When we talk about collars in BDSM, we often mean the symbol of a relationship commitment between two people. When a collar comes into view, some people want to commemorate that with a ceremony. Let’s talk a bit about collars, their symbolism in D/s and M/s relationships, and how you can build a formal ceremony around declaring your commitment to each other.
A collar is a physical symbol of the authority transfer or power exchange established between two or more people. Collaring can be polyamorous, where one Dominant collars more than one submissive, or more rarely, a submissive is collared by more than one Dominant. I’ve covered collars many times on Submissive Guide. I recommend you read “ Expectations of a Collar: How Ready Are You to Accept One?” to explain the types of collars and a submissive’s role in preparing for the commitment.
Offering and accepting a collar is a momentous milestone in any D/s relationship. The declaration of commitment can happen anytime in a relationship, but should only happen after the negotiation phase ends. Some relationships wait to offer a collar until their commitment is intended to be life-long, which can be at the same time as an engagement ring or marriage.
Receiving a collar is a special occasion for many submissives and slaves. It can be an intimate moment between the couple in private, or if the relationship is long-distance, it could be a phone call or an online chat where descriptive text is typed out as a virtual ceremony.
BDSM is generally practiced intimately, behind closed doors, so public declarations, such as collaring, may not be possible or desired. But, members of a BDSM community may have the means to share their new commitment with friends.
For those who can, this time means a more public celebration of their relationship and commitment to the power exchange. While there is no expectation of a ceremony when a submissive receives a collar, some people wish to include their family, natural or chosen for this occasion. A formal collaring ceremony came about because of this need.
There isn’t a single, widely accepted, formal way to give or receive a collar. Celebrations can be formal or informal. No matter how the event is held, it should be seen as a somber event with significance to the BDSM community, as a wedding is in the vanilla world.
A wedding is a great ceremony, already steeped in tradition, personal customization, cultural variety, and a somber declaration of commitment. After all, you are committing yourself to someone in a very special and often permanent way. Why not use an existing ceremony and customize it for your needs? Let’s look at planning a collaring using a wedding as a template.
All great events start with a theme. Decorations with a color scheme are lovely, but if you want to go further, you could make the theme more than the colors—like mystical fairies, nature, steampunk, historical or traditional. If you want darker, you could do leather, rope, chains, and whips for that appropriately inappropriate theme.
Knowing your ceremony's theme can help you create a cohesive event, from the invitations to the attire, food, and entertainment. There are hundreds of resources online and in bridal magazines to help you create the perfect theme for your event.
Collaring ceremonies are typically smaller because of how many people may know your lifestyle choice. That’s okay. An intimate feel may be just what you are looking for. If you are active in the local BDSM community, you may have a larger group of people you want to witness the event.
I’d like to warn you against including vanilla friends and family unless you want to tell them precisely what you’re doing and potentially have a whole coming-out conversation.
Places to hold a collaring vary on preference. I’ve seen them held in public dungeons, private homes, and outdoors. It’s really up to you and the atmosphere you want to have. Hosting them in your home is intimate and low-budget. A yard or a garden could be a lovely place, weather permitting.
Check the policies beforehand if you are holding it in a public or semi-public place. Discuss your plans with the event manager and be honest about what you’re looking for regarding ceremony and ritual. Some places might have specific times or days of the week for alternative lifestyle displays. Even the most lifestyle-friendly places may have rules surrounding public nudity or BDSM activities.
I recommend you send invitations and give people time to respond and book time off. You can certainly use wedding invitations as a base for what to say.
Take this text for example, “Because you have shared in our lives by your friendship and love, we, Dominant and Submissive, invite you to share the beginning of our new life together when a collar is given.”
You can word the invitation in many different ways, and I recommend you use a web search to find the wording that will work best for your situation. Invitations are a great way to convey the theme; if your guests have the option to dress in costume or specialty wear and what they may expect to be a part of.
Remember that everyone needs to consent to things that would be considered unacceptable in vanilla public. Be clear if nudity is going to be present or if symbolic BDSM play will take place.
The ceremony's centerpiece is the ring, in this case, the collar. Most couples want a brand-new collar that the submissive can wear publicly and privately. If the submissive already has a collar, an upgrade may be desired. Not all collars go around the neck. Locking bracelets, cuffs, rings, belly chains, or some form of body modification are also options.
Like a wedding, you will want to determine what everyone involved will wear. You don’t need to limit yourself to rented tuxes and white dresses. Keep the theme in mind. Some ceremonies call for costumes or BDSM-wear.
I have heard many variations for the submissive, from a costume, simple wedding dress, or suit to a gauze nightgown, a g-string, or nothing at all.
Dominants are likely to be fully dressed no matter what, but the options are still open. Full leathers, tuxedos, kilts, all in black, really whatever conveys the right message about the couple. It all works based on the atmosphere you want to convey.
The officiant has a place of honor at a collaring ceremony. Some relationships want someone to help lead them into an exchange of vows or rituals that will seal the ceremony. Anyone you respect who would be willing to stand up and guide the two of you will work.
An officiant is not required in a collaring ceremony since there are no legal requirements, and some ceremonies only require the Dominant to lead the vows.
Unlike a wedding, there is no need for attendants. You may want someone to help you dress, but in most cases, you stand alone in front of your Dominant for a collaring.
Writing vows can be one of any ceremony's most challenging and personal tasks. Vows can be highly structured or relaxed and simple. They could be the declaration portion of the contract you will sign together to give your commitment a sense of permanence. BDSM contracts are not legally binding, but D/s couples have used them with great success to provide guidelines for the relationship.
You can say whatever you’d like at a collaring ceremony. There are some lovely ideas all over the internet. I think a common theme is that the Dominant explains to the assembled why they have chosen the submissive today and then pledges to the submissive to care for them. The submissive vows what they hope to achieve under the collar and how they feel about the relationship between the Dominant and submissive.
I am particularly fond of a call-and-response pledge form, where the Dominant says something the submissive has to agree to, and the submissive responds with “I am yours,” or something similar. Once the collar is placed and locked, if it will be locked, the Dominant declares, “You are mine.” Let me just say one word, “YUM!”
Some collaring ceremonies end with a ritual. It can be as complex or simple as you wish. It could be lighting candles, spreading rose petals, blending colored sand, handfasting, using incense to bless the collar before it’s given, a ritual BDSM playtime, or the receipt of a cutting, brand, or piercing. It is meant to be short and express the intimate moment between the parties.
The sky is the limit when it comes to a reception. You can host a play party, sit-down dinner, or a full-blown wedding reception-style celebration with dancing, music, and the works. A smaller affair has more impact than a large one, but you may think otherwise.
In closing, you must sit down and figure out what is important to you before planning something elaborate. I was delighted with the private exchange that KnyghtMare and I had, and while I can’t remember what I was wearing, I remember the look in his eye when he placed the collar on me.
And that’s the important part, right?
Here is a list of collaring ceremony stories I found online to get you started in your research to build your ceremony.
- Our Ceremony of Roses, Vow Renewal, and Re-collaring by Mrs Darling
- Our Collaring Ceremony on the space between
- My collaring ceremony script from my polyamorous commitment ceremony on Offbeat Wed
- Planning Our Collaring Ceremony on The Chateau
- Collaring Ceremony and Ceremony of the Roses on House of Dasein
- Ceremony From The Heart: The Collaring Ceremony by Norische