When it comes to a UK citizen choosing the venue and destination for their wedding, there are a lot of great reasons to consider Italy. Romantic locations like Venice, Tuscany, and Lake Como are hugely popular for weddings precisely for how well they fit a ceremony publicly affirming love and dedication. It might also be the case that your partner is Italian or that one or both of you are living in the country. Marrying in your home country is simple. Marrying abroad is easily possible, but it takes a little extra preparation. Failing to carry that preparation out can result in a marriage that isn’t legal, which we all want to avoid. So, what are the steps you have to take to make sure your marriage in Italy goes without a hitch?
Paperwork you need to make it legal
The Nulla Osta, the document that allows the wedding to take place and leads to a marriage certificate, is handed out by the Town Hall overseeing the locale you wish to marry in. To acquire one, you’re going to need some paperwork. Here, we’ll break down what you need and how you get it:
- Certificate of No Impediment: This is necessary for all UK citizens wishing to marry in Italy. You receive one by giving notice at your local registry within six months leading up to the wedding. After 23 days of giving notice, you get your certificate. This simply states there’s no legal reason you can’t get married. This is obtained in the UK and costs £35.
- Statutory Declaration: This document simply declares your single status, making sure that you don’t inadvertently get any Italian authorities to carry out a bigamous ceremony. You can get one simply by making the declaration in the presence of a solicitor in the UK within three months of the ceremony, often costing as little as £5.
The CNI and Statutory Declaration then need to be immediately legalized by the consular authority of the country you wish to be married in. It can be as simple as completing the registration form on the gov.uk site, then sending both the documents and the payment, which is £30 per document. However, many local authorities in Italy might also require that the documents are translated. This has to be done by professional Italian translators based in Italy, so don’t send them off until you’re sure whether they will be accepted.
To get married in Tuscany, for instance, you need to send these documents for legalization to the British Consulate General in Florence. It’s a good idea to get in contact with them first to see if there are any extra hoops to jump through. Some might require you to meet them in person, first.
Other documents you will need to have ready include:
- Original birth certificate with names of both parents
- Photocopies of picture pages of passports for your witnesses, listing their name, address, and occupation
- A Decree Absolute and previous marriage certificates if you are divorced
- A Deed Poll if you have legally changed your name in the past
When you have all these ready, your consular authority for the location in which you want to get married will help you take care of the rest.
The road to the ceremony
The very first thing to be aware of is that there are two specific legal classifications for marriage ceremonies in Italy that can dictate some of the details of your application. All three weddings are recognized as legal, so there’s no need to be concerned about whether you’re actually married or not based on what marriage ceremony you choose. It’s more of a matter of what kind of wedding you want.
Civil legal weddings are the simplest, a state affair that mostly involves a little time to deal with the application process to apply for a marriage certificate but little else. Civil ceremonies often take place at the local Town Hall with either the mayor or an appointed official playing the role of actually performing the ceremony. These are simple, legal processes, often lasting little longer than 20-30 minutes. However, by law, they are conducted in Italian. If neither you nor your partner speak Italian, then you are required to have a professional interpreter. This is simply to make sure that the ceremony is translated and understood effectively by both partners.
Religious and spiritual weddings often follow different rules. If you want a church wedding, religious canon law has to be followed for them to allow you to have the ceremony at their place of worship. For Catholic weddings, for instance, the couple’s local priest, their Bishop, and the Bishop of the place where the marriage is taking place have to be involved. That can require more time, even up to a year, of communicating with the different religious authorities involved. It should be noted that depending on ceremony, you should specify that you want a legally valid marriage. You may also find that certain Bishops are not keen to allow weddings of non-residents in churches. There is also another path to obtaining the Nulla Osta, which in this case is produced by Bishop.
The Nulla Osta for Catholic weddings
Catholic weddings often require a lot more preparation. This is due to the Pre-Cana, the official preparation that couples go through leading up to the wedding. Your local priest and Bishop will be able to guide you through the specifics of this, but be aware it can take up to a year to complete. Your local priest might have their own requirements based on your parish for obtaining a Nulla Osta from his Bishop. The Nulla Osta, alongside the other documents required, then have to be sent to the Italian Bishop at least 2-3 months before the wedding. Naturally, you have to talk with the Italian Bishop to find out exactly what they require, not to mention whether or not they will allow a wedding for non-residents in their parish in the first place. As they are the legal overseers of Catholic weddings, what they say goes. You might have to be prepared for the possibility you may need to go for a civil wedding ceremony instead of a religious one.
