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This is part of a series How to Plan A Destination Wedding in Italy: A Step-by-Step Guide. Read the full guide here.

Two things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing your destination wedding in Italy is cost and location. Where you choose to get married in Italy will determine the cost – popular destinations means expensive venues, expensive fees, bookings made way in advance, and a lot more headaches that come with it. Plus, it may end up feeling a bit touristy. If it’s a real, local and intimate Italian feel that you’re going for, then don’t look at the usual touristy stops of Rome, Positano, Lago di Como, Florence, and Amalfi Coast. If you want to get married in Italy on a budget, you need to look for local, lesser known alternatives. Locations that are just as beautiful, if not more so. You’ll end up saving a fortune in more ways than one.

Look For Alternatives

If you’re looking to get married on a lake, skip Lago di Como unless you plan on having a very, very high budget and are looking for a more touristy experience. If, like me, you have a conservative budget, Lago Maggiore is your perfect location for a destination wedding in Italy. While a 100 person wedding at Lago di Como can add up to 6 figures, on Lake Maggiore it can be as low as $40,000 – and this includes food, beverage, open bar, reception, music, entertainment, boat rental, photographer, videographer, gifts…and the list goes on. And unlike Lago di Como, it’s actually got the real-deal fairy tale vibes you’ve been dreaming of since you were a child. Lago Maggiore consists of a number of islands known as the Borromean Islands. These islands are owned by the Italian aristocratic house Borromeo who acquired them in the 16th century. Today, they still own a majority of them. Getting married on actual royal property like a Count and Countess? Check and check. Yes, you can take an old school steamship ferry or private boat and visit the islands during cocktail hour. Heck, you can even get married on the islands if you want to. But the view of the islands is prettier from the mainland, which is where most of the Borromeo’s spend their post-nuptial celebrations.

The most recent Borromeo to get married is the Countess Beatrice Borromeo. She married none other than Count Pierre Casiraghi, the 7th heir in line for Prince of Monaco, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco and Stefano Casiraghi’s. Their first wedding was in Monaco, but their second wedding was in Beatrice’s own soil on Lago Maggiore. They tied the knot on their family private island of Isolino di San Giovanni located just steps from Grand Hotel Majestic in Pallanza. So while we may not be able to tie the knot on their private island, we can do it just steps from the island in the garden of Grand Hotel Majestic, a Belle Époque style hotel that’s been around since the 1870s.

Not only is Beatrice Borromeo part of the aristocratic family, but she is also related to Carlo Borromeo who was archbishop of Milan and later canonized a Saint by the Catholic Church. There’s even a huge statue of the Saint that stands tall overlooking Lago Maggiore in Arona. You can walk to the top of it like the statue of liberty and see the islands from there. So yea – this is real deal prince and princess fantasy. If you want to get married like royalty and have a fairy tale Italian wedding, you do it here – on Lago Maggiore.

Villa Rentals May Be Nice, But Hotels Have Lower Fees

You’d be surprised how fees rack up quickly when you rent a villa – and how inconvenient it can be. Most villas require you to rent out the entire place. Sometimes, guest accommodation is included in that price – which is a plus. There is a venue fee associated however with the villa. At Grand Hotel Majestic, or any other hotel, the venue fee is minimal since it’s a hotel. You are essentially just renting out the lawn temporarily for your ceremony at a very small cost of $600. The rest is included. At a Villa, that fee can range from $6,000 – $25,000 – just for the venue! At a hotel like Grand Hotel Majestic, it’s included.

Catering is a huge other price factor to consider. Food and beverage in Italy at a hotel with a 4 course-meal, wine pairings and cake included can range from $120 – $175 p/person. Not bad right? Now let’s say you want to cater at a villa. You need to pay for the cost of a catering company to come, set everything up, and on top of that there meals will not be as elaborate as the hotels that have some of the finest service and food around. One of my favorite parts about Grand Hotel Majestic was the bartender, Blendi, I swear that’s his name! He’s actually one of the top mixologist in all of Italy and has won plenty of awards. An added bonus is the attention to detail and support you get from the full staff at a hotel. You really get the entire hotel to focus on you. And for a fraction of the price.

Consider the Time Of Year…

Something I thought of, but also didn’t think of too much – unfortunately – is the temperature. Italy is very hot in the summer. We got married on June 24th, when the temperatures where very hot during the day, but could still be cool sometimes at night. The summer I got married, it never cooled. But I’d rather be hot then cold. The hottest times of year are late June to end of August. I’m not saying that heat should be a factor, but air conditioning should. Remember, in Italy not many places have A/C. Luckily, hotel’s like Grand Hotel Majestic have A/C. Even though even they struggled to keep us all cool all night long! A villa is definitely less likely to have one and you will get ridiculously hot.

Additionally, summer time means high prices in Italy. It’s peak wedding season. If you want to save a bit, consider end of September, beginning of October or May.

Proximity to Airport

Another very important thing to keep in mind when thinking about where to get married in Italy is the distance to the airport. You don’t want your guests having to take layovers, figure out trains, buses, car rental, take hours to get to your destination. Ensuring that your wedding location is close to an airport is critical. Lago Maggiore is 40 minutes from Milano Malpensa…the most convenient, one of the largest and easiest airports in Italy.

Cost? Check. Location? Check. Fairy Tale Vibes? Check. Proximity to Airport? Check.

Now that you’ve narrowed down location, time to find your perfect venue and start planning…You’re welcome!

>> Next: Everything You Need To Know About Grand Hotel Majestic, Lago Maggiore

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