A wedding is a special ceremony in which two people come together in marriage. It is a time-honored tradition that varies greatly between cultures, religions, countries, and social classes. A civil ceremony and a wedding may share some aspects, but they are not the same thing. A civil ceremony is not religious and is officiated by a government representative.
A wedding is a marriage ceremony that can include religious and cultural elements, and it has an officiant as an authority figure. Traditionally, most weddings also include a reception after the ceremony. Couples may choose to include their officiant or celebrant, or they may bring their children or parents to demonstrate the bond of the two families. Civil ceremonies are weddings held by government officials to solemnize a marriage license.
There are often religious requirements that must be met before a religious marriage ceremony can be held. Unless you are legally married, you generally cannot claim any benefits related to marriage. Some religious denominations will not recognize a marriage performed by someone ordained outside the faith. The structure of the wedding ceremony may include a unifying ritual, such as lighting a candle, a box of wine, planting trees or a ceremony in the sand, as a symbol of the couple's unification in a new entity.
There are no real rules about who should participate in the ceremony. We've seen changes when marriage equality was approved in the United States. Most ceremonies follow a similar format, so if you've been (or have been) to any of them, you probably have an idea of how the wedding service order usually flows. Technically and legally, this is problematic since both parties to the marriage must be informed and agree to the marriage before the ceremony takes place, obtain a marriage license and provide appropriate identification and documentation. Some couples choose to have a commitment ceremony instead of getting legally married. This could be because their partner may not be legal in their country or region, they may not want to have a legal marriage or it is simply inconvenient or impossible to be legally married at the same time of the ceremony.
A commitment ceremony serves its purpose of ceremonially surrendering their lives without having to answer to the government about the status of their relationship. In addition, persuading a reluctant partner to consent to a marriage ceremony without warning (even if the persuasion is mild) could later be qualified as coercion, invalidating the marriage. You'll have to mark “single” on official documents and it's harder to change your name if you don't have a marriage certificate as a supporting document. Couples may also choose an escape ceremony if they are introverted or shy when speaking in front of other people, if they want to share their vows only with their partners, if they want to enjoy a private romantic and stress-free ceremony before the public wedding or if they have reasons to hide their marriage (e.g., some couples are not religious and do not want to get legally married). This should not be confused with what is popularly called a surprise wedding, in which one party to the marriage surprises the other. Personalized ceremonies can be completely original or include classic and modern wedding elements in the narrative chosen by the couple.