Guide To Planning a Destination Wedding In Italy
Everything you need to know before you decide to tie the knot in this splendid country.
Scintillating ocean views with the cool breeze caressing your skin, undulating wine regions that intoxicate with their verdant beauty, romantic cities that whisper tales of past – Italy doesn’t fall short of the most mesmerizing backdrops for a wedding designed to take its place in the hearts of those visiting. The destination with its incredible vistas, scrumptious gastronomy and splendid art and architecture, turns occasions hosted here into the most enthralling experiences. However, that’s not all, the country also extends the opportunity to experience la dolce vita, the sweet, Italian way of life which indeed manages to leave an impression.
Photo Courtesy – Stories by Joseph Radhik
If you’re looking to tie the knot in a foreign land that will add to your own love affair, there will hardly be a place better than this boot-shaped nation – there is no doubt about that!
From left to right: Irene Schiatti (Tuscan Party), Tina Tharwani (Shaadi Squad).and Urvashi Kandhari (Amore London).
Locations That Inspire
Replete with diverse landscapes, Italy is a country tailor-made for romance where each of the locations extends a unique mood.
Couples with a penchant for the past will find no dearth of venues in this country. Urvashi Kandhari says, “When it’s about places that encapsulate a sense of history, the hotels by Four Seasons within Rome and Florence, as well as Villa Cora and villas slightly further afield are what we would recommend for an Indian wedding. Venice also has some fantastic options including Aman Venice, the epitome of grandeur and ultimate luxury. However, this one is apt for a more intimate wedding. Another thing to bear in mind is that outdoor event spaces are not so readily available in this city.”
Apart from these locations Tina Tharwani recommends the cities of Verona and Bologna.
Four Seasons Florence
Aman Vernice – Amal and George Clooney’s wedding venue.
Views of the waters
To those who wish to wed by tranquil waterscapes Urvashi Kandhari recommends Lake Como “Made famous by George Clooney’s villa, and Deepika and Ranveer’s gorgeous wedding, this location has definitely become a hot spot. There is an array of villas to choose from, depending on the size of your wedding. Villa Erba ticks off many of the requirements for an Indian wedding with stunning indoor as well as outdoor spaces. Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como, Villa del Balbianello and Villa D’este are also some stunning properties with gardens as well as lake views.”
Irene Schiatti also suggests Ravello, Lake Garda, and Sardinia as some great alternatives for those who wish to explore places that a relatively less known.
Deepika and Ranveer at Villa del Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy.
A Mountainous Backdrop
If just the sight of the mighty mountains is enough to fill your hearts with joy and leave you awestruck, a wedding at Cortina d’Ampezzo will be a dream come true. Urvashi Kandhari says “Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Dolomitic Alps is where you should head for breathtaking views of the peaks. Being close to Switzerland a wedding here would provide the perfect opportunity to combine the celebration with a post-wedding trip to St. Moritz for the bride, groom and their guests.”
Tina Thawani also highlights Puglia and Sicily as additional hillside options.
Weddings in Cortina d’Ampezzo are a sight in both summer and winters.
A Countryside Vibe
Italy’s many postcard-perfect hamlets make for quaint escapes providing splendid backdrops for a wedding. Urvashi Kandhari picks out Tuscany as her preferred region and says, “There are hundreds of villas and castles to choose from in Tuscany. Castello di Vincigliata is always a popular option due to its picturesque and remote setting and close proximity to Florence. Il Borro, an exclusive estate once owned by designer Salvatore Ferragamo, is undoubtedly our favorite. If money is no object, then this venue offers everything – a luxury hotel experience with striking views of the great Tuscan landscape, a variety of accommodation options from private villas to farmhouses, an infinity pool and most impressive of all – an entire medieval village dedicated to you! Val d’orcia, too is an area of striking beauty and is also recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. The list of ideal wedding venues in Tuscany is endless!”
Cortona and the Chianti region are two other destinations that come highly recommended by Tina Tharwani and Irene Schiatti respectively.
Aditya and Tarnjeet’s Wedding at Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa.
Castello di Vincigliata
A magical Tuscany Wedding! (Photo Courtesy: Tuscan Party)
Venue and Accommodation
In Italy every venue is unique in its own way however before booking the castle or the vineyard that you may have fallen in love with, it is of utmost importance for you to check if it fits all your needs.
Irene Schiatti says, “When considering a particular venue for an Indian wedding some of the key factors to look out for is if the space allows ceremonies of the couples faith or liking, distance from the airport, if they allow music till late in the night since after parties tend to go on till wee hours and if they allow external catering if Indian cuisine is required. One more thing to keep in mind is the proximity of the guests’ accommodation to the venue since you want to ensure that they don’t have to travel too far once the party is over.”
