I visit Venice so often that I literally consider it to be my second home. It was therefore a logical decision to get married there when Jef asked me ‘the’ question. Once we started talking about practicalities (when, how, who, where), it took us less than half an hour to decide upon Venice as the perfect wedding location. Even to our friends and family, this didn’t come as a surprise.
With our five-year wedding anniversary coming up, I am now bringing all our tips and experiences together, so other couples can also enjoy such a wonderful day, just as we had. If you are planning a wedding in Venice, you will find in this post everything you want to know on the when, how, who and where (and a bit on how much). If you are not planning a wedding, you can still dream away about Venice or about weddings just by looking at the pictures.
1. When: Set the date
Palazzo Cavalli (the townhall of Venice) opens the registrations for the upcoming year at the end of October, beginning of November. If you plan to get married in the typical ‘wedding months’ May, June or September, I suggest you contact them as soon as they open the registrations. We were very lucky and got both the date and the time that we wanted.
TIP: If you plan on inviting friends and family, you will have to send out two sets of invitations. You probably want your guests to be aware of this trip abroad as soon as possible, even if you are not 100% sure yet about the date. We first sent a ‘save the date’ with our preferred date, but made it clear that this still had to be confirmed and the flight tickets shouldn’t be booked yet. After we got the official go from Palazzo Cavalli, we sent the formal invitation with more details. The advantage was that we knew more or less how many people were planning to attend, before we started looking at wedding venues.
2. How: Do the paperwork
Getting married abroad does require more paperwork, even though it is (at least for European citizens) not really that bad. Palazzo Cavalli organizes hundreds of foreign weddings per year, so they are well organized and have an English website. I had also been in touch with them by e-mail and they were very responsive.
The legal requirements differ country by country (even within the European Union), so you have to make sure you check this thoroughly with your local authorities. You don’t want to go all the way to Venice and then find out your paperwork is not conforming and you cannot get married. You also need to take into account that, for most countries, your official papers (such as domicile and birth certificate) have to be approved first by your local embassy or consulate in Italy and then sent to the administration in Venice. This takes some time, but you can also not start too early, because otherwise they will already be outdated.
European citizens who get married in Venice are immediately legally bounded, without even informing their own city council themselves. The Venetian administration will automatically transfer all the necessary documents, so your new civil status will be taken into account for all administrative purposes.
TIP: We decided to ask our council to also list our wedding in their wedding register (after we got married in Venice and upon transfer of an officially translated copy of the Italian wedding certificate). This has the advantage that if we need a copy of a wedding certificate for one reason or another, we can ask this here and don’t have to get in touch with the Venetian administration. And on top of that, we now have 2 marriage certificates 🙂
If you and your partner don’t speak Italian, you will need an official translator for the ceremony. The ceremony itself is in Italian, but the translator repeats everything in your own language. You can arrange this when you set the date at Palazzo Cavalli, so you don’t have to find one yourself. I first thought it would be annoying to have everything said twice, but it actually added to the charm of the wedding. However, if you, your partner or someone else wants to make a small speech, this can of course be done in your own language. You don’t have to learn Italian for that.
3. Who: Invite your guests
The advantage of organizing your wedding in Venice is that people understand more easily if you limit the guest list and they are not invited. We only invited close relatives and very good friends, which was a list of 70 people. We were really surprised that almost all of them agreed to make the effort and join us.
To make sure that our other friends, relatives and colleagues wouldn’t feel completely left out, we booked the live streaming of Palazzo Cavalli. The whole ceremony can then be followed on the internet and you can download it afterwards. I would certainly suggest booking this, as the cost is small and it is really worth it.
TIP: We sent a small bottle of prosecco with some information on the wedding and the streaming to these ‘off-site guests’, so they could have a toast during the ceremony. Jef also addressed them in his speech during the ceremony, so they felt part of it. We really got lots of positive comments afterwards. (At the time of writing this article, the website of Palazzo Cavalli indicated that the service is temporarily not available, but certainly check if it will be feasible at the date of your wedding.)
Going to a wedding abroad also requires more preparation for your guests. Venice is a complex city to get around, and you don’t want your guests to get lost and miss the ceremony. You should also expect that they will see you as their tour guide for this trip. If they make all the effort (and cost) to get to Venice especially for you, you might want to help them a bit. We had for instance negotiated a group deal with the hotel (Hotel Sant’Elena). This was not only easy for the guests (even though some preferred to stay elsewhere), but it was also practical for us to arrange the taxi boats to get to the ceremony. Besides that, it is fun to have your family and friends around you and it gives you the feeling the party lasts longer than one day.
