Civil, religious or a symbolic ceremony – what’s the difference ?


Weddings are a bit of a unicorn really. While very much part of our many, varied, beautiful cultures across this world – so therefore something everyone knows about – they are also an event that, for the most part, we don’t actually take part in very often. So if you are thinking about getting married and found yourself searching here for the answer to the question above, don’t worry, you are not alone in being unsure of the answer.


Each ceremony type is like a different genre of a blockbuster movie—civil, the legal drama; religious, the epic saga; and symbolic, the heartwarming indie flick. They’re all ways of saying “I love you” with a twist, showcasing the beautiful diversity of how love can be celebrated and honored. So, pick your script, gather your cast, and let the wedding show begin!


Three different ceremonies, each with its own flair and style, making the union official in unique ways.


Let’s start with the civil ceremony. It’s like the straight-laced cousin at the party, the one who follows the rules diligently. Civil weddings are the by-the-book affair, all about legalities and paperwork. Think a judge or a city official presiding over the “I do’s” while everyone nods in agreement. No frills (but we can always add some, music, poems, singing), just signatures and legal jargon—simple, efficient, and to the point. It’s the wedding equivalent of a plain white shirt: classic, essential, but maybe not the flashiest. If you want simple, and no fuss, and ‘yes let’s have the legal piece of paper’ but the day for you is actually more about the location, the music, the party, spending time with your nearest and dearest then this is for you.


Now, onto the religious ceremony. This one’s the grand performance, complete with tradition, rituals, and a touch of divine intervention. Whether it’s in a chapel, mosque, temple, or any sacred space, religion takes the lead. There’s chanting, prayers, hymns—sometimes even incense adding a mystical ambiance. The couple might exchange vows under the watchful eye of a priest, rabbi, imam, or another religious figure, amidst blessings and holy texts. It’s a beautiful tapestry woven with faith, steeped in history, and often followed by joyful celebrations. It’s like a majestic opera, with all the drama and splendor, but with a touch of sacred reverence. This is what you choose to do if religion is centre stage to your union and an important part of your relationship.

Here in Italy the only legally recognized religious ceremony is a catholic one and at the end of the mass the civil codes of marriage are read as well.


Lastly, the symbolic ceremony—it’s the creative, customizable, and utterly personal choice. This one’s a bit like a blank canvas waiting for the couple’s artistic touch. It can happen anywhere: a beach, a garden, a mountaintop, or even in the couple’s favorite cozy spot which is one of the great attractions of it. Here, the rules are out the window, and imagination reigns supreme. The couple crafts their own vows, includes readings or performances that speak to their love story, and involves friends or family in unique roles. Unity ceremonies—like candle lighting, sand blending, or planting a tree—add symbolic layers to the occasion. It’s like staging a play written just for the two main actors, full of inside jokes and shared memories. The last few years have seen a growth in symbolic ceremonies allowing the ceremony itself to be not about religion and not about law but actually simply about the beautiful union of the two humans taking part.

If you would like to know more about the possibility of having your wedding on Lake Garda then please get in touch.