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Italian Wedding Traditions

Marriage is one of the most important moments in life.  Whether it is celebrated with a civil or religious ceremony, each country enriches it with its own customs, which often have ancient and superstitious roots.

Italy is a country rich in customs and traditions, especially as regards weddings.

Nowadays, although some of the traditions have faded, a few unique rites are still respected by young spouses, who decide to be traditionalists at least as much as their parents were. 

So here is a list of all the propitiatory rites for believers and not of the classic Italian wedding.

The wedding dress

Tradition has it that the wedding dress is strictly white, symbolising purity and candour. Also, the groom shouldn't see the bride before the ceremony. This custom dates back to ancient times, when marriages were arranged by families, to prevent one of the future spouses from considering the other unattractive and withdrawing.

The throwing of the rice

Ritual that we inherited from the ancient Romans, and which represented a wish for prosperity and fruitful life. In ancient Rome, rice was readily available and had a lower cost than wheat. 

Today, however, more and more municipalities prohibit the throwing of rice, which is harmful to the environment and animals. In its place, petals, balloons or soap bubbles.

The car for the wedding

Many newlyweds rent a historic car or a luxury model for their wedding day. This is an extra detail, with which to customise the arrival of the couple in the church, or in the town hall, and then the transfer to the party location.

There are many traditions related to the bride and groom's car. As for the path that leads to the place of the celebration, there is only one rule to observe: the bride must sit in her back seat, to the right of her father. After having pronounced the fateful yes, the couple is accompanied to the reception by a wedding procession, characterized by a deafening horn concert. Unlike what one might think, the purpose of this practice is not to attract the attention of passers-by or to celebrate the new couple, but to drive away and keep away evil spirits and the forces of evil. 

For exactly the same reason, friends often stick old cans on the back of the machine.  One of the latest trends is instead to fill the car of the couple with balloons. It is a game, a joke to brighten the atmosphere before the actual party begins.

The throwing of the bouquet

The bouquet of flowers symbolises the last gift between engaged couples, in fact it should be delivered to the bride's home on the morning of the ceremony. 

As for the traditions linked to the bouquet, there are two different currents of thought: the first wants the future husband to give the bouquet, who has the bouquet delivered to the bride on the morning of the wedding as a last gift before the big step; according to another tradition, more widespread in the south, it is the mother-in-law who gives the bouquet to the bride and delivers it personally on her wedding day. The bouquet must then be thrown at the end of the ceremony towards a group of unmarried women and the one who will take it will be the next to get married.

…and the toss of the garter

Historically, the men invited to the wedding tried to grab a piece of the bride's dress to keep it as a lucky charm. The modern variant of this custom makes it possible to put the white dress intact in the wardrobe: the groom takes off the garter from the bride, with his teeth or hands, and then throws it to celibate guests. As with the bouquet, the winner of this contest will be the next to get married.

Cutting the tie

This is a little appreciated custom, but in some areas of Italy it is still very much in vogue: the cut of the tie. The groom's tie is cut into small pieces and each flap is given to the men in exchange for a cash donation. The higher the donation, the larger the piece of cloth donated.

The serenade

Still widespread in some italian regions, the serenade is a particularly romantic tradition. The night before the wedding, the groom, accompanied by singers and musicians, goes to his beloved's house and declares his love for her in music. The whole neighborhood flocks to assist and celebrate the future spouses.

The bride in the arms of the groom

The triumphal entry into the house dates back to the ancient Romans. The groom took the bride in his arms to prevent her from tripping over her threshold, attracting evil spirits who would enter the house and disturb married life forever.

The wedding rings

Tradition has it that the witnesses (“testimoni”) donate the wedding rings to the spouses. Furthermore, if unfortunately the wedding rings should fall to the ground during the ceremony, the officiant should promptly collect them.

Something about ...

All Italian brides follow this old rule.  Something old (symbol of the life that one leaves behind), something borrowed (bond with one's origins and loved ones), something new (symbol of a new life), something given as a gift (gesture of love of people care) and something blue (to represent purity).

The preparation of the wedding bed

Among the most important rituals in view of the wedding day is the preparation of the wedding bed, the first bed. A few days before the wedding, the bride's unmarried friends have to fix the bed. Usually, there is the bride's mother who also brings with her the kit and fine sheets with which to arrange the bed. In some regions it is customary to place rice, wheat and rose petals on it.

The Confetti

The wedding favours (in italian “confetti”) arrived in Italy only in 1700 with the wedding of the Prince of Naples, Vittorio Emanuele and Elena of Montenegro. At the time, it was a typical custom of the nobles who brought various sugar-based sweets with them to give them as a sign of thanks to all the guests at the reception. The confetti have a symbolic value, being to symbolise fertility, health, wealth and happiness.

For the confetti there are very specific rules: the number of confetti must always be odd and usually 5 confetti are placed which symbolise health, wealth, happiness, long life, fertility and spirituality. 

Another ancient tradition, now superseded by the so-called sugared almond, provided that the groom, after cutting the cake, went around the tables with a tray full of sugared almonds and that the bride with a silver spoon always served them to the guests in an odd number.