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Advice for a trip to Venice

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Next year will be my me and my wife's 10yr anniversary. She has always wanted to go to Italy. I want to surprise her with a trip to Venice. Neither of us have ever traveled to Europe before. We live in Los Angeles, California, USA.

To give you some details of what I'm planning:

Travel date: April 2014. Duration: 5-7 days

Now, while we're in Venice, I'm also trying to plan a symbolic wedding ceremony for us. Not a full wedding event. Just a simple gondola ride with an officiant who will perform the ceremony for just me & my wife. She always wanted to get married on a gondola in Venice. Even though we're already legally married, I figured a symbolic wedding or renewal of vows would be a good choice since this should not require any type of legal paperwork.

Now. I'm hoping some of you experienced travelers might be able to offer some insight. Have any of you traveled to Venice for a symbolic wedding before? If so, can you give me some idea of how you planned your trip? Did you use a travel agent? Did you plan it all yourself? Concerning the symbolic wedding, did you go with a wedding planner? Seeing as how my symbolic wedding is rather small & intimate (just me & my wife), is it worth hiring the services of a wedding planner?

As far hotel accommodations, can anyone recommend a nice hotel that they've had good experiences with?

These are just a few of the many questions I have. I've done quite a bit of researching online and I'll also be researching travel books, but I always find the most useful information through experienced people like yourselves.

Thanks in advance to everyone who replies!

--Chris

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