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‘We’re exhausted’: What it’s like planning a wedding in Italy during the pandemic

One year on since Covid-19 surged through Italy and we’re facing the prospect of postponing our wedding day for another year. With no certainty over lockdown measures easing, what chance do we have to say "I do" in Italy in 2021?

'We're exhausted': What it’s like planning a wedding in Italy during the pandemic
Couples planning to tie the knot in Italy are still unsure if their plans can go ahead amid the pandemic. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

When the pandemic forced the country into nationwide lockdown in March 2020, the last thing on our minds was our nuptials.

We had the date set for September of that year and in those early days of confinement, we didn’t consider that there could be an impact on our lives as far away as six months in the future.

READ ALSO: ‘I’d never have planned it this way, but I’m grateful’: My coronavirus wedding day

Of course, we were wrong. The situation got a lot worse and with my family and friends needing to fly over from England, we made the call to postpone to 2021.

There was a lot of disappointment, naturally. We’d chosen a stunning hilltop venue in the Bolognese hills, not far from where I now live with my Italian groom-to-be, tearfully asked loved ones to be bridesmaids and witnesses, found a florist, chosen our rings, booked a photographer and I’d just flown back home to Lancashire to choose my dress.

But the happy day could wait another year. It was just a year.

Wrong again. Now, with added complications of new variants of the virus, continuing heavy lockdown measures in Italy and stumbling vaccination rollouts, we’re having to deal with something we never considered: putting off the wedding again.

Our new wedding date was set for July 2021. However, with international travel restrictions between the UK and Italy still looking much too close to the wire to be sure that will work, we’re banking on a third date: 28th August 2021.

The Italian government hasn’t yet approved guidelines for wedding ceremonies and receptions this year, so for now, we’re playing a tense waiting game.

READ ALSO: Can weddings go ahead in Italy this summer?

Brides-to-be protest in Rome in June 2020 after ther weddings were postponed due to coronavirus restrictions. Signs read: “Weddings without restrictions” and “You’ve busted our weddings” – a pun on “Ci avete rotto i maroni’ (you’ve busted our balls). Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP.

Why we don’t want to hold off until 2022

If this summer is still so up in the air, why not be sure and just push it back to next year?

There are a lot of reasons why we – and many other future spouses – might want to take the gamble and cross their fingers that it can still go ahead this year.

Firstly, we’re exhausted and we just want to make it to the altar. The pandemic has taken the joy away from wedding planning and robbed us of the excitement or anticipation.

We monitor the health data like virologists, scanning for clues, and we reason that last summer, Italy opened up for tourism.

Unfortunately, pencilling in a date in 2022 wouldn’t give us back that lost joy – instead, it would feel like the wedding day that will never come. If anything has taught us that life is too short, it’s the pandemic. We want to get on with our lives and not stay on hold.

Weddings are fraught with emotion from everyone involved and there are usually polarising opinions anyway. Throw in this set of coronavirus-related unknowns and wedding planning hits a fever pitch.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about planning a wedding in Italy

With constantly changing dates comes a lot of angst for your guests too, especially those flying to Italy.

My friends and family don’t know when to book their flights and hotels again – and some can no longer make our newly arranged wedding day. After all, this is the third date they’re having to ask time off from their bosses for.

There are also other logistics to take into account. My dress is in England and I’m currently not allowed to fly back for a fitting. My mum could ship it over, but I’m worried about the expense of sending such a high-ticket item, now that sending parcels between the UK and Italy has spiked in cost.

Many couples who picked their rings out for 2020 are still waiting to say ‘I do’ due to the pandemic. Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP.

During these conversations, my family have gently suggested that this year perhaps just might not be worth it, in the end. With so many obstacles and potential huge compromises, is this really what we want to do?

It’s true that it won’t be what we’d imagined and we’ve had to let go of any pre-pandemic ideas of how you picture your big day.

READ ALSO: The top 10 places to get married in Italy

On the other hand, one of my closest friends – and a bridesmaid – said that you can’t please everyone nor can we afford to postpone it forever. “You’re 36, love! I hope you won’t be cross with me for saying this, but if you want children, you can’t keep waiting,” she warned me. 

Planning offspring as well now? And I thought I was already frazzled. Even if having rosy-cheeked bambini wasn’t a priority for me before, she has a point. That biological clock doesn’t care about the pandemic and ticks on anyway.

There have been tears of frustration due to the stress and helplessness of it all, I’ll admit.

Going ahead with the wedding this year might give us some autonomy back, but it does cut me to the core to think that most of my friends might not make it. We were planning on a modest ceremony in any case, keeping numbers lower than the traditional huge Italian celebrations.

If we had our hearts set on inviting 200 guests, it’d already be pretty certain that we’d have to wait until next year for that. Last year, weddings resumed in small numbers, from about 15 in May, then opening up to 30 and increased to 100 by the height of summer.

Our guest list tops at around 70 people, so that’s not what’s putting the brakes on getting hitched.

What we’re keeping our eyes on is the vaccination rollout and the European health passport, which we hope will allow people to travel to Italy. But that doesn’t reassure older guests or those with health complications, who may be too afraid to travel still. That’s true for both the English party and my fiancé’s family coming from all over Italy.

Still, we reason that August is as good a chance as any, being Italy’s peak summer month.

And our optimistic side is focussing on the government releasing guidelines on wedding protocol soon. After all, it’s a sector that’s worth big bucks to the Italian economy, amounting to a turnover of 15 billion euros per year, making up 2.5% of the country’s GDP.

Italy has long been a popular choice for destination weddings. File photo (from 2018): Tiziana Fabi/AFP

So what can we do in the meantime? The venue has been truly accommodating and confirmed that we can push back again to August. We’re fortunate in that, so far, we’re not being asked for extra cash.

Some wedding suppliers are putting up their rates as the months roll on. It’s not unusual for a venue to cost more each successive year, but this is another blow to couples who’ve already delayed their plans due to the Covid-19 crisis.

READ ALSO: Italy records fewer weddings and more divorces during pandemic

On the contrary, our venue even offered our deposit back if we were struggling financially. We refused as we wanted to make sure, even to ourselves, that we will one day hear wedding bells.

Our photographer is similarly laidback, replying with a simple, ‘ci sono’ (I’ll be there), when we send rambling and pleading messages, asking for another date.

As for the other suppliers, we’re still on pause or some have even slipped off the radar, forcing us back to the drawing board. So, now we’re almost certain that early July is off the cards, we need to decide whether to take the plunge and print out those invitations for August.

We know there’s not going to be a miracle within the next four months and it will still be a wedding in times of Covid. That means that masks, distancing and hand gel stations will likely feature as much as our floral arrangements.

But life goes on – and maybe that’s exactly the reason to have a wedding this year.

To stand up and promise to stick together through the hard times, until we find the good again.

Member comments

  1. This article so perfectly articulated my sentiments. My fiance and I are from NYC and planned to get married in Rome in June 2020. We moved our wedding to August 2021 but have to make a difficult decision soon to cancel and have it in the states if there is not an announcement for international travel. Such a nightmare but glad to see I am not the only one going through it!

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MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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