This is a guest post by Mistress Steel. It was part of her Steel’s Chamber Scrolls which is now defunct. Shared with Permission.

The Formal Collar (frequently called the Slave Collar) is the representation of the final stage of commitment between the Dominant and submissive. This collar is offered after the Dominant and submissive have progressed through the ‘ Collar of Consideration’ and the ‘ Training Collar’.

All three of these collars are given in real life, between live persons actively interacting in or forming serious BDSM relationships. In recent years we have seen the creation of what I can only call the ‘cyber collar’. This creation attempts to mimic the real-life collar but tends to be exchanged between those who are primarily BDSM cyber fetishists. It is my personal opinion that cyber collars are made of pixel dust, fantasies and illusions. In addition, those using and exchanging these imaginary collars tend to appear and vanish like shadows in the mist, lacking the primary reality and substance that is so much a part of the BDSM world. The presence of the cyber collar and it’s apparent implications for those newly exploring the lifestyle tend to diminish what is a serious exchange in the real world. If you are a new Dominant or submissive, recognize that the Internet is a tool which augments and gives you access into a real world. If you wish to remain cyber that is your free choice but try to respect the world that you mimic.

The Formal Collar is offered by the Dominant with the intent to formalize the bond and attachment between themselves and their submissive. It is a recognition of commitment, deep emotional feelings, devotion, mutual respect, and consideration. It expresses a belief that the Dominant and submissive share similar ideals and a genuine and growing desire to share each other’s lives over perhaps the rest of their lives. With many couples, this collar is given in conjunction with a proposal of marriage. Its weight within the community is equivocal to the wedding ring. The acceptance of this collar by the submissive is an open, voluntary offering of their complete submission to the Dominant from that day forward.

The traditional appearance of the Slave Collar is a collar made of black leather or metal which is adorned by brass or silver objects or designs. This collar is created specifically for the individual submissive and is often an original design. The presentation of this collar often involves a joyous celebration including an exchange of vows, benediction by a minister, the singing of a mutually admired song etc. Many couples write their own poetry, vows and promises to each other which are exchanged publicly as they dedicate themselves to each other. In addition, many people choose to engage in the placement of permanent body markings upon the submissive at this time. This can be via tattoo’s, piercings, brandings, cuttings etc. Some ceremonies will include a carefully designed public scene so that the guests can visually enjoy and participate in this union and bond by watching the permanent marking in its application. This is a serious decision by both people often arrived at after years of searching and in many cases after living together for a long period of time to make sure that their choice is sound.

At this stage in the collaring process often the Dominant and submissive feel the same deep love that any vanilla couple might feel coupled to the trust, respect, and commitment so crucial in the D/s lifestyle. To be invited to attend a D/s Formal Collaring is similar to being invited to a wedding. A gift is appropriate, attire, as specified in the invitation, should be followed and protocol should be observed regarding the manner in which other members of the community are addressed. If you are invited to a collaring but are not very familiar with the participants then be polite, courteous and respectful. Remember that different areas of the country and different groups have different rules of protocol. If you do not know them, politely ask. If there is a public scene then standard open dungeon rules generally apply, this is the soft conversation when necessary, never touch another person, Do not interrupt a scene with questions or commentary, wear dark clothing and be unobtrusive during the commencement of the scene.

Remember that some scenes can place the submissive at risk in unique ways. An example of this is a scene involving fire play. During such a scene a sudden draft such as the opening of a door or window can make the flames flare in a sudden and extremely dangerous fashion. Do not leave your position of observation, open doors, windows, turn on fans, lights, music or anything else without the prior consent of the Dominant, Dungeon Master/Mistress or person in charge of scene management. Wait until the completion of a scene to address the Dominant. It is often considered proper to congratulate the submissive independent of the Dominant after such a collaring after you have congratulated the Dominant. If you are in doubt as to this protocol then take the opportunity to ask the Dominant when you are congratulating them if it is permissible to congratulate their submissive.

Remember that if the submissive has just scened, been pierced, branded or tattooed they may and probably will be in subspace. Be gentle, friendly and kind and forgive them if they are wobbly, spacey and a bit out of it. By the way – the Dominant may be a bit shook too, so a good hug or two is generally not unwelcome (this depends on the temperament of the Dominant of course!)

Often an open play party commences after such events. Do not drink if alcohol has been present if you intend to scene later. A final note – in many cases the Formal Collaring is recorded on video tape and in snapshots. If you are concerned about being in these shots choose seats outside the ones closest to the event. In most cases, the photographers try very hard to capture just those officiating and personally involved but if it is a concern of yours then take the steps necessary yourself without disturbing the ceremony in any way.

Written by F.R.R. Mallory – also known as Mistress Steel. This article may be excerpted from Extreme Space, The Domination and Submission Handbook, Safe, Sane and Consensual, Dangerous Choices or other books by F.R.R. Mallory and shared here with her permission. Please click on the book title for information on how you can order a copy of these books and others by F.R.R. Mallory.