Dreaming of a wedding in Italy? If you come from abroad you might find yourself overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. To give a sense of direction, we’ll guide you through all things wedding related and explain how to get married in Italy as a foreigner step-by-step.
Here we’ll talk about:
different types of marriages in Italy,
rules and required documents for getting married in Italy as a foreigner,
step-by-step guide and timeline for all the paperwork and arrangements.
And if you’re keen on getting Italian citizenship after your wedding, we made a special guide for that too!
Legally, Italy recognises two types of marriage: civil and religious. However, all religious weddings in Italy, except Catholic, require a civil ceremony to be deemed legally binding.
Italy also allows for the recognition of same-sex relationships called a civil union. A civil union grants you rights similar to those of a marriage.
You’ll also come across non-marital partnerships, often called cohabitations.
Civil marriage in Italy
Civil marriage is a non-religious marriage of two people. They take place in a non-religious setting and are performed in Italian by the Mayor or civil registrar.
The civil ceremony normally consists of reading articles of the Italian civil code and marriage vows.
In Italy, they can take place in a local town hall or one of the venues approved by them. If you’re worried about the backdrop - no worries! Some of the approved venues include historical places such as mediaeval castles, palaces and villas. However, in most cases, the locations are indoor.
If you have another location in mind, you can submit a request to your town hall for their approval or seek assistance from a wedding planner to arrange it for you.
Another option would be to have a symbolic ceremony in a place of your choice after the official ceremony.
are performed by the city mayor or a civil officer,
are conducted in the Italian language,
require an official interpreter (if one of you doesn’t speak Italian),
must take place in a building approved by a local town hall,
can be personalised by for example incorporating personal vows, poetry or music,
last 20 - 30 minutes.
Religious wedding ceremonies in Italy
Religious weddings differ from civil weddings in their religious setting and ceremonies. They take place in churches, where a priest and both families would read passages from the Bible.
Italians are predominantly Catholic. Italy does recognise marriages of all faiths, though, unlike Catholic ceremonies, they aren’t legally binding unless a civil ceremony takes place before such a wedding.
A mixed religion wedding (between spouses of different faiths) however will only be allowed if your Parish Bishop approves it.
Catholic wedding ceremonies:
require one of the partners to be Catholic,
require a longer time to plan (you’ll need to coordinate between the Italian church, your local church, city officials and consulates),
are legally binding as long as they have a civil element within the service,
take place in a consecrated church or chapel,
are conducted by a Catholic priest,
can be conducted in English,
last around an hour,
require the paperwork to be submitted at least 2 months prior to the wedding but no more than 6 months,
require the bride to cover her shoulders during the ceremony.
Gay weddings in Italy: a civil union
In 2016, the Italian government approved a law that allows a civil union of same-sex partners. Similar to other countries, a civil union in Italy is a practice that’s strictly meant for gay couples while marriage is only possible for couples of mixed-sex.
Basically, it’s just a different name, but most of the rights and obligations are similar to the ones of a marriage.
But what exactly is the civil union and what does it imply?
A civil union:
is for same-sex couples,
grants the same rights regarding inheritances, cohabitation, pensions and family name as married couples,
might require meeting the town hall office at least 30 days before the ceremony,
doesn’t allow adoption,
doesn’t require being faithful,
dissolution of the union is easier than a divorce.
De facto couples and de facto cohabitation in Italy
Coppie di fatto or de facto couples are heterosexual or same-sex couples who live together and in a stable relationship, outside marriage or civil union.
This type of partnership also known as cohabitation grants the rights to, for example, take over lease agreements or to be compensated in case of death of the partner.
Couples can choose to formalise their relationship by making a declaration to the registry office of the Municipality of residence and signing a cohabitation contract.
The main characteristics of a de facto relationship are:
partners live together and have a stable loving relationship,
in case of death, the other partner can stay on their property for up to 5 years,
partners have the right to custody of their children,
to be formally recognised they need to register as famiglia anagrafica (household) in the city registry.
When cohabitation is formalised:
the couples have full rights to hospital and prison visitation,
they have the right to make medical decisions and receive personal information about the health conditions of their partner,
a partner has the right to participate in the management and profits of the family business of their partner,
it’s possible to take over the lease,
one of the partners can be appointed guardian in the event of the disqualification of one of the two spouses.
The cohabitation agreement allows you to establish in advance who to assign the common goods in the event of a dispute. As a formal contract, it requires a private deed authenticated by a notary or a lawyer and the relative transcription in the registers of the Municipality.
With the cohabitations agreement in Italy couples can decide on:
place of residence of the cohabitants,
their methods of contributing to the needs of common life,
any property regime of community property.
Contrary to marriage, cohabitation in Italy means that:
if separated, the economically weaker partner can’t demand support from the stronger one,
in case of death, the surviving partner can only become the owner of the deceased's assets through a will.
Start planning at least 4 months before a civil wedding and 6 months before the Catholic wedding date.
Here’s what your wedding preparations should look like:
Contact your home country’s consulate in Italy to get advice on obtaining specific documents.
Consider the type of wedding ceremony you want.
Book your wedding location in Italy (for popular locations, you might want to do this already a year ahead).
Apply for a visa if you need one.
Collect the birth certificates.
Prepare the divorce papers or a death certificate if applicable.
Apply for Nulla Osta in the Consulate or Embassy of your country in Italy.
Get an Atto Nottario sworn by two witnesses.
It’s normally easier to obtain an Atto Nottario in the Italian embassy in your home country.
Otherwise, you can also request it in the Civil Court in Italy or in the civil registrar of the marriage office where you will marry. Keep in mind that if one or more people present don’t speak Italian, you must get an interpreter.
Submit your declaration of marriage intent to the local marriage office where your wedding ceremony will take place.
10. If you opt for a civil marriage:
Contact the town hall of the location you chose for your ceremony.
Choose your witnesses.
If one of you doesn’t speak Italian, hire an interpreter.
Rent the town hall for your ceremony.
10. If you opt for a religious wedding ceremony:
Follow the pre-cana classes (they might take from one full day to 6 months, depending on your church).
Get a declaration letter from your local priest, stating that you’re active members of the church and that you’ve completed your pre-cana classes.
Obtain Nihil Obstat from the Bishop of your parish. It should affirm that you have no impediment to getting married and include the name of the church in Italy and the date when you’re getting married.
Complete a Prenuptial Inquiry Form and get it approved by the Bishop of your parish. The form must be written on the parish letterhead, signed and stamped by the Bishop’s office.
Check with your priest if your documents need a legalised translation. Most of the time, the Italian church is willing to translate it for you.
It’s important that you send these documents no earlier than three months before your wedding date but no later than one month before it. Otherwise, it can expire or be delayed.
2 months before the wedding
Send the originals of Nihil Obstat, Prenuptial Inquiry Form and the declaration letter directly to the Italian Priest of the church where you’re getting married.
Your priest will consult you on the best address where you should send these documents. Since Italian mail isn’t very reliable, we advise you to use courier services such as FedEx or DHL. Make sure to save the tracking number!
If you have a wedding planner, you can first send the scanned copies of all the documents to them for a check with the local priest before sending the originals.
After you’re done with the paperwork, you can go ahead and plan your guest list, book your accommodations and prepare your ceremony!
At the wedding, you'll sign your legal marriage licence and receive an official marriage certificate. After your wedding, you should visit the town hall to verify it.