Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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If you decide to marry in Italy, you must choose between a religious or civil ceremony. It is unlikely that you will find an officiant who will marry you outdoors or in a location other than a place of worship or city hall. Prepare to start collecting documents, especially if you plan to marry in the Catholic church. For information on marrying in Bologna, your first stop should be the Ufficio di Stato Civile (Civil Status Office).

Ufficio di Stato Civile Comune di Bologna

Via Santa Maria Maggiore, 1
Tel. 051.203960 marriage services
Tel. 051.203278/79 birth and citizenship services
Open Monday-Friday 8:30-13; Tuesday and Thursday 15-16:30

Religious ceremonies performed by a Roman Catholic priest or minister of a church recognized by the Italian government have civil validity and are automatically registered with the Civil Status Office. Some non-Catholic officiants may insist on first doing a civil ceremony before performing a religious one so as to ensure that the marriage is legally valid. A notice publicly stating the couple’s intention to marry must be posted for at least eight consecutive days in the city/cities where the bride and groom reside. You will need the following documents:

Nulla osta: this document, which literally means “no obstacle,” is an affidavit of eligibility to marry. Put simply, it is an oath notarized by the consul of your home country in Italy stating that there are no obstacles to you getting married. It is one of the trickier documents to procure because it does not exist in many places outside of Italy, hence the necessity to visit a consulate. Once the signature of the consul has been affixed to the document, you then need to have it authenticated by another office, the Ufficio Legalizzazione (Legalization Office) which is usually located in the Prefettura. If your home country’s consulate is in Florence for example, you may take care of this step at the Florence Prefect. Don’t forget to inquire about the marca da bollo (tax stamp) which you will need to pick up before visiting the Ufficio Legalizzazione.

Prefettura di Bologna - Ufficio Legalizzazioni

Via IV Novembre, 24
Tel. 051.6401362
Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9-11:30

Prefettura di Firenze - Ufficio Legalizzazioni

Via A. Giacomini, 8
Tel. 055.2783562
Open Monday-Saturday 9-11

Atto notorio: this is an oath sworn before two witnesses and then notarized by the Italian consul of your home country, stating that there are no legal impediments to the marriage. Often, it is most convenient to do this at the nearest Italian consulate in your home country before coming to Italy or while on a trip home. Atto di nascita: birth certificate showing the names of both parents. If issued outside of Italy, this document must be translated into Italian and authenticated by the nearest Italian consulate with jurisdiction over the state or place it was issued.

We officially got married in Bologna, but we had a second, symbolic ceremony in my hometown, Washington DC, so that our friends and family on the other side of the world could also take part in our celebration. If you are planning on having a civil wedding in Bologna, the Sala Rossa of the Comune is a beautiful red room overlooking Piazza Maggiore.

Susannah Tillson

Evidence of termination of any previous marriage: such as final divorce or annulment decrees or certificate of death. Note that any previous marriage must have been dissolved at least 300 days before the date of the proposed marriage. If you decide to marry in the Catholic church, you must also prepare a set of documenti ecclesiastici (ecclesiastical documents). You will need certificates of Catholic baptism and confirmation, a form signed by two witnesses who have known you since childhood attesting to your stato libero ecclesiastico (free ecclesiastic status) and proof of participation in pre-marital counseling. For more information on getting married in Bologna see


If you would like to have your Italian marriage recognized in your home country, the certificate of marriage can be taken to the Procura della Repubblica (District Attorney) in Bologna for an apostille. Once you have an apostille, your marriage certificate is valid outside of Italy and may be presented to the appropriate office in your home country.

Procura della Repubblica - Ufficio Apostille

Piazza Trento e Trieste, 2
Tel. 051.201111 or 051.2191111

If you were married to an Italian outside of Italy, you must request that your local embassy send your marriage certificate with apostille through diplomatic courier. Once your marriage has been registered, the anagrafe of your local comune will be notified and you can then request a copy of your atto di matrimonio. Note that it is this document, not a foreign marriage certificate, that you will use to apply for citizenship by marriage.


In the Italian tradition, the groom and guests wait for the bride outside the church or city hall. Guests will kiss and hug the sposi (bride and bridegroom) offering congratulations, even prior to the main event. Following the ceremony, guests wait outside with rice or flower petals in hand.

Civil ceremonies are a short but sweet affair before the mayor or an officer of the registrar in the comune of residence of the bride or groom. After reading aloud the laws governing civil marriage, vows are exchanged and the act of marriage is signed by the couple and two witnesses. Depending on the space available, friends usually let family enter first, waiting outside the room if necessary.

Catholic weddings fall into two categories: a wedding incorporated into a full hour-long mass, or a shorter 20-minute ceremony with communion. Following the religious rite, there is a lengthy signing ceremony for the couple and witnesses, while the guests wait outside for the grand exit.

Italian receptions can range from a light rinfresco (standing cocktail) to a seated sixcourse meal. The focus is on food and there may or may not be music and dancing. At the end of the reception, the bride and groom usually distribute bomboniere, a party favor containing Jordan almonds, the names of the couple and the date of the event. Some couples decide to direct the funds that would have gone toward elaborate favors (for which there is a bomboniere-industrial complex), to a charity of choice. In this case, guests usually receive a card indicating where the funds have been donated. Bolognese couples may also distribute small ring-shaped sugar cookies, a local specialty called zuccherini, usually made by a mother or aunt.