Is a marriage and a wedding the same?

Jan 18, 2022 | Uncategorized, Weddings

Photo credit:  Hannah Barnes Photography

A marriage and a wedding are they the same?  The short answer is no.  They are not.  They are different and it is important to understand why.

Why knowing the difference matters

By understanding the difference between a marriage and a wedding could influence your wedding planning.  Who you use to officiate your ceremony, where you have it and what you can and cannot include within it.

is a marriage and a wedding the same?

Photo Credit: Zac Gibson Photography

Where did the words marriage and wedding derive from?

Marriage originated from the French word ‘marier’ meaning marry.  Wedding originated from the scot’s word ‘wed’ meaning a pledge.

What is the legal marriage?

This is the act of marrying.  In other words the legal contract between two people.  The declaratory and contracting words which have been laid down by law and must be repeated after the Registrar or member of the clergy if in church.

First the declaratory words.  There a few variations but the most common is “I do solemnly declare that I know of no lawful impediment why I…..  may not be joined in matrimony to ……”. The contracting words are “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I ….. do take thee ……. To be my lawful wedded wife/husband.

The legal marriage is an official and an important contract.  To legalise your marriage these words are essential but including them in your wedding ceremony is not essential and can be restrictive because of the way the law is currently written.

The marriage itself

The second element of marriage is the long term relationship and hopefully lifelong journey, between two individuals.  The easiest way to explain this is by way of an example.  If you were to describe a couple’s marriage as a disaster.  It implies that they are not happy together indeed possibly the marriage has ended in divorce or separation.

If you were to say their wedding was a disaster the implication is that something unfortunate happened during the wedding like the marquee blowing away or something like that.  Despite a bad experience at the wedding the couple can go on and have a long and happy marriage.

The wedding

So now we are back to the wedding.  In a nutshell the wedding is the ceremonial celebration of that legal marriage providing the opportunity to make a public declaration that you have committed to your partner and want to embark on that lifelong journey, marriage, together.

A wedding includes the rituals, ceremonies and all the trappings that take place when two people take vows to live together for the rest of their life. It is an indication of social acceptance of the relationship provides the opportunity to express yourselves.

It celebrates who you are, your values, your energy and your style.  It sets the tone for your marriage and your relationship as well as your position within your families, friends and community.

By choosing the words you wish to to be included and the very fact that you are laying yourselves bare, voicing your feelings, promises and aspirations for your relationship in front of witnesses who can hold you account you are pronouncing be it a small affair or a large gathering, “this is us”.

This self-expression and creativity can be illustrated in every aspect of the wedding.  The ceremony, of course but also all the other elements of wedding planning.  Your choice of venue, photographer, florist, music, the lists goes on.  But it’s the wedding ceremony where the loudest statement is made by you and where the true authenticity of your marriage is displayed .

A wedding celebrant like myself will craft a ceremony that ensures that your values, beliefs and story are at the heart of it.  It will be authentically you from start to finish.

is a a marriage and wedding the same?

Photo credit: Farwood Photography

Can you separate the legal marriage from a wedding?

Yes and it can be done before, after or, of course and most common because of convenience, at the same time as your wedding.    However, sadly many consider a wedding ceremony that does not include the legal element as not real.

This way of thinking is predominantly based on a lack of knowledge about the difference between marriage and a wedding.

Legal marriages during Covid

The distinction between a legal marriage and a wedding ceremony has been more relevant and obvious than ever recently.  Tired and frustrated by the delays dduring the height of Covid many many couples pressed on with their legal marriage without a wedding ceremony.  Now the Covid restrictions  have been lifted there is nothing to stop those from having a wedding ceremony at a later date if that’s what they want to do.

What are the advantages of separating the legal marriage from the wedding?

If anything by separating the two makes your wedding more real and more authentic. The declaratory and contracting words that are needed to contract a marriage are restrictive.  By separating the two leaves you with total freedom to include what you want in your ceremony as well as being able to choose who officiates and where you hold your wedding ceremony.

There are no templates.  No filling in the gaps.  Your words.  Your promises.  Your wedding celebrating your legal marriage and the enduring and life long commitment you have made to one another.  In a nutshell you will have a great wedding and hopefully a long and happy marriage.

As I have identified the legal marriage is the contract.  It is official and only leaders of the church and registrars have the power to officiate weddings legally.

By removing the legal element from your ceremony and using a wedding celebrant will immediately eliminate any stress.  After all as soon as officialdom comes into play; stress can often follow.    Will they be friendly?  Will they be late?  Will they be rushed?  Registrars are lovely people but they work to a tight schedule officiating at many ceremonies a day and things as we know don’t always go to plan.

Completing the legals on another day gives you complete flexibility and enables you to enjoy the day as you should knowing that the officiant you have chosen will deliver your vision for your ceremony.

No clearer example of the difference between these two words that are so often interchanged is that it would be correct to say, “I am going to my friend’s wedding” but you would not be attending a friend’s marriage.

I would love to talk to you about making the ceremony at your wedding a very personal, warm and unique statement of intent for your marriage.   Let’s celebrate the lifelong journey and adventure you are about to embark upon click here now and let’s get started.




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