Italy is one of the most recently developed countries to join in the growing legal recognition of same-sex couples having a civil ceremony. Civil unions are, technically, not the same as marriage, which means that processes of application, legalization and Nulla Osta acquirement from the Town Hall might be a bit different. However, that doesn’t mean that a civil union is anything less than a marriage in the eyes of UK law. The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 recognizes civil unions and gives them all the same legal rights and responsibilities of a civil marriage. This includes inheritance and shared property laws. The UK also recognizes civil unions that have been carried out and obtained in Italy.
If one of two partners is Italian
Italian law recognizes not only residents but anyone with parents from the country as Italian citizens. This is known as jus sanguine, a law that determines citizenship not by birthplace or residence but by blood. It’s worth knowing this because if a partner has a dual-British/Italian citizenship (or any other kind of citizenship) they are recognized by the law as an Italian citizen. They have no choice in how they carry out the marriage application and have to apply for a Notice of Marriage where they are currently residing, often with the Italian Embassy or Consulate closest to them. Of course, if they are an Italian resident, they are much more likely to get the blessing of a Bishop to have a religious wedding if they want, regardless of whether or not their spouse is also Italian.
How long you have to stay in Italy
Unlike some countries, Italy has no minimum residency requirements to allow you to have an official wedding ceremony and legal certificate. However, the amount of time you spend in the country is going to be dictated by various factors. If you have to meet your consular authority, that might require another trip. If you want to organize a religious wedding, you may have to meet the Bishop or the priest presiding the ceremony in advance, as well. Follow the advice of your consular authority, but be aware you might need to be in the country for anywhere up to a week before the wedding in order to lodge all the necessary documents at the Town Hall so your Nulla Osta is ready to collect by the time the wedding comes around.
Other details that can get in the way of the wedding
Some of these rules are going to sound obvious, as many of them already apply in the UK, but to keep you fully informed, we’re going to look at the other rules and details that might cause problems for those wanting to marry in Italy:
- Both partners have to be single, legally divorced or widowed
- Women wanting to get married cannot do so within 300 days of a divorce or after the death of a spouse without providing medical certificates ensuring they are not pregnant to the local court
- Partners cannot be related by first or second-degree. This applies to adoptive family members and non-legally recognized family members.
- If you have been married before, you cannot be authorized for a Catholic or Christian wedding without a certification of annulment from the church
Note that for the last point, the process of annulment is not a quick one and nowhere easy as a divorce. It can take years for the process to go through and the vast majority of annulments are unsuccessful. If you’ve been married before, you might have to accept the fact you’re more likely to have success applying for a civil wedding.
The status of your marriage after the ceremony
Ensuring that you’ve taken care to get a legal marriage with a certificate, following a Nulla Osta, and not a more informal ceremony, you should have no problems with being legally recognized as a married couple. Your marriage won’t be invalidated when you get back to the UK, or wherever you else you might later move and live. You’re not obliged to have a marriage contracted in another country recorded by the UK, but there are a couple reasons you might want to.
You will be given a multi-language marriage certificate, which you can then register in the UK in order to change your name and be officially recorded. This can also help you get a UK overseas marriage certificate. Again, it’s not necessary, but if you want a legal name change or you just want to tie up any loose ends, it can be useful.
Need any more help?
This guide can give you a good idea of what’s required to set up a wedding in Italy, but it’s worth being aware of the fact that overseas marriage laws can and will change and that certain circumstances of locations might require steps not mentioned in this guide. To get more specific help, contact the British consular authority for the area you wish to marry in or get directly in touch with the Italian Embassy or the Italian Consulate in London. When it comes to arranging a legal marriage, it’s best to be extra sure that you’ve received the right instructions.
Hopefully, that clears up some of the often long and complicated factors that go into getting a legally recognized marriage in Italy. For those who want less hassle, going the route of a civil ceremony can be a lot simpler, requiring only a few application forms and a bit of a wait. The trouble comes in with religious and Catholic marriages that are then legally recognized, so if you want one, you better be prepared to work for it and expect that you still might not get it. There are plenty of opportunities, however, to have a ceremonial, not-legally recognized function and then get the official side sorted when you return to the UK.
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