Catholic marriage: all the procedures and documents that Italian or foreign citizens must bring to the Church and to the Municipality

Catholic marriage for Italians and foreign citizens: what are the papers to produce? Here is the complete guide with all you need to know if you wish marry in Italy with catholic rite.

When we talk about marriage, civil or religious, we should also talk about all those bureaucratic practices and procedures necessary to proceed with the celebration of the wedding. Getting married in Italy, from this point of view, could be difficult given the amount of paperwork to be done.

In 1929, an agreement between Vatican State and Italian government (Patti Lateranensi) has established that any marriage celebrated in a church has in contemporary a civil value for the Italian government – (concordatario marriage). Therefore it is not possible on the Italian territory to celebrate a Catholic marriage according to the only religious rite (canonical rite) unless the civil marriage has been celebrated previously.

Organizing a religious wedding, as well as a civil wedding, takes a lot of time, not only for choosing the perfect church for the ceremony, booking the villa for the reception, buying the dress etc. It is important to take into account all the time necessary to obtain the documents to present to the Church and the Municipality to complete all the required procedures. This is the reason why we advise you to get information for all the documents you might need at least six months before the wedding date so that you may not have any unpleasant surprises. But it is also important remember that the certificates in Italy are worth only 3 months only, so you can not start too early to prepare and collect all the documents.

If the couple is not Italian, the procedure changes according to the citizenship of the spouses. This is the reason we always recommend contacting an Italian wedding planner, especially in the case of a Catholic / civil marriage, and Simonetta Pollera with the Intimate Italian Weddings staff can be just for you.

In this article we have tried to provide a sort of guide to bureaucratic practices for Catholic weddings in Italy, a guide that will be useful both to Italian and foreign citizens.

The documents needed to celebrate a Catholic wedding

Between the two types of marriage, civil and religious, undoubtedly the religious one has a particular practice. In fact, for the civil one it is sufficient to present the necessary documents (different depending on the citizenship of the spouses) to the municipality of the city where the marriage will take place. Instead, for the Catholic marriage one there is to present a whole series of documents through the pastor of his own parish who then will assist the couple in the first part of the petition to the Vicariate.

The Catholic ceremony is a sacrament therefore the Church requires, without exception, that the spouses themselves undertake all the paperwork without the intermediary of a wedding planner, considered a technician of the organization of the event as party moment, but not a support for the sacred moment: the ceremony.

These are the documents requested by your pastor.

  • Certificate of baptism (for marriage): must be requested from the parish in which one was baptised;
  • Confirmation certificate: it is usually together with the baptismal certificate; otherwise, it must be requested from the parish where you have been confirmed;
  • Certificate of participation in the premarital course;
  • Letter of petition from the spouses to the Bishop of their own city, and endorsed by their parish priest, with the request to get married in a specific church in Italy, with a specific priest on a certain day. (This information and the consequent booking of the church, contacting the priest speaking your language, is a task that instead the wedding planner can do for you). Once approval has been obtained from the bishop, the practice through Vatican internal channels arrives to the Vicariate of Rome in the Vatican.

At this point, the wedding planner can help you in collecting, checking and always delivering to the Vicariate the documents still missing regarding the civil part of the ceremony. Everything must finally be handed over to the parish where the ceremony will take place.

Another essential element is that the function should be celebrated in a language spoken and understood by both spouses. If this is not possible, an interpreter will be needed to translate the marriage promises and the articles of the civil code that will be read after the religious ceremony and before signing the register that legalizes both the canonical and civil ceremony.

After the ceremony, the pastor will register the marriage certificate at the local town hall. It will be the task of the wedding planner after about two months to request a copy of the marriage certificate in apostille (document translated in different languages and by convention recognized in almost all countries) in order to send it to the spouses, happy to finally register the marriage in their city of residence.

