Getting Married in Italy - The Complete Guide
So… you want to get married in Italy, but have no idea where to start?
First, congratulations! Second, we can help you with that!
In this guide, we are going to focus mainly on the technical process for getting married in Italy and all the documents that are required. We will also describe the process to navigate through the legalization steps needed to make the Italian wedding legally recognized in your home country. Additionally, we are going to include our own personal experience and describe the steps we went through in making our dream come true.
Depending on your situation it might end up being a simple process or it might need a bit extra work.
Where to start:
Planning a wedding abroad can be intimidating for various reasons but having all the steps laid out before you can make the whole process a lot easier and certainly less stressful. Knowing what to expect will make your experience so much better. Here are a few notes on what to expect when planning a wedding in Italy:
- Plan ahead – Make sure you have ample time to request and obtain all necessary documents.
- Understand your timeline – Before even setting a date, understand all the requirements and how long each step is going to take to complete.
- Paperwork – There will be extra documents necessary compared to a regular wedding in your home country, some of which you have likely never heard of before.
- Language – While knowing Italian is not a requirement, it sure does help. If you don’t speak the language, let someone who knows Italian assist you with some of the tasks.
- Time in Italy – You will be required to visit various offices in Italy, so you should plan to arrive at least 2 weeks before the wedding date to make sure you have enough time.
Before we jump to the different steps required, it is important to understand your situation and evaluate the options available to you. Generally speaking there are a few different scenarios to consider that can lead to different steps, some easier, some more complex. For example, your country of origin or whether you want a church union vs. a civil union.
Every country has different laws and regulations, so creating a guide that fits all scenarios would be impossible and a disservice to our readers. For the purpose of this guide we will provide guidance on the processes required for American citizens or readers living in the US.
If you live in another country, the process might be different.
Requirements for US Citizens
For US citizen there are essentially three necessary steps to follow to get married in Italy:
Before arriving to Italy
- the Atto Notorio
After arriving to Italy
- the Nulla Osta
- the Marriage Certificate
Step 1 – The Atto Notorio
First thing to do is to find and contact the Italian Consulate that has jurisdiction over your state (there are only 9 Italian Consulates in the US and each one has jurisdiction over certain states). The consulate will be a valuable resource as they can guide you through the process of obtaining the “Atto Notorio.” The Atto Notorio is a declaration, in front of the Italian Consulate, saying that you and your partner are who you claim to be and that you are allowed to get married in Italy. To obtain this declaration you will be required to appear before the consulate with your partner, two witnesses (a witness may be of any nationality, but must be over 18, with a current photo ID), and a list of documents.
Normally the couple will need the following documents (although they might vary in some instances):
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of your partner’s passport
- Copies of your two witnesses’ IDs
- Certified copy of your birth certificate (long form, explained below)
- Certified copy of your partner’s birth certificate (long form, explained below)
- Evidence of the termination of previous marriages, if any (e.g. divorce decree, annulment decree or death certificate of former spouse)
The birth certificates and evidence of the termination of previous marriages, if any, will need to be translated into Italian (the consulate should be able to refer you to a translator). Finally, the certified copies and certified translations will also need to be accompanied by an “Apostille”, which is a seal that certifies the legality of the attached document and ensures its recognition throughout the world (in accordance with The Hague Convention on the legalization of foreign public documents).
In the United States, you can get an Apostille through the Secretary of State in the state where the document was issued and the cost ranges from $5-$15 per document.
Once you have the Atto Notorio, Step 1 is complete!
Step 2 – The Nulla Osta
Once you have arrived in Italy, the next document that is required by Italian Law is the Nulla Osta or Affidavit, which is essentially another declaration that states that there are no impediments and that you can legally marry under Italian and US law. You can obtain the Nulla Osta from any U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Italy and to do so you will need to make an appointment. We recommend making an appointment at least a month in advance to be safe (these appointments are generally only on one or two specific weekdays, so plan ahead).
Similarly to the Atto Notorio, you will make an oath in front of an American Official and you will then receive two copies: one for you and one for your partner. Also keep in mind that the Nulla Osta is valid for three months and costs approximately 50 Euros per person.
Once you have the two Nulla Osta copies, you will need to have them stamped by the Legalization Office of any Prefettura, the provincial Italian government agency (each province capital has one). Before doing so, you will need to purchase two “Marche da Bollo” or revenue stamps from any local Tabacchi shop (tobacco stores). Each document will need a 16 Euro revenue stamp. In Italian you can simply ask: “Vorrei due Marche da Bollo, per favore” (I would like two revenue stamps, please). Do not place the stamps on the documents yet, they will do that at the Prefettura.
When you reach the Prefettura look for the office that handles legal documents – Ufficio Legalizzazione. In the office there is a pretty good chance that very few will speak English. Not a problem, just ask for the Ufficio Legalizzazione and once there show them the two Nulla Osta, the Marche da Bollo, and say you are getting married in Italy and need their signature: “Scusi, siamo qui per ottenere la firma sul Nulla Osta. Ci sposiamo in Italia. Grazie” (Excuse me, we are here to obtain the signature on the Nulla Osta. We are getting married in Italy. Thank you). They’ll know what to do.
This was a long step but with the authorized Nulla Osta in your hand you are now done with Step 2!
Step 3 – The Marriage Certificate
The last step is to declare your intent to marry and the next steps will depend on your choice of a Civil Union or a Religious Union.
If you decide to have a Civil Union, you will need to head to the City Hall in the town/city where you are getting married. Here, in front of the Ufficiale di Stato Civile (Civil Registrar), you must present all the precious documents you have worked so hard to obtain (Atto Notorio, Nulla Osta, along with the Italian-translated and apostilled birth certificates and divorce documents) and declare your intent to get married, which results in the “Declaration of Intention to Marry.”
