To believe that wedding traditions are universally the same is a common misconception. The assumption is: you find your soulmate, propose with a ring, and get married. Essentially every couple abides by this, right? But these customs are not so black and white. As I started to think more about how a couple plans the most important celebration of their lives, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to know why we follow the same traditions and what the history is behind them.
Last August I was fortunate enough to go to Italy for over 14 days. While there I had the opportunity to learn about and explore the culture. Italy, as most of us know, is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world: Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sistine Chapel, and many other phenomenal sights. It is also rich with church history and is a place where tradition is not taken lightly. I was able to see each one of those places and came away understanding a little more about the immense and heady power of tradition. I was enlightened and surprised to find such drastic differences between our American wedding traditions and the Italian ones. Contrarily, some of our traditions are not all that different, and we in fact adopted a lot of customs from the early Italian rituals.
The Engagement Ring
The Greeks and Egyptians believed the vein in the fourth finger on our left hand – also known as the “ring finger” – runs all the way to the heart. The engagement ring, worn on that finger, was created to symbolize eternal love. The Romans adopted this idea too, but they believed the ring was a symbol of ownership over their wife rather than a symbol of love. The father of the bride was responsible for choosing the groom and coming up with a dowry.
The Perfect Day For a Wedding
Having your wedding in May or August is frowned upon by the Old Church tradition and is considered to be an ill omen. The month of June is most preferred, but the bride’s father must choose the date and it must be a Sunday. The ceremony is officiated by a priest and the reception of celebration that follows proceeds through the night. The search for the right venue is not a difficult one… the wedding is conveniently held at the bride’s home!
For Good Luck
If you go to a traditional Italian wedding, don’t be appalled when you see the groom tear the bride’s veil. Wearing the veil is considered to guard the bride from jealous spirits, and finding a tear in the veil is an omen of good luck. Also, the groom will occasionally carry a piece of iron in his pocket to ward off evil spirits.
There’s Nothing Like an Italian Wedding Feast
At a true Italian wedding they serve traditional gourmet Italian food, and in gargantuan amounts! Be prepared to eat for hours because guests are served a total of 14 courses. And don’t forget the drinks! The best man is in charge of making sure the guests have a continuous flow of wine and strong, alcoholic drinks. A long-awaited, layered Tiramisu wedding cake follows the meal. Bring your appetite, because Italians get offended when you don’t eat their food.
While American couples are choosing platters, knife sets, and toaster ovens at Macy’s or Pottery Barn, the traditional Italian bride carries a satin bag with her during the reception and asks her guests for money. Sometimes the bride wears the bag and men can exchange money for a dance with her. Similar to many other cultural traditions, the bride and groom break a glass; each broken piece symbolizing the number of happy years they will have together.
The best part about planning your wedding is combining old traditions with new traditions you and your husband-to-be want to create! Everything about your day will be stored as beautiful memories and your identity as a couple will shine through. Make your own traditions….they might be celebrated in your family for decades!