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Information valid as of November 2021

Italy is the country that has it all – and I’m not just saying this because it’s my home country. Why wouldn’t you choose a wedding destination that offers every kind of scenic landscapes, from dramatic mountains to turquoise seas? Italy’s towns and cities are full of culture and history and the architecture is just sublime, north to south. Not to mention the delicious food. But to be honest with you I could have stopped at the beautiful views and I think I’d have already won you over!

If you have taken the thrilling decision of eloping or having an intimate wedding in Italy or more specifically in Rome, it may all feel a little overwhelming at first. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you by providing a starting point for your plans. I’m going to break down this guide in six parts, each one dedicated to answering the most burning questions about getting married in Italy.

How do we elope and get married in Italy?

The first thing to figure out is whether you want to actually get married in Italy, as in – you want to legally marry your partner in Italy, or if you prefer a symbolic ceremony. This could be because you already married in your home country or you will after the elopement. What’s the difference? Well, the first scenario involves a rather lengthy and complicated process and there is quite a lot of paperwork involved but you will be legally married. In the second, all you need is a location and a celebrant – no bureaucracy involved – and you will deal with the formalities at home.

Let’s start with legal marriage. For this option I highly recommend hiring an Italian wedding or elopement planner who understands the Italian legal terms and procedures and can advise you throughout the entire process. This doesn’t mean that the wedding planner can do everything for you though, you will still have to show up in person at the Italian civil registrar and sign the paperwork yourself.

Because of this you may need to plan to be in Italy well ahead of your wedding or elopement date. Bear in mind that depending on where in Italy you are getting married the process can vary somewhat. Your country of residence and nationality can also affect the process so as a starting point I recommend contacting your home country’s embassy or consulate in Italy (the closest to the location where you will get married) and looking up requirements specifically for couples of your nationality.

Thankfully, unlike other countries, to get married in Italy you don’t need to have legal residency in the country. Italy recognizes both religious and civil wedding ceremonies. For religious weddings that are not catholic, a civil ceremony needs to be incorporated in order to make the marriage legal. Both you and your partner will have to provide documentation to certify your identity. This includes:

  • Valid passports or national ID cards
  • Original birth certificates
  • Divorce papers or death certificate if you have been previously married and divorced or widowed

You also must certify that there are no legal obstacles standing in the way of your marriage. To do this you must present:

  • A Nulla Osta* or Dichiarazione Giurata sworn before a consular office of your home country, stating that there’s no legal impediment to your marriage in your home country
  • An Atto Notorio signed by two witnesses, further confirming no legal impediment to your marriage
  • A declaration of intent to marry that will go to the civil registrar

*A Nulla Osta is the Italian version of a UK certificate of no impediment (CNI) and proves you are legally allowed to get married.

The first step of the procedure is to prepare the Nulla Osta and Atto Notorio (if you live in the UK you can download the Nulla Osta form here). Then you have to make an appointment to submit your declaration of intent to marry to the marriage office of the town hall nearest to where your wedding or elopement will take place. This declaration and the other paperwork will go to the civil registrar. Your witnesses need to go with you as well as an interpreter if you don’t speak Italian. This should be done at least 3 weeks ahead of your intended marriage date**.

**Once the declaration has been made, it’s usually necessary for the Banns (Marriage Announcement) to be posted at the town hall for two consecutive Sundays before the marriage can take place.  This requirement is waived if you are not Italian or residing in Italy.

If you’re an UK citizen watch this

If you’re a US citizen read this

If you’re a Canadian citizen read this

After this you make an appointment for the ceremony and set a date for your marriage – it is possible for the appointments for both the declaration and for the wedding ceremony to take place on the same day. At your wedding, you’ll sign your legal marriage license and you will be given an official marriage certificate right away. After your wedding or elopement, you should go back to the town hall to present the marriage certificate and receive an Apostille stamp which verifies the document and contains an English translation of the certificate.

Ceremony wise, the officiant or celebrant must be either a mayor, a deputy of the mayor, or a Catholic priest. The marriage ceremony must be performed in the presence of two adult (18+) witnesses and an interpreter must be present if any of the parties doesn’t speak Italian.

Finally, there are also fees to pay of course. This is a rough breakdown of the costs (fees may vary):

  • A revenue stamp for the Dichiarazione Giurata/Nulla Osta of €16
  • A revenue stamp for the Atto Notorio of €16
  • An application for the Atto Notorio of €10,62
  • An application for the Nulla Osta of about €40
  • A rush fee of €31,86 for the Atto Notorio, if applicable

Sounds a bit overwhelming? That’s why most foreign couples opt for a symbolic ceremony, I’ll tell you how in the next section.

Symbolic ceremony in Italy

If you’ve read everything so far you must be relieved that there is an alternative option! Whether you already legally married in your home country or you plan to do so after your return from Italy, a symbolic ceremony will save you from the crazy Italian bureaucracy and allow you to plan your intimate wedding or elopement stress-free and (mostly) under your conditions.

