Glendale Cherry Creek ( Colorado ) Chronicle October 2009
A Guide For Lovers Visiting Tuscany
by Rebecca Allen
Thinking about getting married in a romantic setting in a foreign country? Many couples do these days and one of the favorite locations is beautiful Italy. The publisher of the Chronicle Chuck Bonniwell and Fox 31 Investigative Reporter Julie Hayden recently tied the knot in Pisa, Italy, and then went on a bicycling tour of the Tuscan wine country. As the couple discovered, getting married in a foreign country can at times be a challenge, but with a little perseverance and assistance from knowledgeable locals it is very much a wonderful way to start a marriage.
Getting married in Italy is in theory not overly cumbersome or difficult. In practice, however, there are many traps for the unwary and the stories are legend of engaged couples going over to Italy and coming back not officially married. The requirements can vary dramatically depending on where in Italy you wish to marry. Even the United States Department of State’s Web page on getting married in Italy sagaciously warns individuals that: The information in this circular relating to legal requirements of Italy is provided for information only and may not be totally accurate in a particular case. Questions involving interpretation of specific Italian laws or regional requirements should be addressed to Italian authorities.
Of course a couple can always have a legally non-binding ceremony in Italy and then return to the United States to be legally married (or vice versa), but for many couples that is not what they want or envision.
A Wedding Planner
One of the critical keys to a legally binding marriage in Italy is to engage a wedding facilitator that will help guide you through the process before you arrive in Italy and while you are there. One of the best is Bella Italia located at 831- S. Valley Highway Suite #300 Englewood, Co 80112 (telephone 303-524-1503 and Web site tours.comwww.bellaitalia
) who has local wedding facilitators throughout Italy and was the one utilized in Chuck and Julie’s marriage.
You should be aware that not all wedding facilitators are the same and it is important to obtain the services of a very knowledgeable one like Bella Italia. Before retaining Bella Italia Chuck and Julie had talked to various Italian wedding facilitators, some of whom provided no small amount of misinformation. If you wish to be married in a Catholic church there are additional requirements from a civil ceremony which your parish can assist you with. For a non-Catholic church wedding in Italy, it is generally recommended that you have a civil ceremony first to ensure the marriage will be recognized in Italy. This article will discuss the requirements for a civil ceremony wedding in Italy.
One of the real advantages of getting married in Italy is that, unlike many other foreign countries, you do not have to be in the country any specific amount of time, provided neither the bride nor the groom is an Italian citizen or resident of Italy. Chuck and Julie arrived in Pisa from Paris late in the afternoon on a Wednesday and got married that Friday at high noon. You only need a full day in advance of the wedding to obtain all the necessary documents and governmental approvals.
You will need at a minimum the following three documents:
• Valid U.S. Passports
• Atto Notorio
• Nulla Osta
The Atto Notorio is a declaration that both individuals are single and free to marry with no legal impediment of any kind to marrying in the state(s) they are legal residents in. While the document can be obtained while in Italy it is far wiser to obtain it from the Italian consulate before you leave. Chuck and Julie were informed originally that they would need to get the Atto Notorio from the closest Italian Consulate with a Consular General, which is in Chicago, Illinois.
The Nulla Osta is a declaration that there are no obstacles to the marriage in Italy and it is issued by a U.S. Consulate in Italy. There are four consular districts in Italy with the consulates in Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples. Generally, you must get the Nulla Osta from the district in which your wedding is to be performed. For example the City of Florence will not accept a Nulla Osta issued in Rome. Chuck and Julie flew into Pisa and rented a car and drove to Florence the next day to obtain the Nulla Osta. You must make a prior appointment with the U.S. Consulate to obtain the Consular’s signature and approval.
You can make the appointment online with the U.S. Department of State as well as download the Nulla Osta form. Be sure to make an appointment in both of the names of the wedding couple. Julie had made the appointment only in her name and Chuck had to amicably cajole the Italian police who guard the U.S. Consulate (who did not speak English) for over 20 minutes to be able to gain admittance to the consulate since he was not on the list of persons who had an appointment.
To save time you can fill out the form ahead of time, but do not sign it as the Consular must witness your signing. Once you leave the U.S. Consulate you are not done with the Nulla Osta. The Consul’s signature needed in Chuck and Julie’s case had to be authenticated by the Ufficio Legalizzarione at the Prefeturra and needed additional stamps. In Florence the Ufficio Legalizzarione is only open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The marrying couple does not have to appear in person before the Ufficio Legalizzarione which was fortunate for Chuck and Julie. Due to Chuck’s delay in getting into the Consulate they did not finish with the Nulla Ostra until 10:45 a.m. A representative of the wedding facilitator then raced across town and by cell phone was able to convince the authorities to stay open an additional 15 minutes and the authentication was obtained just in the nick of time.
Chuck and Julie then drove back from Florence to Pisa to a meeting with town officials in order to sign a Declaration of Intent to Marry and for the town officials to approve all of the documents before confirming the setting of the marriage ceremony for the following day. At the meeting the presiding town official had a problem with one of the signatures in the Atto Notorio. The wedding facilitator and the official then engaged in a very heated exchange in Italian with the facilitator demanding to see the official’s supervisor. Fortunately the supervisor approved the signature and the setting of the wedding was confirmed for next day at noon.
At the wedding itself if neither the bride nor groom are fluent in Italian, a translator must be secured. There must also be two witnesses over the age of 18. Civil weddings can be performed in a number of places approved by the municipality although many municipalities have elaborate and ornate wedding halls. The wedding must be performed by the mayor of the town or his designee. Multiple copies of the authenticated marriage certificate should be obtained. For the marriage to be recognized in Colorado, the authenticated Italian marriage certificate must be recorded by the county clerk and recorder in the county of the couples’s place of residence.
The State Department’s Web site and almost all other Web sites note that you need to have a certified full birth certificate which contains a “Hague Treaty certification” called an apostille. Normally this is issued by the Secretary of State of the state you were born in. If you have been divorced a copy of the final divorce decree with an apostille is also required. Moreover all the documents must also be translated into Italian. Obtaining these documents can be time consuming and may involve significant additional costs.
Luckily for Chuck and Julie, not all jurisdictions in Italy require these additional documents. Both Florence and Pisa waived the requirement to have such additional documents. Once again having a knowledgeable wedding facilitator is crucial to knowing what the city where you are to be married will require.
In addition under Italian law, banns or wedding announcements must be posted at the city hall for two consecutive Sundays before the marriage will occur. This requirement, however, is almost always waived unless one of the parties is an Italian citizen or a resident of Italy.
Finally some authorities also want foreign citizens to show proof of legal entry into Italy. Fortunately the stamp placed on your passport by customs when you first entered a European Union country will normally suffice.
Italian people love brides and weddings. As Chuck and Julie walked to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then to the Town Hall people stopped to congratulate them and men and women leaned out windows to shout “beautiful bride” and “best of luck.” Everyone wants to pose for a picture with the wedding couple. The day Chuck and Julie got married was also graduation day for the University of Pisa and the students with garlands on their heads waited in line to be photographed with the bride.
While laboring through the legal requirements can at times be tiring the reward is that when you marry it will feel like the entire town has come out to celebrate your wedding day.