‘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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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”