Hello, there! Welcome to the new regular feature on the blog, ‘Your wedding in Italy’.
I have decided to write a few posts to shed a little light on some of the lesser known and more confusing aspects of planning your wedding in Italy, as opposed to any other destination wedding. Over the course of the next few weeks I will publish a weekly post, focusing on one topic at a time, providing some background info and useful tips. Please note that this will not be a self planning vademecum only. On the contrary, most of the advice I will provide will be put to far better use if you’ll hire a planner to work by your side. Whether you hire a planner to travel from your home country or you prefer to source one locally (maybe a fully bilingual one, like yours truly!) trust them fully and rely on them to solve any issue that might arise during the planning process.
As part of this little series, I have decided to tackle a topic often neglected in other websites and portals, the one of finance. I will be presenting to you a few useful facts about prices, invoicing, as well as tipping and accessory costs. Should any topic be unclear, please do use the comments below to ask for clarifications. I will try and answer as proptly as possible.
Let’s begin! One of the biggest challenges for a non-Italian couple wishing to tie the knot in Italy is sadly dealing with a complex bureaucracy and an ever-changing fiscal system. That is also one of the reasons my Country is sadly (but luckily only partially) known for its inefficiency and corruption. But that’s another topic, and I would like you to appreciate that no matter how many dishonest and vicious people there are out there (as anywhere in the world), my fellow countrymen and women are mostly law-abiding, honest and helpful people. The wedding industry is no exception, and there are many excellent professionals out there, ready to make your dream wedding come true.
When planning a wedding in Italy please consider that weddings here are considered huge social affairs, often an occasion to show off hard-earned money to friends and family. That accounts for the staggering price tags often attached to all things wedding, compared to everyday lifestyle prices. If a seaside holiday in Puglia is rather cheap, try planning a wedding in the same county and you’ll find yourself facing the same rates (if not higher) than the ones applied in central Rome or luxuriant Venice. That doesn’t mean that a low cost wedding isn’t possible in Italy, but renting a villa and hiring a reputable banqueting will cost you at least as much as it would in England. Need I mention that the food will however be very different?!
Another element often difficult to grasp from the outside is that prices vastly vary from county to county. Restaurants in the Bergamo and Lake Como area rarely offer wedding menus for less than 120 euros per head, but one of the best Tuscany banqueting companies provides an amazing menu for slightly less than 100 euros. Banqueting companies in my county (Emilia Romagna) usually have prices ranging from 65 to 90 euros per head, but in the South (Puglia, Amalfi Coast) you might get charged even more than 150 euros per head. My advice is not to get too attached to a particular area, if you are planning on a tight budget. There are incredibly scenic counties out of the beaten track, but still very near to airports, and by shopping around and asking a few estimates to different establishments you will manage to find the right fit for your budget and wedding dream.
Prices quoted by most vendors in Italy can seem less than crystal clear as they’re often provided without VAT. Please do not be mistaken, that’s not a malicious trick, the problem is VAT varies between service providers and producers… and it often changes according to law. For example, product VAT was raised from 21% to 22% on October 1st, 2013, and all prices were subsequently adjusted. Whenever asking for a quote, make sure you ask the vendor to highlight any accessory VAT, and the VAT rate applied. This will allow you to compare prices in a realistic way, and keep your budget under control.
CIVIL CEREMONY VENUES
Civil ceremonies in Italy need to be performed in city halls (or city hall registered properties) in order to be legally valid. A venue hire charge is always applied, and although most city halls request really basic fees (even starting at 45 euros), those who own prominent property or which are in great demands, apply very high fees. A wedding ceremony in Rome city hall wedding halls is going to cost you 1.200 euros for venue hiring alone. On a week day, because the rate climbs up to 1.400 during the week-ends. Siena city hall is even more expensive on Saturdays and Sundays, a staggering 1.500 euros! Once again, don’t let this get in the way of your dream Italian wedding. There are dozens of pretty lovely town halls in lesser known areas, where you can get married with 400/600 euros venue hiring fees, and enjoy delicious food in a local restaurant. As always, be clear about your budget and your prioirities, then shop around for the best option.
Occasionally, you might hear a vendor ask whether you need invoicing. It might sound like it’s possible to have a deal without any invoice being issued, however that is not true. Invoicing of some kind if legally compulsory in Italy. In some establishments a general receipt is enough. That is usually the case with cafes, restaurants, hotels, florists, hair dressers, beauty salons… But a wedding planner and a banqueting company will need to invoice you or they will be committing a felony.
To be legally valid all invoices must bear your full personal details, including full name, surname, residency address, as well as your National Insurance Number (if you are a British resident, or its equivalent otherwise), that is the equivalent of the Italian personal fiscal code. Please rest assured that the data submitted will be treated with the utmost care, and it will be stored and protected according to the Italian privacy law. If you wish, you can ask any vendor about the personal data store stystem they apply at any time, or even demand that your data is removed from their system after the necessary duties have been dealt with (fiscal info needs to be accessible until five years after the transaction, for tax purposes).
Sometimes it’ll feel like choosing the ‘without invoice’ option is an easy way to get a discount, as prices not invoiced are without VAT, but the truth is that accepting this makes you a partner in a felony. It is true that you will hardly be prosecuted by the Italian government. But in the unlikely, however plausible, event that the Finance Guard (Guardia di Finanza) does a routine check at your wedding venue you will definitely be issued a fine. The fact is that not invoicing hurts the economy, as it equals to avoiding taxes. Please do not be a partner in this, there are so many law-abiding, hard working vendors, choose them for your wedding.
There is no formal obbligation to tip in Italy, but there a few situations when tipping is a nice way to show a special appreciation for the service you’ve been granted. When riding in a taxi, you can choose to ‘leave the change’, rounding the fare up to the next 5 euros if the driver has been particularly helpful, she has helped with your luggage or has taken a sensible route. At pizza parlours and cafes it is not customary to leave any tip, while at the restaurant a service fee is always included in your tab, and tips do not go to waiters. However, in restaurants you can leave a 2/5 euros per person tip to show your appreciation for the food (complimenting the chef is also a very nice practice). If you stay for over a week in a hotel, you can leave a tip for the maid or the in house staff that tended to your table.
Your wedding vendors will not be expecting any tipping, nor will any drivers that you hired for the wedding day or for your guests transportation.
MUSIC RIGHTS AND ACCESSORIES
When hiring a band or a DJ please note that not only you will have to add VAT and artist insurance (ENPALS) to their fare, but also music rights (SIAE). Whenever music is played at a wedding, music rights need to be redeemed through a registration procedure at a local office. This task is considered your responsibility, however some venues (who organize music events on a regular basis) can provide the service of going to the local office and filing the appropriate documents for you, free of charge, as they have open accounts with SIAE. If that is not the case with your venue, ask your planner a quote for her filing the document on your behalf. Please note that SIAE rates start at around 150 euros and are based on the number of people in attendance, the classification of the venue, the kind of entertainment provided. A planner could charge you a basic service fee or simply ask you to cover her expenses to file the documents.
That’s about it. I hope this first installment was useful to you, next week I will discuss a pretty obvious topic… the weather, to try and clear out a few misconceptions about Italian weather, and help you plan the wedding of your dreams with or without a sunny sky.
Make sure you join in the comments below and let me know if you have any questions, or even just an anecdote that happened to you while planning your wedding in Italy, I’d love to read about it!
See you next week!