Whether church service or civil ceremony, weddings in the bel paese often include many recognisable elements – a white dress, tossing of the bouquet and the first dance, for example. But what else does a traditional ceremony involve? Find out with this list of Italian wedding customs you didn’t already know about.
La serenata has fallen out of fashion these days, but it’s still occasionally practiced among theatrically minded couples. It takes place the night before the wedding and involves the groom serenading the bride from outside her window in celebration of their impending union. Sometimes the bride will lower down a basket of gifts such as prosciutto, bread and cheese – symbolising her acceptance of the proposal.
As the bride and groom’s closest and most trusted friends, the wedding witnesses traditionally buy the rings. This custom is less common these days, but the best man will sometimes still opt to make this grand gesture.
In Italy, confetti are not the thousands of coloured paper squares showered over the happy couple upon leaving the church but instead sugarcoated almonds gift-wrapped in tiny boxes. Confetti are sometimes given in groups of five symbolising health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life but should always be given in an odd number to ensure good luck.
The confetti form part of the bomboniere, or wedding favours, given to the guests as a thank you for attendance. Bomboniere are also given at other special occasions, such as baptisms or communions, and include token gifts such as mini bottles of liqueur, chocolates, olive oil, or pots of jam and honey.
As well as the groom not seeing the bride before the service, in Italy the bride shouldn’t see herself on her wedding day. If she does want to look in a mirror she’ll need to remove an earring, a shoe or a glove first. Not following this superstition could bring untold bad luck to the marriage.
As one final gift to his betrothed before they tie the knot, the groom must buy the bride’s bouquet. She can pick out her preferred arrangement if she wants, but it’s down to the groom to pay the bill and organise delivery. In the north it’s also customary for the groom to wait outside the church and hand the bouquet to the bride as they enter together.
As with many weddings, Italian brides wear a garter for luck. This dates back to a 14th-century tradition in which the bride would remove the garter after the ceremony and give little pieces of it to guests as a memento of the day. In some regions, particularly in the south, it’s customary for the groom to remove the garter and throw it into the crowd. If the bride happens to be lacking a garter, she loses her right shoe instead.
Thankfully, it’s not just the bride who suffers a mandatory wardrobe malfunction. At the reception, the groom’s tie is ceremonially chopped off and cut into pieces. The guests will then offer up cash for the pieces – a gift towards the expense of the big day.
The cold hard cash doesn’t stop there, either, as brides carry a satin bag in which guests can drop in envelopes of money. Some brides wear it around their neck for male guests to deposit cash in exchange for a dance.
Custom has it that Sunday is the best day to get hitched, and couples that marry on the Sabbath will enjoy luck, fertility and prosperity throughout their marriage. Traditionalists should avoid Fridays, which are thought to be the day evil spirits were created.
Looking for love in Italy? Check out our articles 12 Things You Need to Know About Dating When You Move to Italy and 14 Reasons Why You Should Date an Italian.