at the Vatican
Many Catholics are interested in being married at St. Peter's Basilica. In the Vatican City State (i.e.: St. Peter's Basilica) the civil and religious processes are combined in one liturgy. Please note that you do not have to go through us to have a wedding at St. Peter's. If your priest lives in Rome, he can make the arrangements for you. However, many couples ask for our assistance, since either their priest lives outside of Italy, or they wish us to preside at their wedding. An additional important note before you read on: Please ask Fr. Greg about how to compose an initial letter of inquiry to St. Peter’s. You will also receive a letter for your pastor about the very special requirements that are particular to St. Peter's. With our other parish responsibilities, we have a limited number of weddings for which we are able to assist couples. Please know that the application process is detailed and precise, and it is much more difficult to get married at St. Peter’s than it used to be. They do not approve every request, and some of the documentation is much more particular than what is required in your own diocese. You will also need to be accompanied by at least some family members and friends. If it is just you and your witnesses, it would be best to have your wedding at Santa Susanna.
We do ask that you be absolutely positive that you want to be married at St. Peter’s in Vatican City, and not in your home parish or here at Santa Susanna in Rome. If you have any doubts or hesitations at all, we would rather you not make a request for a wedding date for you at St. Peter’s. I say this because in the past two years we have had three couples change their minds a couple months before their scheduled weddings, and this has caused difficulties for us at St. Peter’s. Also, it is important that a minimum of 15-20 guests will be in attendance. St. Peter’s has recently rejected wedding requests with fewer guests as they do not want to be seen as an elopement chapel.
We are now accepting requests for weddings at St. Peter's Basilica in 2013 (as of August 15, 2012). As we are the American parish in Rome, preference will be given to American couples who are both Catholic. This is also because we are limited in time and staffing, due to our other parish responsibilities. If time and resources permit we will assist other English-speaking if we can.
Couples need to begin the process six to nine months in advance. The process begins when the couple meets with their parish priest, who will inform the couple of their own diocesan requirements. It is also important to contact one of the priests at Santa Susanna to notify us of your desire to apply for marriage at St. Peter's. You can do this 9-12 months before your desired wedding date, but please no earlier, unless you have general questions. This discussion (by phone or email) will often determine whether there may be impediments to the marriage, and whether it is appropriate for you to be married in a Catholic ceremony. It will also alert the Paulists at Santa Susanna of the couple's intentions. A date for the wedding can sometimes be established before the documentation is completed, but this requires a special letter from your pastor, sent to the pastor of St. Peter's. Fr. Greg's initial inquiry letter explains this process. The date, however, is not officially set until the documentation has been completed, submitted and approved at St. Peter's. This is often very frustrating to couples planning a wedding in advance, but it is the way things are done at the Vatican and there's not much we can do about it. So please, please be patient and understanding. If you feel you must have an immediate date, you may want to consider getting married at Santa Susanna Church instead.
In April 2008, Padre Mario Betero, the pastor at St. Peter’s, informed us that if either of the couple has been married before (and has received a Decree of Nullity or a Lack of Form Decree) he asks that we not submit their application. This, however, is not an issue in the Vicariate of Rome, only in Vatican City. Any couple is welcome to be married here at Santa Susanna (Rome), as long as their own diocese approves the wedding. In fact, since April 2008, we have not been successful in securing a wedding date for a bride or groom who have been previously married, even with an anulment and so suggest that you consider a wedding at Santa Susanna.
The pastors responsible at St. Peter's first ask "Why do you want to get married at St. Peter's Basilica?" Normally, a couple celebrates the sacrament of marriage in their home parish, with their family and friends present to celebrate with them. Traveling to a foreign country for a wedding is not completely understandable at the Vatican. Also, as was stated above, if you are coming by yourselves, or just with your two witnesses, you might consider getting married at Santa Susanna instead. Again this is a cultural difference as the Vatican staff doesn't understand why there are sometimes no family members present.
And finally, there have been occasions (though few and far between) in which the Papal Household schedules a special Mass that the Pope will celebrate in St. Peter's Basilica. If this Mass takes place in the morning, the wedding may have to be moved to another day or time. This has happened rarely, but is always a possibility, and it can come up at the last minute. The Papal Household does not announce the Pope's schedule very far in advance. If this were to happen, we will do our very best to arrange another time or day, or if the date and time is essential to your plans, we can move the wedding to the Church of Santa Susanna.
(Photo above is of a Wedding in The Chapel of the Choir at St. Peter's Basilica)
Please Note: We are now accepting requests for weddings at St. Peter's Basilica in 2013 (as of August 15, 2011). As we are the American parish in Rome, preference will be given to American couples who are both Catholic. This is also because we are limited in time and staffing, due to our other parish responsibilities. If time and resources permit we will assist other English-speaking if we can.
