14 February 2012

Getting married, Italian style

Guest post by Tiffany Parks

Photographs by Luca and Antonella Cappellaro www.fineartwedding.it

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They say that difficult journeys make the destination more rewarding, and when it comes to getting married in Italy, this is doubly true. Saying “I do” in Italian is not an easy task. Oh, it’s beautiful all right, and incredibly romantic and charming, but it’s certainly not easy. Particularly if one member of the couple is not Italian.

When my Italian husband and I began planning our wedding, I had already been living in Rome for five years. I was an official resident and what with permessi di soggiorno, work visas and the unavoidable marche da bollo (tax stamps), I thought I’d seen the worst of Italian bureaucracy. I had no idea.

Turns out, Italians are terrified of bigamy. Bigamy in Italy is what terrorism is in the US: a constant threat to be prevented at all costs. And so, I lost track of the number of times I was required to swear under oath that I was not already married: at my embassy, in front of witnesses, in a signed affidavit. I even had to drag in two friends and they had to swear I’d never been married.

Then there’s the run-around. This is a brilliant Italian invention that is a great way to spend your free time (because brides-to-be have so much of that) and get to know the obscure lines of the public transport system. The run-around consists of going to one office to pick up a document, paying the fee for it at a second, filling it out at a third, signing it with witnesses at a fourth only to submit it at a fifth. Repeat ad nauseum with any number of documents.

At about this point, you start towonder why you didn’t opt to wed in the US, where couples giddily skip into the city clerk’s office two weeks prior to the big day to pick up their marriage license, prepared why they wait. One-stop wedding shopping. Instead you look over at your haggard fiancé and think to yourself, “Do I really want to marry this person? Enough to go through this hell?” And you know he’s thinking the same thing about you. But by that point, you’re in too deep. You’ve sat through Catholic marriage school and learned all about the rhythm method, the bans have been posted on the church door for the requisite two Sundays, and you’ve bought so many marche da bollo, you can forget about that down payment on an apartment. There’s no turning back now; you’re in this together.

And somehow, even though it seemed impossible, the day arrives. When you finally make it to the altar, exhausted but elated, with your partner in crime beaming at you, all the fees and hassles and lines and endless documents only make the day that much sweeter, for what you had to overcome together to get there.

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And the rest is a bonus, but what an amazing bonus! The day of our wedding the sun shone so brilliantly it seemed as if the heavens had been cracked open. Besides a few posies, the church needed no decoration. Bernini, Vasari and Sebastiano del Piombo had already taken care of that. As rice rained down on us, Rome was at our feet. It seemed that with just one leap we could land on the Palatine Hill. A walk through the narrow cobblestone alleys of Trastevere, the very first streets we walked down together, saw our first jaunt as husband and wife. Photos were snapped under festoons of drying laundry and explosions of bougainvillea that matched my scandalously pink shoes perfectly.

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Our guests were welcomed by the sinewy façade of a converted monastery by Borromini. A rich soprano voice intoned an immortal Puccini melody on a terrace with the hills of Rome in the distance. The rest was a haze of improvised brindisis, sequined dresses, scrumptious food, teary speeches, frenzied dancing and infectious laughter. The magical end of a long and at times nightmarish journey was, ironically, the beginning of an exciting new one.

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Tiffany Parks fulfilled a life-long dream by moving to Rome over seven years ago. She hails from the glorious Pacific Northwest, and has also lived in Boston and Montréal where she studied classical singing and opera. She now works as both a tour guide and a travel and culture writer and is working on her first book, an art mystery for young readers. She can be found musing about the wonders of her adopted city on her blog, The Pines of Rome. www.thepinesofrome.blogspot.com

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