13 Tips to Survive a Traditional Italian Wedding

Wedding Scene
Wedding Scene | ©Matthew Hutchinson/Flickr
Francesca Masotti

Got an Italian wedding to go to and no clue about what will happen? Don’t worry! Follow our list of dos and don’ts, and you will survive any big, fat Italian wedding.

Pay Attention During the Ceremony

Most Italian weddings are held in a Catholic church. If you’ve attended a Catholic church service before, you might have noticed a lot of movement: standing, kneeling, sitting and even some shaking of hands. If you’re not sure what to do, just follow along with the oldest ladies at the service; they almost always know what comes next. Remember to participate in the ceremony, and don’t fall asleep, even if it feels like it’ll never end!

Duomo of Rivarolo

Don’t Eat Before

Or, better, don’t eat for two days before. The wedding meal will be giant. It will be bigger than any meal you’ve ever had in your life. Expect 10 courses or more plus drinks and snacks! Make sure to eat a light meal early in the day, and be careful when offered bread—it just takes up room that could be saved for pasta and traditional Italian wedding cake.

Wedding cake

Pace Yourself

The excellent Italian wine will be flowing, and you will drink a lot of it. Uncles and cousins of the bride will fill your glass about every five minutes. Then you will dance and drink, dance and drink, and so on. There’s no problem if you are able to hold your alcohol—otherwise, consider switching to soda.

Red wine

Be Stylish

Italians might have a lot of flaws—they’re always late, they joke around a lot, and they don’t speak English well—but they are always stylish. Fashion in Italy is serious stuff, so if you are invited to an Italian wedding, you will need to dress your absolute best.

Prepare to Dance All Night

A typical Italian wedding is like a party; from the late afternoon until late at night, everyone dances, including the older crowd. In the south of Italy, they often do traditional dances such as the tarantella or pizzica, which are very lively, so pay attention, and don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes.

Dancing

Learn a Few Italian Words

When invited to a wedding in a foreign country, it’s always good to learn few words in the official language. In Italy, visitors should try to learn as much as possible because Italians talks a lot. It might be difficult, but you should at least know auguri, meaning “best wishes,” and vi auguro una felice vita insieme, which means “I wish you a happy life together.”

Learning Italian

The Reception

Be sure you’ve brought an envelope full of money—it’s common, especially in the south, to bring cash as a gift for the newlyweds. Usually, there is a person in charge of collecting the gifts at the reception, who is never hard to find.

Money

Don’t Wear White

If you want to avoid some drama, don’t wear a white dress unless the bride has specifically requested you do so. This is one of the most important things you’ll need to know to keep the bride happy on her big day.

Bring Some Rice

When the ceremony ends, everyone leaves the church and then waits for the newlyweds to exit. Then, you’ll yell “Auguri,” and throw some rice or confetti (but not too much), which are symbols of good luck.

Wedding day

Talk With the Other Guests

Italians love to talk, especially the nonni (grandfathers) and nonne (grandmothers) who are always ready to chat with strangers. Unfortunately, they don’t speak a word of English, but you can get by with gestures, which is a typical way of speaking in Italy.

Prepare for the Gossip

At a wedding, the best time to gossip is during lunch. Despite the happy atmosphere, there is a lot of talking over food. The older women tend to talk about other women or men sitting across the room or sometimes about the food. They always comment on everything.

Be Patient with the Children

Italian families are big, especially in the South where many couples have three or four children. Every family brings the kids to the wedding, and sometimes the celebration looks more like a kindergarten. Try to be patient—or just avoid them whenever you can.

Children

Saying Goodbye

When you are too tired and drunk, maybe you have the bouquet in hand, but you can no longer walk straight, it’s time to say goodbye. Leaving an Italian wedding takes at least a half hour—you’ll need to find the bride and groom and then kiss everyone else on the cheeks. Don’t forget to take the bomboniera (a small box of candies). Once you have done all these things, you’re finally free to go home!

Time to say goodbye

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