03/12/2012 05:47 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

How to Get a Domestic Partnership in California... And Make It Romantic!

Before signing domestic partnership papers with my wife last year (yes, I call her my wife), we were told by several people who had walked that path before us that it was the most unromantic, matter-of-fact thing in the world. People told us that it was simply signing a paper in front of a notary, mailing it off, and waiting for a certificate from the state. No cake, no friends, no celebration. Just a legal document. It sounded rather depressing, especially given that since my wife had popped the question and put a fabulous rock on my hand, we had been super excited about the "big day."

But as we all know, thanks to Mormon money that bought and paid for our second-class citizenship, same-sex marriage is still a long way away for us unmarried gay Californians. So domestic partnership it is. Ignoring, for the moment, that separate is not equal, we decided as a couple to do all that we could to make it a marriage in every way possible.

The first thing we did was research. If you are planning on signing domestic partnership papers here in California, your first stop should be this state government site, which gives you information on all the current fees and papers you will need.

The actual steps to getting a domestic partnership in California are as follows:

  1. Print out the forms found here.
  2. Take yourself and your future spouse to a notary (preferably one that is gay-friendly, so they don't rain on your gay parade).
  3. Pay the notary.
  4. Sign the papers.
  5. Mail in the papers with a check for $33 (the cost at the time of writing this).
  6. Wait a few weeks to receive your certificate that reads, "CERTIFICATE OF REGISTERED DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP," with both your names and a big gold seal from the state.

Sounds easy, right? It is. But it also sounds cold and unromantic. But it doesn't have to be. The amount of romance and extravagance are only limited by your imagination and budget.

Because we didn't want to wait another year to save for a huge gay wedding, we decided to elope. We printed out two copies of the legal forms. Booked our favorite romantic getaway. Bought some wedding bands and fled the city.

We decided to have a private ceremony, just the two of us, in front of a roaring fire at midnight. We exchanged vows, rings, and signed the papers alone that night. I also took her last name, because we felt that that helped legitimize our union to others, and it felt right for us. (Currently, domestic partners can take each other's names, but the laws have changed from time to time, so check at the time of signing.)

After a little honeymoon we came back to Los Angeles, found a notary, and re-signed the papers in her presence. After getting our certificate from the state, we had it framed, and it now hangs over our bed. The papers we signed in private are also in the frame, right behind the notarized ones. They will forever be a beautiful memento of that night, complete with our wedding vows handwritten on them.

In the end, what we were told would be a sterile, cold experience became the most romantic time of our lives. Until gay marriage is a reality for all of us, this is all we have. We might as well make it as wonderful as possible. Then, when Prop 8 is fully overturned, we will celebrate with another wedding, this time with our friends and family. So don't look at it as a bad thing; look at it like we get twice the romance and two chances to make that commitment.

My final words of advice for anyone about to enter into a domestic partnership, anywhere in the U.S., are research, research, research! And last but not least, make it something to remember.