As we get to the end of this blog guide, let me tell you that a wedding in Italy is *so* not the same thing as an Italian wedding!
In fact, the customs and traditions you bring to your celebration in this Country are sometimes very different from the ones applied to weddings here. I am not suggesting you should take up any of our traditions and incorporate it into your own wedding, but knowing about them can help you better liaise with vendors who are only used to working with Italian couples.
As you might know already, Italy is a land of strong traditions, rich folklore and a bit of superstitions.
Let’s start off with traditions:
1. the bride and groom must give ‘confetti’ (sugar coated almonds) to every guest as favor. Confetti should always be in uneven numbers (either 3 or 5) to symbolize the virtues of marriage: health, wealth, happiness, long live, fertility and spirituality. If you plan to embrace this tradition, make sure you choose Sulmona almonds based confetti, which are the best in Italy;
2. the bride and groom will not talk to each other or see each other, on the day of the wedding, before meeting in church for the wedding;
3. the bridal bouquet should be paid by the groom, who will give it to the bride as a last gift before she becomes his wife. Traditionally, these bouquet would be a simple bunch of orange blossoms (a symbol of purity), nowadays the bride can choose the bouquet according to her own gown, taste and the overall style of the wedding and the groom will pay for it;
4. after cutting the cake, the bride will toss her bouquet to her single friends (the one catching it is supposed to be marrying next) while the groom will slip the garter from his bride and toss it to his friends for good luck;
5. guests plan pranks for the bride and groom, mainly as a wicked way to make them ‘earn’ their money presents. Giving money in an envelope (the so-called busta as a wedding gift is still widely common in Italy, sometimes even encouraged by the couple and their families.
Here are a few proverbs/popular beliefs:
1. “sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata” (a wet bride is a lucky bride) rain is considered good luck on a wedding day;
2. “di venere e di marte, non ci si sposa e non si parte” (on Fridays and Tuesdays, you don’t get married and you don’t leave) it’s considered bad luck to get married (or leave for a trip) on Tuesdays and Fridays, apparently because in Roman times Tuesday was considered Mars (the god of war) day and Friday was the day evil spirits were born;
3. in the South of Italy the bridal veil should be as many metres long as the years of engagement, and yet the bridal attire traditional rules require the veil to be no more than 3 metres long;
4. the cars driving from the ceremony to the reception venue (the so-called corteo nuziale, or wedding procession) usually honk their horns in salute, this is traditionally done to scare off the evil spirits;
5. pearls are never worn by Italian brides as they are considered a symbol for tears, therefore a bad omen.
And let’s finish with full on superstition:
1. after the groom has left his house to go to the wedding, he cannot retrace his steps (it’s considered bad luck);
2. if the wedding rings fall on the floor during the celebration, only the officiant can pick them up;
3. the bride should not see herself in the mirror wearing her wedding gown, unless she’s missing a shoe, an earring or a glove.
Although the above elements are pretty common all over Italy, you will find that there are also many regional differences in folklore. Here are a few regional folklore elements, should you decide to pick one specific to the area where your venue is located:
Venice, Verona (Veneto) – guests would sing loud explicit chants during the wedding banquet to wish fertility to the newlyweds;
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;
Tuscany – every summer a medieval wedding is celebrated in Suvereto, near Livorno. It’s a proper civil wedding celebrated in medieval costumes;
Sicily – a special gift table is set (first at the family houses, then at the wedding) with all gifts on display and gift cards clearly stating who the sender is;
Puglia – Puglia weddings are legendarily long and food is always abundand 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;
Marche – at the bride’s house a small buffet would be offered to guests before the wedding, family and friends would pop in to pay a visit to the bride during preparations and later escort her to the wedding;
Lake area, Milan (Lombardia) – after tossing the garter, the groom would cut his tie into as many pieces as male guests, and sell them to each of them in exchange of money to pay for the honeymoon;
Portofino, Cinque Terre (Liguria) – according to folklore it’s bad luck getting married in September, as a September bride will soon become a widow (“Sposa settembrina, presto vedovina”);
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;
Ravello, Amalfi Coast (Campania) – serenading is still very common in a lot of villages, the night before the wedding the groom would serenade his bride until she’d turn the light on, interpreted as a renewal of the engagement. Afterwards a rich buffet would be offered by the bride’s family.
So, here we are, at the end of this short guide to planning your wedding in Italy. I hope you found it useful and that it shed some light on some of the many elements you will encounter during your experience. I’d love to read your stories in the comments below.
And, of course, should you find yourself lost or confused or simply in need of some extra help, feel free to contact me for an estimate. I’d be delighted to be your wedding day coordinator, or even your planner! Speaking of which… make sure you tune in tomorrow as there will be a special Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday offer for day of coordination packages in Tuscany!
I’m an Italian woman from northern Italy, married, I’ve been a guest to dozens of weddings and I don’t relate with many things you’ve written. I’ve seen every bride and groom do the same things I did…for example, I didn’t give just 3 or 5 confetti, my husband didn’t pay my bouquet and I went to the church with my bouquet in my hands before I met him in front of the church. I went out my home with my bouquet. I didn’t toss my bouquet to the female guests. I wore pearls, I’m from Veneto and my guests didn’t sing loud explicit chants during the wedding banquet to wish fertility to the newlyweds, nor I did it in other weddings.
Dear Giovanna, thank you for your comment, it proves that traditions are not necessarily a part of all weddings, nor they should be 🙂
This article was about long-lasting traditions that you can read about in etiquette manuals from the Fifties as well as hear about from elders from our communities. In my experience, non Italians are usually interested in knowing about these and incorporating a few in their wedding in Italy, and that was the reason behind the blog post. Naturally, as I didn’t discuss what is commonly done at Italian weddings recently, I’m not even implying that all of these should be applied. In fact, I’m an advocate for making your own traditions up as you go 🙂