Italian Weddings, Life in Italy

My Italian-American Wedding: blending two cultures together

When Fabio and I were engaged he let me decide where we would get married, either Italy or America. I decided on Italy for many reasons, none of them because Italy was a dream, but because it was more convenient and held more significance in our relationship. Today I’m definitely happy I chose Italy, but I had no idea how hard it was going to be to plan a wedding in another language that I still didn’t know! This post is about my experience planning a wedding in a foreign country, the wedding itself, and all the differences between American and Italian weddings.

So the first thing on my agenda when I moved to Italy was to knock out the things that would take the longest (searching for favors). I moved to Italy in January and the wedding was in August so I had exactly 7 months to plan the biggest party of my life. After almost two months of searching and talking to people I finally came across these gorgeous candles and decided to pick those as my favors.

ImageThe candles were put inside little boxes and topped with a pink rose and ribbon. The lady that we purchased these from also attached a little tag to the ribbon that said “Jessica and Fabio’s wedding August 4th, 2012”

A35Q5927After the favors were finished, Fabio and I completed all of the other wedding tasks together instead of me, the bride, doing it all. This was completely necessary because I could not speak Italian, nevertheless wedding language. I was definitely a lucky gal to have the groom so involved in all the details. He was happy to do it, and I was thankful for his help cause I could have never done it alone.

Eventually we made an appointment at the florist to order flowers for the church and my bouquet. I ended up getting a cascading bouquet that I thought would flow beautifully instead of a ball bouquet that looks stuck. Most Italian brides however get very small bouquets that are in a teardrop form. Below is a picture of my bouquet and then a traditional Italian bouquet

A35Q4815 IMG_1573Speaking of bouquets, Italian bridesmaids do not carry bouquets of their own, just the bride and the flower girl. The flower girl carries a bouquet because it is not permitted to throw flowers in the churches in Italy as it “makes the floor dirty.” Priests are very particular here, so when planning a wedding in Italy you often have to ask permission for certain things in the church like throwing flowers! Also,it is tradition in Italy for the mother-in-law to purchase the bouquet for the bride, which my mother-in-law did for me.  Me and Fabio however purchased the flowers for the church, house, car, bouquets for the bridesmaids and such. I found a picture in a magazine of these rose pillars hung from the ceiling of a church and I wanted to replicate that in my wedding. I could not hang the pillars from the ceiling because the priest said no :-/ I did put them in vases though, four in total, and they were gorgeous all the same.

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In this picture above you can also get a glimpse of my bridesmaids. My bridesmaids all had bouquets, and were wearing wraps to cover their shoulders. In Italy you must cover your shoulders when entering a church. Of course you can always get by if you don’t have a shoulder cover, but you will stick out majorly and people will think it’s not educated. Below are my gorgeous bridesmaids, all properly dressed, even though it was 90 degrees that day with no air conditioning! (there is no air conditioning in the churches in general)

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Another unique thing about my bridesmaids that made my wedding half American was the fact that I had 5. Italian brides usually have just 1 or 2 bridesmaids. They do this because bridesmaids are technically your “testimony”, and you only need two testimonies to sign your wedding certificate in the church. So, the priest was unhappy with the fact that Fabio and I had 10 testimonies all together. 🙂 Anyways, I had 5 bridesmaids, and they all wore champagne colored dresses. Italian bridesmaids do not even have to match! I went to one wedding where one maid was wearing navy blue and the other wearing beige! That is strange to me, but it’s quite normal here. I showed many Italian women this picture below of my best friend’s wedding. They thought it actually looked quite nice to have everyone wearing the same dress. That says a lot coming from Italian fashionistas!

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Another major difference between Italian and American weddings is that the bride-bridesmaid relationship in America is much closer. Bridesmaids for a traditional American wedding assist the bride all year long, do favors for her, accompany her to get her nails done, throw parties for her…etc. Even the American bride will shower the bridesmaids with gifts. Italian brides do this as well, but it is usually just one big gift that is general. I however wanted to do something more personal for my bridesmaids, so I made them baskets with different things that pertained to their characters. My Italian bridesmaid cried because she had never seen anything like that before-so personal.

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In America, the day of the wedding the bridesmaids are always near the bride or know where the bride is. The bridesmaid is in charge of bringing emergency stuff for the bride, not forgetting anything, and such. Each bridesmaid has a duty, and there is even a head bridesmaid…how nice. In Italy, this whole concept is foreign. I went to a wedding once and saw a bridesmaid at the church before the wedding began and asked “where is the bride?” the bridesmaid responded “oh, I don’t know.” I was completely shocked! How could she not know, isn’t she a bridesmaid? After that day I started to notice in other weddings that the bridesmaids were never really around for the bride. I heard of another Italian bride going for a trial hair-do by herself, picking out her dress just with her mother, and not having a lingerie party thrown for her by anyone. This to me takes away part of the joy of getting married. Getting married is about relationships, creating memories, and bonding. Italians don’t have the girl-bonding time like Americans do unfortunately. BUT, for my wedding I combined the best of the two cultures and had my 5 bridesmaids all by my side which my Italian family thought was so wonderful.