TIP: We gave our guests a small Venezia Moleskine notebook, with a map inside and our personal tips on Venice (such as how to get to the hotel from the airport, good restaurants, nice places to visit), but also with some (romantic, wedding-related) sentences in Italian, the timing of the wedding day etc. The guests really appreciate this and it avoids that they all come individually with these questions to you. If you would like my help in making this for your big day, just send me an email.
4. Where: Plan the wedding day
A wedding day in Venice is quite similar as in your home town. You will need a place to party, a hairdresser, photographer, flowers, transportation and so on. There are plenty of possibilities ranging from small restaurants to impressive palazzos, some even catering for both religious or symbolic ceremonies. It all depends on what you want and how you want to celebrate this most important day.
Our day was very relaxed and we only organized things we wanted ourselves. We didn’t only want to show our friends how much we love each other, but also why we are so fond of Venice. Hence, we organized a full day of party and activities in different parts of the city and in places which had a special meaning for us. If you want to get an idea what we did, here it is:
- Wake-up, breakfast and hairdresser
- Get dressed, impress the groom 🙂 and a small ladies’ drink to admire the dress (with mother(in-law), sisters(in-law) and best friend)
- Water taxi to Palazzo Cavalli for guests
- Gondola ride for us, for a fairytale arrival at Palazzo Cavalli where all our guests were waiting
- Official ceremony
- Walk across Rialto bridge to Naranzaria for aperitif and lunch along Canal Grande
- Boat trip to Burano for a small guided visit, more drinks and a snack
- Boat trip back to Venice
- Dinner at In Paradiso, in the Giardini gardens – in front of the lagoon
What surprises me is that some couples get married in Venice, while they have never visited the city before. Even though we knew the city quite well, we still used a local wedding planner (The Venice Wedding Planner), but I would never leave it all up to them. If you marry in your home town, you also visit different wedding locations, meet photographers and look at flower shops, no? We went to Venice several months before the wedding to meet the wedding planners and the photographer (Eva from Stud-io Immagino Venezia) and to visit potential wedding locations. I would really not be at ease in the final weeks or days before the wedding, if I have no clue where or how my day would take place. So, if you have set your mind on a Venetian wedding, but don’t know the city at all, I suggest you plan a pre-honeymoon a couple of months beforehand. This will allow you to enjoy your big day much more. If you do so, make sure to read my post with tips for your first trip and some of my other articles with insider tips on the different areas of Venice before you leave.
5. Enjoy your day
If you (and/or your wedding planner) have arranged everything, then you should have no reason to worry. Remember that it’s all about you that day and don’t let anyone spoil that. If they don’t like some of it, that’s their problem. Walking around Venice in your wedding dress while people shout ‘Auguri’ (congratulations), really makes you feel special.
Bringing people to Venice implies that everyone will be at the wedding the whole time, from the ceremony to the dinner or party. Therefore, there is no need for a wedding reception where you have to shake hands and kiss for a couple of hours. You will have more time to really enjoy your day.
6. How much?
This question depends of course on your own budget and wishes. You can go as wild and make it as exclusive as you want, just as you would do at home. Overall, I don’t think it is more expensive to get married in Venice than at home. The ceremony, wedding location, food, photographer, … were in line with what I would have paid in Belgium. And as you don’t have to organize a wedding reception, you save some money there.
Of course, you have to pay the flights and the hotel. We decided not to pay this for our guests (with some exceptions) and we were a bit concerned that therefore less people would be willing to come. However, almost everyone accepted the invitation and the cost was not the reason for those who declined. On the other hand, we told our guests that we didn’t expect gifts as coming over to Venice already meant a lot to us.
TIP: Should you hire a wedding planner or not? I would personally advise to use one. It is an additional cost to your wedding, but at the same time, they know their way around and are often better placed to negotiate deals with the local suppliers. They also help you with the paperwork for the ceremony at Palazzo Cavalli. On top of that, it will give you peace of mind, which is necessary to really enjoy your day. However, if you are only inviting a few friends and just need a table in a restaurant, you could easily organize this yourself.
We really had a perfect wedding day and enjoyed it so much! If you love Venice the same way that we do, then I can certainly recommend getting married there. Our guests also liked it a lot and, even after 5 years, they still talk about it. It was for several of them also an opportunity to visit a city they hadn’t seen before.
If you are thinking of getting married in Venice, don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions. I will be more than happy to help you. In the meantime, if you want to know more about wedding traditions in Italy, you might want to check the website of Italy Magazine. They regularly publish articles on Italian weddings.
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