The symbolic wedding in Italy: 10 symbolic rituals and ceremonies

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How to celebrate an original and exciting symbolic wedding in Italy? More and more couples are asking me to organize, not a simple civil ceremony, but a real Italian symbolic wedding, with dedicated rituals. And I couldn’t be happier to fulfill these requests!

But let’s clarify: what is a symbolic wedding in Italy, and how does it differ from civil marriage? I wrote about the different wedding rites in my article, but now we will go into this theme together.

Civil or symbolic wedding? Let’s be clear

First of all, it is necessary to say that a symbolic wedding in Italy is not necessarily a civil marriage! During the celebration of a civil wedding, we can insert special symbolic rites – if the officiant and the location allow it – that make the ceremony more intimate and unique.

The same rites can be used independently to celebrate a symbolic wedding without legal value…but with a beautiful, emotional experience!

Let’s take an example. In this article, I told you about the wedding on the beach in Sicily. Well. Although we have thousands of kilometers of coastline, there are still few beaches where it is possible to have a legal civil marriage!

However, if a couple still wants to get married by the sea, the choice of a symbolic ceremony – without civil value – is undoubtedly the best.

And for the legal part? Suppose the spouses want and can get married civilly. In that case, they will go a few days before (or after) the wedding to secure the famous signatures in the Municipality, accompanied by witnesses and closest relatives. But it will be on your big day that you will exchange excited glances, faiths and promises of eternal love.

I remind you that if the civil aspect completes your symbolic wedding in Italy, you will have to deal with the bureaucratic procedures arranged by the state. I refer to the exhibition of documents and marriage banns in particular (I talked about it in this article on preparing for civil marriage).

In the sentence above, I wrote “want and can” because a symbolic wedding in Italy is also a fantastic opportunity for all those couples who, for bureaucratic reasons, can’t have a civil marriage but still wish to seal their love together with the closest people.

Symbolic ceremony or civil marriage: the choice is yours

So to summarize, the couple can freely choose whether to celebrate:

  • a civil wedding and – making sure that the location and the celebrant allow it – enrich the ceremony with symbolic rituals;
  • a symbolic wedding and complete it with an intimate civil ceremony – to make it legally binding;
  • only a symbolic wedding – enjoying the closeness of loved ones on one of the most important days of life.

You couples who want to organize a symbolic wedding, I already feel that you are thinking, “But what does it mean – if the location and the celebrant allow it?”

Let’s jump into the theme together.

The celebrant of the symbolic wedding in Italy and the right location

Who can celebrate a symbolic wedding in Italy? The answer is simple: everyone!

Provided it is a non-civil symbolic ceremony. Now perhaps it is clearer why I have focused on this differentiation.

The celebrant of the symbolic civil wedding in Italy

If you want to make your civil wedding a symbolic wedding, introducing the rituals we will talk about shortly, the first thing to do will be to find out who will be the celebrant of your civil ceremony and contact him!

In many cases, the celebrant will be the Mayor, in others a councilor. However, you can only discover his flexibility to “innovations” by contacting him. Remember to carefully explain the ritual you would like to include in your precious emotional deviation from the standard path.

It is essential to immediately explain which symbolic rite you wish to combine with the civil ceremony. Especially if your event will take place in historic locations! The reason? Some preservation constraints could prevent you, for example, from lighting candles or bringing sand inside the celebration rooms.

Just think that once, I happened to have a historical location where we were told we wouldn’t be allowed to bring more than 15 chairs in the internal cohort…and only with specific characteristics! All in order not to damage the floor.

Ps. And think how important it is to have a wedding planner to conform wishes to constraints in these situations!

The professional lay celebrant for your symbolic wedding ceremony in Italy

If you have organized a purely symbolic wedding in Italy, there shouldn’t be significant problems regarding the constraints of the location. Moreover, you can choose the celebrant of your symbolic wedding ceremony in this case.

Now the question is: who will celebrate your symbolic wedding ritual? The answer depends above all on you, spouses. The celebrant could be one of your closest friends, a parent, a specialist or… the wedding planner herself!

It has happened to me several times to write texts to celebrate the symbolic wedding, and it has always been a deep emotion.

What does the celebrant do in a symbolic wedding ritual? The role of the lay celebrant has now become a real profession. His job is to make your wedding special, with unforgettable readings, formulas and rituals totally sewn on you, often even written for you.

Among his tasks, he/she has also to draw up the lineup of the wedding with the wedding planner. This latter is usually more or less like this.

