Civil vs Spiritual Weddings: What’s The Difference?

Beach wedding

For most of recorded history, the majority of couples marrying each other did so according to the guidelines of their religious faith. However with the rise of interfaith couples and with the steady drift of people away from allegiance to any particular religion, more couples are deciding on civil or spiritual wedding ceremonies. But how do you know the difference and decide which type is best for you? As an independent celebrant, I offer both types of ceremonies and this blog entry presents the key differences so you can decide which is right for you.

Civil Ceremonies:

Civil ceremonies are also known as secular ceremonies. Typically these ceremonies make no mention of Deity or Higher Power. However they may address such concepts as the Higher Self.

Civil ceremonies are more likely to appeal to atheists as many times they focus solely on the relationship between the couple and/or their community rather than on any relationship yof God.

Depending on your jurisdiction, a civil ceremony may be solemnized by a judge, mayor, notary public or other public servant. They can also be performed by an independent celebrant or wedding officiant.

Spiritual Ceremonies:

Some couples may not adhere to any particular religion but may still consider themselves to be spiritual and opt for a spiritual ceremony. Such ceremonies will not follow the restrictions of any particular faith but may combine the elements of different faiths and spiritual systems. Some spiritual couples may elect to add wedding customs from their own culture or borrow from other cultures. They may even add religious elements from the faith that they grew up in, such as a Jewish Glass Breaking or the reading of a Christian Bible verse. Spiritual ceremonies are normally performed by officiants and celebrants who are also ordained as interfaith or nondenominational ministers.

Different states and jurisdictions have different requirements that determine who is allowed to perform legally binding wedding ceremonies. If you are marrying outside an established house of worship, it’s always prudent to do your due diligence to ensure that your officiant is legitimate.