Adding on to this perspective Tina Tharwani says, “We always recommend choosing a space that has accommodation close by if not at the venue. However, that said, some may also consider hosting one event away from the venue to give guests a chance to see another place as well – especially if it is an old castle, or a heritage garden or another spot that’s not open for public or available only for events.”
Urvashi Kandhari, on the other hand, emphasis on the importance of choosing a location that allows the guests to experience Italy. “Italy is not the right destination if you are looking for a resort wedding. Instead what Italy offers is authenticity and a truly unique cultural experience combined with incredible backdrops and settings. You, therefore, have to be prepared to consider hosting your events in venues separate from where you and your guests will stay,” she says.
Best Time to Wed
The mention of Italy conjures up images of days with fantastic weather which rejuvenates the mind and pleases the heart. To those trying to gauge the best time to host a wedding here, Tina Tharwani of Shaadi Squad has to say, “June, July, and August are the summer months and usually the best to get married in Italy. Having said that, these also make for the peak tourist season and to get the best venues, couples should make bookings six to 12 months in advance.” However, those looking to get married when this destination sees lesser crowds can choose a shoulder season as Irene Schiatti of Tuscan Party recommends. “Spring and fall when there are no big crowds is when you can get the best for great prices. April, May, June, September and October, in my opinion, are just the best.” While April to September make for the best months to get married in Italy, Urvashi Kandhari of Amore London warns, “August tends to be extremely hot and sees a lot of bank holidays in Italy which prompts some suppliers to take holidays and venues to remain closed. Therefore, it is important to check all of this before you confirm a date and be prepared that some vendors, as well as services, may not be available during this period.”
Legalities and Procedures
It is very easy to get carried away with all the enjoyable aspects of planning a wedding in Italy. However, along with all the fun comes along formalities that may be simple or otherwise depending on the kind of wedding you’re hosting. If the ceremony conducted there is only a symbolic one, the process remains hassle-free with regards to the law of the land. “In this case, a valid proof of identity, like your passport, a valid visa, and a letter/affidavit from your home country stating that there is no legal impediment to your marriage in your home country should be enough. That said, besides this, each venue would have its own set of paperwork required – for various permissions, affidavits, etc. and this is something that couples need to pay close attention to,” says Tina Tharwani.
However, for those who are keen on conducting a legally binding ceremony, Irene Schiatti elucidates on the procedures. “In case of a legally-binding civil ceremony the wedding planner can advise according to the province and municipality where the venue is located. Not only is there a need to adhere to national laws but also specials laws issued by the mayor. If the couple is interested in a catholic ceremony then the guidance from the Vatican office and local priests needs to be taken too. Usually no catholic ceremony is allowed out of a church or a consecrated area. As for all other religions we need to check with the head of that specific community and see if the city where they wish to marry has a venue that is approved by their society.”
Given these complexities, the team at Amore London usually suggest couples to refrain from such ceremonies. “Such ceremonies entail a lot of paperwork in both, your home country and in Italy. Also you must arrive three days in advance and present yourself at the local town hall. A translator may also be needed alongside the registrar. For this reason, we advise our couples to carry out only the symbolic steps in Italy. We use a celebrant to conduct the ceremony rather than an official registrar/officiant. This allows you the flexibility to structure the event based on sentiments rather than the legalities.” says Urvashi.
Decor: Amore london, Photo Courtesy: Albert Rano
Timelines and Planning
The kind of time taken to put together a wedding in or around your home base usually differs from that taken to plan nuptials in a different country owing to several factors such as time difference, long-distance coordination, work culture, etc. A general rule on which most wedding experts agree is that the planning must start at least 12 to nine months before the ceremonies commence. Tina Tharwani says, “With Italy being a popular destination for weddings globally, venues are booked well in advance. Additionally one needs to keep in mind that Indian passport holders require visas, which may take weeks to obtain and that globally, vendors do not work on weekends as well as most of December. Echoing similar thoughts and highlighting logistical challenges Urvashi Kandhari adds, “The response time in Italy tends to be slow and so it inevitably takes longer to confirm all aspects of the wedding. You would also need to allocate time for at least one or two trips to meet with suppliers ahead of the wedding.”
Irene Schiatti draws out an approximate order of events for couples trying to gauge if they’re on schedule with regards to throwing the ultimate wedding bash. “Couples must choose the locations for celebrations and guests’ accommodation about a year in advance. The brides’ outfit should be finalized about 8 months prior and the selection of the photographer as well as getting paperwork in process should begin when they’re six months away from the big day. A good time to start closing entertainment and decor is four months before. Finally, choosing caterers, curating the menu, organizing transportation and paying deposits must all take place in the last two months,” she says.
