Catholic wedding in Italy: documents and requirements to get married in Italy
When we start talking about the wedding in Italy, the first concerns about preparations begin to arise, especially in a catholic wedding.
There is no doubt that a catholic wedding is more troublesome than a marriage celebrated with a civil ceremony, at least regarding the organization. And it’s not just about the location! Although it’s right that the church’s choice is one of the most critical decisions in this kind of rite.
What – from experience – concerns the spouses most is the preparation, understanding of the documents and requirements – in terms of sacraments and impediments – needed to celebrate a catholic wedding in Italy.
This article will explain all aspects of religious marriage, from spiritual preparation to the bureaucratic process, and answer the most frequently asked questions.
The concordat catholic marriage in Italy: how does the bureaucratic process work?
As a wedding planner who mainly works with many foreign couples, one of the first questions I ask the newlyweds is: which religious rite? If we talk about the Catholic ceremony, the protagonist of this article, we know we have a concordat rite. If requested by the spouses and celebrated under certain conditions, the Catholic wedding has a civil value.
This means that the documents required to celebrate the wedding in a church are the same for the civil ceremony. I discussed it in this article regarding documents for the civil rite of foreign couples in Italy.
The point that changes is the religious bureaucratic process. In particular, the Italian minister of worship must be sure that there are spiritual impediments.
As a spouse, you will have to organize a meeting with the pastor of the Italian church chosen for your wedding. The role of this talking is verifying – first of all – that you are on track with the sacraments. It is necessary to have received baptism, eucharist, and confirmation to get married in Italy.
Sometimes I have married couples in which one or both of them were missing the sacrament of confirmation. In this case, it will be possible to carry out the spiritual path for the sacrament and receive it before the wedding or on the day of the celebration itself.
Now let’s see what documents are necessary for the religious rite and how to request them.
What are the requirements for a catholic wedding in Italy?
The documents to get married with a catholic ceremony must be requested to the parish in advance – I recommend about 6 months. Obviously, you need to come to Italy with these documents ready to be presented to the minister of the Italian church you choose. This means, you must request them to your parish abroad.
We are talking about:
- the certificate of baptism for matrimonial use;
- the confirmation certificate;
- the certificate of free ecclesiastical status.
The purpose of the latter document is to verify that the couple has not previously contracted a religious marriage. In this case, you will have to be accompanied by two witnesses on the oath day in front of the parish priest.
Another requirement for Catholic marriage in Italy is to have obtained the certificate of participation in the prenup course – which we will discuss shortly.
Are banns needed for religious marriage?
As we have anticipated, the documents needed for an Italian catholic wedding are those of the civil rite I have discussed in my article.
What about the banns? In the case of religious marriage in Italy, there are actually two registrations to be made: civil and ecclesiastical ones. Each is mandatory – if you want your wedding to have value for the state.
Regarding how to work the civil banns, you can read the article I just mentioned. Let’s now talk about the catholic one!
The ecclesiastical banns must be made and posted by the parish priest for 8 days at the church entrance. Waiting 3 days from the end of the banns – for any opposition from third parties – you can celebrate your wedding!
Once the wedding is celebrated, the parish priest will transmit the certificate for the actual registration to the municipal house. From that moment on, you will be officially married (even in the eyes of the state)!
How to apply for church banns? The processetto
What is the Italian processetto? We are talking about a discussion in front of the parish priest to confirm you are willing to celebrate the wedding. The pastor will ask you if you aim to unite in marriage (and investigate your reasons). He will show you the phrases of the promise that you will pronounce and ask you for directions to write an exciting homily for your celebration.
This is why it is called a processetto: it will almost be an interview!
Is the premarital class mandatory?
The document issued at the end of the marriage class is an essential requirement for the religious rite.
I remember the case of a friend e of mine in the air of a wedding whose parents were catechists who told me annoyed: “My parents hold prenuptial counselling, I hope they will issue me the certificate without really having to attend!”.
At the beginning of my career as a wedding planner, her approach surprised me, but now I know it is a common feeling towards the famous prenup course.
