The first thing we always remind our brides and grooms is that a church wedding in Tuscany or elsewhere is above all the celebration of a sacrament and not just a party in a pretty venue. It is very important that they understand and accept this fact, because the Catholic Church has its own rules grounded in the sacrality of the rite priests are asked to perform.
Since we often have to provide information on the paperwork required to get married in an Italian church, we decided that it is a good topic for a post. It will hopefully be useful for some of our couples and for many other brides and grooms.
In Italy, Catholic weddings can have a legal civil effect. Some priests agree to perform this so-called “rito concordatario” for foreign couples too, others only agree to a religious ceremony if both the bride and the groom are not Italian. Moreover, some priests accept to co-celebrate with another English speaking priest, while others insist on being the only celebrant. You will need an interpreter for the civil part of the ceremony.
If you are not a resident, the paperwork you need to do with your parish is the same as that required to get married in a parish to which neither the bride and groom belong.
- The first thing you should do is contact the priest(s) of your own parish(es) at home. He will guide you through all of the paperwork required by the Italian Curia.
- Each of you must request a Certificate of Baptism, which also states that you have received Confirmation (some parishes also require a Certificate of First Communion). Some Diocese don’t accept the original certificates (and it’s never a good idea to include originals): they require new certificates which have been issued within the previous 3 months. These certificates must be requested at the Parishes which administered the sacraments and must be signed and stamped by the parish priests.
- Your priest will give you a prenuptial inquiry form to fill in. This is an official document, usually printed on formal letterhead. It is a prenuptial investigation which includes your personal details and other information about the sacraments you have received. Your parish priest will assist you in completing the form.
- If you have lived in different parishes after the age of 16, you will need to provide a certificate of non-impedement from each parish which states that, as far as they know, you have never been married.
- After reviewing all these papers, your priest must write a formal declaration which states that you are active in the Catholic Church and intend seriously to have a religious blessing in Italy. The name of the church you chose in Italy and your wedding date must be clearly stated. This letter is required by the Italian Curia and testifies to the fact that your local priest knows you and has allowed you to get married in an Italian church. The letter must be written on the letterhead of your parish.
- The letter should also state that you have attended the Pre-Cana classes. If you have a certificate of attendance, you should include it.
- Some parishes publish a notice that you intend to marry for 15 days before giving you their permission to marry.
- When you have collected all of these documents you priest will help you to prepare a file with all of this information which must be brought to the local Bishop’s office for approval. Some parishes take care of the whole procedure for you. The Bishop will issue a “nihil obstat“, a nulla-osta, stating that all the paperwork is in order and that you have permission to marry outside your own parish. This should also be written on the Bishop’s Office letterhead and is the most important document for the Italian Curia. There is usually an official form that the office fills in and seals. It must also specify that you have no impediment to get married in the church you have chosen. The Bishop’s Office should send this nihil obstat to the priest of the Italian church where you have decided to get married, who will then present it to the local Diocese.
A recommendation: always make copies of the paperwork before handing it in to the Bishop’s Office. The documents are only valid for 6 months, so there is no point in obtaining them too far in advance.
If you want to have a religious wedding with civil value, you also need to take care of the civil paperwork too. This varies depending on your nationality. An interpreter is required for the civil ceremony.
You will have to be in Italy a few days before the wedding to take care of all the civil paperwork. Your priest will need them to obtain the final permission of the local Diocese to perform the wedding.
If one of you is divorced and was previously married in a church, you cannot get married in a church unless you first obtain an annulment.
If one of you is not Catholic, you can still get married in a church. You need an extra document called “Permission of mixed religion” which has to be sealed by your Bishop’s Office.
Please note that the Italian Curia states that a minimum of 30 days are required to review and approve your paperwork.