An Expert Guide to Italian Wedding Ceremonies

Written by    Last updated: March 5, 2012

You’ve decided to get married in Italy – great decision! You probably already have an idea about the part of Italy you want to get married in, and maybe even the style of venue, be it a rural hotel, formal villa or medieval castle. So while you are imagining the sunshine, rolling hills and wonderful wine, Ben Singleton of Italy Weddings guides you through the ceremony options open to you.

There are basically three types of weddings you can celebrate in Italy: a civil wedding, a religious ceremony, or a symbolic blessing. Each has a distinct style and its own advantages and constraints. Choosing the right ceremony will affect a great deal of the decisions you make on timing, schedule, location and the overall feel of the day.

The Civil Ceremony

The civil service in Italy is a fully legal marriage and is recognised throughout the world.

Civil weddings, by law, must takes place in a town hall or a location that has been granted special permission for legal weddings by the local authorities. This means that in most cases a civil wedding will be in one of the beautiful rooms in the historic centre of a town, such as the Sala Rossa in Florence, or the Sala Dante in San Gimignano. Most of these locations are historical settings and beautiful locations – but in most cases, indoor settings.

The ceremony has a standard format which is beautifully written and full of significance. The couple are free (and encouraged) to add readings and music, and many of the elements of a religious ceremony may be included (ie: the bride being given away.) It’s also customary to include the exchanging of personal vows and exchanging of rings.

The civil wedding does require some time for paperwork, and the length of time required will depend on your nationality. You’ll need to be in Italy a minimum of two days prior to the wedding.

The Religious Wedding

There are typically two types of religious ceremony that can be undertaken in Italy: a full Roman Catholic ceremony, or a Protestant blessing.

The Roman Catholic wedding, be it a legally binding wedding or a blessing, does require a fair amount of leg-work by the couple ahead of time. Italy is the hearth and home of the Roman Catholic Church, and the sacrament of marriage is a sacred commitment. Be prepared for lengthy preparations and contact with your local church. The advantage of a Catholic wedding is it will be a full, legally binding wedding, and can be held in one of the many wonderful churches in Italy, be it an important city church or cathedral, or a local chapel.

The Protestant wedding is a lot simpler, but only the Roman Catholic Church has the power to celebrate a legally binding wedding, so any non-Catholic wedding is going to be a blessing and you’ll need to arrange a separate civil wedding. Some couples will take care of this in their home town prior to coming to Italy, while others will hold a civil wedding in a town hall in Italy prior to the blessing – sometimes on the morning of the religious wedding.

The Protestant blessing is a full sacramental rite and a beautiful, spiritual event. In many cases this will be held in a private, external setting, or often in a chapel on the grounds of a villa.

The Symbolic Blessing

The symbolic blessing is the simplest, most intimate and most flexible way to arrange your event in Italy. It is entirely suitable for a number of situations, and is often the preferred choice for couples, regardless of gender, religious, secular or non-denominational background. The content and style of the blessing is really limitless, and depends on the requirements and personal situation of the couple.

As for the location of the blessing, a symbolic blessing may be held anywhere that fits your needs – most often outdoor villa settings, overlooking the countryside, on the terrace of a medieval castle, on beaches, or in unconsecrated chapels at private villas and hotels.

So take some time to think about what works for you and for your wedding party. Each type of wedding will naturally lead you into further choices about how the wedding day is going to evolve, about where you and your guests are going to be, about timing between the ceremony and the reception, about transport, and about floral design.

But mostly, your choice on the type of ceremony should reflect what means the most to you as a couple.

Ben Singleton is an expert with over 10 years experience in planning weddings in Italy.

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