How Does an Italian Wedding Differ From a Traditional American Wedding?

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Differences and Similarities in American and Italian Weddings

  • Weddings are joyous occasions where a man and a woman vow to love each other for the rest of their lives and be faithful to one another. The celebration is usually overseen by a spiritual or religious leader. It is attended by the couple's closest family and friends. Food, wine and gifts accompany most weddings. Special readings and toasts are also thrown into the mix. The similarities end with these generalities. In Italy, weddings are different from what we see here in America.

The Proposal

  • In Italy, the man is expected to ask the bride's father for permission to marry her. It is considered to be an act of respect for the father and the family. The ring is placed on the bride's hand before the engagement is announced to others. In America, while most grooms still ask the father's permission to marry the bride-to-be, many propose in public where friends and family are already gathered. The ring is presented during the proposal, and the woman only places it on her hand if she has agreed to marry the man.

    Upon agreement that the two will be married, Italians will exchange gifts between the two families. This is rare in the United States. Instead, families tend to head out to a nice restaurant together for dinner.

Wedding Preparation

  • The Italian bride usually has a hope chest filled with things she'll be needing to perform her wifely duties. While there is no hope chest or dowry in the United States, there is the buying of the woman's couture, her first year of clothing as a wife. This is usually presented to her at a bridal shower.

    One thing is customary in both countries. It is traditional for the groom and bride to spend the night before the wedding apart. They are not supposed to meet again until they see each other at the "altar."

Wedding Locations

  • It is customary for an Italian wedding to be held in a church during certain times of the year to avoid bad luck. For example, the month of May is set aside to worship the Virgin Mary. Italians tend to not marry in the month of May. August was considered a bad luck month as well since most people vacationed at this time, meaning attendance would be very low.

    Traditionally, weddings in the United States take place in churches as well, but there are multitudes of other places where weddings take place. Some opt for the outdoors wedding. Some wish to get married at home. There is no bad time to marry in the United States, but many opt for spring weddings when the weather is at its best.

Wedding Gown

  • In the past, the Italian bride wore green for fertility, but many now choose to wear a white wedding gown. White symbolizes a pure bride who has saved herself for her groom on their wedding night. In the United States, white tends to be the number one choice for a wedding gown, although some add color throughout the wedding attire.

Wedding Ceremony

  • Religion plays a huge role in an Italian wedding. The bride and groom are expected to say "I do" to vows from the Bible. The wedding is presided over by a pastor or priest. During an American ceremony, there are family and friends, but the couple may choose to write their own vows.

Wedding Receptions

  • During the Italian wedding reception, the couple usually dance to a "money dance" where people offer money to either the bride or groom in exchange for a dance. Where the cake is the centerpiece of American weddings, the meal served is extremely important to Italians. There can be upwards of 14 courses served in an Italian wedding. These courses can include: pastries, meat, fruit, cake, coffee, and antipasto. Like in a Jewish wedding, glass is broken, but Italians do this for a different reason. After the pieces of the broken glass are counted, the number is said to be the number of years the couple will be happily married.

    While some American couples have adopted some Italian rituals, such as the "money dance," the reception traditionally consists of several things. The first is the announcement of the couple by their married names as they enter the reception area. The second is usually the couple's first dance together. The first dance is followed by food and cake.

    The cake is always cut by the couple together and shared. During the food and cake portion, music continues to play as people mingle. Two more traditional dances occur. One is for the groom and his mother, and the other is set aside for the bride and her father. While there is definitely dancing at an Italian wedding reception, there is not always cake. Some go the extremely traditional path, and these Italian couples give all the guests tins of almonds mixed with sugar. This represents the sweet and sour part of marriage.

    During an American reception, the groom removes a garter from the bride's leg. He then throws this to his single men friends. The lucky guy who catches it is thought to be the next one to find a wife. When the reception ends, the bride throws her bouquet to a group of single women. Whoever catches the bouquet is supposed to be the next woman to get married. This tends not to be a tradition in Italy.

Conclusion

  • While there are some differences between Italian and traditional American weddings, all weddings are similar in some aspects. Family and friends come together to watch as two people commit their lives to one another forever.

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