During our language chats, my students and I talk about many different topics.
Depending on what each student likes, we talk about sports, books, movies, daily life, politics, travels, and lots of other fun stuff. I have to admit that, if the student is interested in the topic, I love chatting about Italian wedding traditions because I always find it fun to compare them to those of other countries.
I really love weddings and I am always curious to know how they are celebrated in other parts of the world. I love weddings because they are a joyous moment when people are happy and want to celebrate. Also, there are usually lots of interesting habits linked to this event!
I always have a lot of fun with students when we talk about this subject and I thought it could be interesting to write a post about Italian wedding traditions as well, listing some of the most common habits that are related to that big moment here in Italy.
First of all, let me tell you what we don’t have: in Italy, there is no engagement party. I have read that in some countries this is quite common, but I have never heard of one here in Italy. Boyfriends usually give an engagement ring to their girlfriend and that’s it: they’re engaged.
Also, we do not have the tradition of “asking the question” and kneeling down to do so. It might happen, of course, but this doesn’t belong to the Italian wedding tradition (and I don’t know of anybody in my family or in my group of friends who has done so).
Another thing that we do not have is bridal showers. I have been told by a student that these are little gatherings to celebrate the bride and give her presents. There is no such thing in Italy: we have addio al nubilato, which are basically bachelorette parties but they do not really belong to our traditions. I have a feeling that this is something that has been imported from the US and that has now become part of the Italian wedding celebrations.
Speaking of presents, the tradition has changed a lot in recent years. When I got married, it was still very common to have a lista nozze, (wedding list): this meant going to a store and choosing some items for the house, which the guests would then buy for the couple. I chose not to do so – I already had all I needed – and did something different, asking guests to help us buy our honeymoon trip.
This is a very common trend: you go to a travel agency, pick your honeymoon package and ask your guests to give money to the agency to help buy that package. Actually, things have changed again recently because it is now very common to just transfer money to the bride and groom’s bank account directly.
Speaking of Italian wedding traditions, there are a lot of habits related to the big day. First of all, it is important to choose the day of the wedding carefully. An Italian saying is né di venere né di marte non si sposa, non si parte, né si dà principio all’arte, which means that on Tuesdays and Fridays you must not marry, leave or begin any big life project. So it is very uncommon to get married on those two days of the week.
It is the groom’s job to supply the bridal bouquet. He has to go to the florist’s, choose a bouquet of his choice without the bride knowing – well, ok, would you ever believe that? Brides would never accept such a thing, right? It is absolutely mandatory to make arrangements with the florist in advance! – and have it delivered to the bride’s house on the day of the wedding.
If you get married in a church, depending on the region you live in, it is either tradition for the groom to wait outside the church and walk down the aisle together with the bride or to wait at the altar while the bride walks down the aisle with her father or somebody else. When the wedding celebration is over, guests await the couple outside of the church (or the city hall, if the couple is not religious) and throw rice at them, making priests furious because removing the rice from old cobblestone churchyards is not exactly an easy task.
The couple kisses all their friends and family outside the church or the city hall and sometimes gives them confetti. According to the tradition, confetti are sugared almonds but they are now frequently replaced by chocolate covered in sugar (but let me tell you that the traditional almond ones are WAY better). Most of the times, all formal pictures are taken right after the ceremony, outside the church or the city hall.
Once again, depending on the region you live in, there are different traditions regarding fun tricks after the ceremony. For example, the couple might have to cut a log in two with a double handle saw (I have seen this a lot!) but I am sure there are a lot of other strange traditions throughout Italy! One thing is common everywhere though: when ready to leave the church or the city hall to reach the wedding party location, the guests follow the newlyweds with a great parade of honking cars.
The wedding party often takes place at a fancy restaurant. There can either be a big lunch or a dinner, followed by dance and more partying. At some weddings, particularly in Northern Italy, the best man cuts the groom’s tie into little pieces and then sells them to the guests, giving the money to the couple. This was a very common thing in the past but it seems it has disappeared, thankfully.
Sometimes friends of the newlyweds sneak away to play tricks in the couple’s house (they put itching powder in the bed, make a mess everywhere, hide shoes, and so on), while others organize practical jokes for the couple. During the party, the bride throws her bouquet to the single ladies attending the banquet. Whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to get married!
When the party is over, the couple greets the guests and gives them a bomboniera, a wedding favor consisting of a small gift and a small bag of confetti. Finally, the newlyweds can leave for the viaggio di nozze or luna di miele, (honeymoon), and guests can go home and relax!
What do you think of these Italian wedding traditions? Do you have similar traditions in your country?
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