We follow these guidelines exactly, stage by stage. If you choose to work with us, please know that there are no shortcuts or alternative ways of proceeding.
An important note that needs to be repeated: PLEASE ASK FR. GREG FOR A LETTER ADDRESSED TO YOUR PRIEST THAT OUTLINES REGULATIONS THAT ARE SPECIFIC TO THE VATICAN. A Nihil Obstat must be granted by your (Arch) Diocese, and all of your documents must be dated within 6 months of your wedding date. This includes your Integrated Sacramental Certificate (which is your Baptismal Certificate on which there should be a record of when you were confirmed, and if you were ever married in the Catholic Church.) You cannot have two separate certificates.
Also if you have come directly to this page through an internet search engine, please go to the left side column and return to our weddings home page for important instructions. Do not presume you can proceed without reading our home page on "Weddings in Rome".
Basic Paperwork Package
To complete the interview process with your priest, a couple will have to provide the following:
One Integrated Certificates of Baptism and Confirmation (issued within 6 months of the proposed wedding date, but not before.) The Pastor at St. Peter's will only accept "Integrated Certificates". This means that they only want ONE certificate of Baptism, with the notations of other sacraments on the front or back of this documents.) And, please note too that Confirmation is required for Catholics both in Rome and in the Vatican and throughout the world.
Two written statements for both the bride and groom, testifying that they are free to enter into marriage n the Catholic Church (usually statements by their parents, or if not possible, a relative or long time aquaintance.) Please note that these are usually done on forms (called Form B) provided by your parish priest. If you do have the Form B filled out, you do not have to have written statements. Even better is to have both the Form Bs and the brief hand-written letters from your parents.
(Copies of annulments or decrees of nullity when applicable, but please read the Additional Guidelines about annulments at the bottom of this page.)
A copy of this website memorandum to assist the priest doing the interview
Photocopies of the Bearer Information Pages (Photo and Basic Information pages) of each person's Passport.
Though we say this at the end, we have found we need to say this twice: All original documentation (certificates, statements of freedom to marry, Pre-Marital Investigation (a form with your basic information), certificate of instruction, dispensations, and recommendation) must be submitted by your parish priest to the local (arch)diocesan chancery for a Nihil Obstat (not a Visum Est or a Litterale Testimonialis). The entire packet of original documents must be sent to us as soon as it is completed. The Vatican requires the documentation to be here four months in advance. The Parochial Office of Saint Peter's will not confirm a wedding date until the documents have been submitted and approved. And, this is very important: Please ask that the name of the priest who is to celebrate the wedding (whether it be one of the Paulist Fathers here, or your pastor) not be placed on the Prenuptial Questionnaire OR the Nihil Obstat form or letter. The Pastor of St. Peter's asks that he himself make this delegation.
N.B.: Failure to obtain the Nihil Obstat (with the Diocesan Seal) will result in the rejection of the entire documentation packet by the Vatican Parochial Office. In recent months, we have had to re-do six separate sets of documents because of this. AGAIN, Please note: the baptismal certificates AND the Nihil Obstat must be dated within six months of the wedding!
Your parish priest will interview the couple, complete the Pre-marital Investigation form, provide for appropriate pre-marriage instruction (ie: Pre-Cana), obtain dispensations when necessary, and write a brief letter recommending that the marriage proceed.
In addition, the following information is required by the Vatican, and can included in your document package:
The profession or occupation of both the bride and groom
The full names, addresses and ages of the two witnesses for the ceremony (if the female witness is married, her maiden name is required!)
Your Numbers 1, 2 and 3 choices of dates.* You need to be flexible with these dates as often your first choice may not be available and they frown upon continual attempts to make changes. Please do not plan flights or receptions or honeymoons until your documents have been accepted and the date has been approved. Once the date is chosen and secured, please do not ask to change it once it is set. At St. Peter's Basilica, the marriage takes place in the chapel of the Choir, at ONLY 10:30 AM, everyday except Wednesday and Sunday, and there are many other dates through the year that are closed, e.g. Dec. 18 - Jan. 6, Holy Week and Easter Week, the last week of June (leading up to the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul) and all of August, etc.
All original documentation (certificates, statements of freedom to marry, Pre-Marital Investigation (a form with your basic information), certificate of instruction, dispensations, and recommendation) must be submitted by the priest to the local chancery for a Nihil Obstat (Not a Visum Est). The entire packet of original documents must be sent to Rome as soon as it is completed. The Vatican requires the documentation to be here four months in advance. The Parochial Office of Saint Peter's will not confirm a wedding date until the documents have been submitted and approved.
