Published: Wednesday, May. 19th, 2021
If you’re planning a platonic wedding, you already know what this term means to you, but if you’ve been asked to officiate one, you might have a few unanswered questions.
The term ‘platonic marriage,’ or a marriage between friends who aren’t romantically involved, has been making the news lately. Since platonic marriages are definitely becoming a “thing” -- we see them on the rise both in the US and abroad -- it’s important for wedding officiants to have an idea of what to expect and how to make these ceremonies truly authentic, personal, and memorable.
With this in mind, here’s a brief look at what platonic marriage is, why it’s becoming more popular, and how to write and officiate an awesome platonic wedding ceremony! We’ll talk about whether or not these marriages are legal, how the ceremony could differ from a traditional one, and elements to consider as you plan the big day.
Merriam Webster defines platonic as: of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex… they say this meaning “alludes to [the philosopher] Plato’s belief that love between people could be so strong as to transcend physical attachments.”
When two people who aren’t romantically involved with each other decide to enter into a legal marriage contract, that’s a platonic marriage. While it might appear subversive to some, or a blow to the sanctity and exclusivity of marriage to others, the fact is that platonic marriage has been around since the beginning of time (or at least since the beginning of marriage). Historians and philosophers tell us so. And like romantic marriages, they look different for each couple.
In general, friends choose these partnerships for many of the same reasons romantic couples do: emotional and financial security and benefits, companionship and enjoyment, and to start or support a family.
Is platonic marriage on the rise? It seems that way! And while every marriage is different, it’s not difficult to guess why.
Friends who decide to get married can reduce their individual cost of housing and childcare, and gain access to healthcare and other benefits. Emotional reasons to favor marriage include a high compatibility of values and interests, and a desire for family and long term security and stability. And people in happy marriages, along with those who feel connected to a community and who enjoy an active social life, are also reported to live longer and be healthier.
(The increase in popularity makes even more sense following a pandemic that caused record unemployment and isolation, right?)
Not to mention that romances can be temperamental, making legal contracts centered around them feel risky. For some people, choosing a marriage based on friendship, and not the potential rollercoaster of romance, lessens the risk while still providing access to all of the benefits that come with marriage.
Platonic marriages appeal to all kinds of people who want to raise or participate in families, pursue education and careers, share financial burdens, start businesses, and establish healthy routines, without depending on the unpredictable nature of romantic partnerships.
Yes. State marriage licenses don’t ask if people who decide to marry are romantically or sexually involved with each other. They only ask that the parties be truthful about who they are when completing the paperwork, and whether or not their commitment is authentic. And with same-sex marriage now legal in every state, friends of any sex can marry.
(Note: International marriages, where a US citizen marries a non-citizen, complicate this concept. International marriages follow different guidelines and, among other things, may involve a Green Card interview to investigate whether or not a marriage is authentic and if marriage fraud has occurred. To learn more about these complex marriages, head to the ImmigrationHelp.org Learning Center.)
Experienced officiants might be surprised to learn how similar these events can be to conventional ceremonies. Meanwhile, first-time officiants might have trouble figuring out where to get started, especially considering that a lot of the sample scripts available online are written in lovey-dovey language that just won’t fit the occasion. (Don’t worry, we have some great scripts to help you get started in our Ceremony Script Library.)
Platonic wedding ceremonies can include the same primary elements of other weddings -- like a welcome and invocation, a declaration of intent, vows, a ring or gift exchange, unity rituals, and a pronouncement. If you’ve never performed a wedding before and need to learn these basic parts of a ceremony, visit our Wedding Officiant Training pages to familiarize yourself with the lingo and concepts first.
But just like romantic couples, some friends will want a completely reimagined experience, one that’s free of the connotations of a traditional wedding ceremony. So be prepared to leave out rings, rituals, and ‘marriage’ related words or elements altogether in favor of something new.
What you say and how you say it will depend entirely on the couple, and the tone and feel they want the ceremony to have.
If they do want to include a few conventional elements, you might want to approach them this way:
Welcome & Invocation: Like romantic couples, some best friends will want you to tell their story, including how they met and how their friendship has changed over the years. Talk about their shared values and interests, how they make each other’s lives better, and what they hope their future will look like together. If it fits the mood, you can include inside jokes and amusing anecdotes about their adventures together.
Vows: If vows are part of the ceremony, friends will usually want to write these themselves because of the personal nature of the arrangement. Friendship vows might include anything from promising to respect and appreciate each other, to sharing life responsibilities, to supporting and comforting each other throughout the ups and downs of life and any future romantic relationships they have outside of their marriage.
We doubt there will be much vowing ‘to honor and obey’ in these ceremonies (many modern couples leave these sentiments out as well). But depending on the nature of their friendship, they might ask you to include common phrases like ‘soul mates’ or ‘friends forever’ in your script, to remind their guests (and themselves!) of the depth of their commitment and what they mean to each other.
Unity rituals & special readings: Handfastings, candle lightings, and other rituals can symbolize spiritual or emotional connections that go far beyond romance. The friends might even ask you to help them create a custom ritual that reflects their unique bond. Ask if they want to include friends, children, or other family members in their ceremony through special readings, skits, songs, or in other unique ways.
Pronouncement: Just as you would when writing a traditional wedding script, ask how they wish to be announced at the end of the wedding ahead of time.
Don’t forget to ask how they want to modify the ‘first kiss’ portion of the ceremony, if they want to include it at all. Some folks will still want to kiss for fun and photos, some will want to hug, and some might want to head right into the recession with a Charleston Shuffle. You can’t know until you ask!
Every couple has the right to marry, and for their marriage to be solemnized in a way that reflects what they mean to each other. The secret to creating a meaningful wedding ceremony -- of any kind! -- is taking the time to get to know the people you’re marrying.
Ask questions, be yourself, and have fun!
Something to consider…
Some people might frame platonic marriages as just “marriages without sex” -- like the heading in this recent article in the New York Times -- but this isn’t really an accurate description. Sexuality and relationships exist on a big ol’ spectrum, and this definition easily overlooks ace / asexual folks in happy romantic marriages and aromantics looking for lifelong partners, among others.
For this article, we define platonic marriages as those between two friends who don’t have a romantic relationship with one another. And friends get married for a variety of reasons, just like romantic couples do.
To learn more, here are a few times platonic marriage has been in the news lately:
From Best Friends to Platonic Spouses by Danielle Braff for the New York Times
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