Planning a Wedding in Italy: All the Things You Need to Know

It was sometime last year that I was pursuing Facebook and I came across a post on the Girls Love Travel Facebook group that I declared to Jordan that we should look into getting married in Italy. The post was full of wonderful ideas of where to have a destination wedding but one woman’s story of getting married at a villa in Tuscany stood out to me. She let me message her and from there she was sending me the VRBO page for the villa and lots of recommendations for a musician, hair and makeup, cake, etc.

The villa itself was a dream. It had 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, multiple living rooms, a kitchen, dining areas, a beautiful garden, a pool (although we will be going before pool season), and on the grounds there was a chapel! It seemed like the perfect place to get married. I conversed with the villa owner and after talking it through with Jordan, we booked!

While our wedding will be pretty low-key, with no big reception and instead we are having dinner (and then everyone is invited back to the villa for some no-pressure-dancing-and-drinking), I’ve learned a lot about planning a wedding overseas!

Here are 13 tips for planning your Italian wedding

  • Google translate is your friend
    • I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve sent where I had to type them into google translate, translate them into Italian, then translate them to English, and then back to Italian to make sure I was choosing the correct wording. And make sure you always send your email in both languages. I normally put Italian first and then English. If they spoke English in their email back to me, then I followed suit. Otherwise, I continued doing both. Everyone was very nice and very responsive to emails.
  • A symbolic ceremony is the way to go
    • I researched getting married legally in Italy. It did not sound fun and involved taking time out of our days in Italy going to government buildings getting signatures and there was some translating into Italian involved. Another fun aspect of having a symbolic ceremony? You can ask someone special to marry you, since they don’t have to be ordained. We asked Amy to officiate our ceremony. I love her to death and I just knew she’d be the perfect person to perform our ceremony. J
  • Look into alternate venues
    • We found our villa on VRBO and they had a chapel onsite. There are a lot of beautiful villas throughout Italy whether they are on VRBO or AirBNB or you book directly on their website and they act like a hotel (and book each room separately). Our VRBO option ended up being a very affordable price and we are able to have up to 14 people total staying with us. This is a great option when you are traveling abroad so everyone is in one place, but guests also have the option of staying elsewhere if they’d like. When you’re planning an overseas wedding, where guests are staying is part of the planning process. They rely on you telling them where to stay (and even more like flights and trains).
  • Etiquette: You are not required to pay for your guests lodging and transportation.
    • While this is true, it’s always nice if you can help out with either. For us, we paid the base price for the villa (and Jordan’s parents) and then any guests on top of that only had to pay a nominal fee. Since I’m a travel agent, I also offer to help people with flights and was able to give everyone information on trains (if flying into Milan or Rome rather than Florence since the pricing was cheaper).
  • Make the week of the wedding an adventure
    • I’m currently working on this. I found a great website called Travefy that allows me to make a beautiful itinerary online for our wedding week and then I can share it with guests. They can save it as a PDF and print it themselves. I’m adding all the lodging and transportation information, as well as travel tips and information on local restaurants, tours, and sights to see! I’ve even add a couple of optional day trips on the itinerary. Guests can take you up on these activities, or do their own thing. I’ve always been told from people I’ve traveled with that they enjoy my type-A-ness since they can just go with the flow and follow along with my fun ideas.
  • Some things will be more expensive than home and others will be cheaper
    • I have been floored about the cost of things like hair/make up, a celebrant, etc. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to have found a photographer that is wonderful at a very affordable price (for 4 hours – since we don’t have a big reception, we are just doing getting ready, ceremony, and then posed photos at Piazzale Michelangelo before dinner). I was quoted 450-550 euros for bridal hair and make-up. This is more than double what I was quoted when we were planning a wedding back home. After doing some extensive online research, I found a salon that does hairstyles for 30 euros and up and bridal make up for 150 euros. They even do free trials so I’ll go see them the day before to try both out. Although this means I have to go to a salon on the morning of the wedding, I’m totally okay with that if it means I’m saving a bunch of money! Plus, I’ve heard that Italian hairdressers love blondes, which I’m hoping is true so I can feel extra special on my big day (I mean, what’s better than being doted on in the Italian language – I’ll answer that for you: very few things).
  • Never check your wedding dress
