The Traditional Italian Wedding

By Christina Milazzo

Every culture has its own unique traditions related to the rite of passage of a wedding, but the basics are almost always the same. This time-honored tradition is a celebration of not only the couple, but also the combining of two families. Although in current times, most of those same traditions are still carried out, the Italian wedding is steeped in tradition, food and folklore. I am always reminded of the movie “The Godfather” when I think of an Italian wedding and, although the movie somewhat romanticized the traditions for the Hollywood screen, it is very accurate in its portrayal.

The couple has courted, they are officially engaged, made their announcements and set the date. All the time up until the big moment seems to fly by, and now it’s time for the rehearsal dinner. I always find it interesting every time I host a rehearsal dinner because I think the parents are more nervous than the couple are. In true Italian spirit, this is a most-celebrated event, with family filled with lots of food, typically pasta and lots of wine. Two traditional toasts are given by the best man and the maid of honor. The first toast, Prosecco in the best man’s hand, is given for good luck to the Hundred Years for the couple, or “Per cent’anni”; the maid of honor then proclaims, “Evia gli spossi”, hooray for the newlyweds. The bride-to-be will be adorned with some type of green sash or emerald pin because green is considered good luck.

The big day is finally here—as pronounced by the ribbon tied to the front door of the venue to let everyone know that a wedding is being held. The bride and the groom will both have a small piece of iron in their pockets to keep away evil spirits, and additionally, the bride will have a small tear in her veil to welcome good luck. You would think the little nuances of the Italian nuptials would be done after the ceremony, but they have just begun. As the couple leaves after the ceremony, the guests and people in the streets clap and yell “Auguri!” to wish the couple luck. The guests have all placed flowers and ribbons on the fronts of their cars to “pave the way for a sweet life,” and now it is time for the reception feast.

It is not unusual to attend an Italian wedding reception and be presented with a fourteen course meal. Although not all of them may be this big, there will surely be lots of meats, cheeses and olives. Traditional Italian receptions normally feature Veal and Venison and other traditional meats for a main course option, such as an Osso Bucco. The dinner will end with a dessert called “Wanda”, bowtie fried dough that is twisted and dusted with powdered sugar.

If the newly-married couple have had the chance to eat, now it is time for the cake and the dance. The traditional dance is the “La Tarantella”, where the guests surround the couple, interlock arms and dance in a circle while the music speeds up in tempo. The bride will usually walk around with “la borsa” or the “bustle”, a little satin purse that guests will place envelopes with money inside. Often times, an envelope is given in exchange for a dance with the bride. The traditional cake is “Mille Foglie”, which is puff pastry layered with chocolate or vanilla cream and typically topped with strawberries and candy coated Jordan almonds are given to all the guests which represent the bitter and sweet future of the couple.

The families have become one, the couple is married, and they are ready to begin life together. Whether it is an Italian wedding or any other culture with its own traditions, the purpose is still the same—to celebrate the union of the couple and the families, but, most importantly, enjoy all of it! Salute!!