Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Saying "I do" in Italy

Everyone loves a wedding - right? How many of us stop and look when one is nearby? I do... especially when I'm traveling. Do I know the bride and groom - no. But, who cares? I enjoy pulling out my camera and clicking away just the same. It's fun!

From what I can see, in Italy weddings can be extravagant and with lots of tradition.

They are joyous occasion where relatives, neighbors, and strangers alike all spill out onto the street to watch and, the lucky ones catch a ringside view from a window.

And, driving up to the church with your father in a horse and buggy is definitely a crowd stopper.

In some areas, you’ll know of an upcoming wedding when you see signs plastered around the town a few days before.

These announcements of the happy day are in one of many available designs. Legally, however, they’re considered litter and must be removed immediately at the end of the wedding day.

It’s not uncommon to see the bride’s attendants and family dressed in black or a dark color, no doubt because dark colors are more formal. Weddings gowns are sometimes dark cream in color rather than white.

And photographers, oh my – do they have those!  From what I’ve seen, the photography is akin to an MGM production.  Lights! Cameras! Action!

There are often both still and video-photographers with fancy lighting systems. The photographer takes on the role as both director and photographer of the show.

And... setting up the shot just right is always a priority.

"Something old - Something new - Something borrowed - Something blue," is as common in Italy as it is here in the States. Another important tradition you will also find at Italian weddings of the Catholic faith is the "Matrimonial Booklet."

Couples take an active role in the preparation of the wedding ceremony with their choice of readings, prayers, and songs. These are published into a booklet for guests to follow during the ceremony.

Matrimonial booklets are a sentimental and personal touch. They are available in a variety of beautiful styles.


Throwing rice for good luck has been a long tradition common in Italy too. Recently, however, rice has been discouraged out of respect for the poor and also because it’s dangerously slippery. 

Alternatives to rice are birdseed or flower seeds, pretty and fragrant lavender buds, rose petals, soap bubbles, biodegradable paper hearts-confetti-or butterflies. There's even white or colored rice that pulverizes when crushed. For an even more romantic effect, you might see sparklers or the release of doves, butterflies, or balloons...

... Or perhaps the bride and groom might exit the church across paper ribbon as in a race.

Italian soccer player Luca Ceccarelli and his bride Irene Lanforti were the first couple to marry on Juliet’s balcony in 2009. 

Wedding style can vary depending on the region of Italy or the couple's preference, but "dramatic" is definitely a plus. Ah, yes! Wouldn’t it be nice to get married on Juliet’s balcony in Verona? 

A gondola ride in Venice is certainly romantic too.

If you attend the wedding, expect to receive “confetti” as a favor, an age-old Italian tradition still in use today. These are white sugar covered almonds tied with ribbon in white tulle. The almonds have a bittersweet taste, representing life while the sugar coating is the hope of a sweet union. The packet must have five almonds; count them! They represent: Health – Fertility – Longevity – Happiness – Wealth. Many older wedding traditions, like this one, were brought to the States by Italian immigrants.

A wedding is a big deal anywhere, but in Italy it's sure to be an extravaganza. After all, “Fare una bella figura,” the pride in making a good impression, is important as the new couple is presented to the world.

American friends Andrew & Katryna's Wedding in Rome

AND...Don't assume all those brides and grooms in Italy are Italians. Sweethearts from all over the world travel to Italy to say their "I do's."

So, when in Italy always have your camera ready. Weddings can happen any day of the week and at any time...and, they're always fun to watch and catch on camera!

(Many thanks to my dear Italian friend Elena for her help!)

- Nina Spitzer

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