    • This is for ANY destination wedding. Do not, I repeat, do not check your wedding dress. I’ve heard waaaaay too many horror stories of brides checking their wedding dress with the rest of their luggage and their luggage gets lost. This is a REALLY expensive dress AND you need it for your big day so why chance it? Instead, carry your dress on the plane. You can either use a garment bag that can fold and fit nicely into the overhead (or have it lying down) or you can kindly ask a flight attendant if they have a spot to hang it up. Don’t rely on hanging, as not all planes will have enough space. My plan, since I already know I’ll need to steam mine, is that I’ll use a garment bag that folds and beg a gate agent to let me onboard early enough to ensure I have overhead space. I’ve also heard that if you wrap the dress in tissue paper before putting it into the garment bag, it’ll help keep it from snagging and wrinkling. Worth a try!
  • There must be wine. All the wine.
    • If you’re going to have a wedding in Italy… you best believe there will be lots of wine! When I was emailing restaurants trying to get a set menu for dinner, my biggest requirement was that it included WINE! But let’s be honest, they already included it – because it’s ITALY.
  • A good photographer is important
    • I searched high and low for a photographer for our wedding. I’m very picky and I love photographers who are artistic and understand the use of light and shadows. When I found Laura, I was in heaven! I loved her work and knew I must have her. I cannot wait to see the photos after our big day. She was within our meager budget and her style is perfection. Not to mention, she is the absolute sweetest and has been so kind with me emailing her fiftyleven questions and asking for suggestions. She helped me figure out a better time to have our ceremony based on getting the best light (I totally forgot how late sunset was there and she set me straight) and gave us the suggestion to take photos at Piazzale Michelangelo where we can have the entire city of Florence as our backdrop.
  • The food is always going to be multiple courses
    • I was not expecting this going into my emails with different restaurants. I was looking for something that wasn’t super expensive per person and I thought to myself, pasta isn’t that expensive, right? So this should be easy peasy. WRONG. I forgot that Italians love to eat (cue the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love). Every single place I emailed wanted to give me 3 course and wine. That’s cool and all, but I wasn’t expect two of those courses to basically be a meal. It’s like they skip appetizers and have a second dinner before dessert instead. We found a beautiful restaurant in the Tuscan countryside just 5 minutes from our villa for dinner. Our menu will be:
      • Welcome drink
      • Bundle of phyllo dough with seasonal vegetables and pecorino
      • Risotto with herbs and bacon creamed with pecorino cheese
      • Peposo of fornacina trendy dell’Impruneta with baked potatoes
      • Chef Panna cotta with chocolate sauce
      • Water, wine (1 bot. for 3 people), and coffee included
  • You can have a small wedding overseas for the price of a decent-size wedding home
    • Everyone likes to say “you’re so lucky you are getting married in Italy” and while yes, that is true (because I get to marry the man I love), I also resent this statement for the pure fact that just because I’m getting married in Italy, doesn’t mean I’m any more lucky than someone getting married stateside. The fact is, my small European wedding will cost less than some couple’s big dream weddings in the US. All in all, the wedding itself was MUCH cheaper and then once you factor in travel (planes/trains) for us plus our kids, it ended up costing about the same. Why wouldn’t we get married in Italy and have our dream wedding PLUS a dream vacation all in one rather than throwing all that money away on just one day?! It seemed like a no-brainer to us. And while yes, we are lucky, we aren’t luckier than your average bride and groom. We just had different priorities.
  • Not everyone will be happy with your choice
    • The guilt. I am very, very tired of the guilt I’ve gotten from friends and family. I totally appreciate them wanting to be there on our big day – I wish everyone could be! But in the same breath, I wish everyone would respect our decision to get married in Italy. Jordan and I got engaged in Scotland and we get to have our dream wedding in Italy. People tend to forget that the wedding is not about our guests. This wedding is about me and Jordan and our love for each other. At one point, we were going to elope. This seemed like the next best thing as it gave people a chance to come if they wanted to see us get married. It has been wonderful to see so many people who have embraced our decision and been happy for us. But it has also been disappointing to hear people say that they don’t understand our decision or that we should still be doing a wedding back home. Believe me, if money grew on trees, we might! In the end, you just have to take people’s opinions on your big day with a grain of salt. No matter where or when we get married, someone will have something to say. That’s just the price you pay for having a wedding – you can’t make everyone happy.
  • You’ll see what people go the extra mile to be there for your day – and you’ll love them even harder
    • We are so happy that we get to share this day with a selection of friends and family who decided to make the leap and come. You never know who will end up coming to a destination wedding and it’s always an eclectic group of family and friends. Ours definitely is! I love these people and I’m excited to share our big day with them. We hope they enjoy it, too!

I’m sure this post with morph and change as our wedding comes and goes. But for now, these are the things you need to think about while planning a wedding in Italy. We can’t wait for ours in just over a month!