sabato 17 agosto 2013

What Confetti Really Means, and Other Facts About Italian Weddings

Before I start, I need to be upfront about something: I am not an expert on Italian weddings In fact, I have been to a grand total of one wedding in Italy, and the couple were both British. But one of the delights of multicultural life (or friends have been resident in Italy for several years) is that sometimes you get to pick the best from each of the cultures and put them together to make something even better, which is what our friends did, and the result was a truly beautiful occasion which I can't resist writing about.*

Our friends got married at a civil ceremony in the Valle d'Aosta. They actually live in another part of Italy, but were able to give "personale" as their reason for choosing a different commune for their wedding. The legal part of the ceremony was quite short: the mayor confirmed the identities of the couple and their witnesses, read out the relevant legislation (3 articles), then read out the wedding vows as "Do you ... ?" questions, to which they only had to answer "Yes". They then signed the register and the mayor summarised what had been said and signed. I've found the legalese read out at other weddings a bit dull, but I liked the fact that the articles from Italian law focused very much on making choices in the best interests of the couple and any children they might have, including giving the children an upbringing appropriate to their capacities, natural inclinations and aspirations. After that there were two readings chosen by the couple, one in English and one in Italian and the bride's sister sang a song. (These were not allowed to have any religious content) Our friends also chose read out the English wedding vows to each other, but obviously that didn't have any legal significance. After that there was time for a few photos, then we all had to leave before the next wedding party came in.

As the couple exited the town hall, we all threw confetti ... but only in the English sense. The actual Italian meaning of confetti is the sugared almonds that guests are given as wedding favours in a little bag or box called a bomboniera much later on. If you threw Italian confetti at the happy couple, they might not stay happy for much longer!

This was just the beginning!
The reception took place in a hotel with a terrace and garden looking out over the mountains. It started with prosecco and aperitivo snacks on the lawn, and as it was about 2pm by this point, we were all hungry and tucked into the buffet. An hour later, when we sat down at our tables for the actual meal, most of us wished we had been a little more restrained - the menu covered both sides of the piece of paper ... and not because there were lots of choices! We started with four different antipasti, or starters, which included little cheese pastries, insalata caprese, local hams and sausages and vitello tonnato (veal with a tuna sauce). Luckily there was a break before we moved on to the next course, with a speech from the father of the bride. (This is a British tradition - I believe that at Italian weddings it's normally one of the witnesses who gives the speech.) The next two courses were risotto then gnocchi, followed by meat with a mushroom sauce ... luckily with more breaks and British-style speeches from the groom and finally the two best men, then we went out to the garden for desserts, wedding cake and spumante. (Prosecco and spumante are both sparkling white wines, but prosecco is drier and is usually served before the meal, while spumante comes afterwards.)

By this time we had been enjoying magnificent food for about six hours straight and as we finished up our desserts, we were also treated to a magnificent sunset over the mountains. Italian friends told us that this would normally be the end of the wedding, with people giving their presents and saying their goodbyes. The tradition is to give money in an envelope rather than actual gifts, and you can buy special cards with a pocket for the money inside for exactly this purpose. While our friends made it clear that the money was to go towards their honeymoon, the tradition in Italy that you give at least enough to cover the cost of your meal. This is also the case in France, whereas in the UK I think the amount spent on a present is based more on how well you know the couple, with friends who aren't particularly close often giving quite small presents.

Our friends' wedding ended with music, dancing and more drinking for those who could take it, but that part was definitely more British. The band did a great job of performing covers of English-language songs, even although they had admitted beforehand that they weren't very sure of some of the words. And so ended a very special day that combined all the best of Italian and British tradition!

*If you would like to hear more about Italian weddings from someone who knows what they're talking about, Leanne at From Australia to Italy has a whole series of posts on the subject that gave me a good idea of what to expect!

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