Symbolic vs Civil Ceremony

Not exactly sure what the differences of symbolic vs civil ceremony are?? A civil ceremony is legal – the marriage is officially recognised by the government & you can register it in your country. A symbolic ceremony is NOT a legally recognised marriage, instead it’s essentially a commitment service. 

Infographic about each ceremony’s requirements

Both types of ceremonies will bring the friends and family closer together to celebrate and witness the beautiful union between the newlyweds. Neither type is better than the other, they are just different and both require different considerations when planning. Here’s what you need to know about symbolic and civil destination wedding ceremonies to help you decide which ceremony is best for you.  


A civil ceremony is a legal ceremony resulting in legal marriage recognized by the law. 

Greek law requires civil ceremonies to be: 

  • Held in an authorised location (town hall or other designated venue) 
  • Held on a specific time/date depending on the town hall. 
  • Performed by a government official (mayor or another appointed official). 
  • Booking the date with the Town Hall and the acquisition of the legal documents should start months in advance (6 to 3 months before the wedding day) to ensure that the Town Hall is holding the date for you and to cross check the legal documents necessary. As there is a lot of bureaucracy involved, your best bet to have everything on time and error-free is to hire a wedding planner in Greece.  
  • the bride and groom must provide two witnesses to attend the wedding ceremony. 
  • couples may have to arrive a few days prior to the ceremony to handle legal documents and to meet that country’s marital requirements. In any case, your physical presence is required during working days of the Town Hall prior and after the wedding day.  
  • An authorised translator may need to be hired to translate the legal documents in Greek (Apostille stamps might be required depending on the nationality of the couple). 
  • Legal fees might apply. 
  • Please note that the ceremony cannot be performed unless all documents are in order. 

The paperwork to meet the requirements for a civil ceremony in Greece depends on nationality (with some nationalities there are certain restrictions) and for this reason it is highly recommended that couples who want to get legally married in Greece seek assistance from an experienced wedding professional.  Do not rely on information published on the internet! A lot of the websites in Greece are either old and the information outdated or are in Greek with no English translation.  

The usual documents required by the Town Hall are: 

  • Copies of Passport or Identification Card of both the bride and the groom  
  • Full Birth certificates (incl. parents’ names) of both the bride and the groom* 
  • Certificate of No Impediment or Marriage License (it is a declaration of freedom to marry, issued from your country of origin), issued maximum 3 months prior to the wedding* 
  • If divorced the divorce decree* 
  • If first or last name changed, the relevant certificate* 
  • Two witnesses over the age of 18 years with Passport or Identification Card 
  • The wedding should be registered at the Registry Office in the chosen area of Marriage within 40 days after the ceremony and the presence of the couple is obligatory; Registry Office is open Monday – Friday, from 09:00 –14:00, except on public holidays. 

Please note that in some cases, more documents may be required. 

Above marked documents with asterisk (*) need to be certified with Apostille (the Apostille is a special gold seal, which is applied by legal authorities in order to certify that a document is a valid and true copy of the original. Usually, you can get it from your ministry of foreign affairs). 

Then, all required documents (including the Apostille) must be translated into Greek. Translation must be done by an official translator, stamped and legalised by the Greek Embassy or Consulate and accompanied by the original one. 


Symbolic ceremonies offer more flexibility and are as stress-free as possible, since it’s really just a celebration, without any of the legal considerations. Symbolic ceremonies are commonly defined as a “commitment service,” able to express the couple’s personalities, tastes and their unique values within their relationship. It’s not scripted as much as traditional weddings are, as the couple can choose everything the officiant says. You will be able to customize your wedding ceremony to add a few “quirky and unique” parts that represent your love. If you would like to see 35 symbolic ideas for your upcoming symbolic ceremony click here.   

Depending on couple’s tastes, a symbolic wedding ceremony can be very similar to a religious ceremony without the religious aspect! It will include the same running order, such as the bride entrance, the exchange of vows and wedding rings, but will be performed in a more relaxed and intimate manner. 

In Greece there are many professional and experienced celebrants that your wedding planner can get you in contact to perform the service, or you can have a close friend or a family member to perform the ceremony! 

The important thing to keep in mind is that there are more ceremony venues to choose from since more places allow symbolic ceremonies, and the couple is not required to arrive until the day before the wedding. 

The single most notable disadvantage of symbolic wedding is the lack of legal power. Signing legal documents is not part of the symbolic wedding. 

We must admit that emotionally and aesthetically, the symbolic ceremonies are the most wonderful and moving, because in the end they are more personal, where civil ceremonies are often harder to beautify!  

Need help deciphering the legal jargon, residency requirements, fees, and whatever else??  

If you are thinking of getting married in Greece, trust and contact your destination wedding planner that know the legal requirements and can guide you step-by-step through the process of planning your dream destination wedding! 

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