However, I can say that my spouses often change their opinion and judge the confrontations as exciting and a source of significant enrichment for the relationship once they have attended the path.
The course will last – depending on the parish – for two or three months, with weekly evening meetings. In the end, it will be released a certificate of participation valid for two years to be presented to the celebrating priest before the wedding.
Do not be preconceived, I am sure it will be a beautiful journey of preparation for the most touching catholic sacrament of your life.
Catholic marriage abroad: what is required
First of all, I want to reassure the couple. It is a popular practice. The choice of the place of the celebration should, in fact, reflect the spouses and their desires. It should be as well coherent with the general theme of the wedding.
To celebrate a catholic wedding in Italy – so outside your state of residence – you need to ask an ecclesiastical go-ahead. In short, your parish priest (abroad) will have to authorize you to celebrate the wedding in a church other than the one you belong to.
Once you have obtained the document, just hand it over, together with any certificate of publication and other documents to the priest of the chosen church.
Catholic wedding in Lent: can it be celebrated?
Although it is not forbidden, getting married in a religious rite in Lent may not be a great idea. Lent is a period of fasting, renunciation and reflection, far away from the party of the sacrament of marriage.
Celebrating a wedding in church on Holy Saturday or Good Friday is allowed, but I wouldn’t feel like recommending it personally. Furthermore, not all the priests admit wedding celebrations during Lent. So the trap of finding an available church could restrict your choices.
For those who want to get married in Lent for particular needs or emotional attachment to specific dates, it is certainly possible to find a solution that still makes the day unforgettable. In this case, the wedding planner figure – as mediator and adviser – is even more critical.
Catholic rite outside of the church in Italy
Canon law is clear: religious marriage must be celebrated in a consecrated place or in another convenient location on the Ordinary’s recommendation. It is precisely in this sentence that our possibility lies! Here, the parish priest’s role will be critical. At the spouses’ request, he can ask the bishop to celebrate the catholic rite in a place other than the church.
However, the request must be adequately motivated: even if we would simply say that we have always dreamed of a wedding on the beach!
For example, we can focus on a site near to the church, or bring a deep bond with the desired location as a motivation. However, the final word will be from the bishop.
Catholic marriage without civil effects in Italy: what are we talking about
As I explained at the beginning of this article, Catholic religious marriage is concordat; therefore, it has civil value (only if celebrated according to the law).
However, if you want to marry only before the Lord for personal or legal reasons, it is undoubtedly possible.
Just talk to your minister and request him to not send the marriage certificate to the town hall. However, I underline that you will not be considered spouses by the Italian state in this case. Be aware of the implications!
Requirements for wedding witnesses in Italy
Canon law does not help us here, it is the parish priest’s choice that becomes decisive. And here, as a wedding planner, I can definitely help you!
The wedding witnesses in the Catholic rite, unlike the civil one, can be more than two and do not necessarily have to be baptized. We could have, for example, an atheist witness or even one professing another religion. One of your closest friends is Muslim? Canon law is not clear, but your parish priest will. Everything is to negotiate correctly.
In the case of unbaptized witnesses or professing other faiths, the wedding planner’s figure can help the spouses to use the right arms to bring the priest to admit the most important people in your life to the celebration.
A catholic wedding in Italy: beyond documents, a unique emotion
With this long article, I desired to create a complete overview of all the documents and certificates necessary for religious marriage in Italy.
We have also clarified the various circumstances: can a catholic wedding be celebrated abroad or in a place other than the church? Is it possible to get married in a Catholic religious rite in Lent? Are civil banns necessary for a church wedding? And the witnesses, must they be baptized Catholics?
In short, the decision to celebrate a religious marriage is a choice that profoundly touches the couple but also has a considerable impact on the organization process. The decisions to be made are diverse, as are the doubts that can arise.
As a wedding planner, one of my responsibilities is to support the spouses on this journey and make the bureaucratic process as smooth and quick as possible.
Tania Costantino – Full Service wedding Planner in Sicily
Photo Credits: Giuseppe Santanastasio Photographer; FulleyLove; Alyna Photography, Rob Power Branco Prata;