Before focusing on the romance of the day – this is the first question to answer, and the answer is Yes.
A wedding in Italy is perfectly legal, provided you follow some straightforward guidelines. Unless you speak Italian, it is very important that you find a good, bilingual, wedding planner. She will take care of everything for you – from the simple legal requirements to liaising with the caterer, florist, local town hall, photographer, musicians… whatever you need to make your day complete.
For British citizens, all the bride and groom need to do in advance is to make an appointment with their local UK Superintendent Registrar to get a Certificate of No Impediment. This, and your birth certificates and photocopies of your passports, will then be sent to your wedding planner, who will liaise with the British Consultate in either Florence or Rome, and the local ‘comune’ (council) in Italy to arrange your permission to marry. She’ll talk you through the whole thing, step by step. If you come from other parts of the world, including the US, the process is similar and not at all complicated.
There is a legal requirement in most parts of Italy for the marriage to take place in the local town hall. In many cases, this will be a beautiful room – perfect for a larger wedding. The town halls are often set in stunning piazzas, and they make an amazing backdrop for photographs.
If you are looking for something more personal and romantic from your wedding in Italy, as long as you go through the legal formalities at the town hall, you can hold your wedding in the location of your dreams.
Perhaps you favour the splendour of Florence, or a terrace in Sorrento, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. For some, a wedding in Italy might be about getting away from the tourist centres of Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, and heading to one of the beautiful but less well known locations. Areas such as Le Marche and Abruzzo both border the Adriatic Sea, and have some of the finest beaches in Italy – but without the tourists. Further inland you will find quiet hill top towns and villages, surrounded by ancient walls. Cobbled streets and antique arches inspire beautiful photographs, and you will be assured of a warm welcome by the local people.
Many people choose a beautiful Italian villa – full of atmosphere and charm. And some of these villas even have their own small chapels – perfect for creating a dream wedding. They are usually deconsecrated, so they create a perfect backdrop for a stunning and original wedding day.
Italians love weddings. And their weddings are usually huge affairs of three hundred or more guests. Couples manage to afford this by following the custom of guests actually presenting the bride and groom with an envelope of money, rather than a present (or sometimes both) to cover the cost of the lavish meal that follows the ceremony. This love of weddings means that the Italian services that you need to complete your perfect day are readily available, whether your wedding is large or small.
If you choose to get married in a villa setting, you will inevitably have the location set aside just for your party. You will be free to use the house and grounds for your photographs, and guests can enjoy the relaxed ambiance. There is no sense of urgency – time not being a critical factor if the whole place is yours for the day – thus removing one significant area of stress from some weddings in more traditional venues.
Italians are by their very nature romantic. Everything involved with a wedding in Italy is about romance – and they take particular care of the bride and groom throughout their day. The florist will be the first person to arrive on the ‘big day’ – and she will have already spent several hours with you, or with your wedding planner on your behalf, talking about the types of flowers you like, the colours, the theme. There is no such thing as a ‘wedding package’ in which you get to choose from a predetermined list of possible flower arrangements. She will come up with something that is unique to you – whether that be based on a simple cream and green theme, or on a flamboyant multi coloured medley of vibrant blooms.
Hairdressers and makeup artists are next to arrive – should you need them – and they will typically spend two or three hours getting the bride and other members of the party ready. They always do a trial run in advance of the day – just to be sure you are clear about the style you want – and your planner will be on hand to make sure there are no difficulties in translation.
Photographers now like to blend the more formal shots with a reportage style of photography, and the Italian wedding albums are a work of art in themselves. Designed purely to convey the romance of the day, the albums are a photo journal of the wedding, with montages depicting everything from the preparation to the last dance. The bride and groom can determine the style they are looking for, and the photographer will not only prepare the wonderful albums, but will normally give the couple a DVD containing the images – so there is no hefty charge for any member of the family who subsequently wants some pictures for their own wall or shelf.
When all is prepared, it is time for the bride to make her entrance. Music is a key part of any romantic wedding ceremony – and the couple will be able to choose not only the music pieces, but the style in which they are played. Perhaps they will opt for a string quartet, an Italian soprano, a harpist, or even the mellow notes of a saxophone.
