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What is the difference between a symbolic and legal wedding?

Weddings are a special day for many couples, a day that symbolises the binding love between two people. But when planning a wedding, couples often come across the terms “symbolic wedding” and “legal wedding”. While these terms may seem similar, they hold different meanings in the context of marriage. In this post, we will discuss the difference between a symbolic wedding and legal wedding.

What is a Legal Wedding?

A legal wedding, also known as a civil ceremony, is a formal event that is legally recognised by the government and grants couples legal status as spouses. The couple signs a marriage license that is granted by the government, and the ceremony is performed by a licensed official such as a judge, justice of the peace, or religious leader. After the ceremony, the marriage certificate is registered with the government. Legal weddings offer couples a range of benefits, including tax breaks, joint insurance policies, and the ability to make medical decisions for each other in cases of emergency.

What is a Symbolic Wedding?

A symbolic wedding is a non-legally binding ceremony that is typically performed by a friend or family member, or a professional officiant. These ceremonies are often used to celebrate a couple’s love and commitment to each other; however, they do not have any legal standing or rights associated with them. Symbolic weddings can take place anywhere, from a beach or mountaintop to inside a museum or garden. They often allow couples to personalise their vows and create a ceremony that reflects their unique relationship.

What are the Differences between a Symbolic and Legal Wedding?

The main difference between a symbolic and legal wedding is that a legal wedding grants couples legal status as spouses recognized by the government. This means that couples have certain legal rights, such as the ability to inherit from each other and make legal decisions for each other in certain circumstances. A symbolic wedding, on the other hand, does not offer any legal standing. Additionally, a legal wedding typically requires certain legal documents and a licensed officiant, while a symbolic wedding can be performed anywhere by anyone the couple chooses.

Why Might a Couple Choose a Symbolic Wedding?

There are several reasons that a couple may choose to have a symbolic wedding over a legal one. One of the primary reasons is cost. Legal weddings can be expensive, with fees for the license, venue, officiant, and other requirements. A symbolic wedding can be more cost-effective, as it eliminates the need for legal documents, fees, and licensing. Another reason is flexibility. Symbolic weddings can be performed anywhere and by anyone the couple chooses, allowing them to create a unique ceremony that reflects their personalities and preferences. Finally, some couples may choose a symbolic wedding as a way to celebrate their love without the legal implications that come with a legal marriage.


In conclusion, a legal wedding is recognized by the government and grants couples legal status as spouses, while a symbolic wedding is a non-legally binding ceremony that allows couples to celebrate their love and commitment without legal implications. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, and couples should carefully consider which is right for them when planning their wedding. Ultimately, the most important thing is that couples choose a wedding that reflects their love, values, and preferences.


What does a symbolic wedding mean?

A symbolic wedding ceremony, also known as a humanist ceremony, is a type of wedding ceremony that is non-religious in nature. The purpose of a symbolic wedding ceremony is to celebrate the union of two people in a way that reflects their personal beliefs, values, and personalities.

Unlike a traditional religious wedding ceremony, a symbolic wedding ceremony is not bound by any particular religious or cultural traditions. Instead, it is customized to suit the couple’s preferences, making it a unique and personal experience.

In a symbolic wedding ceremony, a wedding celebrant, who is often a specially trained professional, guides the proceedings. The ceremony typically includes several different elements such as vows, readings, and music. The wedding celebrant helps to create a ceremony that is personalized to the couple’s preferences and reflects their shared values and worldviews.

Many couples who opt for a symbolic wedding ceremony do so because they do not belong to any particular religion or because they come from different religious backgrounds. They may prefer a ceremony that is more universal in nature, and that welcomes people from all walks of life.

Symbolic wedding ceremonies are often held in outdoor settings such as a garden, beach, or park. This allows the couple to enjoy the natural beauty of the environment and to create a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

One of the benefits of a symbolic wedding ceremony is the freedom to include elements that reflect the couple’s individual personalities and interests. For example, couples may choose to include a unity ceremony, such as lighting a unity candle or planting a tree to symbolize the joining of their lives together. They may also choose to include readings from their favorite books, songs, or poems.

A symbolic wedding ceremony is a wonderful way for couples to celebrate their marriage in a way that is unique, personalized, and non-traditional. It allows couples to create a meaningful and memorable experience that reflects their personality, values, and beliefs.

Can anyone perform a symbolic wedding?

A symbolic wedding is a non-legally binding ceremony that is performed in lieu of a religious or civil wedding ceremony. It allows couples to have the flexibility and freedom to personalize their ceremony without having to follow legal requirements or regulations. One of the advantages of a symbolic wedding is that it can be performed by anyone, as there are no legal implications involved, and there is no requirement for the person performing the ceremony to hold any kind of license or legal recognition.

Couples who opt for a symbolic wedding may choose to have a friend or family member officiate the ceremony, which can add a meaningful touch to the celebration. By selecting someone who is close to them, it creates a more intimate and personal atmosphere, and often, the person chosen to perform the ceremony may have known the couple for many years, adding an extra level of significance to the event.

Symbolic weddings are also a popular alternative for couples who are planning a destination wedding or getting married in a location that is far away from their home country. In some cases, local laws and regulations may make it difficult or even impossible for a legal marriage ceremony to take place. In such cases, a symbolic wedding allows the couple to celebrate their marriage in a meaningful way, even if it is not legally recognized.

While anyone can perform a symbolic wedding, there are a few things to keep in mind. It is important to ensure that the person chosen to officiate the ceremony is comfortable and has a good understanding of what is expected of them. It may also be helpful to provide them with a script or outline of the ceremony, so they know what to say and when. Additionally, couples should keep in mind that a symbolic wedding has no legal validity and does not confer any legal rights or obligations.

Anyone can perform a symbolic wedding, and it can be a wonderful, meaningful way for couples to celebrate their love and commitment to each other. It offers a great degree of flexibility in terms of the ceremony’s structure, and it may be performed by anyone that the couple chooses. It is important to remember that symbolic weddings are not legally binding, but they can still be a beautiful way to celebrate the union of two people in love.

What is a symbolic ceremony without an officiant?

A symbolic ceremony without an officiant is referred to as self-solemnization or self-uniting marriage. This type of ceremony involves the couple getting married without the presence of a hired officiant or clergy member. In such ceremonies, the couple essentially officiates their own marriage, and the marriage is recognized as legal throughout the United States.

Self-solemnization ceremonies are ideal for couples who prefer to take control of their wedding ceremony and want it to be more personalized. It gives couples the freedom to design their ceremony as per their liking and preferences, incorporating cultural or religious rituals that are important to them.

It is important to note that self-solemnization marriages are only allowed in certain states in the United States, such as Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and California. However, in those states where it is allowed, it must adhere to specific legal requirements.

In Colorado, for example, the state allows couples to self-solemnize their marriage if they declare themselves as an entity qualified to join in marriage, and if they sign their marriage license as both the parties and the officiant. In Pennsylvania, the law allows couples to get married without an officiant by making a mutual declaration of their marriage at the ceremony in the presence of two witnesses.

In a self-solemnization ceremony, the couple must ensure that all the legal requirements are met and that they have the necessary documents and licenses before the ceremony. They should also check their state laws to ensure that self-solemnization marriages are allowed.

A symbolic ceremony without an officiant is an alternative to traditional weddings, which allows couples to take control of their special day. A self-solemnization ceremony can be simple, intimate, and perfectly customized to reflect the couple’s personality and beliefs, and it is recognized as a legal marriage in specific states in the United States.