From an EO view point (and I have a feeling it's the same for the OO)....it is not merely symbolic.
Through Christ's crucifixion on the Cross, we have gained salvation. The Cross was the tool of that salvation.
It is through the "wood" that mankind fell (the tree of knowledge in paradise) and it is through the "wood" that we are saved (the wooden Cross upon which Christ was crucified.)
It is a fact that demons are repelled by the Cross.
In a few days we will be celebrating the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Old Calendar)....when St. Helena (Constantine's mother) traveled to Jerusalem to locate the Cross. After much searching....they excavated a mound and located three crosses...but, how to tell which one was Christ's? There was a sick woman in the crowd, and she touched each cross in turn....when she touched Christ's Cross, she was healed. Moving down the road was a funeral procession....once again, they touched each cross to the casket, and when they touched the casket with the third Cross, the deceased person was resurrected back to life.
The Cross is so much more than a mere symbol.
Additionally, gold is usually used because the baptismal Cross is meant to last a lifetime, so, it won't tarnish, etc. However, wood is just as good. It's not the material that is used that makes it special, it is the belief with which it is worn.
Be sure to have your priest bless it before the big day.