Italian Weddings, Life in Italy

Contrasting details about Italian and American weddings

Over the last few years I have been going to wedding after wedding after wedding, Italian and American. I have now been to 5 Italian weddings (not including my own) all over Italy, and countless American weddings all over America. Each wedding was a little different, some fun, some boring, some surprising, and some inspiring. Overtime I collected ideas from each wedding in order to make mine as special as possible. Apart from collecting ideas for my wedding, I was secretly making mental notes of the differences in Italian and American weddings. Surprisingly there are TONS of little things that are different, as well as a handful of big things that make them distinguishable. This post is about all those big and little differences with a wide range of surprises. I’ll start off with an Italian wedding I went to and then get into the nitty gritty.

In August of 2012 Fabio and I were invited to a wedding of some close friends, Valerio and Filomena. The wedding was in Naples because that is where the bride is from. In Italy it is tradition for the wedding to be held in the city where the bride is from. Valerio and Filomena (Mena for short) decided to have an evening wedding ceremony at a cathedral and then a reception near the water afterwards. Unfortunately the weather was horrible that day, but the wedding was a success regardless 🙂 Here is a pic of them after the ceremony.

IMG_1574One thing about Italian weddings is that they do it up big in every way possible. The cake at an Italian wedding is a focal point, as is in America. But Italian cakes are a little bit different.  Italian cakes are usually 3 tiers which are short and fat instead of skinny and tall like most American cakes. Mena’s cake however was a good medium. Here is a pic.

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The cake always gets its own display table with champagne by its side. After the bride and groom cut their cake it is tradition for the bridal party to toast with champagne at the cake table. I wasn’t able to get a picture of that, but I did get a great picture of their adorable custom made cake topper.

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Now you can also sometimes find cakes with modern touches. Take a look at this spectacular cake that I saw at another Italian wedding. The bride’s theme was seashells and I think she hit the spot in such an elegant way!

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Now remember I said that they toast, but that doesn’t mean they give a toast. I have yet to see any kind of speech at an Italian wedding, unfortunately. So this is a cultural thing I guess, Italian weddings do not consist of best-man speeches or maid of honor speeches. 

So they don’t give speeches, big whoop, they talk so much they don’t need to give a speech about it. 🙂 They do give big gifts however. I know that in America it is acceptable to skip the favors part of the wedding. In Italy it is not. They are very outwardly conscious people, so they must give gifts to show their appreciation. Not only do they never skip this step in Italian weddings, but they stand next to the table and personally give each favor away with a kiss. In exchange, the guests give their cards and farwells. Here is Mena’s fabulous gift table, decorated in yellow because that was the color theme

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It is a big no no to take a favor without being greeted by the bride and groom. It’s considered rude and greedy! Just wait. I still have my favor from Valerio and Mena, it’s a beautiful pearl frame that sits on my dresser. This is one aspect of Italian weddings that I love. I love the fact that they give away every single favor to each guest. To me this is so much more personal and it is one of those “little things” that makes all the difference.

Now let’s go to Danielle and Adam’s wedding. This is a classic American wedding. Here you’ll see some more interesting differences. Danielle and Adam got married in January 2009 in Pensacola, Florida. Before it all began though Danielle had a bridal shower of course. Of course I said because this is so traditional in America. Did you know that it is not traditional in Italy? When I got married in Italy no one even knew what a bridal shower was! I had to explain to all these Italian women that it’s a party with only women and they “shower” you with gifts. The women loved this idea and thought it would be nice, but it just doesn’t fit with their culture you see. Italians give gifts to the bride and groom personally before the wedding by individually coming over to your house. They either do this or they give you a monetary gift on the day of the wedding. Whichever way you prefer, here is a pic of Danielle’s shower:

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A lot goes into planning a shower, and planning all of the parties that happen before a wedding. A wedding consists of parties all year up until the actual event-in America. Did you know that Italians do not have bridal showers, lingerie parties, rehearsal dinners, bachelorette parties (to the same extent that Americans do), or those bridesmaid sleepovers before the day of the wedding? They miss all of this intense bonding time, but Danielle did not. She got it all, American style, look at this bachelorette takeover:

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So Italians don’t have all the leading into marriage parties, but instead they have one huuuggggeee party the day of and spend an average of $30,000. I’ll explain how that’s feasible in another post 😉 I’d say that’s doin it up big!

There are other little contrasting details like how Americans play games during the reception and how Italians prefer to be serenaded by violins following them wherever they walk. For my wedding I chose to play the shoe game for more entertainment. Danielle and Adam did as well.

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As you can see this was entertainment for everyone and this is one aspect of American weddings that I prefer more- games,speeches, the variety of entertainment.

There are several other interesting details like how Italian brides do not have a lot of bridesmaids at all, usually just two, and the bridesmaids don’t really have a key role in the wedding! I could go on and on about other differences but I will just have to save that for my next post because this post is already a book.  The next post will be about my Italian/American wedding I had in Italy. It will give you an idea of how I mixed two very different cultures into one, which aspects I grabbed from my culture, and which aspects I grabbed from their culture in order to make my wedding the most cohesive of both worlds. I will be including many more contrasting details to give everyone an idea of how surprisingly different the cultures are.

If you have a story to tell of an Italian wedding you went to then I would love to hear about your experience and what you noticed was different. And, if anyone has a question about what is the norm here or what American traditions they don’t do in Italy then feel free to ask!

Summary

Some contrasting details between Italian and American Weddings:

  • Italians don’t have speeches                                                                         
  • weddings are held in the city of the bride
  • cakes are usually fat and short
  • the bridal party toasts with champagne around the cake
  • favors are a big deal, they personally give away each one
  • Italians don’t have bridal showers
  • Italians give wedding gifts by coming over to your house before the wedding day
  • Italians don’t have any pre-wedding parties in general (lingerie or rehearsal)
  • they spend an average of $30,000 on the wedding
  • they don’t play games during the reception
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