Civil ceremonies celebrated in Italy are legally recognized everywhere else in the world, US included. They usually take place in Town Halls, but there is a certain freedom to choose whichever location you set your eyes upon, provided it has been recognized by Italian civil authorities as apt for the scope. Hot choices are, as you may imagine, villas, casali and castles, as well as Town Halls in major art cities such as Florence or Venice. Outdoors ceremonies are also possible.
Even if you opt for a religious wedding, you may be in need to sit through a civil ceremony: among all religious marriage ceremonies, only the Catholic and the Jewish are legally binding in Italy, which means a civil ceremony is necessary to make your union legal in all other cases. So, if you're thinking to tie the knot with, say, a Protestant ceremony, the following two or three paragraphs are going to be pretty useful to you, too.
Whether you're getting married at home or abroad, weddings should run as smoothly as possible to avoid unwanted stress. However, getting married outside of the US involves getting acquainted with a series of regulations you need to follow and documentation you need to prepare, with which you may not be familiar.
Here are some major points you need to keep in mind if you have set your mind on getting married in Italy.
First of all, you should take a look to the US Embassy in Italy website before beginning to plan your ceremony: this is the right place to get the most reliable (and always up-to-date) information. The website'll also give you an exhaustive list of all the documentation needed, along with some essential explanation about how to obtain it. Here, we'll give you a shorter version of it.
One thing to keep in mind: all documentation coming from the US and, therefore, written in English, needs to be officially translated and signed. Some procedures, such as signing of documents in Italy will require the compulsory presence of an interpreter if you, your partner or whoever else is involved in the procedure does not speak and understand Italian. This is essential: if you don't have any Italian and there is no interpreter, you most categorically will not be able to obtain official documents.
In this, a good wedding planner based in Italy could really help: most businesses of this type are familiar with the procedure and know a series of translators and interpreters they work with. You may consider to ask for professional help of this kind if you want to avoid unwanted and unneccessary anxiety.
The documents and acts needed in preparation for a civil wedding in Italy are the following:
- A valid US passport or a Military ID card if you're an active member of the US Armed Forces
- Your birth certificate, or a certified copy of it (translated)
- If you were married before, you should provide official documentation proving you no longer are. This could be a religious annulment decree, a divorce decree or your former spouse's death certificate (translated)
- NB: women whose marriage ended (through divorce, annulment or death of spouse) less that 300 days prior need to get a waiver from the Procura della Repubblica (the Italian District Attorney) stating that they're not pregnant
- A Dichiarazione Giurata (affidavit) signed by an American consular officer in Italy stating there are no impediments to the wedding according to both US and Italian law. You can find a list of hte Consular offices in Italy and their addresses on the US Embassy in Italy website. There are Consulates in Milan, Genoa, Venice, Florence and Palermo, as well as, of course the US Embassy in Rome. All of them can issue the document. Once you have it in your hands, you'll need to have it legalized in an Italian Prefettura. The procedure is simple, but it's good to have details clear so, once again, rely on the US Embassy in Italy website to keep updated with all possible changes in procedures and to obtain a Prefetture and Consulates list with their addresses.
- Atto Notorio: this is a legal declaration stating, once again, there are no legal impediments for you and your spouse to get married under both Italian and US law (by US law we mean that of the state you have residency). This declaration is different from the above discussed Dichiarazione Giurata, even though it serves the same purpose. To make an Atto Notorio legal, you'll need two witnesses, which have to know you, but cannot be related to you. They must be over 18 and possess a legally issued passport. Their nationality is irrelevant if these conditions are met. The preparation of the Atto Notorio is one of those circumstances you may need the help of a translator or interpreter. You can get it sworn either in the US, at the Embassy or a Consulate, or at the competent Italian court for the area where your wedding location is. Be aware of the fact bureaucratic times in Italy are very long, and it may be better to apply for the Atto Notorio in the US. In any case, the office predixposed to the duty on Italian soil is the Ufficio Atti Notori.
- Declaration of Intent to Marry: once you have gathered all of the above, it's time to take a trip to the Ufficio Matrimoni (Marriage Office) of the area where you're getting married for a declaration of intent to marry, which in Italian is called Dichiarazione di Matrimonio. Once again, if you don't speak Italian, you'll need an interpreter with you to make the procedure legally binding.
At this stage you're more or less ready to go: marriage banns must be posted for two weeks including two consecutive Sundays, after which you'll finally be able to get married!
Location, Location, Location!
Civil ceremonies usually take place in the Town Hall of the town you have chosen, but other options are available, provided they have been approved by the Local Authority. These include historical buildings, villas, casali and, sometimes, outdoor locations, too.
In Rome, many civil weddings are performed in the Sala Rossa in Piazza del Campidoglio. The piazza is in the heart of Ancient and modern Rome and was designed by Michelangelo. Another hot wedding location for civil ceremonies in the capital is the Complesso Vignola Mattei, in the Terme di Caracalla area, where weddings are performed in the beautiful deconsacrated church of Santa Maria in Tempulo.
In Florence, civil ceremonies are performed in Palazzo Vecchio, historically the most important building in the whole city. In Siena, they are often held in the Town Hall facing Piazza del Campo, and in Venice in buildings overlooking Piazza San Marco.