In France, in order to be considered legally married, one must undergo a civil ceremony. Afterwards, couples could have a religious ceremony, if they wish; but only the civil ceremony is recognized by law.
A large number of couples forego both, and live together in a free relationship. In America, this is referred to as "shacking up." Actually, with the decline of religion in Europe, religious ceremonies are on the eclipse.
While the magistrate can look formidable in his sash, and many are very skilled in making it impressive, there is still the sense that one must also have the religious ceremony in order to be truly wedded. Legality is not enough.
Yes! The proper white wedding dress, the church setting, the solemn words of the priest, the vows, the candles, the rice thrown, and the post-wedding picture of all attendees. And, yes, the bells!
Usually, no whistles.
I am pleased to mention that the American custom of removing the bride's garter, and throwing it to the unmarried boys, has not caught on. However, in Gascony the groom does remove the bride's panties and throw those! I'm glad that we will not do that!