Planning a “Matrimonio Italiano”? Make Sure You Know the Italian Wedding Traditions and Superstitions
Planning a “Matrimonio Italiano”? Make Sure You Know the Italian Wedding Traditions and Superstitions
The wedding day is one of the most important days in a person’s life and is certainly a momentous milestone. It marks the beginning of a new journey where two individuals come together to live as one soul. In order to make this occasion even more special, people usually choose scenic locations such as beaches, mountains, islands, etc. for living every moment in an enchanting ambience. Probably this is why people choose Italy as their preferred wedding destination.
When planning a wedding in Italy, it is important that you know about the traditions and superstitions that are related to wedding customs here. You might not be of Italian descent, but following the traditions would make your wedding special. It will also add the Italian touch to the celebrations. Check out the following traditions as well as certain superstitions that have been followed by Italians for ages.
Engagement / Proposal
It all begins with the proposal where the man proposes the woman for marriage. This is where it all starts, so the significance of this occasion can be understood easily.
Tradition: “During the proposal, a groom will typically serenade her first and then present her with a diamond ring because of the belief that a diamond was created by the flames of love”.
The diamond ring symbolizes eternal love, the promise of marriage, and the first step towards a life that would be lived together. The promises of engagement/proposal are sealed with a romantic kiss.
Unlike other cultural communities, the Italians do not have an engagement party as such. Instead, the couple organizing a meeting involving both of their families where they take permission to get to know each other. Subsequently, the couple also discloses their wish to marry.
Planning the Wedding
With the marriage being approved by both the families, the next step involves planning. This is a crucial step and requires careful attention to various aspects, including traditions and superstitions. Yes, that’s right. Superstitions play an important role in wedding plans, so make sure you keep a check on these to get into the mood of an authentic Italian wedding.
Superstition: “Sunday weddings are the luckiest and if a bride wears green the night before the wedding, it will bring luck and abundance to the couple.”
(Sunday is considered to be the best day in terms of luck, fertility and prosperity. Friday is not a lucky day because Italians believe that evil spirits were created on this day. Tuesday (Martedì) is a bad day to marry because it is believed that couples marrying on this day would fight for the rest of their lives. Marte (origin of the word Martedi) is a derivative of the term for God of War.
Saturday is considered to be the best day for widows who intend to remarry.)
Superstition: “If the bride wears gold on the day of the wedding or before it, she will receive bad luck. Instead, the bride has to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and something she has received as a gift.”
Superstition: “An Italian bride spends the night before the wedding at her parent’s house. Some wear green because it is said that brings good fortune.”
The traditions are related to dress code, conduction of marriage ceremonies, the reception, activities for the bride and groom, the honeymoon, and after marriage events. The details of these traditions have been discussed in the following sections.
The budget for the wedding is something that is taken up with immense care, especially when you are planning your wedding in a foreign destination. If you happen to plan it in Italy, then rest assured as your guests will help in lessening the burden of a hefty budget.
Tradition: “Italian brides carry a satin bag (la Borsa) at the reception for guests to place envelopes of money in, a tradition called the “bustle.” Daring brides wear it around their necks for male guests to drop in money in exchange for a dance.”
(It is interesting to note that when guests, especially male guests, place envelopes of money in the pouch, it is customary to ask the bride for an opportunity to dance with her. This takes place during the reception where the guests gather for the celebrations.)
The dress is an important aspect of any wedding, be it Italian or Indian. Not only are the bride and groom subjected to traditional dress codes, but the guests are also expected to follow the code. Italian weddings have an interesting dress code, especially for the bride. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional aspects of the wedding dress code.
Tradition: “Everyone expects to see a bride in white, however, it hasn’t always been the colour of choice. In Tuscany, for example, a traditional bride would wear a black dress with a white hat. In Venice, it was the custom for the bride to walk to church wearing her second-best wedding dress; her much finer bridal gown being saved for after the church ceremony for her first dance as a wife.”
Tradition: “It is customary for the bride to wear a bridal veil during the marriage ceremony”
(The bridal veil has a historical significance where it can be dated back to ancient Rome indicating the prevalence of arranged marriages. The veil served the purpose of covering the bride’s face which would prevent the groom from seeing the bride before marriage. It is believed that such practice would reduce the risk of either of them not going ahead with the proposal.)
Tradition: “It is rude for anyone other than the Bride to wear white.”
(Due to the prevalence of this tradition, black dresses are gradually gaining popularity and they are being considered to be an elegant outfit for attending an afternoon wedding ceremony.)
On the Way to the Church
If you thought that traditions exist only for ceremonies and marriage rites, then you are wrong. In Italy, there are traditions involving the journey which the bride and groom take to reach the church. One of the traditions involves the performance of daily activities that offer challenges to the bride and the groom. It is an amazing spectacle and everyone enjoys it. This is one of the reasons why you should definitely attend an Italian wedding once in your life.
Tradition: “On the way to the church, the bride and groom will receive several challenges involving a fallen broom, a crying baby, or other household chores to test their skills before marriage.”
