How To Get Married in Italy: Civil Ceremony Requirements

This article is the second part of a trilogy discussing the legal requirements for the different types of ceremonies you can have for your dream destination wedding in Italy.

With all the excitement that goes into planning your destination wedding in Italy, the experience can also be extremely nerve-wracking. You’ll try to wrap your head around all the requirements and marriage paperwork involved in organizing a civil ceremony.

Legal ceremonies require a procedure that changes according to the couple’s respective nationalities. It takes a complex set of documents that needs time to complete, both back home and in Italy. Which means that you would have to be on-site several days before the wedding itself.

But fear not! We’ve put together a step-by-step guide below to help you plan a civil ceremony that you’ll remember forever.

So how do you go about planning a civil ceremony in Italy? Let’s consider the case of an engaged couple with US passports. The steps are the following:

The How

Step 1:

  • The Italian Consulate nearest to the couple’s residence back in the US will issue the Atto Notorio declaring the couple’s civil status and will to get married. To get it, the couple will have to present a birth certificate, US passport, and divorce certificate, if any.
  • You will have to translate both the birth and divorce certificates and apostil them, which means sealed by the Notary Public, the Secretary of State’s Notary Public of the State of origin.
  • The translations of the documents will have to be authenticated from the Italian Consulate prior to the issuing of the Atto Notorio.
  • Once everything is ready, the couple will plan a meeting at the Consulate in the presence of two witnesses, to finalize the process.

Step 2:

When the Atto Notorio is issued, email a copy to the wedding planner. The couple will bring the originals with them to Italy when they travel for their wedding.

Step 3:

At least 4 days prior to the event, your wedding planner will set an appointment at the US Consulate closest to the wedding location to issue the Nulla Osta; it will take approximately 1 hour. After that, the documents need to be legalized at the local prefettura, and then taken to the town hall where the marriage will be registered.

Step 4:

A couple of days prior to the wedding, plan an appointment at the townhall to finalize the last signatures before the wedding ceremony.

Step 5:

The ceremony takes place on the chosen date, either at the town hall or at one of the venues of your choice. The mayor or one of his colleagues will perform the rite. A translator will help you and your guests understand the ceremony. While the bureaucratic and legal articles of the Italian matrimonial law can’t be removed, you can personalize the ceremony. You can have personal readings, as well as music, which creates the romantic atmosphere a wedding cannot go without.

The How Long

I bet just reading all of this made you feel a little dizzy! In terms of timing, the longest step is the first one; Italian consulates around the world can be slow in processing time. It’s safe to consider 3 to 4 months from the first contact to getting the Atto Notorio. Then, the other tricky part is managing all the appointments when the couple is on site. Take into account that the different offices involved have different timetables. Therefore, the priority will be to deliver the legalized Nulla Osta to the town hall in time.

That said, it’s important to tackle the issues early on. I’ve successfully organized many civil ceremonies involving different nationalities, and the process has always been quite smooth. So don’t get discouraged!

The Where

Generally speaking, the civil ceremonies in Italy can be held in venues that have the legal authority for civil ceremonies to be conducted on-site or alternatively in townhalls with a beautiful historic backdrop for your vows. North through south, you can say “I do” in some of the most special places, such as on Romeo and Juliet’s balcony in Verona, in a lovely palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, or even at a centuries-old palace overlooking the world-famous Piazza del Campo in Siena or in a quaint garden overlooking the whole Amalfi Coast in Ravello. As you may have already gathered, sometimes you can also opt to have the civil ceremony in one approved venue and the wedding celebration – party or reception – in another location.

There’s always a way to resolve this situation:

  • some couples decide to first have a very intimate civil ceremony with just a couple of family members,
  • and then to have a wedding celebration with the extended families and friends the next day.

As the town managements began to realize that the couples’ habits and requirements for their weddings were changing, more and more venues now have the permission to host civil ceremonies on-site, thus addressing the root of the problem.

The How Much

While it is impossible to calculate an average estimate, the townhall fees change dramatically from one place to the other. The wedding date can also tip the cost scale. A safe range would be between 500 EUR and 5,500 EUR, the latter being the cost of saying “I do” in the most exclusive Venetian Palazzo.

Now that you have a better idea about civil weddings, remember that the overall process changes depending on your nationality. In most cases, the general steps are quite similar. In the meanwhile, head to the third and final part of the trilogy covering religious ceremonies.
If you missed it, you can always read the first article of the trilogy about symbolic ceremonies by clicking here.

Found this article helpful? To learn more, visit our blog and check our website to start planning your dream destination wedding in Italy.

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Feature image: Photographer Infraordinario Wedding

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