The Civil Registrar will then look over all of the documents and will keep all the paperwork presented to them. The declaration usually takes place 2 or 3 days prior to the wedding and banns are posted only after the “Declaration of Intention to Marry” has been filed.
The civil ceremony is usually performed by the Mayor or one of his deputies. You will need two witnesses and one interpreter to translate your ceremony from Italian into English. The translator can be anybody who has a good command of both English and Italian.
There is a formal procedure that takes place at Italian civil wedding ceremonies. However, some officials are willing to work with you to customize the ceremony, this is something you need to discuss and agree with them beforehand.
At the end of the ceremony you and the two witnesses will sign the legal marriage license, and after the ceremony you will receive an envelope containing the official marriage certificate authorized by the Mayor or depute.
The final step is to go back to the Prefettura (doesn’t have to be same one you visited for the Nulla Osta), present the marriage certificate, and say that you would like to receive an Apostille for the marriage certificate.
A Religious Union adds another layer of complexity to the whole process as you need to also receive approval from the Italian Religious Authorities before getting married. If you decide to have a Religious Union, you must provide some additional documents depending on your religion.
Roman Catholic Wedding
In the case of a Roman Catholic ceremony performed by a Roman Catholic priest, you have the option of having a Civil Union prior to the Religious one or just the Religious one, as the priest can register the marriage with the civil authorities.
In case you decide to have the Civil Union prior the Religious Ceremony, you should provide the original civil documents (the civil wedding certificate which states that you are legally married) to the Italian priest.
On the other hand, if you wish to have the Religious ceremony legally recognized by the Italian authorities you must also provide all of the civil paperwork described in Steps 1 & 2.
Additional Documents Required by the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church requires the following documents from each person in order to approve your wedding request:
- Certificate of Baptism
- First Communion
All the above documents need to be stamped by your local Bishop’s office (if your local Parish is not able to provide you the originals, ask for some copies that have necessary to be sealed by your local Bishop).
- Declaration (formal letter)
Written by your Priest/Pastoral Advisor in which they state that both bride and the groom are active in the Catholic Church and that they intend seriously to have a religious blessing in Italy (specifying the name of the church you selected in Italy and your wedding date). This letter represents a permission released by you Priest and required by the Italian Curia which testify that your local Priest knows you and allows your wedding in Italy. Since this is an official and formal letter, it has to be written in the letterhead paper of your Parish. The letter needs to also state that you have fulfilled all the Pre Cana Classes. The Certificate of the Pre-Marital classes (if a certificate was done) should be included.
- Nihil Obstat
This is a letter from the Bishop of your Parish (written on the letterhead of your Bishop’s office). This is one of the most important documents required by the Italian religious Authorities.
It must specify that you have No Impediment to get married in the Italian Church you selected (specify the name) at the date requested. This letter certifies that the religious authorities over your local priest have approved your wedding in Italy.
- Original Prenuptial Enquiry Form
The Prenuptial Enquiry Form is a prenuptial investigation provided by the Archdiocese of your (the Italian Curia must have a proof that your wedding has been approved by the higher member of the Catholic Church in your country), which includes your personal details and some general religious data. This questionnaire has to be filled with you together with your Priest. The document has to be issued by your Parish (written on a formal letterhead). It has to be signed and stamped with the Church seals by your local Bishop’s office (not by your Priest).
In case you or your partner have been divorced, the Italian Catholic Church will not allow you to re-marry in a Church, unless the Rota (the only Institution legally able to officially annull marriages) had previously annulled your wedding.
If you or your partner have been previously civilly divorced and want to get married again in the Church, you are required to submit a civil reconciliation certificate.
Permission of Mixed Religion
If you or your partner are not Catholic you are still allowed to get married in church, however, you must provide this additional document which testify that your wedding can be performed by the Italian religious authorities. This certificate is usually issued by the local bishop in your country, but we suggest asking for more information to your local Priest as it is not always guaranteed. The ‘Permission of mixed religion’ needs to be sealed or stamped by the Bishop’s Parish office.
Most of Italian Churches are able to directly translate your documents. In some instances, this service may not be offered, so it will be up to you to provide an acceptable translation.
In order to be accepted, the documents must not be done more than 3 months in advance or they will expire (this is not the case for the certificate of baptism, holy communion and confirmation, which are issued when you received these sacraments).
Once you have all the required documents you can send all them directly to the Italian Curia, for them to be processed.
Usually 1-2 days prior to the wedding you will meet with the priest to go over the next steps and prepare for the ceremony.
Non-Roman Catholic Wedding
If neither you or your partner are Catholic, you can reach out to other Religious Authorities in Italy and request permission to have a Religious Union. We are not able to provide any information on the procedures and requirements of non-Catholic authorities. However, we can say that due to the special Italian requirements applicable to marriages performed by non-Roman Catholic ministers, it is usually required to have the civil ceremony prior to performing the religious ceremony to ensure the legality of the marriage to (this is not always the case, and can depend on the wedding destination).
Also, for more information on getting married in Italy – check out our Italian Wedding Cost Guide – we go over the main costs for an Italian wedding and what to expect cost-wise.
Need more inspiration or help with the planning? Check out our Cost Tracker and our invitation templates:
- Excel Cost Tracker – Use to keep track of your wedding expenses.
- Save the Date EN – Our Save the Date Magnet design.
- Invitation EN – Our boarding pass style invitation (English).
- Invitation IT– Our boarding pass style invitation (Italian).
- Ceremony Booklet Design – The booklet cover for our wedding ceremony.
Want to use our invitation designs? We can customize them for you for a small fee. Contact us!
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