Italy is full of unique customs and the wedding traditions are no exception! Marriage is a hugely significant event in the life of any couple and consequently the wedding practices in different countries reflect the nation’s culture, religion and values in general.
The ceremonial wedding traditions are passed down through the generations and play a major role in the life of communities all over Italy. However, not only does Italy have some unusual wedding traditions that are fairly universal but different regions in the country even have their own takes on the best way to celebrate the special day. Holding a wedding in Italy is not just a popular thing to do among the expat community, but also among the Italian American community back in the United States.
I have written in the past about how to select a location for a wedding in Italy and also about important things you should know about planning a wedding in Italy.
Important Wedding Traditions Of Italy.
Learning about one of the most central ceremonies in the life of Italians is a fascinating insight in the culture of the land of the Dolce Vita. If you want to have a truly authentic Italian wedding then you can also incorporate some of the country’s ancient traditions into your own ceremony!
Italian Wedding Traditions Before The Wedding.
The following are some of the traditions that happen before the wedding:
- Take Off Any Gold Jewelry: In many parts of Italy it’s customary to remove all items of gold jewelry for the wedding; with the exception of course, of the wedding rings themselves! This is because it’s widely believed that wearing gold jewelry to a wedding can bring bad luck to the happy couple.
- No Pre-Wedding Sights Of The Bride: Although this is not entirely unique to Italy, it’s traditional for the groom not to be allowed to see the bride in her dress before the wedding day. However, in some communities of Italy the bride isn’t even allowed to see herself in her own dress before the wedding! Once the bride is dressed and ready for the wedding she is allowed a quick glimpse of herself in the mirror but only if she removes either a shoe or a glove before looking.
- The Serenade: The serenade, or ‘La Serenata’ in Italian, is the tradition of arranging a serenade beneath the bride’s window on the night before the wedding celebrations. The bride’s friends and family are told in advance when the serenade will take place while it’s kept a secret from the bride. Then, at the appointed time a group of musicians, as well as her friends and family, gather beneath her window to sing romantic songs to her in her room! The plan is to wake up the sleeping bride with the beautiful refrains so she hears romantic songs as she wakes.
- Who Buys The Flowers? In Italy it is the usual custom for the groom to buy the flowers for the wedding day. However, although the groom pays for the flowers the bride and her bride’s maids still choose the type of flowers and the overall color scheme for the big day. In the northern provinces of Italy it’s also traditional for the groom to hand a bouquet of flowers to the bride as she arrives at the church on the wedding day.
- The Rehearsal Dinner Before The Big Day: It’s common to have a rehearsal for the wedding and a dinner afterwards during which the groom’s best man will toast to the couple, saying ‘Per Cent’anni’ which means ‘for a hundred years’ in English. Another popular toast at the rehearsal is ‘Evviva gli sposi’ which means ‘Hooray for the newlywed couple’. The bride also traditionally wears the color green at the rehearsal to bring the couple luck in the future although today the bride will usually pin a green brooch to her dress or tie a green sash around her waist to honor this custom.
Italian Wedding Traditions During The Wedding.
The following are some of the traditions that happen during the wedding:
- Making Sure The Couple Are Lucky In Life: One of the superstitious traditions that takes place at the wedding itself is for the groom to put a small piece of iron in his jacket pocket to bring the couple luck. After the wedding the bride will tear a small piece of cloth off her veil to bring them further luck in their marriage. During the wedding itself a ribbon is tied across the doors of the church so anybody passing by knows that there is a wedding taking place. The ribbon is also placed across the doors to keep evil spirits out of the church during the wedding ceremony.
- Don’t Wear White To A Wedding: While many brides in Italy wear a white dress on the day of her wedding, it’s strictly forbidden for the guests at the wedding to wear white. Guests can wear clothes of any other color but they cannot wear white! This is so the bride stands out from the rest of the guests but it also adds to the special feelings of the day for the couple.
- The Veil: In some parts of Italy, particularly in the South, the bride’s veil is made to varying lengths depending on how long the couple have been engaged for. The bride’s veil should be 1 meter in length for each year that the couple have been engaged.
- What Day Should You Get Married On? In Italy the specific day of the week that you get married on really matters! For example, it’s considered to be terrible luck to get married on a Friday; whereas, getting married on a Sunday is thought to be good luck and will bring the couple future prosperity and fertility. Tuesdays are also thought to be bad luck for getting married because it is believed that doing so will mean that the couple will always be fighting throughout their marriage. This reminds me of weddings in India (India has tremendous diversity. There are large numbers of people from many different religions and regional diversity). However, for the most part, Indian marriages typically happen only on “auspicious days”.
Italian Wedding Traditions After The Wedding.
