your minister or priest to lead the ceremony. It’s a good idea to always ask the officiant up front if they are comfortable conducting a ceremony for a same-sex couple-just to be sure that everyone is on the same page.

How Should You Arrange the Processional?
Considering the fact that you are already breaking convention by committing to a member of the same sex, you’re probably ok to break tradition here as well. If you and your female partner would both like to walk down the aisle with your respective fathers-by all means-do it! You could all walk down the aisle at the same time or decide who’ll go first. Many couples choose to walk down the aisle arm-in-arm together, after a processional of friends and family. This is an area where you can get creative and cater your ceremony to your specific situation and needs.

How Will Your Ceremony Work?
With a commitment ceremony, you have the freedom to make the actual ceremony as personal as you like. Since this commitment is not legally binding, you can write the whole thing to reflect what ever is important to you and your partner. If this sounds daunting-to write your own ceremony-just follow the sequence of a traditional wedding ceremony and just change the necessary words (ie-I now pronounce you husband and wife will obviously need rewording!). Many officiants will have suggestions for you in this area-especially if they have previous experience marrying same-sex couples. They may already have a pre-written script you can follow.

Who Will Be In Your Wedding?
There is no need to stick with traditional practices when choosing your wedding (commitment ceremony) party. Just because you and your partner are both male doesn’t mean that you have to both choose an all-male wedding party. Mix it up if you like. The very notion of celebrating same-sex partnerships allows you to blur the traditional notions of gender and just choose the people who you’d like to stand up with you in one of the most important ceremonies of your life. It’s ok to choose two maids of honors or two best men. Get creative and choose based on the people in your life rather than trying to fit into the usual wedding etiquette mold.

Should You Have a Reception?
The short answer to this is-Yes!-but only if you want to, of course. Celebrating with friends and family after the ceremony can really help solidify your commitment to each other. And who doesn’t want to have a little fun after such an important milestone? Plan your reception just like any other reception. The sky is the limit-dinner and dancing, cocktails and jazz, an outdoor BBQ-to plan the party that fits your personality.