Before you make fun of me for taking a selfie in front of Michelangelo’s David, read this first. Nothing worth anything in life is easy, and this is especially so when you are two foreigners living in a country and trying to get married. I am the kind of girl who is always up for a challenge, though normally if the challenge includes making countless phone calls and getting hung up at local government offices, I usually run to the door instead or to a local bar. In this instance, I have to offer a pretty damn good shout-out to my fiance Nico, who has been the one sending email after email and inquiring on what bureaucratic moves an American and French person needs to get married in this country —where we both happen to be residents, pay taxes and drink plenty of wine.
I should mention that as we are getting ever close to our wedding this November, I am dedicated a series of articles, #MyTuscanWedding, to getting married in Italy and all the good, bad and ugly that goes with it. I
It was fun to start on one of the happiest memories, the proposal, where I also offered suggestions where you can pop the question (if that’s your thing) in Florence as well as did a fun podcast with my friend Rick Zullo.
An American Getting Married in Italy: What You Need To Do (and When)
The cool thing about our situation is that we are both foreigners, back for red-tape (kinda) but at least I can help navigate those looking to marry here if both people are not Italian. First things first, think about when you want to get hitched. This matters for more than just the party planning, because there are time limits on when you can start certain procedures.
First comes first, what documents do you need:
- Valid U.S. passport. And for residents of Italy like me, your permesso di soggiorno & Carta di’identita.
- Original/certified copy of your birth certificate, translated and the certification must also be certified.
- Evidence of the termination of any previous marriage/s if applicable (e.g., final divorce decree, annulment decree, or death certificate of former spouse). Translated into Italian and certified.
- Affidavit or “Dichiarazione Giurata”
First things first, is your ‘Dichiarazione Giurata’ to get married. This fun document basically states that you aren’t following the ‘Sister Wives’ examples and participate multiple marriages at once. It is issued by your country of origin in Italy. In my case I made an appointment at the consulate in Florence, with the huge barricades and security entrance that makes you feel like you are entering Baghdad. Just be aware that you need to make an appointment to do this. It was very easy and straightforward, as long as you do not have a pending divorce.
Everyone has to do this and it is only valid for six months, so don’t rush to do this until you decide your wedding date. You’ll need your first two (of many) marca da bollo, the Italian administration stamp of hell, for an amount that equals 16 euros and bring your passport, and cash or credit card (not bancomat as I learned the hard way) to pay the 50$ (or the same amount in euros) processing fee. Once this is done you need to go to the legalization office (Ufficio Legalizzazioni) of the local prefettura to legalize it. This was easy. You need another marca da bollo of 16 euros and a valid document. I did this in five minutes.
Now it’s time for a drink. Rather, the start of many.
After a glass or three of wine. What’s up is the atto notorio. Because I am a resident, I needed to make an appointment at the tribunal in Florence and bring two friends who speak Italian and can legally declare to an official that I am able, sane and not a murderer to marry. These witnesses must know you well, not be family members or future family members and if they don’t speak Italian, you need an official interpreter. If you don’t live in Italy, than you need to do this at the closest Italian consulate in your home state and do it fast, as waiting lists can be long.
If you are in Florence, and a resident, apparently you can make this appointment over the phone or email. But naturally we got hung up on 200 times and had no email replies. So we went to the tribunal, made an appointment for the next week, and I convinced my friends by begging them and offering to pay for breakfast. A cappuccino can cure any bureaucratic hangover, but tequila is better.
Remember to bring, in addition to your legal identification, two marca da bollo’s of 16 euros, and one of 11 euros, then you can pick it up after four to ten days. If you need it quicker, bring two marca da bollo’s 16 euros and one of 33, this way you get it right away.
So thinking this was going to be super formal like the nulla osta at the US consulate where I had to stand behind plated glass, I was pretty surprised when I walked into a messy office with a lady wasting no time in telling me that the internet ‘didn’t work so well.’ Perfect! The guy made fun of my accent and questioned my mom’s last name ‘are you sureeeee there is a ‘z’ in Velazquez’ to the point where I almost questioned my own memory of my mother’s last name. Apparently I was supposed to print out the document that he forwarded me (with someone else’s info on it) via email and he was pretty annoyed that he had to input it right then and there. But he did it, and I was thankful.
I should note that because I am marrying a French citizen, he was not required to come, or do this. Just US citizens, so if you are both Americans, make sure you bring your passports, translated and certified birth certificates in addition to your two witnesses and interpreter.
I had to have my birth certificate translated into French and notarized by an official in Texas in order for me to complete the paperwork to marry a French citizen (where I might actually be able to get citizenship before Italy). This was a pain. My dad had to drive an hour to the capital city and take care of that for me and fedex everything to my Italian address. Perhaps you can do this online though? Not super difficult, but something you should know.
After the atto nottorio, I now need to head to Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall where we are both registered, to get our marriage appointment at the marriage office. How it works is that civil banns must be posted at the Town Hall for two consecutive weeks including two Sundays, before the marriage can take place. If you are not a resident of Italy, no worries, than this procedure is waived. Once they decide on a date, the ceremony itself is performed by the mayor or one of his deputies. You need two witnesses and one interpreter to translate your ceremony from Italian into English.
When you are married, keep in mind that the U.S. Department of State recommends requesting multiple certified copies. The last step is returning to the prefettura or legalization office where you will then need to obtain the apostle for your marriage certificate.
