Welcome to Part One of a Five-Part Series about le nozze, i matrimoni or, as we say in English, WEDDINGS!
On the board today…
Wedding traditions, in both the US and Italy, date back further than Martha Stewart, Preston Bailey, or theknot.com. But, shhh…don’t tell Martha! Many of the customs we hold so sacred to our ceremonies derived from rather odd sources, and to be quite frank – are rather scary.
For example, did you know
– The word “bride” comes from the old English name for “cook.”
– One “wedding veil” theory dates back to ancient times when pre-arranged marriage couples didn’t meet until the wedding day. To ensure the groom didn’t have second thoughts upon seeing a less attractive bride, the veil was used to cover her face, and thus was not lifted until after the groom had said “I do.”
– The “honeymoon” originated when grooms captured their brides from neighboring towns. The groom anticipated the honeymoon would serve as a “cooling off” period for the bride’s family and all would be forgiven when they returned home.
Ahhh, but, I digress. Italian customs are much more challenging!
In parts of Italy, the groom would meet the bride at her home and walk her to the church. The town residents would watch and present the bride with many challenges to ensure she was an appropriate choice for the groom. For example, if she noticed a broom, picked it up, and put it away, she was considered a good housekeeper. If the couple comforted a crying child, it was predicted they would be good parents. Giving generously to a beggar signified a good heart.
As if trying to convince the town people you are a suitable couple isn’t hard enough, you also had to fight off the evil eye. Legend called for the groom to carry a small piece of iron in his pocket to ward off the malocchio, since his happiness could provoke jealousy and invite supernatural danger.
Particularly in Northern Italy, the groom would carry the bouquet of flowers to the Wedding Mass. The color and style of the bouquet was supposed to be a surprise, and signified a present from the groom’s family to the bride. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find a bride who didn’t want to choose her own flowers, and who would let her honey-to-be choose the colors.
Throughout Southern Italy, the bridal couple would shatter a vase into many pieces at the conclusion of the wedding day. The number of pieces represented the number of years they would be happily married. Let’s hope that vase doesn’t just break in half, or a superstitious couple might find themselves in a less-than-celebratory mood on their wedding night.
Candy-covered almonds, or confetti, were once tied in mesh bags and tossed at the couple to ensure a fruitful marriage. Today, bags or boxes are filled with the candied almonds and presented to guests signifying “the bitter and the sweet” sides of marriage. The number of almonds should be an odd number, preferably five or seven, both of which are good-luck numbers.
Like the bride’s bouquet toss and the couple’s first dance in the states, several Italian customs are still honored today. At some weddings, the best man cuts the groom’s tie into small pieces and “sells” them to guests. The proceeds are given to the couple to help pay for the wedding band. Many Italian grooms now carry an additional, less expensive tie in anticipation of this tradition.
Italians love food, and thus, it serves as focal point of the festivities. Guests often enjoy (or sometimes not so much) two or three servings of appetizers, two of three courses of pasta dishes, and two or three servings of meat or fish dishes, sorbet, fruit, and desserts. In ancient Rome, a loaf of wheat bread was broken over the heads of the bride and groom to ensure a fertile and fulfilling life…and guests would munch on the crumbs. How, after 11 plus courses a guest could munch down on bread is beyond imagination. But, since you wouldn’t find a bride who would let someone throw stale bread into her perfectly manicured head, this tradition should no longer be a problem.
Wedding traditions and customs will continue to be as varied as cake fillings and color choices, flower petals and stationary options, but one thing remains steady. And, what is that? Come back next week to find out!