Wedding In Italy: Civil Ceremony Requirements

While hundreds of years have passed since knights in shining armor roamed the Circus Maximus in Rome and wedding banquets were held in medieval castles, the echo of ancient Roman law governing citizens in the middle ages still rings clearly in the Italian Civil Code today.  But it may come as quite a surprise to couples who choose a civil ceremony in Italy that century old articles of law still define the legal process of Italian weddings in a truly modern doctrine for equality and equal rights and obligations of both spouses.

CivilCeremonySienaCouples getting married in Italy legally are amazed at how official the civil ceremony is.  “Italy really takes marriage seriously!’ commented a guest at a recent wedding in Siena. The Celebrant was wearing the traditional red, white, and green sash for official events while guests sat on period hand-carved mahogany chairs listening to the three articles of law being pronounced and which reflect the essence of the Italian constitution stating that ‘all citizens have equal social status and are equal before the law’.

Myth:  Women must take their husband’s surname

Truth:  Women keep their maiden name in Italy, so when you sign the wedding hall register you with your own name.

It was actually up to the woman and her family to decide whether she would become part of her husband’s family with all of her property, or if she would remain under legal protection of her own paterfamilias and retain her property with the same rights as if she were single.

Tuscany wedding countryMyth:  The husband is the boss.

Truth: in Roman Law the term patria potestas gave the husband power over the family property and his wife, who was under his legal and protective care.  This was later changed to read ‘head of household’ and the modern day expression of rights was changed in 1975 with the new Family Law Reform giving equal rights and responsibilities to both spouses and establishing joint ownership by default unless otherwise determined by the couple through a pre-nuptial agreement.

Myth:  The ‘year of mourning’ clause applies only to woment and is unfair.

Truth: Under Roman Law, both man and woman were branded with infamia if marriage was contracted before the termination of the period of mourning.  The 300 day waiting period to re-marry applied to women is to protect the paternity rights of any unborn child in case the woman is pregnant when she divorces or loses her spouse.

Simple Steps for your civil ceremony in Italy

Once you have chosen your location and booked your date with the wedding hall, the paperwork requirements are very similar to what you would do at home with a couple of extra stamps and apostilles for nationalities outside of the European Community.  You will need a translator for your wedding license and wedding day, plus two witnesses. Each town hall charges differently and many have online payment systems set up. As wedding planners it is our job to take you through this process one step at a time.

Some information was adapted from the following publication:  Burdick, William L. The Principles of Roman Law and Their Relation to Modern Law. Rochester: The Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Co., [1938]. xxi, 748 pp. Reprinted 2004 by The Lawbook Exchange.

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