Traditions and curiosities
If you are in love with Italy and adore the idea of an authentic Italian wedding, then its worth throwing in a few of the Italian wedding traditions. Not only does it make it fun for your family and guests, but its also nice to have a mix of your own traditions and Italian ones.
Just as with food and dialect, wedding traditions vary from region to region. Here are a few ideas to start with.
Calabria: The southern Italians are ‘wild over weddings’, with families save up for years to help the bride and groom. Southern weddings are usually very long with many food courses; the wedding day often starts with a wedding breakfast at a family home, then onto the church, then onto the reception where eating and dancing continue to the early hours. In the south the bride’s veil needs to be as long as the years of love before getting married: one meter for each year of their engagement.
Campania: The tradition of the “serenade” is still alive and well in Campania. In this region, the night before the wedding the groom will stand beneath the balcony of his beloved and sing local love songs. Once she turns on the light and looks down from the balcony, she is considered to have accepted her betrothed’s proposal in public. From there the party continues with songs and good food, usually offered by the bride’s parents. Similarly, every year in early August the Festival of the Serenade sees balconies adorned with flowers; these are the houses of those girls awaiting their suitors. At the end of the festival, each boy will climb the balcony and bring a red token of his love, and in return will be granted a kiss.
Emilia Romagna: in the Bologna area confetti are usually replaced by zuccherini, ring-shaped white biscuits prepared by the women of the bride’s family
Lazio: In Rome the groom used to carry a piece of iron (ferro) in his pocket to ward off evil spirits, or malocchio.
Puglia: Pulian weddings are legendarily long and food is always abundant and often given as a present as well. Guests who cannot make it to the wedding, will receive a selection of pastries or ice cream after the wedding day
Sardinia: In Sardinia, guests hurl crockery at the newly married couple in the symbolic tradition of ‘breaking the plate’! The plate is full of five items: grains (symbolizing abundance), salt (symbolizing wisdom), rose petals (symbolizing tenderness), candy (symbolizing sweetness), and money (symbolizing richness). Sardinian tradition says you break the plate and throw its contents onto the bride and groom, and in so doing you symbolically pass these same qualities (abundance, wisdom, tenderness, sweetness and richness) onto the bride and groom and their life as a married couple.
Sicily: Where two ceremonies take place, both a civil and a religious ceremony, the religious is considered to be more significant. The groom still does not consider himself married until after the church wedding. The bride arrives at the church on horseback, with the ceremony frequently taking place at night, and the way being lit with torches.
Food being of utmost importance, the presence of a dessert table is of utmost importance and originates from the “Venetian hour,” a Sicilian tradition of having an array of pastries, fruits, cakes in great quantities.
Tuscany: Some of the oldest traditions dating back to the 19th century are no longer followed today, yet are very interesting, particularly in how they differ from region to region. For instance, years ago, in Tuscany, the bride wore a black wedding dress and a white hat, and carried a fan, even in the winter months. Since no unmarried girl was allowed to witness a wedding ceremony, the bride’s “bridesmaids” consisted of married women, who accompanied her to the church.
Umbria: a bride walking from her home to the church would find her way barred by guests, and would need to pay a fine (in coins or confetti) to have it cleared
Veneto: In Venice the custom was for the bride to walk to Church in her second-best wedding dress, saving her finest gown for the wedding dance at the reception, which was held later in the day or evening. In the procession to church, the bride walked on the canal side, arm in arm with the “compare,” and the groom walked behind her, arm in arm with the “comare.”
Today many brides carry on the same or similar version of the Italian custom of “buste,” where she carries a small satin bag (la borsa), and guests place envelopes with money inside. Sometimes the bride wears it and dances with the guests in exchange.
Almost all Italian newlyweds today celebrate the custom of giving their guests a small gift known as a confetti bomboniera. This tradition dates back to roman times, and the bomboniera consists of five or seven (always an odd number for luck) sugar-coated almonds wrapped in tulle or netting with ribbons. This symbolizes family life, as well as health, happiness, prosperity, fertility, and a long life together.
In recent years, it is widely used that the bride at the end of the reception carries a basket with bomboniera and gives them out to guests to thank them for attending.