I am definitely one of those brides who daydreamed about having an Italian destination wedding. If only I knew of a relative with a castle in Tuscany or a seaside villa in Capri! Then I woke up and realized I was a German Polish Jew and should snap out of it. But what if I didn’t want to?
If you have the time and resources (and a group of family and friends who are willing to make the journey overseas…who wouldn’t WANT to?!) planning an Italian destination wedding is not out of the question. But where do you start? I spoke with Bonnie Marie, an Italian wedding planner at Perfect Italy Wedding, about the process, and her advice for brides-to-be looking to say “Lo Voglio!” in Italy.
Woman Getting Married: If a couple is dreaming about a wedding in Italy, where do they start?
Bonnie Marie: There seem to be two types of couples that want to get married in Italy: first time travelers and return travelers. The first-timers know they need a professional to help them plan their trip and wedding, so that’s what they begin researching online. Picking the right planner is a personal choice based on good ‘ole gut feeling because a destination wedding planner is much more than an event organizer. S/he is a travel planner, paperwork expert, personal assistant, bargain hunter, dream interpreter, hand-holder, family counselor AND multi-lingual! A destination wedding planner acts on behalf of the bride and groom until they arrive in Italy, so the relationship becomes very close to BFF’s.
The second couple type actually has a harder time starting off. Many have been to Italy before and fell in love with it, so they already have an idea of the atmosphere they want to relive on their wedding day. The problem is finding someone to help them do that within their budget. This couple usually starts off DIY and soon realize that the web offers too much for them to sift through, so they start looking for professionals as a second step.
How should they go about figuring out WHERE in Italy to get married?
Most full-service wedding planning sites promote a number of locations based on the atmosphere the couple is looking for (beachfront, lakeside, countryside) and the number of guests. You don’t have to have a large guest count to get married in a castle in Tuscany–castles come in all shapes and sizes! Paperwork logistics differ considerably from city to city and when requirements mandate going to the consulate in big cities like Rome, Naples, or Milan, the process takes up valuable vacation time from the couple. Although this is not a problem for UK couples since the UK Consulate mails paperwork directly to the wedding hall, it is a problem for US and Australian nationals who need to get a sworn statement from their embassies and then have it legalized at an Italian courthouse.
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For a 100-person guest list, what’s a reasonable budget a couple should plan for in order to get married in Italy?
25,000 euros is a safe number to start at and that includes a photographer. What cannot be stressed enough is the sheer ecstasy of the locations, the exquisiteness of the celebratory meals, and the overall style and elegance of the setup.
What services does your company provide? How much does it cost?
We provide a variety of options: full-service planning, day of only, paperwork only, location scouts, DIY referrals, plus travel and tour assistance. Wedding planning fees are a flat rate based on location, number of guests and type of ceremony, starting at 1,500 euros. There are no hidden costs with us, any discounts are passed on to the customer.
Is is difficult for U.S. citizens to obtain a marriage license in Italy? How does that process work?
The paperwork is much simpler than it seems and is very similar to what you would need to do at home to get a marriage license. The only extra steps are getting apostilles on birth certificates and divorce decrees and obtaining sworn statements from the Italian Consulate in the US and the US Consulate in Italy (the former can actually be done in Italy instead of in the US). Once you file paperwork with the wedding office they have the couple sign an ‘intent to marry’ (in lieu of issuing a marriage license). The civil ceremony in Italy is as old as the Colosseum, as are the articles of law governing married couples which surprisingly enough, reflect the deep-rooted sense of equality reflected in Roman law.
What are some of your favorite spots in Italy to get married? If you had to choose, which one do you think is the most beautiful that couples wouldn’t automatically think of?
Wow, the million dollar question …. how to choose a favorite spot in Italy 🙂
I got married in Florence in 2003, so that is for sure the one location closest to my heart. The Red Room is fabulous because although it is a distinct color (all the upholstery and walls are really red!) and it contains some pompous baroque pieces (including a truly enormous mirror), it is an embracing ambiance even for elopements. Backstage bonus? Paperwork for US and UK is completed seamlessly in town, the wedding offices are easy to work with, pricing is average (700 euros), and they include music with the ceremony (usually Vivaldi or Verdi). A wide variety of backdrops are available for post-ceremony photos: strolling around town you’ll get the duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Arno Riverbank; walk across the bridge to the Boboli gardens or the Bobolino rose gardens for florals; hop in a car for a 15 minute ride to sunflower fields and vineyards for a Tuscan memory to last forever.
The most heartwarming ceremony I’ve staged was on a boat off the Cinque Terre coast. There is a charming retreat where I put all the couple’s family, and the wedding day was a true blessing on the Mediterranean sea ending with a scrumptious seafood feast at a local restaurant.
Location revival: Venice. I always thought it was too touristy, too packed, and too chaotic. But there is just no other place on earth like Venice. (I had two weddings there this year!)
Last but not least: The true lovers birthplace – Verona (where Rome and Juliet had their courtship). The city government has worked hard to offer a selection of historic and exquisite locations, service is top-notch, and the area is worth discovering.
If I could, I’d get married a million more times in Italy!
Thanks, Bonnie Marie!