Amore. Such a beautiful word. Even saying it feels romantic. For me, when it came to choosing where to get married it went without saying that of course I’d marry here in Calabria. I had in my mind the image of a warm afternoon outdoors, the sweet smell of flowers and beautiful music playing. So that’s what I did.
Like every bride I’m sure, I spent hour after hour poring over wedding dresses, flower arrangements and colour schemes. I Pinterest-ed to my heart’s content, contemplated the merits of different fonts for the invitations and wrote to-do list after to-do list. And I loved it.
While researching my perfect day I stumbled upon, well, tripped somewhat massively over a number of Italian wedding traditions, some of which were sweet and others which are downright bizarre. So if you’re thinking of having an Italian wedding or just want to introduce some Italian wedding traditions have a look at some of these.
As an English girl I thought confetti was the coloured paper thrown over
the happy couple after the ceremony. Wrong. Confetti is actually the sugared almonds which proudly take their place at every wedding. Not only do you give these to your guests to take home as a keepsake but in a Calabrese wedding you have a collection of various flavours for the guests to munch on at the end of then night, if the five hours of eating didn’t hit the spot!
La serenata Romance and music go hand in hand and what could be more romantic (or cringeworthy!) than your beloved appearing beneath your window on the eve of your wedding and serenading you. While this may seem like something you’d see in a film in Calabria it still takes place, though I’m pretty sure it’s much more tongue in cheek than it once was. If music be the food of love, play on!
Rice After you’ve said I do and the guests have left the church, it’s your turn. But it’s not coloured paper or even rose petals that are thrown over the happy couple on their exit, it’s rice. And it hurts, especially if your friends think it’s funny to hurl it at you as hard as they possibly can. In your eyes. Thanks a lot guys.
Cutting ties. Literally. Some calabrese grooms will don a tie for their ceremony and upon arriving at their reception it will be hacked it into hundreds of tiny pieces with a pair of scissors. These pieces are then exchanged for money by the guests. Why? I haven’t the foggiest but considering the buste (see below) it’s not really necessary to ask for more money!
The bridal bouquets In Calabria some brides have not one bouquet but two! They enter the church with their flowers and then present them to their mother-in-law when they reach the end of the aisle. Their beloved then presents the bride with a new bouquet instead. The idea is that you are saying thanks to mama for bringing up your new husband and the bouquet from your husband is your first gift as a (very-soon-to-be) married couple.
Table for two Another popular wedding tradition that surprised me when I was planning my wedding was the absence of a top table at the majority of weddings that I attended. Instead many newly-weds opt for a sweetheart table ( a table for two) where they can stare deeply into each other’s eyes and enjoy their time alone as a new married couple (in front of the 250 noisy wedding guests shouting “Bacio” every two minutes of course).
Eat, eat and eat some more It goes without saying that the central point of every Italian wedding is of course the wedding meal or should I say wedding feast. After all it is the heart of Italian culture and on your special day you deserve a very special meal. If you are lucky enough to attend an Italian wedding or indeed have your own, be prepared to eat like you’ve never eaten before. My relatives still talk about certain dishes from my wedding; a huge antipasto buffet (that the English guests thought was the entire meal) plate after plate of delicious pasta and fresh grilled seafood, washed down with gallons of wine and followed with a dessert buffet which included crepes, cakes, chocolate fountains, fruit skewers and an ice cream buffet. It is what people talk about most after a wedding, more than the bride’s dress or the venue, and is what is remembered by guests for years to come so of course it is spectacular.
La busta Italian wedding tradition includes helping the married couple finance the cost of their wedding and indeed to start their new lives together. In Italy instead of receiving a toaster you will receive la busta from your wedding guests. This is an envelope that the guests fill with money and give to the couple normally at the end of the wedding when the couple are giving out their bomboniere. Weddings are big business and the buste are the guests way of starting the couple off on their new life together. Serious cash can change hands here…
Luck As with many things in Italy and the world over there are lots of superstitions surrounding weddings and many rituals associated with warding off bad luck. For example, the day before the wedding the bride usually wears green as this is considered a lucky colour. On her wedding day she should wear no gold other than her wedding ring as this again is considered to bring bad luck. In some weddings the bride and groom even break a glass at their reception and count the shards as the number of these are considered to represent the number of happy years that lie ahead!
Whether you choose to include these traditions or not one thing is certain; an Italian wedding is an unforgettable one. Viva gli sposi!
Photo credits: Annalie Johanson