The following are some of the traditions that happen after the wedding:
- Break A Vase After The Ceremony: Following the wedding ceremony it’s traditional for the newlyweds to break a glass vase. It’s said that the number of pieces that the vase breaks into will equal the number of years that the couple will be married for; so it’s usually a good idea to smash the vase quite forcefully on the floor!
- Throwing Rice: As the newlyweds leave the church after the ceremony the guests will throw rice over the happy couple. This is because the rice represents fertility and means that the couple will have many healthy children in the years to come. Throwing rice is also part of the tradition among certain Hindu communities in India. Typically in India, it is the bride who does it. This is known as Vidaai.
- Be Generous With The Bomboniere: In Italy it’s common to give wedding favors to the newlyweds which are known as ‘Bomboniere’. Guests give the couple small gifts as a way of saying thanks for being invited to their special day. A popular tradition is to give the couple sugared almonds, always in an odd number! In times gone by the Bomboniere were thrown at the couple as they were leaving the church but today you’ll be more likely to see this being replaced with biodegradable confetti!
- Leaving The Church: As the couple leave the church after their wedding ceremony the guests, as well as locals passing by, clap their hands and shout ‘Auguri’, which means ‘best wishes’. If you’re getting married in Italy you should expect complete strangers to join in the celebrations and stop to wish you best wishes after the ceremony!
- Cut The Groom’s Tie: Another strange Italian wedding tradition is to cut up the groom’s tie at the reception after the ceremony. The tie is cut into many small pieces which are sold to the guests! The proceeds of the sale of the pieces of the tie are used to help cover the costs of the wedding day itself.
- Give Monetary Gifts: During the wedding day it’s customary for the bride to take a satin bag with her which she carries around after the ceremony. As she makes her way among the guests they put gifts of money into her bag. This money is intended to help the newlyweds to establish their new life together as a married couple. Gifting utensils, furniture, jewelry and all kinds of household items to help the new couple is fairly common in India. However, among certain communities in Tamil Nadu (A State in South India), it is also common to collect cash before the wedding from those who attend the wedding and give it to the newly wedded couple.
- The First Dance After The Ceremony: Following the wedding the guests traditionally hold up colored paper streamers and tie the couples hands together. Then the couple customarily dance the Tarantella together, particularly in Southern Italian provinces. The Tarantella is an old folk dance which has a fast tempo and is normally accompanied by musicians playing tambourines in time with the dance. While the couple dance the guests surround them in a circle and move in a clockwise direction as the tempo of the music gets faster and faster. Then the tempo shifts again and the group rotates in the opposite direction, repeating these changes until they are all tired out!
- Play A Practical Joke: After the wedding ceremony, at the reception, friends and family of the bride sneak off to play practical jokes on the couple’s home, their car or even their hotel room! In other cases, if they can’t access their car or home they plan practical jokes which they’ll play on the couple in the future. This light hearted tradition is very rare outside of Italy and shows how much the Italians love to have fun!
Key Regional Wedding Traditions Of Italy.
There are several unique wedding traditions. The following are the ones from the well known regions of Italy:
Wedding Traditions Of Tuscany.
The ancient province of Tuscany has some very interesting wedding traditions that stretch back for hundreds of years. One of the most noticeable customs in Tuscany is that the brides at a wedding wear a black dress and white hat! Wearing black to a wedding in most countries would be unthinkable but in Tuscany it’s the norm.
Another wedding tradition in Tuscany states that unmarried women are not allowed to witness the actual wedding ceremony. As a result of this all the bridesmaids have to be married women; although younger, unmarried girls and women can attend the rest of the celebrations after the actual marriage ceremony itself is finished.
Wedding Traditions Of Veneto/Venice.
In Venice it’s traditional for the bride to wear two dresses over the course of her wedding day. Of the two dresses, the finest one would be saved for her first dance at the reception after the wedding ceremony was over. During the wedding ceremony itself the bride would be led into the church wearing the other dress while the groom would follow behind her with the maid of honor.
Wedding Traditions Of Sicily.
In Sicily, which is a very religious part of the country, the wedding is divided into two different occasions. The wedding celebrations in Sicily involve a civil ceremony that is followed by a religious ceremony which is considered to be the more important of the two.
Another wedding tradition in Sicily is for the bride to arrive at the church on the back of a horse with torches lighting her way!
Italian Wedding Traditions Make The Ceremonies Unique!
Every culture has its own special wedding traditions but in Italy they have taken this to the next level and developed a remarkable range of customs over the generations. Italians are fiercely proud of their heritage and so the old wedding traditions have survived the test of time.
If you’re an Expat in Italy then it’s popular for couples to adopt some of the local traditions in order to experience a truly authentic Italian wedding! Italian weddings are a mix of religious and civil customs that together make the day unique, fun and memorable for both the couple and their guests.