You could often attend an Italian wedding if you live in Melbourne. Being aware or not, there are actually more than 1 million people in Australia claimed they have Italian heritage.
Traditional Italian weddings are a delight to watch as every custom and ritual practised signifies the fact that Italians value marriage and marital relationship. Italians are known for their warmth and hospitality, which gets reflected in their wedding festivities, as they make everyone feel a part of the ceremony. The charm of Italian weddings lies in the seamless blend of traditional and modern elements which create a magical experience for the couple, family members, and guests.
Whether the wedding is kept as a low-key affair or an extravagant affair, the traditions and customs are followed whole-heartedly by both couple and wedding attendees. Italians living outside their home country stay true to their roots by incorporating Italian wedding traditions in their wedding festivities.
Let’s have a look at how Traditional Italian Weddings are held by Italians living in Melbourne and other parts of Australia.
Considered as a final gift from the groom to his girlfriend before she becomes his bride, the bridal bouquet is a long-standing tradition practised in all Italian weddings. On the morning of the wedding day, the groom gets the bouquet delivered to her bride or gives it to her outside the ceremony venue. The floral arrangement and colour of the bouquet is usually a surprise for the bride, but in some cases, the bride can choose the design and colour. As per the Italian wedding traditions, the groom should pay for the bouquet.
Unlike brides in other cultures, the Italian brides can choose colours other than white for her wedding dress. So, if you attend an Italian wedding and see a bride in a light cream bridal gown, don’t get shocked. One peculiar custom followed in traditional Italian weddings is that guests are forbidden to wear white even if the bride is not wearing this colour. However, guests can wear black even though it is considered as a sign of bad omen in weddings held in other countries.
When a bride-to-be leaves for the wedding ceremony, a white ribbon is tied over the front door or main gate of her house. In many weddings, the ribbon is not tied but held by two of her friends. The bride-to-be cuts this ribbon to symbolise the abandonment of the house and the beginning of a new journey with her future husband. A ribbon is also tied across the doorway or entrance of the ceremony venue, i.e., the church. The knot of the ribbon symbolises the bond between the bride and groom, and also represents that they are ‘tying the knot’.
In some traditional Italian weddings, the groom and bride walk to their ceremony venue together to mark the onset of their journey together as a couple. The guests at the wedding wait for the arrival of the bride and groom outside the ceremony venue. Once the couple enters the church, the family members and guests follow them, and the ceremony begins. The mother of the groom escorts him down the aisle while the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father. On reaching the top of the altar, the bride gives one stem from her bridal bouquet to the groom’s mother.
Contrary to regular church weddings, Italian weddings are quite interactive and exciting. Instead of playing the role of an audience, family members, friends, and guests participate actively in the wedding. Being warm-hearted, Italians great each other with a smile and exchange pleasantries. The attendees even sing prayers with the priest to seek blessings for the newly wedded couple.
Once the wedding ceremony gets over, all the guests are handed confetti for showering the same on the couple. Traditionally, small bags of rice were given as confetti, but now they are replaced by rose petals in most of the weddings. Some environmentally conscious people use tissue paper confetti. As soon as the bride and groom begin to exit from the church, the guests throw confetti over them and wish them personally. The term ‘Auguri’ which means ‘Congratulations’ can be heard a lot in traditional Italian weddings.
When the reception begins, one of the first customs that take place involves cutting the groom’s tie and the bride’s garter. The groomsmen cut the tie worn by the groom into several tiny pieces and auctions the same to be bought by the wedding guests. The proceeds of the auction are used to pay for the wedding expenses. Similarly, the garter worn by the bride is also torn into pieces and thrown to be collected by the guests but without paying any money. In some regions, the groom removes the garter of the bride and throws it towards the guests.
If the bride hasn’t worn a garter, her right shoe is removed and thrown. The rationale behind the former tradition is that higher the amount collected by selling the pieces of the tie, higher the earnings of the groom in the future. The latter tradition is followed because it is believed that owning a piece of the bridal trousseau proves to be lucky. The bride tosses her bouquet to the single women, who try to catch it with the belief that if they get the bouquet, they will find the love of their life soon.
The First Dance of the newly married couple is one of those Italian wedding traditions that can never fall out of favour. The colourful streamers are attached to the hands of the couple, and when they start dancing, the guests hold those streamers so that the couple gets wrapped up in the same. Entangling the streamers is a symbol of good wishes that guests give to the bride and groom.
Soon, the bridal party and the rest of the guests follow the couple and perform the “La Tarantella” dance. Guests rotate clockwise and then anticlockwise while holding hands. Throwback songs being played during the dance is one of the highlights in many traditional Italian weddings.
Before the meal, the guests are served sweet alcoholic drink so that they can raise a toast for wishing the couple a happy married life for many years to come. In most of the weddings, wine is a preferable drink. The drinks are served by the groomsmen. Next comes the meal – Italians just love food, and so, you will find a variety of delicious and exquisite dishes being served to the guests.
Unlike weddings held in the UK and the USA, the wedding cake is not central to Italian weddings. The cake is not displayed proudly at reception. One of the most popular cakes in traditional Italian weddings is ‘Millefoglie’, which means ‘a thousand leaves’. Millefoglie is thin and crunchy cake having layers of puff pastry filled with soft vanilla custard. Some couples even opt for millefoglie with chocolate and strawberry flavours. Being influenced by American culture, many couples choose to have elaborate cakes at their wedding.
Gifts and Bomboniere are essential Italian wedding traditions as they signify the affection and respect present between the couple and the guests. The guests are expected to bring gifts which are mostly in the form of cash envelopes. Some guests also give the wedding card to the newly wedded couple. Usually, the bride carries a satin bag in which the guests have to put envelopes. In some weddings, the bride wears the bag around her neck so that male guests can put money in it in exchange for a dance.
Bomboniere or wedding favours are given to the guests as a gesture of gratitude for attending the wedding. Bomboniere contains sugared almonds in an odd number, mostly 5 or 7, as the taste of almonds represent the bittersweet nature of married life and odd numbers represent the indivisible unity. If given in five, the almonds signify happiness, fertility, longevity, health, and wealth for the couple. Bomboniere are kept in a bowl on the table at the end of the wedding dinner. Although Bomboniere are traditionally white, they are made in wedding colours as well in a few weddings.
Photography is an integral part of the traditional Italian weddings as the couple can relive the memories of their wedding day with the help of photographs captured. Every guest present in the reception gets their picture clicked with the bride and groom. The couple feels excited to be photographed with everyone – from toddlers to the elderly.
Their wedding photographs serve as a medium to strengthen the bond with the guests and make them feel appreciated. We have completed various projects of wedding photography for Italian weddings held in Melbourne and many other cities. We have always enjoyed documenting the weddings of the Italian couples as they make give off positive vibes which make the job of wedding vendors stress-free.
Amidst all the wonderful and unique Italian wedding traditions, Italian weddings have moments which are just unforgettable. Attending an Italian wedding which is conducted by following the traditions and customs is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you ever get a chance to attend a traditional Italian wedding, don’t give it a miss at any cost or else you might miss out on the opportunity of filling your heart with joyous memories.