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  • Italian Weddings
    Part 2 of 4: Engagement Traditions & Customs
    Continued from part 1

    by Anthony Parente

    * Do arranged marriages still take place in Italy?
    In Italy the tradition of arranged marriages is no longer practiced. Arranged marriages are a rarity that can be seen only in secluded areas of Southern Italy or elite noble families with ancient traditions. It is definitely not a common practice.

    * Are there any special traditions that take place when a man proposes to a woman?
    In the past, a groom requested the bride's hand in marriage from the woman's family (i.e. the father) first. This still happens in some areas of Southern Italy but usually a man proposes to a woman directly.

    * Does the man give a woman a diamond ring when he proposes?
    Traditionally, in the past, the typical engagement ring was a solitary diamond, which is a diamond to be worn solo; nowadays a variety of rings can be used among which one of the most common is the diamond “veretta” (a ring with diamonds all around that symbolizes the eternity of love).

    For Italians the ring is the symbol of engagement. The ring signifies promise, gift and dedication. It is worn on the left hand. In the past this highly symbolic object was connected to many local traditions, which are partially (seldom) still practiced and go back to ancient symbolisms. Some local traditions are still alive like, for instance, in Bolzano and Alto Adige at the borders with Austria, where the engagement ring in golden silver represents an ancient romantic image: two hands holding a heart, a crown or a flame. The ancient Umbrian ring in silver, going back to the XV century, is characterized by an engraving representing a woman facing a man to symbolize the future spouses with a flower bouquet in the middle. In the inner side of the ring the words “Amore vole vole fe” (love flies and wants love) are engraved, decreeing the uniqueness of their love and of the beloved.

    Traditionally if the man's family owns a ring, they leave the ring to their son who will give it to his fiancée as a symbol of love and to welcome the bride into the new family.

    * Does the bride and groom have a bachelorette or bachelor party before there marriage?
    Yes. It is a fun way of meeting one's dearest friends for a special evening five or six days before the wedding. It can be a dinner at a restaurant, a party in a special venue or a night in a disco/club. Everyone chooses the way which finds most suitable without forgetting to end the party with the toast for good luck. Lately the bachelorette party has become very common: around one week before the wedding, it is a fun evening to be spent amongst female friends.

    * Do the families of the bride and groom do anything for the engagement?
    In the past, the moment the man would give the ring to his fiancée usually coincided with the meeting of the parents. Today this is only one amongst various possibilities. To arrange the meeting, the bride's mother will call the future mother-in-law inviting her together with their husbands for a lunch or a tea/coffee. The groom's family will thank the bride's family with a bunch of flowers, returning the invitation before the wedding. In central Northern Italy, the tradition of having an official engagement party doesn't exist whereas in central Southern Italy it is common to have a party with friends and close relatives during which the intent to get married becomes official.

    * Are there any other traditions that take place before the wedding?
    The groom must not see the bridal dress or know anything about it until the ceremony. If the bride wishes, but it is not necessary, she can give a special present to her fiancé: for instance a valuable watch, a pair of cufflinks, a fountain pen with wax and golden nib or a prestigious book. The bridal couple's bed should be made by a virgin... not so easy nowadays!

    * Do engagement traditions vary throughout Italy? Are there different traditions in the south as opposed to the north?
    Traditions are usually the same... except for the “fuitina” (elopement) which is practiced in the South. The lovers elope from home and spend one or more nights together. At this point...the damage is evident and they must marry. This kind of elopement still exists when two lovers want to get married but their wedding is not accepted by their families. So they decide to elope and their parents cannot do anything but accept their union!

    A tradition which was very strong and common in the past refers to the wedding trousseau offered by the bride's family. Wedding trousseau included embroidered bed and table linens, towels, silk nightgowns, etc. There were also precise rules on quantity. Now this tradition has changed as modern brides don't want embroidered linen any longer but more practical things. However this tradition is still rather practiced in the South and in some areas of the Central South. In middle-class families it is still common to give their daughter all the linen belonging to her mother or her grandmother.

    Part 3: Wedding/Mass Traditions & Customs

    Part 1: Italian Weddings Introduction
    Part 2: Engagement Traditions & Customs
    Part 3: Wedding/Mass Traditions & Customs
    Part 4: Reception Traditions & Customs

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