Grand Italian Wedding Traditions
by Sarah Williams
Couples who are of Italian descent may choose to incorporate a variety of Italian traditions into their wedding even if they have never even set foot on Italian soil. This is a fun way to honor your ancestors with a nostalgic glimpse into the past. The religious aspects, dances and food at a wedding may all hold traditional values.
The dominant religion in Italy is Roman Catholicism. Therefore a traditional Italian wedding would also be linked to a traditional Catholic wedding and would include a full Mass with the ceremony. Although, not all Italians are also Catholics and if you and your future spouse are not Catholic you can still have a traditional Italian reception to celebrate your marriage. Immediately after the wedding ceremony the couple may release a pair of white doves. These doves symbolize the love and affection that the couple hold for each other.
There are a few other small traditions that apply to the ceremony. One of these traditions is to adorn each entry way that the couple will pass through with elaborately tied ribbons. These ribbons are symbolic of the unity of the couple. It is also customary for the groom to carry a small piece of iron in his pocket during the wedding ceremony. This piece of metal is said to ward off evil spirits and ensure a happy future for the couple. The bride may also rip her veil slightly. This is said to bring good luck to the couple.
The reception that follows the wedding ceremony is where the majority of Italian traditions take place. It is customary for the guests to assemble in the reception room before the bride and groom arrive. You should arrange for your guests to be served alcoholic beverages during this time. The women are traditionally served sweet liquors while the men are served stronger drinks. It is important that these drinks be served before the couple arrives at the reception because tradition holds that the guests offer a toast to the bride and the groom the moment that they arrive at the reception.
There are a few traditional dances that are typically performed at traditional Italian weddings. The Tarantella is one example of these dances. There are several different stories on the origin of this dance but most of the stories revolve around a spider bite. In just about every version of the story, la tarantella was a dance that was performed either to counteract the venom of the spider or as an uncontrollable response to the venom. In modern times this dance is performed as a way of wishing the couple good luck in their future together. La Tarantella is a group, circle dance where the participants dance in a clockwise direction until the music speeds up and then they reverse directions. These tempo changes occur several times and each time the tempos speeds up the group changes direction again. This continues until it is impossible to keep up with the tempo of the music.
No authentic wedding would be complete without a scrumptious feast featuring several courses. A traditional Italian wedding reception begins with an antipasto course that features olives, pickled sweet peppers, mushrooms and cheeses. That is followed by many other courses that include pastas, meats, soups, salads and desserts that are each accompanied by free flowing wine. There are certain foods that have symbolic meanings. For example guests are usually presented with an odd number of almonds. The almonds represent the fact that marriage is often bittersweet. They are presented in odd numbers that have different traditional meanings. For example three almonds wish the couple luck with children while five almonds wish the couple monetary wealth.
Another Italian wedding tradition is to have the couple break a glass or vase at the conclusion of the reception. The Jewish faith has a similar tradition where the groom will break a wine glass at the conclusion of the ceremony but these traditions vary in their intentions and symbolism. Jewish couples break a glass as a symbol of human frailty and the hardship that their ancestors have endured because of their faith. An Italian couple, however, breaks a glass or vase for a completely different reason. According to Italian tradition the number of pieces that the glass breaks into represents the number of happy years that the couple will enjoy together.
It is fun for couples of Italian descent to incorporate traditional elements into their wedding. Even if the couple only has distant relatives that originated from Italy and have never even been to Italy, it is still acceptable to follow these traditions. Couples of other nationalities may also choose an Italian themed wedding just for the enjoyment of trying something different.
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