This forum is accessible to people all over the world from many different faiths and customs, so the answer to that question is going to depend upon whom is answering it. It might be a good idea if we all kept that in mind when we answer pleas for help.
Two different couples residing in the same state will experience absolutely no differences with respect to what constitutes a legal marriage. They can, however, have vastly different wedding ceremonies to ritualize their transition from single to married. If both couples comply with the law, their weddings will both result in a legal marriage. The content of their wedding and the values they choose to express in their ceremony are irrelevant as far as the state is concerned. That is a private matter of conscience.
In most locations, while the details may vary slightly, generally all that is required to become legally married is the possession of a valid license issued by the appropriate civil authority and the couple express their intent to be married before an individual authorized by statute to certify the marriage. An example of a difference is that notaries public are authorized to solemnize marriages in only three states in the United States.
Weddings are a ritual that invests emotional and perhaps spiritual meaning into the commitment they make to one another. Religion may or may not be part of that ritual. If it is, the religion may be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, Religious Humanism, Unitarian Universalism, Hinduism, etc. If the couple come from two different backgrounds, their wedding may be interfaith in which two religious faiths are honored. The idea of a "traditional" wedding is cultural, not necessarily religious. It may evoke religious significance for some people, but not everyone.
Weddings can be private elopements, intimate family affairs, moderate gatherings of friends and family, or large social affairs. They can be informal, semi-formal, formal or high-formal. They can be secular, spiritual, interfaith or denominational. They can be traditional (for that particular culture) or eclectic. Regardless, they are all weddings.
Weddings should be a celebration of love and a cause for great joy. Congratulations to all of you brides and grooms however you are choosing to mark the occasion of your passage into marriage!
Rev. Ann Fuller
Jul 27, 2010 at 9:02 AM