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  • Italian Weddings
    Part 4 of 4: Reception Traditions & Customs
    Continued from part 3

    by Anthony Parente

    * When guests arrive at the reception are they greeted by anyone?
    The guests arrive before the wedding couple at the restaurant. The waiters offer them some aperitifs while they wait for the arrival of the spouses from their photo tour. Usually the parents of the wedding couple welcome the arrival of the guests, in particular the mother of the bride, who acts as if she was the owner of the restaurant and invites all the guests to help themselves.

    * Are there any particular songs that are played at the reception?
    Usually songs that talk about the story of the spouses are played. In many areas dances of the local traditions are performed (folk dancing). For example in Southern Italy it is still popular to dance to the “Tarantella”. The Tarantella is a lively, flirty Southern Italian group dance that involves linking arms, moving in a circle and whirling and twirling about on the dance floor.

    In Calabria, towards the end of the reception, the guests sing “Lauretta mia”, which is a local song that talks about the parents and of what they have done for their children....the parents get emotionally involved and cry.

    * Are there any special traditions that take place at the reception?
    Every region or better yet every city has its own customs that take place during the reception.In Italy, especially in the Central North the wedding couple or their parents don't usually make speeches. But sometimes this could happen in the South. Very frequently guests shout out “Viva gli sposi” (long live the couple) and make a toast.

    A meaningful moment at the reception is the cutting of the cake which plays also a symbolic role. The entrance of the cake is always a moment of curiosity and enthusiasm because everybody expects something very outstanding. Together the bride and groom cut the first slice and the bride puts this piece of cake into her husband's mouth. Once the cake has been cut it is the moment of the toast for best wishes, a way of emphasizing how the couple is going towards a new life, along with all of the guests.

    A funny way to have the toast is the following: the glasses are placed one on top of the other just like a pyramid, then the wedding couple starts to pour sparkling wine on the first glass that is placed on top of the pyramid and has to continue until all glasses are filled up (just like a waterfall). Once the glasses are filled, (hardly though the game works out) the spouses get the first glasses that are on the top and have a toast crossing their arms together.

    Another typical moment is the launching of the bouquet. The bride launches the bouquet to one of the ladies present at the reception (all the single women) and the tradition says that whoever catches the bouquet will be the next to get married (or will get married by the end of the year).

    Other custom, not appreciated from the bon ton, is the “cutting” of the groom's tie. It gets cut into small pieces, then a guest – usually a friend of the spouses – walks between the tables offering the guests a piece of it and gets some money back that, in the end, will be given to the wedding couple.

    During the reception it is common to organize games for the spouses joking also on sexual topics. For example a tray with fruit – usually a banana and two round fruits – are arranged in a way to remember the male organ; the tray with the cover will be brought up to the bride and when she opens it she finds the surprise and all the guests start laughing and joking about it.

    * Where does the reception generally take place? Do they go to a restaurant, have it at the groom's home, have it at the bride's home, etc.?
    Usually everybody goes to a nice restaurant with great food and service. Lately it has become more common to arrange the reception in a wonderful private villa with a garden or in a castle or in a farmhouse. Very seldom the reception takes place at the house of the spouses.

    * Does the bride and groom stay for the entire reception or do they leave early to start their honeymoon? The wedding couple remains for the entire time at the reception and not only, sometimes the very close friends stay with the couple even after the reception. For instance, going with them for a drink or even going to their house. The honeymoon starts one or two days later!

    * Do they typically go on a honeymoon after they get married?
    Yes, they do. Today the trip starts one or two days after the wedding while time ago it would start the same night as the wedding. Today it is common to spend the honeymoon in a foreign place, in far-away destinations or even in unique places. In the past the honeymoon, for a lot of people, was the first trip of their life and would always take place in Italy. It was the best occasion to discover our beautiful country and cities like Florence, Rome, Venice, or the Amalfi Coast... However today, like yesterday, for the Italians the honeymoon is a ritual which cannot be avoided as it is a unique and unrepeatable trip.

    * Do they give the guests anything to thank them for attending their wedding?
    It's a typical Italian custom to give to all of the guests attending the wedding the “bomboniera” that is a sign of love, a thanking, a souvenir for taking part in an event to remember. A recent custom that is taking place, is giving out ethnic bomboniere that come from charities: a serious way of making beneficence and helping all those nations that are underdeveloped. Otherwise donations are made to hospitals, etc. and the guests receive a small certificate instead of the bomboniera. This certificate includes the name of the association where the money has been sent to.

    The bomboniere are placed in a wicker basket and the bride walks around the tables giving them out to their guests right before the cutting of the cake. They could also be given out at the moment when the couple receives a wedding gift.

    * Are there any traditional gifts that guests give the bride and groom?
    According to tradition, the guests give a present to the wedding couple. In particular the witnesses usually give a gift that has a greater value. Today it is common to make a wedding list in one or more shops a few months before the wedding. The guests get informed by the spouses or by the couple's relatives and closest friends.

    Recently a new trend has been introduced, that is putting a wedding list in a travel agency. In this way, the guests can offer an amount of money to contribute to the honeymoon, or they can offer a romantic dinner or particular show to enjoy while the couple is on their honeymoon.

    * Do wedding reception traditions vary throughout Italy? Are there different traditions in the south as opposed to the north? In southern Italy the old traditions are more practiced then in the North and the wedding is still more an event that is very important to respect. In the South, receptions are bigger, longer and showier and there are more guests attending: for the wedding they do not look at how much they spend! The wedding is still an event that involves not only the family members of the wedding couple and intimate friends, but all the people known in their home town.

    In the Northern part of Italy this can happen too but usually the wedding is more intimate and less showy. The couple invites only the intimate family members and friends, so rarely there is a wedding reception. It is more frequent to get married in the afternoon and have a reception dinner or a cocktail party.

    In the past it was tradition that dictated strict rules, even in regard to the division of the expenses. Today it is more about common sense and the wish for harmony to let future spouses find an agreement.

    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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