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There are so many different cultures, religions and beliefs in any one country, that it is entirely likely that your fiancée’s family is of a different background to your own. If this is the case you may be expected to follow their culture’s wedding traditions. To find out more about the traditions of Italian weddings, read on.

In Italy, it is customary for the bride and groom to walk to the church together. The townspeople would also put obstacles in the bride’s way to see how she reacts to different situations. Some couples would also cut a log in half with a double handled saw, showing they can work together.   

A ribbon is often tied on the front of a church before an Italian wedding to show there is a couple about to ‘tie the knot’.

To ward off evil spirits the Italian groom carries a piece of iron in his pocket. The bride’s veil is in place to protect her from jealous spirits, while tearing it is considered good luck.

After the ceremony, the couple can release white doves into the open to symbolize their love and affection for each other.

During the Italian wedding reception, the bride carries a satin bag for the guests to put money in. The bag is then given to the bride’s family who would have paid for the wedding. Before the end of the reception, the bride and groom break a glass or vase together. The number of pieces it shatters into is said to represent the number of years the couple will be happily married.

During the reception, toasts are made by guests when there is a lull. The toasts are often ‘hurray for the newly weds’ or ‘kiss for the bride’ when the bride and groom kiss for all to see.

Guests at Italian weddings are given sugar or chocolate coated almonds which represent the bitter sweet nature of marriage. The almonds are given to the guests in bags or parcels and distributed in odd numbers with three wishing good luck for children and five wishing fidelity, love and wealth.

During the reception, the groom’s tie is cut into pieces and ‘sold’ to the guests with the couple using the money on their honeymoon.

At the end of the reception, instead of streamers and cans being tied to the newly weds’ car, guests decorate it with fresh flowers to symbolise a new and happy life for the couple.

Italian Weddings  Customs and Traditions, Past and Present

Where once young couples considered it "old fashioned" to follow the ethnic customs of their ancestors, today, it is considered modern and perhaps even trendy to stage a wedding based on traditional family customs and beliefs. In years past and still today in many traditional Italian families, marriages were arranged by the families of the bride and groom. It would be the brother or another male relative of the groom whose role it was to visit with the father or uncle of the intended bride to ask for her hand in marriage. In some families, the request for a hand in marriage was sent by a matchmaker (masciata) in a missive to the prospective bride's family. The message would include the man's intent to marry the bride. Once the two families agreed on the union, the couple's official engagement was announced.

The official wedding planning process began with the prospective bride assembling a trousseau which consisted of household items and clothing. In some cases, it even included clothing for her future husband, which would be brought to the groom's home. Her bride's family provided her with a dowry consisting of money, as well as household furnishings. The tradition of the dowry has been reformulated and appears today as gifts of money and household items which are presented to the bride at bridal showers given by her friends and relatives. The groom celebrates with his friends and relatives at stag parties.

Traditionally, the ceremony (sposalizio) itself was officiated by the priest or civil authority. Old Church traditions and folklore banned marriages during Lent and Advent. Religious custom held that weddings should not be scheduled in May and August. May was reserved for the veneration of the Virgin Mary, while August, according to folklore, was considered bad luck. Sunday marriages were believed to be luckiest for the wedding couple.

Customs: Past And Present
It was customary for the groom to carry a piece of iron in his pocket on his wedding day. The talisman was believed to ward off the evil eye. The bride's veil covered and protected her from evil spirits. For reasons unknown, tearing the veil was actually considered to bring good luck. In a several regions of Italy, when wedding day came to an end, the newly married couple shattered a vase or glass into many pieces. The number of pieces represented the expected number of years they would be happily married. At some modern Italian weddings, a pair of white doves is released into the air as a symbol of the couple's love and happiness.

One custom which began years ago is very much a part of most modern Italian weddings today. The "buste" where the bride carries a satin bag (la borsa) is the place guests deposit envelopes containing their gift checks. In the past, the money helped the bride's family to defray the cost of the wedding, which was their financial responsibility, exclusively. Today, the high cost of a large wedding may break from tradition in "allowing" the groom's family to help with the wedding expenses.

Food for Families and Friends
Typical of most ethic weddings, past and present, food (nutrimento) becomes a main focus at weddings. There is a strong psychological link between family and food which makes it central to any festive occasion, especially a wedding. Italian weddings follow the principle that the more food, the merrier. The more elaborate the spread, the better. It is food and the sharing of a meal which "unites" the young couple with friends and family and sets the tone of celebrating their union and the union of their two families, as well.

There are many deliciously typical Italian delicacies, some symbolic of good luck. These "good wishes" foods include twists of fried dough, powdered with sugar, called bow ties (wanda), and Italian wedding candy. Candy-covered almonds (confetti) tied in mesh bags are traditionally tossed at the couple. The origin of custom is based on a tradition to avoid infertility. In keeping with traditional customs, instead of wedding cake, ornamental bags or boxes are filled with the sugared almonds and sent to friends and guests to signify the matrimony or the "union of bitter and sweet."

Every traditional Italian wedding is based on strong religious convictions and customs, so such wedding celebrations would begin with a mass in the morning. The celebration would continue with dancing and eating, quite possibly well into the early morning hours of the next day. Music is also a mainstay of the Italian family. No traditional Italian wedding would be complete without a band playing mazzuccas and tarantellas for the guests' dancing pleasure. At the wedding meal, sweet liquors are served to the women and strong drinks served to the men. These drinks are a palate whetter before the actual meal is served.

Antipasto is served first and includes such foods as pickled peppers, olives, stuffed mushrooms, salami, mortadella, and calamari. A multi-course dinner follows, with many, many courses. Typical foods include pastas, soups, meats, and fruits. Wine and other beverages accompany dinner. To complete the dinner, each guest receives a slice of wedding cake. Coffee, espresso or other beverages are served as an accompaniment.

Today's bride and groom may well find that suffusing their special day with a bit of history and ethnic flair provides the extra touches to make their wedding a memorable one, one that is outstandingly delightfully.