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Planning a destination wedding has never been more popular and nowhere is more iconic than Italy; which is famous for its beautiful scenery, hospitable culture and wonderful cuisine, all the elements you need for a picture perfect wedding! This is why couples from all over the world travel to Italy to celebrate their special today in the country of their dreams.
A destination wedding is, essentially, any wedding which occurs in a country or city that is not the normal home of the couple. There’s other important features of a destination which normally include a smaller number of attendees due to the travel involved which often means that a wedding in a foreign country can actually work out cheaper than a large wedding at home.
On the other hand, there is likely to be more planning involved because you’ll have to liaise with agents in Italy to make the arrangements. However, you shouldn’t let this put you off because there are excellent wedding vendors in Italy that provide bilingual services and work with many couples from overseas.
Planning Your Wedding – Time Zones.
When you’re making the arrangements for your wedding in Italy you’ll have to bear the differences in time zones in mind. This means that if you’re trying to speak with a wedding agent or venue representative you may have to communicate at inconvenient times of the day, depending on your own local time zone.
Another consideration that you should be aware of is that during the high season wedding vendors are extremely busy which means that you may not get a reply to a query for several days or even weeks! Remember, everything happens slowly in Italy, including responding to emails or text messages!
This is partly as a result of the laid back approach that Italians take to life and business in general although it’s also due to their heavy workload in the summer months. To combat this, you should try to start making your arrangements as soon as possible while leaving plenty of scope for delays.
Language Barriers And Communication Difficulties.
When you’re working with an Italian wedding vendor you may find that although they do speak English misunderstandings can still occur due to things being lost in translation. Therefore, you should take a little extra care to ensure that your emails and other messages to them are written in very clear and unambiguous English to reduce the risk of confusion as a result of poor translation skills on the wedding vendor’s behalf.
You should also make sure that you clarify any issues that you have when it comes to contracts and the descriptions of the services that you can expect at the wedding. Fortunately, this is an issue which is improving as more Italian wedding vendors and agents provide fully bilingual services for their international clientele.
Planning An Italian Wedding – The Venue.
One of the most important factors when it comes to arranging a wedding in Italy is the venue itself! This will be the setting and the backdrop for your special day and so taking care to select just the right one is crucial to get right.
When it comes time to start finding a venue you should first narrow down your search by its geographical region. Is there a particular province or city that you want to get married in? Is there a place in Italy which has a special significance to you or is there somewhere you’ve visited before that you want to get married in?
Some of the other questions that you should be asking when selecting a venue for your Italian wedding include:
- How far is the wedding venue from the nearest convenient international airport?
- Does the venue require transfers for the guests on the day of the wedding?
- How will your guests get to the venue?
Some of the most popular locations for foreigners getting married in Italy include Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Naples and Sicily; however every province has its own unique wedding venues that host fantastic weddings throughout the year. Every wedding venue will offer its own packages and other services so you should ask the following questions before you sign any contracts or make a commitment to the wedding vendor:
- Does the wedding vendor provide a complimentary consultation?
- Are there any discounts or lower cost packages available during the low season or on weekdays during the high season?
- Are there restrictions on music, noise or other socializing activities after a certain time at night?
- Does the wedding venue arrange the catering or do they use an outside catering company?
- What are the check in and check out times for the venue?
- Is there a back up plan at the venue in case it’s raining or the weather is otherwise poor?
- Are there any other general restrictions or rules that you should be aware of in advance?
It can still be a little daunting to narrow down your search for the ideal wedding venue but a good vendor will be able to take your wishes on board and quickly deliver you a short list of potential locations to choose from. An experienced wedding vendor will also have all the local knowledge which will help you to make the right choice of venue.
Some of the types of venue that you can choose from include:
- Hotels (If the hotel is in a historic part of the town/city, parking can be very difficult or even restricted).
- Mansions and villas (Many mansions and villas may have other guests staying at the same time).
- Castles and other heritage buildings.
- Farms, barns and agritourism locations.
Always Ask If There’s A Backup Plan In Place.
When you’re booking your wedding venue in Italy you should always ask if there is a backup plan in place in case the weather is bad or, even worse, it starts to rain! Although, as a general rule Italy has a fantastic climate there are still rain storms which can strike during the summer! Strikes by taxi and bus drivers and other groups are common in Italy. Sometimes they can happen without any advance notice.
The chances of having the event ruined by rain are very low but it’s still worth having an indoor backup location that you can move proceedings to if the worst happens. Most venues do have indoor backup facilities or marques available but it’s always worth asking just to make sure.
Budgeting For Your Wedding In Italy.
Before you start planning and making arrangements for your wedding you should set yourself a budget and although you may want to leave some flexibility, having a rough idea of how much you can spend in advance will stop the costs spiraling out of control.