The Arch Priest of Saint Peter's Basilica requires a letter of introduction to be written by the Paulist Fathers. The answers to the following questions are helpful for us to compose this letter. We will use the following information in our letter requesting the wedding. One page for each of you is sufficient; brief and concise answers are preferred:
What was the religious environment of your home life when you were a child and how did your parent's faith influence yours?
Who were your religious teachers and how did they influence your faith?
How would you describe your faith life today as an adult, what is your involvement in your local parish?
How does your faith influence your life and your work?
How often do you attend mass?
How long have they been at their present parish?
Are they involved in any of their parish's ministries (teaching catechism, working with youth, working with the poor, involvement in any of the parish's committees, etc.)?
Why do you wish to be married at Saint Peters Basilica, why is this important for you? Why are you coming all the way to Vatican City to get married, instead of getting married in your home parish? This is the essential question and please be thorough in answering it.
(Before you send us the documents (perhaps before you begin the process of your wedding preparation), please contact one of the Paulist Fathers at Santa Susanna to let us know your intentions. Sometimes the documents arrive at our door and we have never had any previous communcation with the couple in question. Please first contact Fr. Greg Apparcel at email@example.com.) Please pardon us for repeating this, but it is one piece of information that is often missed. Documents arrive, and we have never heard of the couple and so must return them.
The entire packet of original documents (with photocopies of the data pages of the couple's passports) are to be sent to the Paulist Fathers at the following address. Do not send them elsewhere, either to the Vatican or to the Church of Santa Susanna, but to the following:
The Paulist Fathers
Via Antonio Salandra 6
00187, Rome, Italy
If your Chancery Office objects to sending the documents directly to the Paulist Fathers, please contact us immediately and we will speak with the appropriate person directly. It is the norm to have them sent directly to St. Peter's (if the wedding is in Vatican City), but we have seen several mishaps as a result. There have been occasions when original documents were not sent to us and were lost as they have been sent to the wrong person, or the wrong office in either the Vatican or the Diocesan Office in Rome (a constant confusion), or were just misdirected. This is why we ask that you send them directly to us, and we walk them over to the appropriate office here, with the added Italian forms and letters. When sending the documents to the Paulist Fathers at the above address, please use a courier service (DHL and Fed-Ex are best), and please keep the tracking number. (Additional Suggestion: Once the documents have been properly signed and stamped by the chancery, photocopies should be made and retained by the couple).
Couples should arrive in Rome at least three business days before the wedding. In calculating business days, Italian legal holidays, Vatican holy days, and weekends should be taken into consideration. After arriving in Rome, the couple should contact the Paulist Fathers by phone at (*39) 06.4201.4554 or (+39) 06.488.2748. The priest will review the civil documentation with the couple, go over the ceremony itself and answer any additional questions. In fact, it would be best to arrange this appointment ahead of time.
Nulla Osta was normally necessary to be married at St. Peter’s Basilica. This was obtained at the American Embassy. However, this is no longer applicable as the Parish Office of St. Peter’s now asks that North American and British Couples get married civilly in their own country before they come to the Vatican to be married.
We know this is unusual, but it is the only way that you will be approved for a wedding at St. Peter’s at this time. And so we ask that a couple of months before your wedding, you get married civilly in the US and then immediately provide us with a certified copy of your wedding certificate. We need to have this in hand AT LEAST ONE MONTH before the wedding.
ST. PETER'S GUIDELINES
Time, day of the year, and blocked dates:
At St. Peter's Basilica, the marriage takes place in the chapel of the Choir, at ONLY 10:30 AM, everyday except Wednesday and Sunday, and there are many other dates through the year that are closed, e.g. Dec. 18 - Jan. 6, Lent, Holy Week and Easter Week, the last week of June (leading up to the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul) and all of August, etc.
Dress Guidelines: Great sensitivity is required in choosing the wedding dress. There can be no bare shoulders, upper arms or back, and the hem must reach at least below the knee. The same dress guidelines apply to the wedding guests. If your dress is strapless, you will need to wear a shawl or bolero (but nothing sheer or see-through). If you have a veil (which is not mandatory) please note that it is NOT sufficient to cover bare shoulders or back. Failure to follow these dress guidelines may lead to the wedding not being allowed to occur, even at the very last minute! The same dress guidelines apply to the wedding guests. WE WANT TO REALLY EMPHASIZE THIS BECAUSE LATELY THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW CLOSE CALLS. NO MATTER WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR IT IS, EVEN THE HOTTEST MONTHS IN SUMMER, YOU REALLY NEED TO BE ATTENTIVE TO CULTURAL CUSTOMS OF DRESS HERE IN ITALY.
