Sunday, March 4, 2001

British romantics flock to Italy to make their marriage vows

The scenery and sumptuous settings are tempting increasing numbers to wed there, says Patricia Clough

A CROWD of sightseers gathers round as a kilted Scotsman and an Englishwoman in an ivory coloured suit emerge from Rome city hall into Michelangelo's incomparable square on the Capitol Hill, obviously just married. "Why did you get married in Rome?" the couple are asked "Because it is a romantic city, isn't it?" replies the bridegroom happily. The onlookers cheer and clap.

Sandy and Janet Morrison from Aberdeen are just one of a fast increasing number of British couples who are visiting Italy to be married in its sumptuous city halls or splendid Baroque churches, possibly with receptions in Tuscan villas or medieval castles.

Gabriella Lo Jacono, a wedding co-ordinator in Rome, arranged for around 70 couples to tie the knot in Rome, Florence and Venice last year; and says that the figure promises to be even higher this year,  "I already have a thick file for 2002," she said.

Couples are drawn by the romance of Italy. Thanks to the exchange rate a wedding in Italy could cost no more, probably less, than one in Britain, although for couples who invite hundreds of  wedding guests to stay at specially rented Tuscan villas, the bill can rise steeply.

Ms. Lo Jacono's clients tend to be slightly older than the average. 'About 65 per cent of them are marrying for the second or third time," she said. Most visit alone, or with a very few friends or relations, for an intimate wedding, often with a reception back home later.  Sandy Morrison, an oil Industry engineer, who is 50, and Janet, a personnel officer, who is 48, were both marrying for the second time. 

Morrisons: wed in Rome

Sandy explained that it was proving extremely difficult to arrange a wedding which would combine his family and friends in Aberdeen and hers in the Great Yarmouth area.

"Then we said. 'Why are we doing all this? The wedding has to satisfy ourselves. Why not just take ourselves off somewhere? Receptions in both Aberdeen and Norfolk will follow.

But romantics such as Sandy and Janet encounter some restrictions. You cannot get married in a Renaissance garden or a gondola, although you can hire a special ornately carved wedding gondola spread with lace. Roman Catholics may marry in Catholic churches, but for everyone else it has to be a city or town hall, with an optional ceremony afterwards in the denominational church of your choice. 

But then, since city halls are usually historic palazzos complete with frescoes, Old Masters, silk hangings and liveried ushers, they are infinitely more splendid than the average British register office.


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