Making it Legal – Getting Married in Italy

Written by    Last updated: May 21, 2012

It’s not hard to see why couples dream of an Italian wedding – it’s got it all from stunning architecture and captivating landscapes, to lavish food and beautiful wine. But how easy is it to get legally married in the country, and when is the best time of the year to plan for? Ben Singleton of Italy Weddings gives us a guide for UK couples getting married in Italy.  

How to Get Married in Italy

Photo by Photographer D, Italy Weddings

After choosing a legally binding civil wedding in Italy, you’ll need to consider some of the aspects of the paperwork, as well as the various options for personalising the ceremony itself.

For couples residing in England, the paperwork is really very simple, but is best coordinated with the help of a planner based in Italy, and within a generous time frame. The couple needs to publish the wedding banns (the announcement of marriage) in their home town prior to coming to Italy, and this is simply done through their local registry office. Getting an appointment for this is your first step, and you should try to get this for about three months prior to your planned wedding date.

The registry office will prepare a No Impediment document for the couple, which will be sent to Italy. They will also need some original documents, such as full birth certificates, any previous marriage certificates and divorce decrees and both passports.

Though it may sound strange, about 50% of couples come across their first hurdle here, as the details on these documents all need to match – in particular the passport must have both names written in exactly the same way as the birth certificate. Many don’t include a middle name.

No Impediment – Variations of Italian Marriage Law

Once this paperwork is in Italy, it will be translated into an official Italian document (a Nulla Osta) and all the couple need to do is hand in this paperwork in the town hall of their wedding. Naturally, this appointment will be made close to the wedding day – a couple of days ahead is typical – and a fluent Italian translator is required.

There are possible variations to this scheme, particularly if the bride or groom has Italian heritage and is eligible for Italian citizenship, and also, if the couple reside outside of the UK, the No Impediment will be handled by the British Consulate in the country where they are permanently resident.

Set Structure – Ceremony Text

As for the ceremony – there are a number of possible modifications that can be made, but the set structure is part of the Italian law, and the wording for this cannot be altered. The text read to the couple is simple and concise, and beautifully written. The laws state these three things:

By marrying, husband and wife acquire the same rights and undertake the same duties. Marriage imposes mutual duties of faithfulness, moral and material assistance, co-operation in the interest of the family and cohabitation. Both husband and wife each according to his (or her) own means and capacity in the professional or domestic field, must attend to the needs of the family.

Husband and wife must agree upon the direction of their family life. The family residence will be established taking into account the requirements of the family. Both husband and wife have the power to put into action the direction they have agreed upon.

Marriage imposes on both spouses the obligation to support, teach and educate their children, taking into account the abilities, natural talents and aspirations of the children, themselves.

As you can see, there’s nothing about loving, honouring and obeying! And the ceremony is completely non-religious in content.

Making it Intimate and Personal – Civil Weddings in Italy

There is room to make the ceremony more intimate and personal. It’s perfectly normal for the bride to be given away, and to have readings during the ceremony. These can be of any type, from Biblical, to rock lyrics, to Shakespearean sonnets. The couple may choose to exchange rings, and at that point in the ceremony, may decide to exchange personal vows written by themselves.

Civil weddings in Italy must be held in a location recognised as valid by the local town hall. In most cases, this means a beautiful room, such as the Sala Rossa – the town hall of Florence, or the Sala Dante in San Gimignano, or the lovely vaulted halls of the town hall of Volterra. Many couples would love to have a civil, legally binding wedding in an outside setting, and this is only possible in very few locations in Italy. Towns such as Lucca have agreements with certain villas, and other small towns in Tuscany that do not have city halls large or attractive enough to be used for a civil wedding have permissions in place with local villas and castles, for a wedding to be held in the grounds there.

Opting for a civil wedding in Italy is an excellent choice for a couple, and once they have a good understanding of the options open to them in terms of location and style, they should feel able to create exactly the type of wedding ceremony they wish.

The Best Time to Marry in Italy

Most couples avoid the winter months, which in central Italy are from November to March. April and especially May can be beautiful, but there’s still quite a risk of rain. Italians would opt to marry in June and July, but July and August are the hottest months here. Bare this in mind when setting a date as these months can be sticky and could create discomfort for children and older guests. This is more noticeable in the larger towns such as Florence, Rome and Venice. Smaller hilltop towns, such as Volterra and San Gimignano get a good summer breeze, and are wonderful throughout the summer. September and October are also great months – warm, and mostly dry. Remember that there’s always a risk of rain no matter what month it is, so you must have a fall-back ‘poor weather’ option!

Where to Start

If you like the idea of getting legally married in Italy, first of all you need to realise that while it’s not going to be especially complicated to arrange the paperwork, there are a number of factors that can make matters more stressful if not kept under control:

- Make sure you start the paperwork well ahead of time, and make sure your documents are all in order.

- Decide on a location that fits your travel plans. Flights to Italy concentrate on the main tourist areas, so a wedding in a large city such as Florence or Rome is going to be simpler for your guests to attend, but will also mean a more urban setting, rather than a villa/country setting.

- Decide what time of year is going to suit you and your guests. Plan for a minimum of six months to a year ahead.

- Start thinking about your guest list. The sooner you advise your guests of the date and location, the more are going to be able to attend. They will need (and probably want) to arrange holiday plans around your wedding date, so good notice will assure they are able to be there.

- While it is of course possible to arrange all the details yourselves, the main job of a reliable wedding planner is making sure your time directly leading up to the wedding is stress free, and that you are not going to have unwelcome complications or surprises, allowing you to concentrate on the fun and exciting details of your big day.

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

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