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  • I Now Pronounce You – i sposati
    Part 3 of 3: Alessandria del Carretto Wedding
    Continued from part 2

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    The second wedding I attended during this trip was in my father's hometown for a distant cousin. Like I said, it's a small town and it seems like everyone is related so practically the entire town was planning on going to this wedding. And in hindsight, I realize that this village wedding was a mix of old and new. Invitations were mailed out weeks before the wedding, but several days prior to the big day my son Tom and I noticed posters all over town announcing the wedding of Sandro and Rita. This is an old fashioned way of letting everyone know when the wedding is to take place. The day of the wedding arrived and I was still unsure what time the festivities were going to start until mid afternoon when I heard the church bells ring. In Alessandria, this is the way to let everyone know to stop doing the daily chores because the ceremony will be starting soon. Shortly after the church bells Tom and I hear an explosion of gun fire. Being the inexperienced Americans, we were somewhat shocked with this sound, but Dad wasn't fazed at all because it seems this is another old fashioned way of letting the town know to start making their way to the bride's house. So off we go, but we're having a really hard time navigating the winding cobble stone streets and finding our way – Tom's solution: "...just follow the sound of the gunshots" and like a beacon in the night, we follow the sound and make it to our destination. What is going on at the bride's door step is nothing short of a party – music, dancing and laughter, and still the rifles overhead. The groom and his parents process through town from their home to the bride's home – the Alessandrini way of presenting the groom to the bride's parents. The couple's family are in there for awhile and I'm not sure what's going on in there – perhaps the finalizing of details, where the couple will live, who they'll be spending their holidays with, how many children are expected – sealing the deal with a toast I'm sure. A short time later the groom emerges with his parents and begin their walk to the church, with the rest of us following. The bride arrives shortly after and the typical Catholic wedding ceremony gets under way. I don't understand a lot of what's being said, but once the rings are exchanged rather than the pronouncement of husband and wife being sealed with a kiss, the entire church explodes in applause. The now married couple exits the church to a fanfare of throwing rice and sugared almonds, pictures are taken on the church steps and a large bouquet of balloons is sent in the air. They then lead the procession through the streets to the reception. It's al fresco, tables under white tents, antipasti on the tables and a true peasant wedding unfolding: pizza, panini, pasta, and an entire roasted pig. Once dinner is over, which is many hours later, guests make their way to the couple to present their gift, in turn getting the customary bomboniere and this time, a glass of wine. Can you imagine this poor couple having to have a drink with every guest who presents a gift? The evening ends with an explosion of fireworks – the perfect ending to a wonderful experience.

    Everyone knows that each region of Italy has their own time honored traditions. In this small southern village the process of arranging a marriage always starts with the courtship, which can last several years, and a bride will never introduce her intended until she's positive she's going to marry him – none of this bringing just any boyfriend home. One of my cousins proudly told me that she didn't introduce her boyfriend to her parents until they had been dating for almost six years! Once the formal introductions are made, the engagement party is planned. It is a very formal event where both sides of the family – and I mean the WHOLE family get together to plan the actual wedding day. Many years ago it was when the dowry was discussed – but this doesn't seem to take place much anymore. One tradition that hasn't yet found a place in the more remote villages is the engagement ring. The mere concept of engagement is enough to solidify the potential union and the only rings exchanged are the plain gold bands on the wedding day.

    It seems that the younger brides are starting to incorporate some very American traditions into their ceremonies and receptions, but one thing will always stand the test of time – these Alessandrini love a good celebration!

    Part 1: An Italian Wedding Part 2: Trebisacce Wedding


    Article Published 4/19/11

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