How romantic to be married in Italy!
To begin, yes, marriages performed overseas which are legally valid in
both countries are recognized in the USA without an additional
stateside marriage license. For a marriage in Italy, the US Embassy
in Italy has a detailed guide to the requirements, which are a bit
complex. Prior to the marriage, you will need to visit the American
embassy or consulate to certify your eligibility to marry in your home
state. After the marriage, you will need to have an official seal
(Apostile) affixed to the marriage certificate (certificato di
matrimonio) for future use use as proof of marriage in the USA.
US Embassy in Italy: Marriage of an American Citizen in Rome's Consular District
The US Department of State has a fact sheet about marriages abroad in
general, and about marriage licenses and ceremonies in various
General Foreign Marriage Issues:
Country Specific Marriage Information:
Marriages of US Citizens in Italy:
With respect to your second question, there is no combination of legal
contracts which confer the benefits of marriage. In 1996, the
Government Accounting Office created a list of the federal statutes in
which marriage is a factor. These include the ability to file taxes
jointly, the ability to transfer Social Security benefits, and the
ability to sponsor a spouse in immigration. These benefits cannot be
obtained by unmarried persons.
To consider the positive, there are ways to obtain some of the legal
protections of marriage, such as writing a will. In certain states
and jurisdictions, civil unions or domestic partnerships confer some
of the protections of marriage. What state(s) are you living in? I
would be glad to research your state in a follow-up/clarification.
The GAO statement (PDF, HTML):
Finally, on to the stickiest of your questions. Finances are often a
source of difficulty in family life. First, one clarification. Your
wife's credit score will not be immediately tainted by yours. The
Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits creditors from using marital
status, and other factors, when considering an individual's
However, when you become joint owners of accounts, or joint applicants
for credit, your credit scores will begin to be linked. Also, if you
live in a community property state, you may both be liable for new
debts incurred after the marriage, but not prior to it. Community
property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New
Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Puerto Rico also has
community property law, and married couples in Alaska may enter into
community property if they both agree to it in writing. If you are in
one of these states, I can look into this in more detail if you
request a clarification.
Financial consultants, such as Don Taylor of Bankrate.com, suggest
that spouses keep separate finances when there is considerable
difference between their credit scores. At the very least, consider
not transferring your old credit card and loans to joint accounts. If
you need to apply for a mortgage, consider whether your wife could
qualify for a mortgage using her own salary and credit.
myFICO Facts & Fallacies (a consumer credit reporting service):
Experian FAQ: Personal Events: Marriage
Equifax: Life Events: Marriage or Divorce (mostly Divorce)
Wikipedia: Community Property
Advice from Don Taylor, PhD, CFA, Bankrate.com
I hope this helps. Let me know if there is some aspect that I've left
unanswered. And, good wishes to both of you!