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  • A Sicilian Wedding Tradition
    Discover this ritual that gets the whole family involved in the couple's big night
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Recently, a reader contacted ItaliansRus to ask about a tradition in which the mother of the groom offers the bride a "palm," which was made of artificial flowers and ribbons that would rest on the matrimonial bed for the first year of marriage. It was a way of welcoming the bride to the family, according to our reader's e-mail.

    She wanted more information, and I set out to find out more about it. Since I'm married to a native Italian, I turned to him for help. He found out about another tradition entirely, which is equally interesting and somewhat related. My husband took to the various forums on Italian wedding traditions and learned of the Cunzata del Letto.

    About one week before the wedding, the bride and groom each choose a young girl to prepare the matrimonial bed, where they will spend their first night as a married couple. The catch is that the girls must be virgins, so they are usually fairly young, around 12 or 13, in this day and age. Each girl prepares one side of the bed. The sheets have to be new, white, and precious. They often have embroidery or some sort of ornate design on them. Women, who are already married, older, or not virgins cannot touch the linens. But the family – moms of the bride and groom, aunts, and other women relatives and friends – observe the two young women making the bed. The couple, on the other hand, cannot enter the room once the bed has been made. They must wait until their wedding night to see it.

    More than making the bed, the girls also set the scene for love. They use Jordan almonds to make designs – often hearts or the couple's initials – on the dressers, bed, and other areas of the room. They might also use photos of the couple or other reminders of their love.

    Men are invited to the Cunzata del Letto, but they wait outside the bedroom with the soon-to-be newlyweds. After the room has been prepared, everyone gathers in another part of the home for refreshments offered by the families of the bride and groom.

    In researching this reader's request, I also learned that at one time all Italian weddings were held on Sundays, which was considered to be the luckiest day of the week for marriage. Also, Italian brides once wore green as a sign of fertility and luck.

    In regard to the mother of the groom offering this “palm,” I'm still not sure. But having wed in Italy myself nearly five years ago, I do know that southern Italians often have the mother of the groom wait at the altar with her son, so she can exchange bouquets with the bride when she arrives. Usually, the groom's mamma offers the bride a much more elaborate bouquet than the one she used for her pre-wedding photo shoot. That is exactly how it went down for me, except my mother-in-law, who is disabled, had her daughter exchange bouquets with me at the altar. Many brides save the bouquet that was a gift from their mother-in-law and dry the flowers, but they don't necessarily stay anywhere in the bedroom. The bottom line is that Italians, perhaps especially in Sicily, have unique traditions that they still carry out in today's modern weddings.

    Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012) and you can follow her life and work at the Two Worlds Web site.

    Article Published 5/2/13


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