What do you actually need? Well technically just the two of you, your rings and your vows will do. Oh, and a stunning Italian backdrop of course! To make the ceremony feel more authentic, most couples choose to hire a celebrant that can perform a ceremony or ritual and make it feel like a legal marriage. There are so many variables with intimate weddings and it really depends what you want as a couple. Some elope in the Dolomites and only bring a photographer with them, some hire a luxury venue on the Amalfi coast and have their close friends and family attend.

The good thing about symbolic ceremonies is that you can make it anything you want! You can add unique details and have personalised ceremony scripts made to be meaningful to you and your life together as a couple. To give you an example, one of my couples got married in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome (yes for real!) and another one decided to include a wine ritual in their elopement ceremony.

The only thing to keep in mind location wise is that there is a big difference between eloping in the wild or in a public area and hiring a private venue for your ceremony. In the first case you need to make sure that you actually have permission to be there – in most public spaces a symbolic ceremony could be seen as a photoshoot, so as long as you’re not occupying public territory with bulky equipment or mobile structures (tents etc) it will be fine. The advantage of hiring a private venue is that you won’t have strangers looking at you the whole time (this is unavoidable in certain places) and you have more room for guests and a small reception and dinner.

How much can I expect to spend

According to Italian wedding planner Marigiulia Sella, in 2021 the starting price for elopements and intimate weddings in Italy is around € 6000. These estimates include hiring the following vendors:

  • Wedding planner
  • Photographer
  • Celebrant
  • Make-up artist
  • Hair stylist
  • Florist

Adding a private venue with catering can raise the price significantly and couples should expect to pay around € 10K on average. Bear in mind prices fluctuate according to different types of vendors and venues – location, size, target clientele etc.

Eloping in Rome

Before moving to the UK I lived in Rome and my family still lives there so I travel back and forth quite a lot. I also photographed a few elopements in Rome so I can safely say it’s my area of expertise! Some of the advice that applies to Rome is very likely to be true for other Italian cities and towns.

Rome is an ancient and majestic city and choosing it as the destination for your elopement will be such a rewarding experience! Tat said, I like to warn my couples – especially those who have never been to Rome before – that the city experiences many of the issues afflicting other major capitals and one should be mentally prepared before planning to get married there.

One of the major challenges is distance – Rome is absolutely huge! Hiring a private driver is a must if you want to explore the city and take photos in your favourite locations. Whilst Rome’s traffic is famous for being rather wild, even just within the city centre it can take a long time to walk from one point of interest to another. You will enjoy your elopement day much more if there is a car ready to pick you up and take you to the next spot.

Another aspect to consider is chaos. Rome is of course an extremely popular destination for tourists and therefore you can expect huge crowds all year round. Yes, even with Covid-19! Rome already has a large population without adding the constant stream of foreigners pouring into the city to admire its monuments. This means that you need to be savvy and tactical when planning your ceremony, especially if it will be held in a very popular public spot such as the Trevi Fountain.

When in Rome, whatever you’re going to do, it’s a good idea to do it early. This means being out and about as soon as the sun rises and before tourists arrive at your elopement location. The added advantage of holding the ceremony at this time of the day is the light! Unless it’s a cloudy day, the warm and diffused light of the early morning will work wonders on your photographs.

Finally, keep in mind that unexpected things could happen at any time. The colosseum could be cordoned off for restorations or the Trevi Fountain could have its water closed temporarily. Don’t let this bring your morale down though. In a city like Rome there are so many options that you can always figure out a plan B. A local wedding planner and/or photographer can make quick decisions to save the day.

Overall, Rome is an incredible city and offers some of the most stunning and majestic locations for your ceremony as well as an amazing vibe, character and delicious food that will make fall in love with Italy and each other all over again.

The best time to elope in Italy

Italy is famous for its Mediterranean climate and sun-kissed countryside and coastline but the weather varies quite a lot north from to south. Eloping in the Alps is not the same as getting married in Puglia or Sicily. Even the time of the year you choose for your ceremony can be crucial in determining the kind of weather you will enjoy on your wedding day. Most Italians go on holiday in August so expect huge crowds especially on the coastline.

Best time of the year for the weather: definitely May to September. This is when most of the country enjoys blue skies and a warm to hot temperature. Beware July and August can be extremely hot and central hours of the day should be avoided.

Best time of the year to avoid crowds: the most popular places in Italy will be crowded all year round but generally speaking, the winter months are better if you want to see less tourists around. October to March can be cold and also see snowfall in the north and mountains and lots of rain in the rest of the country. Still better chances of sun than the UK though!

Best compromise: if you can, pick the so-called ‘shoulder’ season. May-June and September-October are slightly less crowded and still enjoy warm weather and overall the perfect conditions for your Italian intimate wedding or elopement.

If you have any questions for me about Italy (including locations, vendors etc) or you wish to enquire about my wedding photography coverage, please send an email to hello@sarahjoylandon.com and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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