Validity of foreign catholic marriage in Italy

According to the Hague Convention of 12 June 1902,

“the marriage celebrated by a diplomatic or consular agent, in accordance with its legislation, will be recognized as valid in its form, provided that none of the contracting parties belongs to the state where the marriage was contracted. On contrary a marriage of an Italian citizen in an Embassy or consular, celebrated by foreign consular authority on the territory of the State is void for violation of the principle of territorial sovereignty. “

Therefore, getting married in Italy from another country can have exactly the same validity as a marriage contracted in the country of residence.

However, it is necessary to specify that each nation maintain a certain autonomy both with regard to the different and detailed documentation to be presented, and in relation to the ratification and validity of the matrimonial act itself. For the reason mentioned above, in order to avoid incurring bureaucratic hitches, we recommend contacting a professional who can handle the issue.

Religious marriage between foreign citizens and documents for the civil side of the ceremony

For the civil side of the ceremony; with reference to the art.116 of the Italian Civil Code, the foreigner who intends to contract marriage in Italy is required to present to the registrar the permission to marry. That is a declaration, coming from the competent authority in the own country, which affirms the absence of impediments to the marriage. The mode and procedure varies depending on the country (see United States, Australia, and United Kingdom for example.)

As an alternative to this authorization, which must be appropriately translated and legalized, for citizens of signatory countries the Munich Convention of 5th September 1980, requires a certificate of matrimonial capacity. This first document aims to cancel any doubts about the possible existence of obstacles to the success of the wedding. In addition to this document, the presentation of the birth certificate and a copy of an internationally valid identity document is required. (This Procedure is valid for the majority of European countries, for more details contact Simonetta Pollera).

If the foreign citizen then resides or lives in Italy, he/she must also produce a document attesting the regularity of the stay, then requesting the publications to the civil officer of the municipality of residence, or where he/she has elected domicile.

Catholic marriage among Italians, oath and promise of marriage: documents and procedure

For the Catholic part, as described above the wedding planner cannot intervene in this first part. In front of their own priest, each one in a private conversation, the future spouses must answer a series of questions regarding the sharing of Christian values of marriage occurs. This document is called an oath.

Usually the oath takes place 90 days before the date of the marriage, with the future spouses who must make an appointment with the priest of the Church to which one of the two spouses belongs. For the oath and promise of marriage are required the following documents:

  • Certificate of baptism (for marriage): must be requested from the parish in which one was baptized;
  • Confirmation certificate: it is usually together with the baptismal certificate, otherwise it must be requested from the parish where you have been confirmed;
  • Certificate of participation in the premarital course;
  • Contextual certificate: it is that document which contains the personal data concerning residence, citizenship and free status. It must be requested from the Registry Office of the Municipality.

After the oath it is the duty of the priest to proceed with the religious publications, for both spouses, to be later presented to the Municipality. These contain all the formalities for the civil marriage ceremony and are necessary for the oath and publication request by the Municipality. It is arrived the time to get an appointment with the civil officer in the Municipality of competence.

These is the list of the documents to present for a catholic marriage:

  • identity card;
  • birth certificate;
  • contextual certificate;
  • request for publication signed by the parish priest.

Once the practice of consensus has been completed, the official declaration that confirms the mutual will to marry, the Municipality is ready to exhibit the publications. This is a document, exposed to the main door of the civil office, declaring that Miss X and Mr. Y are going to be married. Witnesses are not required for the declaration in case of Italian citizens.

Religious marriage among Italians: delivery of documents to the Vicariate

30 days after the consent, the municipality will expose the marriage publications. Only after that, the future spouses can deliver them to the priest who will put together the civil part of the documentation with all the other matrimonial practices (including ecclesiastical publications) in a sealed envelope to be delivered to the Vicariate to request the concession of the ecclesiastical authorization. This is a necessary document if the religious marriage takes place in a different Church from the one to which the spouses belong.

After that the Curia grants the authorization, a new document is prepared for the parish in which the marriage will take place. This will then release the “religious consensus” confirming the wedding date.

If you have followed our instructions and you have all the documents in order, at this point there will be nothing left but to go to the church you have chosen for your Italian wedding and pronounce “Yes I do!

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