Destination Weddings in Italy are Officially Back in Business

| Wed, 03/01/2023 - 03:18
destination wedding in Florence

Wedding tourism in Italy is mounting a comeback, according to a study from the Destination Weddings in Italy Observatory. The research, conducted by Centro Studi Turistici in Florence and funded by the national Ministry of Tourism, had additional institutional backing from ENIT (the Italian Government Tourism Board) and the Convention Bureau Italia.

Vows in Italy are a viable market again

The Observatory found that more than 11,000 foreign couples tied the knot in Italy in 2022 alone. For the forthcoming 2023 wedding season, an additional one thousand or more ceremonies and related events are expected to take place. That’s an increase of around 9.5%.

In 2022, an estimated two million tourists’ stays were attributable to destination weddings. With an average stay of 3.3 nights, that translated to revenue of about €600 million — up 11% from 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.

The boom in bookings has kept local wedding planners busy, but their work hasn’t been straightforward. Silvia Melone, who’s been based in Orvieto (Umbria) since 2007, told Italy Magazine that since last year, virtually no venues have had dates available to hold ceremonies on the weekends. 

“The race for the most beautiful Italian location has given way to the most available one,” Melone lamented. 

Who’s getting married and where

Although there’s been an upswing in destination weddings all over Italy, nuptials “under the Tuscan sun” are the most popular with foreign couples (21%). Lombardy, Campania, Puglia, Sicily and Lazio round out the top six regions.

Couples from the United States dominate the destination wedding market in Italy, accounting for 29.2% of weddings in 2022. This is nothing new: “From the postwar period to the present, the travelers who have chosen to marry in Italy have been the Americans,” Sandro Pappalardo, a board member of ENIT, said in a statement. 

The United Kingdom came in second at 25.7%, with Germany (10.2%) at a distant third. (Weddings of Italian couples outside their region of residence are also on the rise, with an estimated 7,160 of such ceremonies taking place in 2022.)

In line with long-term trends, villas remain the preferred venues for tying the knot. Transatlantic travel aside, spouses-to-be are showing an increased taste for the rustic and “green”: There’s been a steep downturn in ceremonies held in luxury hotels, castles and restaurants, replaced by heightened interest in borghi (small villages), agriturismi (farmstays) and countryside locations.

Bucking old stereotypes of the destination wedding hosts with little or no prior connection to the chosen locale, couples marrying abroad today often have a special bond with the location, according to Maria Elena Rossi, ENIT Marketing Director. “It’s an alternative way to experience the place,” Rossi said in a statement.

This carries implications for national image. “Italy is seen not just as a cradle of culture, but of romantic sentiment, too,” Pappalardo said.

Emotional ties, rustic-chic trends and “green” settings haven’t pushed more over-the-top fêtes out of the picture, however. Glossy affairs inspired by celebrity ceremonies — like last year’s Portofino party between social media personality Kourtney Kardashian and musician Travis Barker  — are still a cornerstone of the industry. In line with “revenge tourism” trends, surges in splashy “revenge weddings” may be on the horizon — Melone, for one, said she had “of course” heard the term.  

“Betrothed couples that have had to postpone, delay or cancel a wedding because of Covid travel restrictions are now finally able to make their dreams come true,” Melone added. “This is truly the year of redemption.”