Legal requirements for a legally binding ceremony in Italy.

One thing we have always appreciated is that people from the USA love so much to visit and experience our country. The end of the 2ndworld war followed up a grand alliance between these two so different nations. Many Italians, after the war, migrated in the US, looking for new chances and hoping for a new life. Many Americans wanted to be at least one time in Rome once they saw the movie “La Dolce vita” or “Vacanze Romane.”

The reasons why many North American couples dream of getting married in Italy are many: history, beauty, and diversity of landscapes, charming traditions, culinary art, fashion, happiness, good climate, etc.

But today, we want to focus and help the readers to understand which are the right steps to get legally married in Italy obtaining legal effects in the US territory. A specific bilateral agreement is in force between the USA and Italy regarding the marriage of US citizens in Italy: this is the Exchange of notes made in Rome on 8/18/1964 (from Italy, ratified with Legge: 13/10 / 1965, No. 1195).

The agreement was stipulated to “resolve” the question of the fact that in the USA, there are no competent authorities to issue the declaration required by art. 116, 1 Civil Code (Codice Civile). Let’s see point by point what the current legislation requires to get legally married in Italy for a US citizen obtaining legal effects in the territory of the United States.

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You will need: 

1) A valid U.S. passport;

2) Birth certificate (original or certified copy);

3) Evidence of the termination of previous marriage if applicable (e.g., final divorce decree, annulment decree, or death certificate of former spouse).  Women whose previous marriage terminated within the last 300 days must obtain a waiver from the Italian District Attorney’s Office (in Italian Procura della Repubblica presso il Tribunale) at the court in the town where the new marriage will be performed.  The waiver is issued upon presentation of medical evidence that you are not pregnant. Your wedding planner will help you to start this procedure with local authorities.

4) The Affidavit or “Dichiarazione Giurata” needs to be sworn by you before an American consular officer commissioned in Italy, stating that there are no legal impediments to your marriage, according to the State’s legislation in which you have residency.  Once the “Dichiarazione Giurata” has been issued, with the assistance of your wedding planner, you will need to bring it to the Legalization Office of the local Prefettura to legalize it.  You will need to purchase a €16,00 revenue stamp and present it to the clerk of the Legalization Office (Ufficio Legalizzazioni) at the Prefettura (an Italian government office) for each document to be authenticated.

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5) Atto Notorio is a declaration, to obtain in addition to the “Dichiarazione Giurata,” that states that according to the laws to which you are subject in the USA, there are no impediments to your marriage in Italy. To swear this declaration, you will need two witnesses, and it will be sworn before an Italian consul outside Italy (in the USA if you are there) or, in Italy, in a Court (Tribunale ordinario).  If you are coming to Italy for your marriage, it would be advisable to get this declaration at the nearest Italian Embassy or Consulate before leaving the United States, as some Courts in Italy may have long waiting lists for this kind of service.  If you decide to request the Atto Notorio in Italy, you should contact the Notary Services Office (Ufficio Atti Notori) of “Tribunale Ordinario” and make an appointment in advance (we don’t advise you to follow this path as it’s known that Italian justice system is pretty slow). If the spouses or even only one of the witnesses do not speak Italian, the presence of an interpreter will be required. The couple, as well as the witnesses and the interpreters, must show proof of their legal presence in Italy by presenting, for example, a plane ticket, visa, or permit to stay (permesso di soggiorno).

 5) Declaration of Intention to Marry. You should present all the documents mentioned above to the competent Marriage Office of the town hall of the city where you planned to get married, where you will have to make a “Declaration of Intention to Marry” in front of a civil officer. If you do not speak Italian, a professional interpreter may assist you in this phase. When all this is done, you can finally set the date of your wedding according to the town hall availability.

Civil Ceremony: A civil ceremony will be performed by the mayor or by one of his deputies. Two witnesses and, if necessary, an interpreter must be present at the ceremony.  Witnesses may be of any nationality, but must be over 18 and possess valid photo identification.  A witness cannot serve as an interpreter.  You will also have to pay a rental fee for the marriage hall, and it varies according to the town hall regulations, the season, and the day of the week.

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Religious Ceremony: A religious ceremony is considered valid if performed by a Roman Catholic priest. A separate civil ceremony will not be necessary, as the priest is obliged to register the marriage at the civil authorities. The Roman Catholic Church requires baptismal (Battesimo) and confirmation certificates (Cresima) in addition to the documents listed above. For full information, you should contact the parish of your area in the US or where you are resident.

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For English-language marriages at the Vatican, also known as the Holy See, we can contact on your behalf the parish priest of Santa Susanna Church. Weddings at the Vatican will be registered with the Vatican civil authorities, and marriage certificates are issued by the Civil Registry of Vatican City (Ufficio di Stato Civile, Anagrafe e Notariato, Governatorato, Citta del Vaticano) as the Vatican is a separate State from Italy. The notarized “Dichiarazione Giurata” is required but does not need to be legalized by an Italian Prefettura office as for the Italian law.

A religious ceremony performed by the non-Roman Catholic clergy requires that a civil ceremony be completed before the religious one to ensure the legality of the marriage.  If you are planning this type of religious ceremony, you will need to consult your religious referent in the place you live.

Please note that in Italy, to give the validity to all foreign documents such as birth certificate, divorce decree, etc. they must be legalized for use in Italy and must be translated into Italian.

In regards to the legalization of a U.S. document for its use in Italy, you will need to have it stamped with a so-called Apostille stamped by the secretary of state in the State where the document is issued by The “Hague Convention” on the legalization of foreign public documents.

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Under Italian law, all public documents originating from outside the EU are considered valid for only six months from the date of issue.  Therefore, you should make sure that all documents to be submitted to Italian authorities have not been issued more than six months ahead of the date of the marriage.

In regards to the Validity in the USA of the Italian Marriage Certificate, please note that marriages that are valid in the country where they are performed are automatically valid in the U.S.A.  Therefore, an Italian marriage certificate is sufficient to prove your marriage in the USA, and it is considered valid once legalized through the above-mentioned Apostille procedure.  The Apostille stamp can be obtained from the Legalization Office of the Italian Prefettura, having jurisdiction over the area where you will get married.

Please note that you may need several days to complete all of the procedures; therefore, you should plan everything in time. The timing will vary depending on the number of marriages the town hall chosen by you have to perform, and last. Still not least: waiting lists are not uncommon, so you should evaluate with your destination wedding planner the timing and the perfect place where to get married in Italy accordingly to your desires.

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