A Guide to Italian Weddings
By Allison De Meulder
There are all types of weddings that couples can choose to have involving cultures and traditions of the past. One such avenue is that of the Italian wedding that takes on the cultural feel and traditions of Ancient Rome. When having an Ancient Roman/Italian wedding, all factors leading up to the big day are important. These factors include the engagement, the engagement party, the Hen and Bachelorette parties, the reception and how the bride gets to the ceremony without being seen by the groom. Another important element is "after the ceremony" and handing out thank you gifts to all the guests. As you can see, some of these Roman factors play a big part in today's modern weddings, even if you aren't Italian, you can still see Roman traditions in Western marriage ceremonies.
Below, you will find more information on Roman customs, the ceremony, reception, wedding attire and decor, as well as food, gifts and music which are tied into an Italian wedding.
Ancient Rome Customs
If you were to get married during the time of Ancient Rome, most likely your marriage would have been prearranged; meaning an agreement or pact between two families to unite the male and female. In these prearranged marriages, the bride was usually a teenager and her groom to be was in his 20s. In Ancient Roman tradition, when daughters reached the appropriate age to have a husband, parents would seek out mates who would benefit their family both financially and socially, selecting partners for their children who had wealth and power. As you can see, marriage during the Roman Empire was not inspired by love, romance or even physical attraction. The Romans had laws that regulated marriages. The couple had to be citizens of Rome. If you weren't citizens, the government would have to issue you a permit. Citizens were limited in whom they could marry. For instance, government officials could not marry local women. Soldiers could only marry under certain situations. If a wife was to ever be unfaithful to her husband and he therefore divorced her, she could never remarry.
Pre-Ceremony Traditions- Roman Style
The actual commitment to marriage always began with a betrothal, a ceremony connecting the two families together before a wedding date is given and the ceremony is planned. At this ceremony, a wedding contract is signed and a dowry is agreed upon. When it comes to the dowry, according to Roman customs and traditions, the groom is not supposed to pay for such things as clothing and personal belongings for the first year of marriage, this is the responsibility of the bride's family and this is the reason for the dowry to cover those needs. The deal when completed is sealed with a kiss. This is the first step to the marriage commitment.
The Roman Style Italian Wedding Ceremony
The second step involves the wedding itself at a later date, which was quite simple. The groom goes to pick up the bride from her home. He usually had a parade of people accompanying him to his bride's home. It is the bride's entourage of bridesmaids who take her out to meet her groom. The wedding ceremony isn't complete until the bride and groom sign the marriage certificate. After the signing, an elaborate feast follows. When the celebration is over, the bride and groom, along with their attendants, family and friends follow the married couple to their new home; where the groom carries his bride over the threshold.
The Italian Wedding Reception
The wedding reception takes place after the wedding and usually in a different location than the church where the wedding took place. The area for the reception is quite festive and decorated as such. This is where toasting, dancing, and eating takes place and where the bride and groom are introduced as husband and wife. With the Italian wedding, right before the festivities are over, the bride and groom break a vase symbolizing unity.
During Ancient Roman weddings, the bride would wear a white tunic with a belt knotted around her waist. She would also wear a flame colored veil and the veil was topped with a wreath constructed of flowers. Another small delicate part of the bride's attire is a small bag called a la borsa that she carries at the reception so that her guests could place envelopes of money into it for her use as a new bride.
The Décor of the Wedding Place
If you haven't guessed it, in reality an Italian wedding is performed in a Catholic church. You can tell a wedding is about to take place when you see a big bow draped over the doors or entrance of the church, announcing to those passing by that a couple is about to say their marriage vows.
Italian Wedding Music
Music plays a big part in a traditional Italian wedding. Planning an Italian wedding with all the festivities for entertainment includes different types of music for different aspects of the ceremony, from the beginning of the wedding to the party-time of the reception. Invited guests will experience a selection of music that fits the atmosphere and theme. For instance, there is prelude music, processional music, ceremony music and recessional music that will take you from one mood to another, from somber to lively.
Food for the Italian Wedding
At the wedding reception, you can expect to be treated well when it comes to dining. You will enjoy gourmet Italian food. There are usually at least 14 different courses on the menu. Meals are served with wine and other drinks. When first arriving at the reception, guests are greeted by the best man who serves them liquor as they make their toast to the married couple. After the meal, the wedding cake is cut and served. The cake is eaten while sipping on espresso and coffee.
Gifts, Tokens of Appreciation
At the end of the wedding and the reception, the guests are presented with what the Italians call a bomboniere, favors for the attendants to show the appreciation of them attending the couple's wedding. Bomboniere's are pretty little dainty baskets or boxes that are filled with almonds, candy or confetti. This practice symbolizes both the bitterness and sweetness of married life. It is said that 3 almonds represent fertility and 5 almonds are wishes for wealth.
For more information on this topic, please see following links.
Italian Wedding Reception Tradition This brief but informative article discusses wedding day traditions and Italian folklore. The article mentions the food at the reception and the custom of toasting.
Marriage Customs for Roman Women This article takes you back into the time of Ancient Roman history. It discusses marriage customs and what life was like for a Roman female.
Ancient Roman Families and Women's Roles This is a brief article on the Ancient Roman Family and what was expected of the Roman woman. Photos are included in this article, showing women as they prepare for a wedding.
Roman Marriage Ceremonies An article that discusses the traditions that occurred during Roman marriage ceremonies.
Roman Vs. Modern Marriage An article that talks about the differences between ancient Roman and modern day marriages.
Ancient Roman Weddings Learn about all the different parts of an ancient Roman wedding ceremony including what happens before and after.
Roman Weddings A page that talks about Roman weddings, marriage, and divorces.
Types of Roman Marriages There were two types of Roman marriages, learn about them here.
Italian Wedding Traditions This article talks about the Italian wedding traditions of the page and current traditions are also discussed.