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  • Writer's pictureGiovanni Rusconi

Religious or civil wedding? Which type of ceremony to choose

In the past, religious wedding ceremonies and large ancient church weddings were the norm. Today, however, more and more couples are choosing to get married in a civil ceremony .

It's an extremely personal choice and the reasons for choosing one over another vary from couple to couple. However, although you can naturally opt for both and, respecting the normal bureaucracy, be legally married, they are two very different paths and for this reason, before establishing which one will be yours, there are several things you should consider.

First of all , marriage is a contract and the State needs to proceed according to the Civil Code for it to take effect.

Therefore, for the purposes of validity, there can be a civil marriage without a religious marriage, but not vice versa. With this we do not want to say that the ceremony in Church has no validity since, given the agreement between State and Church of 1929 (" Lateran Pacts "), there is the Concordat Marriage , a religious rite that produces civil effects.

However, for the State, in order to obtain the full rights that are expected by law of husband and wife, the Marriage must, according to Article 106 of the Civil Code , take place in the Municipality in front of the Civil Registrar.

Having said that, let's see what other details differentiate these two types of ceremonies.

Religious or Civil Marriage?

The main difference between getting married in a religious or civil ceremony is that a religious ceremony is about being married in the eyes of God, while a civil ceremony is about being married in the eyes of the law.

Of course, your celebrant, whether civil or religious, must meet all the legal requirements for marrying a couple set out by the Government, but if you are getting married in a Church or other place of worship, there are likely to be a number of rules or conventions ( such as whether the bride or groom belongs to the faith in question) that must be respected, while civil ceremonies have fewer restrictions .

Of course, this is understandable, since it should not be forgotten that, however beautiful and atmospheric many Churches are, the fact is that they are first and foremost places of worship. Thus, the true marriage ceremony is seen as a sacred, holy ceremony , to which the customs of faith must apply.

Civil ceremonies, on the other hand, can be just as wonderful and evocative but are not bound by the rules of any faith, only by law, so there is much more “wiggle room” regarding some details, such as the choice of music or dress.


As mentioned above, places of worship are not just about beautiful surroundings and stained glass windows. They are, generally, consecrated and a place where people of that faith gather to practice their beliefs. Therefore, few Churches, Synagogues or Mosques will allow those who do not share their faith to marry in their house of worship. So, if you have every intention of getting married in a house of worship (whatever that may be) but are not of that faith, the chances of you being allowed to get married there are slim to none.

Likewise, individual houses of worship sometimes have their own rules, as do individual faiths, about who can marry within their walls.

Since there are no such restrictions with civil ceremonies, in order for everything to conform to the legality of marriage, most locations in many countries around the world (from a garden to the beach or even a private courtyard) will be sufficient.

In Italy, as we have said, the wedding ceremony takes place in the municipality as established by the Civil Code.

First of all, a request for publication is submitted to the Civil Registrar of the municipality of residence of one of the two future spouses. This will take care of drawing up the paper report and the publication document will be displayed online for 8 days. After a further 4 days the celebration can then take place.

Freedom of choice

While many religious ceremonies are a little more relaxed today than in the past, they are still religious services by their very nature, so while some faiths allow for some flexibility in the wedding ceremony format, you'll need to stick to a fairly standard schedule if your The wedding will have to take place in a church, so expect things like hymns, a pastoral address and additional religious elements .

Civil ceremonies, on the other hand, are conducted in accordance exclusively with the laws of the Italian jurisdiction, so as long as they are respected, you can tailor the ceremony exactly to what the couple wants.

In this sense, you thus have a freer choice on various details, primarily clothing, which can make everything less formal and, on the other hand, precisely because civil ceremonies are quite flexible it is still possible to also combine religious elements.

The duration of the celebration

There is no set length for a wedding ceremony, but we have heard of civil ceremonies where nothing other than the mandatory legal wording is used and, as such, the ceremony lasted no more than five minutes .

So, your ceremony can last as long as you want.

In the case of a civil ceremony, since the legal requirements for the ceremony exist, there is no time limit. In the case of a religious ceremony, there is generally an order of service, so although we have attended quite concise religious ceremonies, most seem to be around the time but, like a civil ceremony, that varies and depends on the traditions of the religion you are getting married with and, of course, the couple's requirements regarding readings, worship songs and the order of proceedings.


Attire is an important consideration when choosing between a religious and a civil ceremony.

Although civil ceremonies can be lavish, they generally lend themselves to a less formal atmosphere than that typical of a place of worship and, in some cases, the clothing is also rather informal.

Places of worship generally have a basic dress code that concerns modesty of tone and respect for decorum. This isn't to say that you have to be covered from head to toe in simple, nondescript clothing, but an overly lavishly dressed groom or a bride with a little too much cleavage on display probably wouldn't go over well within a religious context. .

Ultimately, whatever your choice, the important thing is to choose the ceremony that best suits you as a couple. After all, it is one of the most special ceremonies you will take part in in your entire life, so you should enjoy it as much as possible.

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