To avoid the hassle of international paperwork many couples decide to have a civil ceremony back home, and opt for a religious or a symbolical ceremony in Italy. If you want your marriage in Italy to be legally binding, don't be discouraged by this. With a little planning ahead and some help from your wedding planner, getting your documents in order doesn't have to become a nightmare.
The legal requirements of getting married in Italy are pretty straight forward, and the U.S. Embassy will be able to provide information on how to get hold of the right papers. It's worth remembering that in Italy each town hall has their own take on how to interpret the regulations, and sometimes getting things done depends on getting lucky with who sits on the other side of the desk. Be patient and and make sure you get the ball rolling on time. I would recommend getting started about 6 months before the wedding, to make sure you have enough time to get informed and to collect all the documents you need. On the flip side, official documents are considered valid only for 6 months in Italy, so bear that in mind when going through the list of papers to obtain.
This list is here to give you an idea, but regulations can change. Always check the current requirements from the local authorities, or get in touch with your wedding planner to make sure things run as smoothly as possible. To keep things simple, I haven't added all the fees linked to the various documents, but be prepared to pay around $100-200 on fees and taxes, plus any possible expenses for translations you will have to get.
- Passport. A valid one. But then you should already have this if you're planning to get married here
- Birth Certificate. You will need the original one or if you can't get your hands on that you need a certified copy. You will have to have the certificate translated and stamped with an Apostille, which is just a fancy way to say it is valid internationally. You can obtain that by contacting the local authorities of the state in which you were born.
- Evidence of the termination of any previous marriage/s if applicable (e.g., final divorce decree, annulment decree, or death certificate of former spouse). For women there is also a requirement for a medical certificate proving you're not pregnant if it has been less than 300 days since your previous marriage was terminated. The medical certificate will be used to obtain a waiver from the the Italian District Attorney's Office (Procura della Repubblica).
- Atto Notorio: This is a declaration stating that there is no legal obstacle to your marriage under U.S. laws. I strongly advice you to obtain this already before travelling to Italy to avoid disappointment. Contact your closest Italian Consulate to find out exactly how to go about it. If for some reason you're not able to get the document beforehand, you can also get the Atto Notorio when you arrive in Italy. Depending on the city where you're planning to get married the court may have a long waiting list for this document, and you may have to book an appointment in advance. To make sure you won't be queueing for the last piece of paper still on your wedding morning, I would recommend getting this document in advance.
- Nulla Osta (Affidavit or “Dichiarazione Giurata”) is available from an American consular officer in Italy. Contact the U.S. Consulate of the city where you plan to marry, of the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to book an appointment. Bring the form with you (pre-filled, to keep the officials happy and to save time), but make sure it is not signed as that has to happen in front of them. The form for the Consulate in Florence can be found here. You will have to then bring the Nulla Osta to an office that legalises documents (Ufficio Legalizzazioni) for it to be legally valid in Italy.
- Dichiarazione di Matrimonio: Once you have all the above listed documents you have to take them to the Marriage Office (Ufficio Matrimoni) at the town hall of the city where you plan to get married, and make a Dichiarazione di Matrimonio (Declaration of Intention to Marry) before a civil registrar. Once all of this is done, you can finally officially set a date for the wedding. If one (or both) of you are Italian Citizens or residents in Italy, you will also have to post official banns for two consecutive weeks (including two Sundays) before the marriage. The last step is waived, or the banns are posted for less time, for non-residents, but it's best to check the current practices from the local town hall.