  • Entrance of the spouses – first the groom and then the bride, or, for more modern couples, entrance side by side after the first look in which the groom awaits the bride from behind and turns around when she arrives.
  • Music – in tune with the wedding theme
  • Welcome speech by the celebrant
  • Readings – poems, famous passages or texts written by the celebrant
  • Promises of the spouses – strictly personalized
  • Symbolic ritual
  • Classic triumphal exit

In the case of choosing a professional celebrant, do not forget to include his cost in the budget of your symbolic wedding!

But now we come to us: what are the most famous and engaging symbolic rites for your wedding?

Rituals for the symbolic wedding in Italy: the 10 most beautiful

Let’s start our roundup of ceremonies for symbolic weddings, from the most classic to the most original.

The symbolic rite of Handfasting 

The Handfasting ritual consists of tying the spouses’ joined hands with coloured ribbons or ropes symbolizing the new union. The stripes can be bright colours or in tone with the wedding palette. And again, it can be a single important ribbon or lace or several ribbons. Traditionally, three are used to indicate the union of three families: that of the groom, that of the bride and that of the newborn.

It is a rite of Celtic origin, but it also goes very well with an elegant and romantic wedding, perhaps with beautiful silk or lovely satin ribbon!

The ritual of light or candles

Another of the most well-known symbolic wedding rites is that of candles. Quite simply, there are three candles in this ritual: a larger one – to symbolize union – and two smaller ones, one for the bride and one for the groom. The candles of the spouses will light the big candle together, which represents the union.

In turn, the candles of the spouses can be lit by two candles held by their respective parents. The symbol is similar to the three laces of the Handfasting: the birth of a new family.

The symbolic ritual of the sand

The well-known sand ritual – perfect for a beach wedding – has the same structure as those we have already talked about, with a little more creativity. The couple, in this case, holds two bottles of sand of different colours, which they then blend in a larger vase. A perfect ritual for shabby chic weddings!

The ritual of the rose

One of the easiest and most elegant rites. In the rite of the rose, the spouses exchange two roses – which can be red or of different colours – and place them in a single vase that will decorate the table of the spouses. Ideally, the two roses should then be dried and stored. It’s a great idea to dry them and put them in your wedding photo album!

The ritual of the Tree of Life or tree planting

The tree of life symbolizes a new union that is born and gives birth to a new family. Considered a good omen for fertility, the rite of the Tree of Life consists in planting a plant together, ideally a fruit tree. Armed with pot, soil and shovel, the newlyweds connect with nature and combine their energies to create a new life.

Romantic and perfect for symbolic outdoor weddings – a little less for a civil ceremony in a luxurious historic building. In this case, I would instead propose the ritual of the rose or candles!

The ritual of wine

The element changes, but the symbol remains: in the wine ritual, both the groom and the bride have a bottle of wine that they will empty at the same time into a decanter. At the end of the ceremony – paying attention, if the wine is red – it will be possible to toast with witnesses and parents. But remember, you will be able to fill 15 glasses of wine at most!

The ritual of the rings o ring warming

Let’s get a little out of this union logic with the rite of ring warming. In this case, the wedding rings go from hand to hand of all the guests – or at least of the family and closest friends – to be warmed and enveloped by the positive vibrations of good wishes before being worn by the newlyweds.

The ritual of washing feet and hands

This ritual is of biblical origin but assumes, even in the case of non-religious ceremonies, a very profound meaning. Washing symbolizes the elimination of all the past bad experiences and leaves the couple free to live their bright future. For me it is lovely!

The ritual of the stone

This Scottish ritual is ancient and profound. It’s about making your promises by swearing on a stone. Ideally, the stone should have the names of the spouses and the date engraved, but it could also be a stone of a particular material: marble, alabaster, granite!

The Celtic ritual of the 4 elements

Often confused with Handfasting, it is actually a ritual with a different symbol. Always of Celtic origin, here, the hands of the spouses are joined with four ribbons of different colours to symbolize the earth, air, fire and water. The four elements are called to purify the spouses and unite them in front of Mother Earth eternally. Perfect for a symbolic ritual in the woods!

The symbolic wedding in Italy: a unique and personalized emotion

In this long article, I have tried to explain all the most important aspects of a symbolic wedding in Italy and how this can be an exciting choice to personalize a civil marriage and celebrate your big day in an original way.

Also, in this case, as I always say, the figure of the wedding planner is crucial for planning, organizing and coordinating an unforgettable symbolic ceremony.

Are you ready to organize yours? Contact me!

Tania Costantino – Full Service Wedding Planner in Sicily

Photos by Giuseppe Santanastasio; Gap Wedding; Sarah Beth; Erica Rose; Pinterest