Additional Marriage Guidelines:
Where one of the parties has been previously married, even if you have received an annulment or been granted a lack of form dispensation (for marriage outside the church), the Parish Office of Saint Peter's has asked us not to submit these requests to them. We have tried to submit such requests in the past and the applications were returned. This rule applies only to St. Peter's Basilica (but not in the Diocese of Rome). So, if this is your situation, you need to be aware of this reality. This is not an issue in the Diocese of Rome, however, and there previous marriages (with annulments) are not impediments to getting married at Santa Susanna as long as approval has been obtained by the couple's own diocese. Here in Italy there is clearly a misunderstanding of the Annulment Process in the United States. The process in the US is less complicated than the process here in Italy, where it can take many, many years, and great financial cost. The are also further requirements for couples of mixed religion (Catholic and non-Catholic Christians) or for a Catholic wishing to married a non-baptized person.
How much will it cost you to be married here in Rome? Depending on what you want it may vary. We have found that weddings in Rome are very time consuming and take us away from the work of the parish. Weddings for visiting couples are an additional service we provide beyond our usual parish responsibilities.
In 2008, St. Peter's Basilica has increased their fees (in fact they were doubled). The amount of time and paperwork involved for us in these weddings increased tremendously. Our basic cost (for the Chapel of the Choir in St. Peter's Basilica, your church paperwork, the administrative costs and time of the Santa Susanna Parish Staff, the organist and the priest) is 1,300 Euros (or the US dollar equivalent). The fee for the Chapel and for the organist alone make up nearly one half of this amount. This fee must be paid in full by check (made out to the Paulist Fathers) at least TWO MONTHS prior to the wedding date. If the wedding is cancelled after that date, these fees are not refundable! However, a 200 € non-refundable deposit or its American dollar equivalent is now required once the wedding date is confirmed at St. Peter's Basilica. This deposit, of course, will apply to the total fee required two months before the wedding itself.
We are often asked if it is appropriate to give a personal gift to the priest celebrating the wedding. This is certainly not required, but if you would like to do this, the suggested gift would be 100 € or so, given on the day of the wedding with your thanks for his assistance.
Other costs such as photographs or soloists are all extra. At the Vatican many of these services can only be provided by approved vendors. Here is some idea of approximate costs for other services:
Flowers: (75 € approx) For flowers and handling. The Vatican Chapel is so beautifully decorated that flowers are neither necessary nor distinctive at a Vatican wedding. In other words, do not waste your money. We can suggest florists from which to order bouquest and boutonnieres.
Photographers: (400 to 700 € approx) We can connect you with a photographer if you wish. There is a list of photographers in the general wedding section on this website. Photographs are given to the couple as contact prints and negatives to be taken home for printing. The fees is about 350-550 € for 70 negatives. For videography, (one copy in VHS compatible format- 1/2 hour in length) the fee is about 350-700 €. These are the most economical prices. There are better and more expensive photographers, and we can recommend these as well. However, you will need to negotiate directly with them. These fees may have increased in the past few months (2007). At St. Peter's the priest is required to seek permission for the Vatican Approved photographer to take photographs and videos for each specific wedding, from the Pontifical Office of Social Communications. The photograph is only given permission to take photographs in the Chapel of the Choir (and in the Piazza in front of the Basilica) but NEVER inside the Basilica itself.
Soloist: If you would like a singer/soloist to sing at your wedding at St. Peter's, please let Fr. Tom or Fr. Greg know as they will need to arrange this in advance. Our Wedding fee is inclusive of the services of an organist, but there is an extra fee i(100 € ) if you would like a soloist. Please know that the choice of music is very limited and depends on what the organist/soloist knows. This is doubly difficult as we often do not know who the organist or soloist is until the day of the wedding.
Sposi Novelli (Newlywed) Tickets to the Pope's Audience: REGARDING NEWLYWED AUDIENCE TICKETS, please note that were informed today (November 8, 2011), that we will no longer be given Sposi Novelli (newlywed) tickets to distribute for the Papal Audiences. If you would like these tickets, you will need to apply directly to the Prefect of the Papal Household, fax number (011)39.06.6988.5863, and then pick them up yourselves at the Bronze Doors to the right of St. Peter’s Basilica. Please remember, however, that to receive these tickets you need to have been married in a Catholic Church eight weeks or less on the day of the audience, and you will need to prove this with an authentic Church marriage certificate. We are very sad and sorry that we are no longer able to assist newlywed couples in obtaining these tickets.
This is the Information about weddings at St. Peters at the Vatican. We have tried to inform you of as many details as possible. There may however, be some particulars relating to you or to your intended spouse, that may cause difficulty, or even make the process easier. During our initial telephone conversation, we will be happy to discuss your particular circumstances with you. We hope you find this of some help!