- We didn't know our witnesses nor our only guests. But that made our
union even more special, exciting, romantic. And hassle-free.
Seated in regal, gold-trimmed red chairs, surrounded by
thick marble columns in a room with candle chandeliers and brocade,
red satin walls, my fiancÚ and I looked more likely to be pronounced
king and queen than husband and wife.
But it was there - on Rome's most sacred hill,
Campidoglio in a piazza designed by Michelangelo, where an Etruscan
temple to Jupiter once stood - that, prompted by our translator, we
said "I do".
We eloped in the Eternal City. And while we hadn't quite
planned it that way, we couldn't have planned a better start to our
No expensive white gown. No embossed napkins that match
bridesmaids' shoes. No brides-maids. No three-tiered, flower-laden
cake. No photos of him shoving said cake in my face.
Our wedding photos show us laughing in front of the
Colosseum, kissing on the Spanish Steps, hugging at the Forum.
They say all roads lead to Rome. If that's true, then the
one that got us here was circuitous.
A little history: We had begun 1996 blissfully engaged
and eager to plan the lovely ceremony that would bind our lives
forever. But two months and an excruciatingly painful bridal expo
later, we had scrapped our plans to marry in any conventional way.
Angry at a wedding industry bent on breaking us, we opted to use the
wedding funds to buy a house instead.
Our own sanctuary would be the
perfect place to wed, we decided.
Thus unbridled, we set off to build a new home. Our
parents and friends - and even strangers - lauded our judgment.
"Do it in Rome," said one of our friends when I
told her I would be joining my fiancÚ for a one-week business trip.
"I always wanted to elope," said another, who
had spent $ 10,000 on her wedding a few years ago.
We had talked about eloping before - mainly when frustrated by
ordeal that getting married has
become. But having spent several months engrossed in the
house-building process, the idea seemed even more appealing.
We investigated. I could be done but it was a gamble, a
hard one to pull with only five business days in Italy. We'd have to
shuttle papers here and there, get them, approved by the Italian
government, and pray we could book an appointment for a civil
We gathered documents, raising the suspicion of my
mother, who wondered why I need a birth certificate to go to Italy.
I had to tell. Mom e-mailed: "Your Dad thinks it is
incredible romantic. I can understand your hesitation to tell us; all
parents want to see their children get married. But this will be
special and you have our blessing. All we ask is that you hire a
photographer to record the moment for us."
His parents were equally supportive and excited about the
We let four friends in on the secret. They vouched for us
at the Italian Consulate in Boston, swearing we were single and could
marry each other. It was the first round of paperwork and all we were
allowed to do in the United States.
Embassy gives green light
In Italy, we started at the American Embassy in Rome,
where we got the official go-ahead from our government to marry. It
was there we had to fortune of finding Gabriella LoJacono, who became
our translator, point person, and surrogate mother.
I hired Gabriella Monday evening to inquire whether we
could get the appointment to marry. If we could not tie the knot by
Friday, we would simply go back without swapping rings. I told her.
She called back the next morning: We'd be married on Friday, Dec. 13,
at 11 a.m., she announced.
We had work to do. While I ran papers from the embassy to the
Italian government offices, Gabriella, a
Milanese who had worked in England,
arranged for a bouquet of white
roses for me. She hired a chaffeur, Dante Pucci, who would both drive
us and our photographer to picturesque spots after the ceremony, and
also serve as a witness. She enlisted a friend, Gina Antonelli, to be
the other witness. Keeping an eye on the weather - rainy and chilly -
she nagged me, too.
"Have you got a shawl?" she said in her Italian
British accent, after seeing the delicate off-white lace dress I had
bought for less than $ 100 for the occasion. "You must buy a
shawl and a pretty umbrella for your pictures."
At the Hotel de la Ville Inter-Continental Roma,
Gianfranco Monnati, the head concierge, worked hard for us too.
Gianfranco, who has been working at the lovely 19th-century palace
atop the Spanish steps for 37 years, not only knows everything, but
also has two little books filled with resources. From whence came
photographer Roberto Cangi, who for 650,000 lire (about $400) snapped
nearly 100 gorgeous shots of us, printed photos of all sizes, and
shipped them and the negatives to Boston.
Champagne and roses
With everything set for the big day, I ran next door to a
salon for a haircut and a manicure. Back in our room we reveled in our
last night as single folk with a bottle of champagne Gianfranco had
sent up along with a dozen long-stemmed pink roses.
And although Gabriella had shared with us that "Sposa
bagnata, sposa fortunata" - a wet bride is a lucky bride - we
hoped we would not have to use the pretty umbrella she urged me to
"Auguri, tanti auguri" Romans everywhere said,
smiling, as we made our way to the government offices where our
marriage was recorded by hand in a pink, hard-covered ledger.
At Campidoglio, we were greeted by Ana and Guido Airoldi,
friends of friends of ours in Boston. The Beatles
"Yesterday" and a couple of other songs in English played in
the room as we assembled. A mayoral representative, a woman wearing a
sash with the red, white, and green of the republic's flag, prepared
to marry us.
We looked at each other and laughed. It was funny and
wonderful. It was not how we imagined it. It was not how we had
planned it. It was better. It was perfect.
It sprinkled. And I could not have been luckier.