What are the elements of the ceremony?
Though you may not end up with a legal document, the ceremony itself is a binding ritual, so you'll want to make it truly personal. Even so, your ceremony may be quite similar to a traditional wedding. Here are the basic components to a traditional wedding ceremony and what they include:
Processional: This is what gives guests the cue that the wedding is about to begin. Normally, the music dramatically changes and your bridal party and one or both of you will walk up the aisle to the altar or huppah to meet one another.
The Greeting/Call to Attention: This is where your officiant tells guests they're present to support the commitment and love between the two of you, and may say a few words about you and your relationship.
Declaration of Intent/Vows: Writing your own vows is a great way to celebrate your commitment to each other -- and honor the uniqueness of your relationship. You can draw what you like from traditional, religious, or secular vows; adapt wordings from poems, songs, and prose; or start from scratch and express your feelings in your own words. Memorize them, read them from a book, or repeat them after your officiant. Looking for more readings and ideas? Check out these ceremony readings.
Ring Exchange: Perhaps you've already given each other rings and you would like to add bands to go with them. If you're not getting a second set of rings, you can simply reenact the original ring exchange with a few special words. And when it comes to figuring out which hand to wear it on, that's entirely up to you. Many gay couples wear commitment rings on their right hands as opposed to the more traditional way of wearing them on the left. Or you might choose a nontraditional design and wear it on the traditional finger. No matter which you choose, the important part is celebrating and showing the symbol of your love for each other. During this time, it's appropriate for your officiant to say words about the symbol of the wedding ring and its meaning to you as a couple. If you opt not to have a ring exchange, the minister might have you two simply join hands while he gives a pronouncement.
Readings/Joining Rituals: You could read about love, friendship, companionship, trust, growth, or whatever value of your relationship you wish to highlight. Joining rituals like a unity candle (the two of you light a mutual candle with flames from two individual candles) or Native American sand blending are perfect ways to symbolize your union. You could also try the sharing of wine (bitter and sweet), which symbolizes that you're partners for all of life's joys and sorrows. Or, sign your names on parchment or in a holy book to show your commitment as a covenant.
Pronouncement of the Union and the kiss: This is the part you've been waiting for -- and it speaks for itself! This is also where your officiant may proclaim the marriage -- a few options include "life partners," "true partners," "beloved friends," or just "married!"