Been Married Before? Read This First
One thing to note is if you have been married before. I have heard the law is changing (or maybe has already) but basically the Italian government has a law decreeing that a woman cannot remarry after being divorced or widowed, for 300 days. No it does not apply to men (naturally) and I was sort of shocked when I first heard about this even thought it was explained to me it was more about if a woman carries a child. I am hoping someone who reads this post can confirm whether or not this law still applies and who thinks this is actually a good idea? If this situation does apply to you, you will have to present your Decree Absolute and previous marriage certificate.
Civil vs. Religious
Keep in mind too that if you get married in a church, the priest will conduct the legal ceremony and then register the marriage with the civil authorities. The Catholic church has requirements beyond the ones asked above, such as baptismal and confirmation certificates plus letters of freedom. I would recommend contacting the church where you would like to get married to see if it is not only available, but to start getting information on what you need in order to marry there.
If you are like me and plan to marry in Florence at the Palazzo Vecchio, the civil marriages take place in the “Sala Rossa”, or ‘Red Room’, which is beautifully decorated in red. You can also choose to marry in the grand ‘salone dei cinquecento’ or ‘sala di lorenzo’ in addition to the Bardini Museum, Florence Rose Garden (amazing), Villa Vogel. Weddings can take place from Tuesday to Sunday and the fee ranges from 500 – 2,000 euros for non-residents, yes it is pretty pricey and I am thankful to be a resident. I will report back later on how much we spent and the exact procedure in a special e-book that I will create after the wedding :).
Want to Change Your Name? In Italy, Maybe Not!
So a discussion that I see often on expat boards about Italy is whether or not it is a good idea to change your name. Now I might touch on this in more detail at a later date as part of #MyTuscanWedding, but I have a funny feeling that if you want to live in Italy, it is better not too. Here, the woman keeps her maiden name upon marriage and any future children adopt the last name of the father, unless otherwise specified. I would love for anyone of you guys to elaborate on this if you have personal experience.
From what I have been reading, it seems like it was a big mess for those living in Italy to change their married name since here it is so uncommon they might think you are married to your brother. However, if you want to do so, visit a US Embassy or Consulate with the Civil Certificate of Marriage issued by the Wedding Hall, along with your passport. I will probably keep mine and just change it on facebook, since we all know facebook is god anyway.
Hate Red-Tape? Hire a Celebrant!
So if you just don’t want to both with all of the documents necessary, then by all means no one will blame you! Get married in the legal office of your home country and hire a wedding celebrant who can conduct a symbolic ceremony for you. In Florence, and beyond, I can highly recommend Jo Bertolino of Tuscan Pledges.
I have done this many times even for friends and it is a beautiful option, especially considering that you can choose the type of ceremony. For example, using candles, a special wine box that you can open on your first anniversary and so much more. In fact, Nico and I will be using a celebrant to ‘marry’ us after the Palazzo Vecchio legal ceremony which means we can do this in more than one language, which I am really excited about.
Keep in mind you can also hire a wedding planner to help expedite this process. Especially if you want to get married quite quickly, when I am done with this series, I will provide a list of personal recommendations to those who want to go that route.
Also same-sex marriage is not yet allowed in Italy —which I personally hope changes soon. If you are in a same-sex relationship you can always get a celebrant and ‘marry’ in Italy anyway :).
Also since I am just starting all of this process, I would be interested in hearing your experience. Please share your story in the comments below. What you needed, how stream-lined the process was, I want to hear it all!
Start Your Planning
The first thing we did was look for a photographer. Though we both speak Italian, I wanted someone who also spoke English because the wedding guests are international. We ended up going with Francesco Spighi, who is a local Florentine with a very distinguished artistic eye and his photos are absolutely incredible!
As always I am not an expert, just a girl getting married in Italy and sharing her story, so I like to send you to those who are. The US Consulate in Florence has this handy link with all the info US citizens need to marry in Italy, so consult, print and take a deep breath, it’s not that hard. If you are coming from the states and looking to get married in Italy, I also recommend reading this very informative blog post. Regarding the revenue stamps, or ‘marca da bollo’ you can purchase these at any Tabacchi (look for the blue T), the rates have gone up and are not reflective of the ones you see on the consulate wesbite, you will need ones of 11 or 16 euros.
- Consulate General Florence, link to make an appointment. PDF of the ‘Dichiariazione Giurata’.. Lungarno Vespucci, 38 – 50123 Florence. Tel (switchboard): (+39) 055-266-951, Fax: (+39) 055-215-550, Website: florence.usconsulate.gov. For your nulla osta.
- Prefettura of Florence, legalization office, address: Via Antonio Giacomini 8 (near piazza liberta). Open Mon-Fri 9am – 11am, additional hours on Thursday from 2pm-4pm. To legalize your nulla osta.
- Florence Court House (Tribunale Ordinario)
Viale Giudoni, 61
Entrance B Floor 3 Room 102
Telephone: (+39) 055-799-6880; 055-799-6451 (they never answer).
Hours: Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 12:45pm and also on Tuesday from 3:00pm to 5:00pm; by appointment only. Inquiries Monday through Friday from 12:00pm to 2:00pm
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For your (residents) atto nottorio.
- Florence City Hall- Marriage Office – Palazzo Vecchio – Palazzo della Signoria
Telephone: (+39) 055-276-8518/8370/8291/8276/8026
Call Center: 055-055
Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am- 1:00pm and also on Tuesday from 2:30pm to 5:00pm, website. To register your intent to marry.
- List or recommended translators/interpreters that I got from the Consulate of Florence’s website.