The different wedding ceremonies
The choice of ceremony is obvious for some couples, but can be a difficult choice for others. Indeed, the more advanced you are in the organization of your wedding, the more the range of possibilities will open to you. Generally, 3 forms of celebrations can be distinguished, and often complement each other: the civil, religious and secular ceremony. It even happens that some couples opt for all three!
- The only one legally recognized union
- Marriage at the town hall or in an approved place
- Administered by the Swiss Civil Code (see here the SCC Marriage for all)
- Formal and expeditious marriage
Conditions and authorisations
First, the Civil marriage is the only form of marriage recognized in Switzerland, from a fiscal, professional and social point of view. It is governed by the Swiss Civil Code and subject to conditions, which can be obtained from the civil registry office of your choice.
Couples have the right to get married in the district of the civil status of their choice, or in another region if they wish. However, a civil marriage cannot take place just anywhere. The wedding room must be an official location of a town hall, or a location approved by the canton's civil status authorities. In order to facilitate the process, Woui lists and updates all the current official and approved venues for a civil wedding in Switzerland on its directory. Simply select « Civil wedding » as the category of service provider, then the chosen venue and either "official" (town hall rooms) or "approved" (unusual venues, castles, etc.).
The civil ceremony lasts about 20-30 minutes during which the couple as well as the witnesses of age and capable of discernment must be present. The engaged couple and their witnesses sign the confirmation of marriage seen in advance. The Civil State gives the family certificate. In fact, the civil marriage implies a change of civil status.
Personalization of the civil ceremony
However, it is possible to personalize this civil ceremony so that it remains engraved in people's minds, for example:
- Making a speech or asking the witnesses to say a few words
- Ask the officiant to personalize the exchange of consent
- Preparing music for the entrance and exit
- Decorate the room with bouquets of flowers or other accessories
- If the "church" stage is not planned, suppose, for your exit, a throw of petals, rice, soap bubbles, or any other ideas!
- Union not recognized by law, but recognized by God
- A civil marriage is imperative before a religious ceremony in Switzerland
- At least one of the spouses must be baptized at a Catholic church
- Only possible if the spouses are not already married or divorced
- Proceedings according to the custom of each religion
Authorizations and procedures
Generally, the marriage takes place in the parish of one of the spouses. However, with the permission of the parish priest, it is possible for the marriage to be celebrated elsewhere. It is also generally possible for Swiss citizens to get married abroad and have the marriage recognized in Switzerland.
A marriage can be celebrated by the competent Swiss authorities if one of the parties is domiciled in Switzerland, has Swiss nationality or if the marriage is already recognized in another country. But the application for facilitated naturalization is a different matter. It has conditions and is only possible if a foreigner marries a Swiss.
Moreover, Catholics are generally not allowed to get married in a Protestant church and vice versa, except in the case where one of the spouses is Catholic and the other Protestant. Similarly, a marriage between a Catholic and a Muslim is possible with a "disparity of religion" dispensation.
A previously married spouse, even if divorced, is not allowed to remarry religiously, even if he or she has the right to do so civilly. According to the church, all true love is indissoluble and thus considered non-cancellable, except in the case of the death of one of the spouses or exceptional conditions (lack of freedom during the marriage, lucidity, etc.)
These examples show that each situation is unique and can sometimes be complex. That is why it is recommended to discuss the matter with the competent person at the civil registry office of your municipality or to call a notary in order to find out what can be done.
Preparation for the ceremony
Before the religious wedding, a few meetings with the person who will preside over the wedding, either a priest or a deacon, are agreed upon in order to plan the religious ceremony. For example, the bride and groom may choose to have the ceremony as part of a mass, which lasts a little over an hour, or they may choose to have a simple blessing, usually lasting 30 minutes and combining songs, readings, speeches and an exchange of consents.
Customary procedure in the church
In Switzerland, it is customary for the guests to wait outside the church until the bride and groom's relatives bring them inside. If it is a union between a man and a woman, as a rule, the bride's family sits on the left and the groom's on the right facing the altar. Everyone then stands up as the wedding procession makes its entrance. According to tradition, the groom enters first, on the right, on the arm of his mother, on the left, to music he has chosen. He accompanies his mother to her place and waits for his future wife at the altar. Then, the father of the groom accompanies the mother of the bride to her place.
Finally, the bride makes her entrance on her father's arm to music as well, after he may have dropped her off in a car, followed by the bridesmaids and any children of honor. Of course, this sequence is an example and can be readapted for a gay wedding or according to your wishes.
Whether it's a mass or a simple blessing, the ceremony ends with the exchange of consent, the wedding rings and the kiss before God. At the end, all the guests go out first to prepare the throwing of rice, petals or others and eventually to take a picture of the couple.
- Union not recognized by the law
- 100% free symbolic value and rituals
- Completely dedicated to the love of the couple
- Alternative to religious marriage / outside the religious framework
A secular ceremony is a ceremony devoid of any specific religious belief. It is more and more commonly chosen for weddings because it allows couples to organize from A to Z a ceremony in their image. Contrary to the religious ceremony, it is free and focuses on the couple, their meeting, their history. It can be embellished with anecdotes, original interventions, in a place and a chosen atmosphere. Eventually, it will be humorous, presided over by a close friend or relative. Couples are free to wear a costume, an original dress, colorful, short, etc. There is nothing to prevent them from organizing a ceremony that is a nod to their respective religions.
A secular ceremony is thus specific to each couple. However, there are similarities. Often, the secular wedding is planned after the civil wedding. It replaces, in a way, the religious ceremony, and often takes place outside. The luxury of a secular ceremony is being able to choose the ceremony officiant. It can be a member of your family or a professional (humorist, lay celebrant, actor,...).
This symbolic union has the choice of following the Catholic tradition. For exemple, the bride and groom arrive on the arms of their respective opposite sex parents. Then, it is usually followed by guest speeches, songs, words of marriage, exchange of vows and rings. But, other couples will prefer a modern entrance or a different program.
Idea for a multi-step process
- Installation of the guests, presided over by the family or relatives
- Arrival of the groom, followed by the bride and the procession
- 1st speech of the officiant, followed by the speeches of the witnesses, parents or friends
- Symbolic rituals (unity sand ceremony, ribbon cutting, releasing balloons, lantern, wine box ritual, candles or tree)
- Exchange of vows and wedding rings, followed by the kiss
- Exit of the bride and groom