Love is love, no matter how you choose to celebrate it. But I think it’s important to clarify some aspect of each kind of ceremony.
So, let’s start from the easiest one: a symbolic wedding is non legally binding, which means it doesn’t have any legal validity, and doesn’t require any kind of paperwork. Basically, it’s the ideal ceremony to go for in case you decide to get married at the very last moment. Usually, couples choose it for practical or economic reasons. No stamps, no translations, no legalizations, and so on.
A civil wedding – on the contrary – is legally binding, that means it is recognized by law. Couples who choose this kind of ceremony need to go through a paperwork management process, which is quite overwhelming to accomplish alone, without the support of a professional Wedding Planner. The procedures depend on the country of residence of the bride and groom, and so do the certificates, nulla ostas, and documents to provide.
The element which makes you understand you are attending a civil wedding is the three-colored sash worn by the Mayor or the Registrar acting on his behalf. It show the colors of the italian flag: green, white and red, and it’s the symbol of our country.
As for the location, a civil wedding can take place in the City Hall or in any venue officially authorized by the City Hall, unless your Wedding Planner knows a Pastor authorized by the Italian Minister to officiate a civil wedding (and in that case, the ceremony can take place anywhere as long as the Pastor receives a Nulla Osta from the City Hall, but this is something your WP will clarify).
As for the religious wedding, the most common kinds of ceremonies held in Italy are Catholic and Jewish, although it’s also possible to plan Baptist, Christian Orthodox, and Evangelist ceremonies.
Catholic weddings can only take place in a Church or on a consecrated ground. They are non legally binding unless you ask for a “matrimonio concordatario”, which is a Catholic wedding with legal validity. In that case, you have to follow both the procedures (for the religious and the civil wedding). If you are unsure about what to do, don’t worry! Your priest will give you all the instructions, and your wedding planner will assist you with all the steps in Italy.
Jewish weddings (with a Reform Rabbi) can also be celebrated in Italy as long as a chuppah – the canopy under which the couple stand during their ceremony – is set up. In some parts of Italy, the ceremony can be hosted in a Synagogue, but it’s always better to ask for an official confirmation to the Jewish community.
If you are unsure about the best kind of ceremony for you, I will provide you some more details to make you understand the differences and similarities between all of them.
WALKING DOWN THE AISLE
No matter the wedding ceremony, the walking down the aisle is not an option when you get married. Before getting into detail, I would like to give you a simple piece of advice that is not written in any Golden Book of etiquette: your wedding is YOUR wedding, so you can choose anybody you think most appropriate for walking down the aisle, either you are the Groom or the Bride. Always remember there are no rules written in stone to follow.
I have had couples walking down the aisle together, grooms alone, brides with both parents, etc. Take a look at these photos and you’ll see how many options you have. And they are all great!
Lauren and Russell for example had their two sons – born from previous relationships – walking down the aisle before them.
Gina had her husband-to-be wait her at the altar with his groomsmen, while a cute page boy walked down the aisle before her and her parents.
Besides groomsmen and bridesmaids, Lauren and Peter had a very special guest walking down the aisle: Mr Corgi, a superstar!
In a Catholic ceremony, there are at least three mandatory readings that you can assign to some of your guests: a First Reading taken from the Old Testament, a Psalm taken from the Book of Psalms, and the Prayers of the faithful which can be written by the couple or by the reader(s). If you are asking yourselves why I didn’t mention the Second Reading taken from the New Testament, it’s because you may skip it unless you are getting married on Saturday afternoon or on Sunday (in that case, you have to include it because those Masses take place on a holy day of obligation). For a complete guide to planning your Catholic Ceremony, take a look at Catholic Wedding Help, which shows very helpful information on the matter.
In a civil wedding, the only mandatory readings are the three article of the Italian Civil Code related to marriage (art. 143, 144, and 147). They are read in Italian, like the whole ceremony, by the Mayor or a Registrar, and then translated by an Interpreter if at least one among bride, groom, or witnesses don’t speak Italian.
In a symbolic wedding, the readings are optional, of course. You can choose any text, for example a poem, or an extract from a book, a song, or even a speech written by one of your guests. Again, no rules to follow! My advice is to select one or two readers from each side, to avoid making the ceremony too long.
EXCHANGE OF VOWS AND RINGS
This is my favorite part! Vows express the official commitment of the bride and groom, and that’s why they play a major role in a wedding. In a civil and symbolic ceremony, after the question “Do you take ….?”, you can pronounce your own personal vows. If you don’t know where to start, you only need to google “wedding vows” and millions of links will come out. A quick note on the civil ceremony: be sure to tell the Mayor that you would like to pronounce your vows, as sometimes ceremonies are really quick and the time for each wedding is only 30 mins, so it’s better to be clear on your intentions.
The Catholic wedding vows are more traditional, and are provided by the Liturgy of marriage. Anyway, if you would like to pronounce your personal vows, be sure to ask permission to the priest who will celebrate your ceremony.
As for ring bearers, following my favorites. They tell you a lot in terms of unconventional options. How do you like them?
As a Wedding Planner who is also an Officiant, I have gathered a lot of rituals to enrich your wedding ceremony over the years. They belong to traditions from all around the world. Following some photos of hand fasting, sand, unity candle and rosary. They can make a difference in a ceremony as they convey the right emotions to the audience and keep the attention focused on what’s happening.
WEDDING EXIT TOSS
This is a very nice tradition which can be customized in many different ways. The only aspect you need to pay attention to is to get the authorization from the place (church, city hall, venue) where you will get married. Following some cool ones I had the pleasure to arrange for some of my couples.
WP agency: Efffetti
Paperwork management, Interpreter & Officiant Agency: My Wedding in Italy