When you’re speaking with the wedding vendor you should make your budget clear from the outset; not only so they won’t exceed your budget but because it will also help you narrow down the search for a vendor. On a similar note, if a vendor or agent is unable to be clear with you about how much a wedding will cost then you should probably steer clear of them and find a different vendor instead.
Any wedding will come with certain costs, some of which may be hidden. Therefore, you shouldn’t be nervous about asking about the figures up front. Important costs to include in your calculations include:
The cost of hiring the venue.
- Lighting – some venues require a lot of lighting which you may have to pay for on top of the other costs.
- Entertainment, music or a DJ. If you want to have entertainment at your wedding then you will probably have to pay for it separately. As a rough guideline a professional DJ may charge around 2000 Euros per night while prominent bands may charge upwards of 25,000 Euros for a night’s work. A good wedding vendor will have a list of available choices so you won’t need to worry about sourcing your own entertainment.
- Decorations and floral décor. This is a very variable item which can cost upwards of 10,000 Euros although you can save on costs by keeping your floral décor to a minimum. Something which wedding vendors have noticed is that couples often underestimate how much their floral decors will cost so don’t forget to include this in your calculations.
- Makeup and beauty services. An important part of your wedding will be the beauty services that help to style your hair, apply makeup and other additional elements to your wedding dress. Beauty costs are often quite high in Italy but this is a reality you’ll have to consider for yourself in relation to your budget.
- Transfers. You and your guests will need to arrange a transfer to the wedding venue. You can hire the services of a bus if you have a lot of guests, although if you’re keeping your wedding celebrations small then a few taxis or private cars can get your and your guests to the venue. Private hire vehicles should also have the requisite ZTL tax certificates which allows them to travel to parts of the city which are usually ‘no go zones’ for other cars.
IMPORTANT: It is possible that the budget for the wedding will include things that you can pay for in US Dollars and others that you must pay in Euros. For example, you can book your airfare and hotel through Expedia in US Dollars. But you may have to pay the wedding planner or the venue at a future date in Euros. So the exchange rate will come into play (you cannot accurately predict what the exchange rate will be six months from now when you will have to make the first payment for the venue). I renovated my tiny condo in Volterra over a period of time and the exchange rate played a significant role in the overall cost of the renovation.
Catering – A Major Cost At Your Wedding.
One of the main wedding costs that you’ll have to plan for is the catering. Unlike in most parts of the world a quoted cost for a wedding in Italy should include the costs of catering. This should include:
- Linens, tablecloths and napkins.
- An aperitif hour including finger snacks and Prosecco wine.
- A meal of several courses.
- Red and white wine as well as soft drinks and bottled water.
- An authentic Italian wedding cake.
- Waitering and other staff costs.
The menu at your wedding will usually be seasonal and reflect the best of the local region’s cuisine. When you see the choice of menus on offer don’t hesitate to ask if you can make a few tweaks because this can easily be accommodated by most wedding vendors.
Wedding Planner – Do You Need One?
When you’re arranging your wedding in Italy you may well decide to hire a wedding planner to oversee the event on your behalf. This will really take away the stress and let you focus on enjoying yourself without worrying about managing the arrangements yourself.
Before you hire a wedding planner you should do your due diligence and speak to them on Skype or over the phone so that they know exactly what you’re looking for (Ideally you should pick a wedding planner who can communicate a little bit in English). Make sure you find a bilingual wedding planner too so they can properly understand your more subtle requests and requirements for the big day.
- A good wedding planner will:
- Be at the venue on the day of the wedding to ensure that everything runs smoothly from start to finish.
- Pre-wedding site inspections to ensure that you won’t be disappointed and that everything the venue is promising checks out.
- Pre-wedding food tests as well as other visits to the vendor to make sure everything is as it should be.
- Arrange your transfers to and from the wedding venue.
In some of the bigger cities like Rome, there are expats who have setup wedding planning businesses. They have good websites with testimonials and videos. You should check them out.
Bureaucracy And Red Tape Surrounding Your Wedding In Italy.
Italy is fairly well known for its cumbersome bureaucracy and unfortunately weddings are no different! However, a good wedding vendor will be able to help you arrange the legalities of the marriage license so the ceremony is officially recognized. You can either have a civil ceremony or a religious one; either of which is possible to arrange in Italy.
If you want to have an official, legally binding wedding ceremony then you should ensure that you have all the paperwork, documents and identification that you need before you leave for Italy. Generally speaking, it’s a lot easier to have your wedding vendor arrange this on your behalf and even if they charge for these services it’s going to be far easier for you than if you try to handle it on your own.
For a traditional Catholic wedding the process of arranging it can be very complex and so you’ll definitely want a local Italian to make the arrangements for you.
Alternatively, you can choose to have a symbolic ceremony and then get married officially when you get back home. This will mean that you won’t have to worry about navigating the bureaucracy surrounding a legally binding wedding in Italy.