While hosting a wedding in India several factors are taken for granted such as venues allowing fire for the pheras even in an indoor setting, the music for the baraat and so on. However, while hosting a wedding in Italy it is advisable to check with the venue on these details before finalizing them. Urvashi Kandhari says, “As many of the venues in Italy are historic, it is important to check whether it would be permissible to light an agni indoors, for a Hindu ceremony. Additionally, if you require a strictly vegetarian menu, it would be important to emphasize this to the caterer and ensure they understand fully the cultural dietary requirements of your guests.” Since food is such an important part of an Indian celebrations, families are always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the spread is customized to match their taste and needs. Tina Tharwani shares, “In this case, another team of chefs would need to be brought onboard and a satellite kitchen be created, which, of course, would come at an added cost. This would also require specific permissions and safety measures to be in place from various parties.”
Photo Courtesy: Cristiano Ostinelli Studio
However, these details should not deter you from going ahead and throwing your dream destination wedding. In Irene Schiatti’s reassuring words, “It is the planner’s work to take care of this such challenges without making it the headache of the clients! Permissions for fireworks, late-night music, lighting fire for the pheras, horse for the baraat, etc. are all standard procedures and the planner will normally advise on venues which allow the above.”
Photo Courtesy – Tuscan Party
Must-Haves at an Italian Destination Wedding
When hosting a wedding abroad it is always a good idea to consider including elements from both home and away. And if your destination has a culture as vibrant as the kind that is found in Italy it would only do injustice to your wedding if you didn’t! Irene Schiatti says, “Oh there is so much that couples can do to make their wedding stand out and add a distinctive Italian touch! Arrive in a vintage car or in a chariot, have a rustic corner with Italian beers, host an Italian wine tasting or fresh handmade pasta session for guests, enjoy Mediterranean style decorations like lemons, olive trees, grapes, chandeliers, etc. in your menu and for the table decor, have Italian style clothes for brides and grooms, and of course have Italian entertainment specific to each area in Italy. The best thing about having a wedding here is the fact that we are so similar to Indians in our love for food and family. We understand how important these things are to them and offer something extremely unique for that special day by combining what they need with our sense of style!”
Photo Courtesy – Tuscan Party
Is Italy For You?
Italy, without a doubt, is a splendid location with the most captivating venues for an unforgettable wedding. However, like every destination, this too has certain areas that may not meet a couple’s requirements. Irene Schiatti talks about how the scale of Indian weddings could pose as a problem when hosting nuptials here. She says, “For celebrations exceeding the guest count of 350, there are very limited options available.” Sharing a little more about the destination Tina Tharwani, shares, “Italy has all the locales –be it a beachside, or mountains or a rustic countryside. However, these are all meant for outdoor weddings to be enjoyed in the summer. However, if someone wants an indoor wedding or a winter celebration, there are other places that would make for a better option than this one.”
Amrit and Rachel picked Florence and Tuscany to tie the knot.
A Destination Wedding Setup at Lake Como. (Photo Courtesy – Tuscan Party)
Travel and Logistics
As the hosts, the couple’s responsibility towards ensuring their guests’ comfort begins before they arrive at the venue and continues even as they zip from one location to another to attend the various functions. This, however, does pose a bit of a problem here. Tina Tharwani says, “Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to most destinations in Italy and to get to one of the popular destinations, there would be a short drive as well. Therefore it would be advisable to have guests on flights arriving at around the same time. Coaches or cars would also need to be arranged for the airport pickups.” Due to this, it is also imperative to take into account the added time while planning a successful itinerary. “We are a small country mostly with tiny cobbled streets and hidden places, so highways are not always available to reach your venue. This means that sometimes guests may have to use small vans instead of big private buses and also bear in mind a two-hour transfer to the nearest airport from exclusive, off the beaten track locations,” says Irene Schiatti.
Should you hire a wedding planner?
A wedding, no matter how large or intimate, comprises of a lot of moving parts. And in a country where you’re bound to face protocols, norms, bureaucracy, and a language that you may be unfamiliar with, a planner comes as both a blessing and investment. When asked about what a couple should expect if they were planning a wedding with no help, Irene Schiatti commented, “Communication barriers, tricky paperwork, problem-solving and improvisations with suppliers and venues, coordination during the wedding day, and stress!” Urvashi Kandhari who shares a similar opinion added to the thought as she explained, “Italian expectations and habits are very different from ours so you would need to be patient and willing to invest time to explain what exactly will your wedding entail. For instance, the Indian food service tends to be a lot shorter than a four to five-course Italian meal and if your guests are unfamiliar with the Italian fine dining experience they may become restless after a while. Thus, it is wise to select a team that you know can deliver and will take the time to fully understand your needs before leaving it to the vendors there. After all, the last thing you want is to lose patience due to ideas and messages being lost due to communication or cultural gaps.”