THE CIVIL WEDDING: YOU ARE HUSBAND AND WIFE IN THE NAME OF THE LAW!
I got married by a civil rite. I tenderly remember that a couple of hours after the fateful “I will”, my mother in law kept on wondering whether it was valid or not! Of course, the civil wedding is more than valid, but I don’t think that somebody else really wondered about that! Actually people often ask me quite different questions….Is it a civil wedding more simple? Is it less exciting? Can we arrange it quicker than a civil ritual? Can it take place exclusively inside the Town Hall? Is it cheaper? Let us take this step-by-step and try to figure out!
WHAT YOU NEED TO CELEBRATE YOUR WEDDING ON A CIVIL RITE
First of all the bride and groom- to be should go to the Register Office of the Municipality where they reside in order to apply for the needed documents to get married. Nowadays it is possible to apply for the “Certificato Contestuale” that’s a certificate including residence, citizenship, marital status, proof of life, registry office and birth certificate. It’s good practice to apply for it at least two months before the given date, but actually the sooner the better!!! The non-EU citizens should apply for the Certificate of no Impediment at the Consulate or at the Embassy of their own Country. Once they receive it, they should go to the Prefecture where the signature of the Consul or Ambassador will be authenticated by the legalisation office. In case you decide on a catholic rite or any other ritual that’s admitted here in Italy, you should apply to the parson who will celebrate the wedding. The USA citizens, instead of the Certificate of no Impediment, should submit a presentment to the USA Consul (the signature must be authenticated by Prefecture), an affidavit to the Judge and show a birth certificate. In case one of the parties is divorced, a Decree Absolute has to be attached to the documents. If one of them is widowed, then it is necessary to submit the Death Certificate of the deceased partner.
After providing all the needed documents, they will be reviewed by the employees of the Municipality who will contact the bride and groom-to be in order to fix the date of the traditional “Wedding Vows”, where no witnesses are needed.
Right after the wedding vows, the Municipality will publish the Banns that will be posted for eight days. The Banns report all the information about the bride, the groom, and the date of the wedding celebration.
If no objection has been received within four days of the end of the Banns, the Marriage Officer issues the Certificate of no Impediment, that’s a document stating that there isn’t any legal impediment to the civil intent so that the wedding can be celebrated within 180 days after Banns’expiry (on pain of forfeiture of the documents validity!).
… Up to now, we have borne just the stamp duty and billposting costs!!!
WHAT IS THE CIVIL WEDDING CEREMONY?
The rite of the civil wedding is usually shorter than the religious one. It takes on average twenty minutes during which the Marriage Officer (the principal or someone delegated by him) reads three articles of the Civil Law to the bride and the groom: Art. 143 – Mutual Rights and Obligations, Art. 144 – Address of the family life and family residence, Art. 147 – Duties to the children. In case the spouses do not understand the Italian language, the presence of a translator is taken into account.
However, it is no less exciting! The civil rite, as well as all the others, marks the union between two persons that have chosen each other and have decided to build a part of their life (hopefully long and happy!) together. The decision to have only the civil wedding tells lot of things about a couple, and leave room enough to imagine a story that’s unique and full of surprises, as all the stories are …. A story that is going to have its happy beginning!! Whether you invite only the witnesses or you will crowd the Town Hall with relatives and friends, the real issue is “you are husband and wife in the name of the law!” Moreover, in many cases, the spouses may require that somebody particularly dear to them officiate the marriage. The celebrant will be supported by the Marriage Officer who holds and fills in the public registry. This system makes more intense the ritual of the reading of the articles of the Civil Law; in fact, the newlyweds can exchange promises and thoughts prepared in advance, making the celebration extremely deep and very intense. Of course, the person that according to the spouses’ desire will officiate the wedding should satisfy specific requirements, above all, they need to be not linked by any blood or family relationship!
HOW QUICKLY IT CAN BE ARRANGED? AND WHAT ABOUT THE COST?
So, let’s go slowly! Let’s not confuse the rite with the wedding reception! We saw that the civil rite itself involves the duty stamp cost, that the documents arrangement takes from two up to six months and that the ceremony lasts about twenty minutes! If you are one of those that “the basics is to get married”, therefore it’s enough, you have finished! After a wishful toast (or even without it) you are ready to leave for your honeymoon! If you’re rather one of those that “I’m getting married and this is my “big day”, then let your creativity run riot! Your wedding planner can design along with you whatever style enhancing it with whatever theme, because everything you have in mind is compatible with the civil ritual…. Let us take as an example some symbolic ceremonies. A “Las Vegas” style wedding, complete with celebrant dressed as Elvis, or a Buddhist ritual, or an African ritual, it all starts from a civil ritual! Together with your wedding planner, you can imagine the plot of a great tale and write it on the pages of your wedding reception. Thus, to sum up, the civil wedding can be very expensive or definitively cheap; it can take months and months for arrangements or just the time to apply for the needed documents.
CAN IT BE CELEBRATED ONLY INSIDE THE TOWN HALL?
According to the law it is not possible to bring the public registry outside the Town Halls, anyway, many districts turned many spaces, even open-air, into Town Halls. Thanks to that many beautiful Italian cities have been further enhanced, and now, to all those who wish it, it is possible to get married in a magnificent and unique setting. Even and still in Italy, we are surrounded by the beauty, the poetry and the uniqueness, why we should give up all that? For example in Verona there are several beautiful locations turned into “Town Halls”. Just to name a few, the most wanted are: La Casa di Giulietta, with its very well known balcony, La Sala Arazzi, on the noble floor of the municipal office of Palazzo Barbieri, La Cappella dei Notai in the Palazzo della Ragione, which in ancient times was the council headquarter of the city. Furthermore, there are several “Flag Halls” in the municipal offices, such as Villa Verità Poeta Fraccaroli, Palazzo Castellani di Sermeti, Villa Mattarana and many others, available at different prices by booking well in advance.
Therefore, in the end the civil wedding is not to be supposed to have fewer expectations than the religious one. Actually, it is always and in any case, an event, a story of words and images, and how many surprises and special moments it can offer it depends only on what you wish!