The words of the Italian marriage ceremony are very moving, with huge emphasis placed on family and on the joint responsibility of the couple to take care of each other and any children they may have. Although the mayor will undoubtedly conduct the ceremony in Italian, an interpreter will repeat his words and this alone creates a sense of occasion.
Whatever venue is chosen, the weather in Italy certainly helps. Most weddings do take place in the summer months – any time from mid May to the end of September – and the wedding reception is often held outdoors, under an open sided gazebo – to protect from the sun as much as protect against the unlikely event of rain. As your wedding will be the only wedding in the location, timing is not so strict and you will be able to enjoy the first moments after the ceremony, greeting your guests and enjoying a glass or two of Prosecco whilst photographs are being taken. Guests can mingle, choosing from the numerous trays of delicious canapes that will be offered – stuffed olives, marinated salmon, crispy fried cheese, tiny vegetable tarts – the list goes on.
Everybody knows that Italians love their food, and once again when it comes to choosing your menu for the day, you will be able to select from a vast range of options, or have a meal designed precisely to your own requirements. Remember that the Slow Food Movement was created by an Italian to counteract the growth of fast food, and outside of the tourist areas, fast food just cannot be found – with the notable exception, of course, of pizza! But this obsession with food ensures that each dish served will be a delight to the senses – from how it looks, to how it smells, and most of all – how it tastes. And not only that, they like to serve each part of the meal in a different location within the venue. This creates a sense of movement and anticipation, wondering what new delights are going to be on offer.
After the canapes, the guests may be invited to stroll round to the next location – the antipasti buffet – which may perhaps be served close to the pool with an informal arrangement of chairs and tables protected from the sun by large umbrellas, or placed in the shade of a tree. The antipasti tables heave with plates of meat, fish, cheese and vegetables – perhaps an individual glass of Italian gazpacho with a skewer of roasted vegetables, or smoked turkey with a pepper and melon salad, or battered courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese. Depending on the number of guests, there can be ten or more different selections on the antipasti table This is an opportunity for the bride and groom to meet their friends and family, and perhaps move from table to table before the more formal part of the evening.
And then… dinner! Up to now, the food has simply been an introduction of what is to come. Imagine an open sided gazebo, myriad candles, and beautiful vases of flowers forming the centrepiece for each table. Each course is presented almost as a gift in itself, with elegantly designed plates of food, and copious quantities of excellent Italian wine. At least one pasta course will be offered – perhaps a pasta parcel stuffed with delicately flavoured sea bass in a lemon sauce – and then maybe a risotto course as well. There may be a choice of main course – or ‘secondi’ – perhaps guinea fowl, or fillet steak in a herb crust, or monkfish in a lime scented jus – and with the gazebo set on a terrace, guests can be free to wander between courses and soak up the atmosphere – perhaps with lanterns casting a soft glow around the gardens. Then it’s back for the speeches – and the desserts! In Italy, the desserts are usually served as a buffet, with so many mouth watering choices – semifreddos, ice cream cake, mousses, tiramisu, fruit. Italian ice cream – or ‘gelato’ is the best in the world and the more adventurous chefs are constantly developing new flavours – and new ways of eating ice cream and sorbets – such as deep frying in kataifi pastry, or mixing it at the table with liquid nitrogen ‘smoke’.
The relaxed and leisurely pace of the food provides an incredible atmosphere. It’s something special. And finally the bride and groom can invite their guests to join them to dance the night away under the stars.
So what do you need to do to create your perfect day?
- Decide on the region of Italy that you want to get married in – whether that be in a city such as Florence or Rome, a famous town like San Gimignano, on the beach at Positano, or in a villa in the glorious Le Marche region.
- Choose the type of venue – a villa, town hall, castle or beach.
- Search specifically for these terms on the web – using both the region and the venue in the search terms
- Find either the venue that you would like (which will almost always have a wedding planning service) or find a wedding planner that can perhaps suggest a range of venues to you.
- Check the credentials of the wedding planner – you need evidence of other successful weddings, and preferably the contact name of somebody whose wedding they organised.
- Make sure that in your package you have an option to go and visit the venue before the big day.
- You should also be able to have a tasting with the caterers, and meet the florist.
- Ask as many questions as you like, and make sure you speak to the planner in person – not just via email. This is your big day, and you need to be sure that everything will be perfect.
- Do all of this at least six months in advance.
- Relax, and enjoy it – knowing that your wedding is in safe hands