The Italian Wedding

Long, long ago in Italy … a wedding scene might have looked like this: With her groom, a beautiful ebony-haired bride, her olive skin touched with the blush of romance, pledges her vows before a Roman priestess. Under a yellow cloak, the bride’s hemless tunic falls to the ground in a straight, supple line, allowing glimpses of her sandaled feet. Her hair is crowned with myrtle and orange blossoms. Supportive family gathers around, anticipating the feasting and the sacrifice of the best pig or sheep that will follow the ceremony.

Obviously a country where wedding traditions reach far back, Italy is now roughly 88% Catholic. It’s still a place where it is common for sons and daughters to live at home until they are wed, normally in Western wedding attire at a church mass. Sunday weddings are considered the luckiest. The bride will also try to avoid bad luck by not wearing gold on her wedding day (even her diamond engagement ring, which has been a commonly bestowed item in Italy since the 1400s!) until the wedding bands are exchanged. The bridal bouquet can sometimes be a gift from the groom, its colors unknown until he offers it to her, perhaps if he walks her to the church or meets her outside of it beforehand. Some couples stick to the tradition of the groom not seeing the bride until the ceremony. The bride also carries la borsa, a satin pouch meant to contain any monetary gifts from guests.

Following the ceremony, the nuptial couple is wished auguri (good luck) by the townspeople. Guests and wedding party will repair to the groom’s house, where in a lovely gesture his mother welcomes his bride with a palma. The palma consists of Jordan almonds arranged into a leaf-life formation and covered with cellophane. Guests toss confetti made up of candy, rice and grain. A wine glass may be broken with the number of its pieces symbolizing the happy years the couple will share together.

The best man begins the evening by serving drinks before dinner. Guests may toast the couple “Per cent’anni” or “for one hundred years.” The multi-course feasting can last four to six hours and be concluded with liqueur. Ceramic- or silver-plated gifts are presented to each family. And sometimes the groom’s tie is cut into sections and sold to the guests to finance the honeymoon! But, we guess that wouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re one of the out-of-town guests whose accommodations were paid for by the bridal couple! After all, they need a little reimbursement, right?