Venice, the birthplace of Casanova, has always been associated with romance, and the city once known as the “Most Serene Republic” continues to be embraced by lovers who come to be serenaded on gondola rides and to steal kisses on St. Mark’s Square. They say that Venice is in danger of being loved to death, yet couples still can find serenity by wandering into the city’s small “calles,” or side canals, and discover dizzying beauty with a destination wedding held in one of Venice’s historic palaces. “Venice is a peerless destination for a wedding,” says Raffaella Alflatt, director of WedinItaly.com. “The water, the architecture and the history make this city an amazing backdrop for any love story.”
The “Queen of the Adriatic” is bejeweled with seemingly endless Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical palaces, many of which can be the setting for a lavish Venetian wedding, perhaps styled after the island’s famous masked Carnevale balls. Some, like the 15th-century Ca’ Vendramin Calergi on the Grand Canal, are in the heart of Venice’s old quarter, while others occupy one of the 100-plus smaller islands that make up this floating city.
Similarly, Venice’s outstanding collection of luxury resorts can provide easy access to the Rialto Bridge and other iconic local sites or spirit you off the well-worn tourist path. Recently refurbished, the Gritti Palace provides timeless views of the city from its terrace overlooking the Grand Canal, for example, while a wedding at the San Clemente Palace Kempinski is a private-island experience yet mere minutes away by private launch from the Piazza San Marco.
Housed in the Palazzo Papadopoli, a Baroque masterpiece dating to 1550, the Aman Venice offers the perfect blend of elegant service and exclusivity with its Grand Canal setting and two private gardens, including a unique green space directly on the canal. Proving that good things come in pairs, the Aman also boasts two Piano Mobile reception halls. It’s a small wonder that George and Amal Clooney chose to exchange vows here in 2014.
Needless to say, arriving for your wedding in a traditional Venetian gondola is easily arranged. The 19th-century Granaries of the Republic can be the unique setting for a wedding reception at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, which overlooks the lagoon and the Doge’s Palace from the tip of Giudecca Island. No matter where you wed, there’s little that’s ordinary about Venice: Even couples who want to get married in a civil ceremony at city hall do so in the environs of the Palazzo Cavalli, which boasts views of both the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.
Welcome and rehearsal dinners during a Venice destination wedding weekend can feature Michelin-starred restaurants such as Venissa, where locally sourced seafood is artfully presented within walled vineyards on the island of Mazzorbo. For traditional Venetian dining, Torcello and Pellestrina offer the best options; a celebratory meal or reception at the Locanda Cipriani restaurant on the island of Torcello pairs perfectly with a ceremony at the nearby Church of Santa Fosca.
The church’s landmark bell tower would be the inevitable backdrop for wedding photos in any other city, but in Venice it’s just one of countless magnificent settings, from the roof terraces of the Gritti Palace and the Hotel Danieli to the vaporetto (public ferries) and gondolas on the canals, the Riva degli Schiavone promenade with the Santa Maria della Salute in the background, and the colorful homes of Burano. Even tourist magnets can offer photo possibilities for early birds, notes Katiuscia Minozzi, Venice wedding expert for Italian Wedding Company. “We start the photo shooting at 5 am; St Mark’s Square at this time is amazing,” she says. Burano, an island where the traditional art of lacemaking still prevails, is a favorite destination for pre- or post-wedding outings for bridal parties, while the groom and his men may prefer a tour of Murano, the home of Venice’s ancient glassblowing “vetreria,” or the famous “squero” at Campo San Trovaso, where the gondolas are built. A bike ride along the beaches of Venice’s 6.8-mile Lido is a tour anyone will enjoy, and of course in Venice it’s never a bad idea to be on a boat at sunset, watching the ancient city bask in the last light of day to the accompaniment of prosecco and cicchetti.
When the excitement of the wedding day subsides and the guests depart, couples will find themselves free to wander the streets and waterways of the City of Love together. “Venice is undoubtedly the city of romanticism,” says Raffaella. “Maybe it’s the light that, as time passes by during the day, changes from the soft mist of the early morning to the glorious bright skies of midday and the amazing colors of the sunset.” Or perhaps it’s just the timeless appeal of a city that “seems to travel in the past,” says Katiuscia, making a Venetian destination wedding “like a dream.”
> Written by Bob Curley