(The bride and groom are given tasks which act as obstacles along the way. The purpose of these tasks is to prove that the couple can hold their love even through hardships and can live a long committed life together. This symbolic representation is an amazing sight indeed and is a unique wedding tradition in Italy.)
Superstition: “To ward off the evil-eye from envious people, a groom should carry a piece of iron (toc ferro).”
(This is more of a superstition than a tradition as the groom is made to carry a piece of iron (usually a rusted one) to keep away the negative impacts of “eye-eye” stares that may be given by envious people in the gathering.)
Tradition: “In Northern Italy, the groom brings the bride’s bouquet and he chooses the colour and style of the flowers as his gift to her.”
(This traditional practice is more prevalent in regions where the bride and the groom do not walk to the church together. The bouquet is presented at the reception where the Bride waits with her father for the groom to arrive.)
Tradition: “The Groom must not see the bride before the wedding ceremony, he is at the altar with his witness and waits till the bride steps are accompanied by her father who will then “give her away”.
(When the groom arrives at the church, the father of the bride shakes his hand, places a gentle kiss on his daughter’s cheek and seats himself with his wife in the first row of the benches. However, this is practised when the groom makes his way to the church unaccompanied by the bride.)
Tradition: “Tying a ribbon across the doorway of the church lets passers-by know that your wedding is taking place.”
This is a great way to let people know about your most special moment in life. A simple ribbon tied on the door of the church is enough to indicate that a wedding is in progress.
Tradition: “Less emphasis is given on Bridal parties. The common custom is for the best man and the maid of honour to be present as the only witnesses.”
The Exit / End of Ceremony
As the newlywed couple leave the church, they are greeted with shouts of wishes and a shower of rice. It is pretty similar to catholic traditions except for a few unique elements which make it a pleasant experience.
Tradition: “Locals to shout “Auguri!” (“Best wishes!”) and clap, whether they’ve met you or not!”
(These “shouts” come from all the directions, even from people who have never met you in life. Personally, I feel that this is a really nice tradition and makes the couple feel special on receiving wishes from strangers as well.)
Tradition: “Decorate the front grill with flowers to pave your road to la dolce vita (the sweet life).”
(The usual tradition is roping clanging cans to the back. However, this does seem to gather a lot of attention from all the clanking. That’s why the Italians prefer to decorate the front grill with flowers.)
Tradition: “It is a must for guests to throw rice or paper confetti at the newlyweds as they exit the church.”
(The rice that is thrown on the couple symbolizes a shower of fertility as per Italian traditions.)
Tradition: “A pair of doves are released into the air after a wedding.”
(The releasing of a pair of doves symbolizes love and happiness, apart from signifying the universal perception of doves as symbolizing peace and harmony.)
Tradition:“Nuts and grain are often thrown as are candy-covered almonds tied in mesh bags”
(This is an interesting tradition which symbolizes an encouragement for conception. The almonds used in this sweet package are Jordan almonds which represent the bittersweet nature of marriage. It is interesting to note that these pouches (also known as Bomboniere) contain 5-7 individual units of candy-covered almonds as these numbers are considered to be lucky.)
Tradition: “A wine glass or vase is shattered at the end of the wedding ceremony.”
(When the vase or the wine glass is broken, the broken pieces are counted to determine the number of years the couple would remain happy together.)
The reception is the time when guests get to meet the newlywed and celebrate the starting of a new journey of love. There are many traditional activities that are performed at the reception which witnesses the participation of the couple as well as the guests.
Tradition: “No reception would be complete without dancing the traditional la tarantella.”
(La Tarantella is probably one of the most frenzied ways to wish good luck to the married couple. It is an interesting dance where the dancers hold hands and race in a clockwise direction till the time the music speeds up. At this point, they reverse the directions. The tempo, as well as direction of the dance, continues to change periodically till the dancers finally succumb to the energy-draining routine of changing the direction according to the music, and eventually falling down in a pile.)
Tradition: “At the reception, all the men at the reception are supposed to kiss the bride.”
(Male guests at the reception kiss the bride to bring good luck to them and to make the groom jealous. Obviously, any groom would be jealous to see so many people kissing his wife. But it is all taken in good spirit.)
Tradition: “During the reception, friends of the groom may sneak away to play tricks on the couple such as walling-in the door of the couple’s new home or putting itching powder on the bed.”
(Playing tricks with the groom and the bride is a common fun activity that is practised in most cultures around the world. The use of such practical jokes is to have some fun with the newlywed couple and to lighten the mood of the occasion.)
Food and Beverages
Food forms an integral and important part of any wedding reception. Italian weddings are known for their hearty spread of culinary delights which are accompanied by the choicest selection of wines. The menu could contain as many as 14 different items (usually comprising pasta, salads, soups, meats, and fruits) which are prepared in sufficient quantities so that “no one leaves hungry”. On the contrary, guests have been known to have a full stomach that is at the “verge of bursting”.
Wine is the main beverage available during dinner, but there are other beverages as well. The dessert course includes an array of decadent delights such as pastries, cakes, fruits and as much coffee as a person can drink. After having a couple of glasses of wine, the guests usually shout “Evviva gli sposi” which translates to “hurray for the newlyweds” in the English language.
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