Like I said, bridesmaids have jobs, and I gave one bridesmaid the job of giving the church a gift basket. In Italy, the bride and groom is responsible for giving a donation to the church. This donation usually consists of two-three baskets of bread, fruit, and wine, and money.  Below is a pic of one of the baskets that my mother-in-law had organized.

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I love this tradition and think that this is one of those small touches that makes a nice difference in your wedding. After the baskets were delivered to the priest during the ceremony it was then time to sign the papers along with our two testimonies each. This is a huge part of the ceremony that is always done ahead of time in America. I think during the ceremony is more special. In the picture below, notice the flowers on the altar. It’s tradition to decorate the altar, and the outside of the church near the door.

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Another difference between cultures is that Italians do not have the unity lighting ritual that is a key part in American weddings. Thankfully our priest allowed us to light our unity candle, and many people told me they thought that was a beautiful thing I brought in from my culture.

A35Q5077Here is a view of the whole church

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After the wedding Fabio and I took a two hour break to get pictures made. This is also an Italian tradition that I think is a bright idea. Between the ceremony and reception, Italians take breaks to freshen up for the long reception ahead. This gives the newlyweds the time they need to get their photo shoot! Why don’t we do this in America!? Regardless, here are some pics from our photo shoot.

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So after the photo shoot we headed off to the reception.  Planning the reception was actually really easy. The restaurant totally took care of everything. The only work we had to do was choose the table seating chart, taste the food, and choose the decor. The restaurant made the cake for us too, so that was super cool! For the table seating chart I was able to find a way to make that as personal as possible. Each table was named after a place we had traveled to together. On each table was a card with our picture, the name of the city we traveled to, and a short story of what we did there. Take a look.

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Our cake at the wedding was just the most fabulous cake I’ve ever seen. First of all, it was unusual for the Italians to make a cake with four tiers because Italian cakes are traditionally three tier, fatter cakes instead of taller, skinnier cakes. Keep in mind though that the fatter Italian cakes are still very tall (about 4 feet), it’s just a different style. Here is a pic of a traditional Italian cake that I have seen around at different weddings, and then a picture of my cake.

A35Q5902Now, another huge tradition in Italian weddings is the chocolate covered almonds that you take for good luck. This is supposedly done in the U.S., and is even sold in the wedding section of stores like Jo-Ann’s and Michael’s, but I have never seen an American wedding with a table of almonds for good luck.  Italians go crazy over these almonds. Usually at a wedding you will see a table with little bags and maybe five different colors of almonds to choose from that you can stuff your bag with.  This tradition is supposed to take place when the desserts are served. Italians will trample over each other to take as many almonds as possible all for good luck. Because of this greedy problem, Fabio and I hate to get almonds at weddings and always accept the bad luck instead. It’s just plain annoying to find a spot at a round table and fight for a few almonds. It’s so bad that if you show up 5 minutes later to that table then you will see all of the canisters completely empty! Anyways, here is a pic.

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The last thing I would like to talk about in this post is where Italians often honeymoon. Believe it or not, they either go to Thailand or America! Going around Europe just isn’t worth it to them because it is so close. I thought this was super funny that Italians dream of going to the States and Americans dream of going to Italy! Anyways, Fabio and I decided to go to Thailand because many of our Italian friends went there for their honeymoons and said it was fabulous. When we were in Thailand we often ran into other Italians and had group tours with them, but I rarely came across an American! Anyways, below is a pic of us off on our fabulous honeymoon of 20 days in Thailand

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn summary, I think I had many Italian traditions and American traditions in my wedding. My wedding was certainly unique and unlike anything I’ve ever been to. I wasn’t able to include all the differences between the two cultures in this post, but I included many. I hope this post can help someone who is in the process of planning a destination wedding in Italy, or someone who is doing what I did and feels desperate for help in their wedding planning.

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25 thoughts on “My Italian-American Wedding: blending two cultures together”

  1. You were such a Beautiful Bride! Your Italian wedding was so romantic, loved the church & especially the vases of flowers, so original. By blending both cultures, you probably changed some of the italian traditions. Congratulations to you & your groom! Your wedding gown was spectacular. I love reading your blog.

  2. Hi Jess. I loved reading this post. What a gorgeous bride you were, and I think you made some great decisions about the various traditions. We smiled about the almonds and noticed that in northern Italy it’s a little different. (Perhaps because they are supposedly less generous than southerners). Here the almonds are already put into little bags or arrangements attached to the favours. They have to be in odd groups (3, 5, 7 etc) for good luck.
    We’re having my daughter’s wedding in May, so this was interesting to read. She isn’t going to get married in church, though.
    I’m making the dress, though (have blogged a little about it).

    1. Thanks 🙂 Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! If I can help in any way then let me know. I love going to weddings and seeing all the little differences, it’s almost like a hobby. I’m surprised she is getting married outside, I didn’t know that was possible in Italy. I’ve always heard that you have to get married in the church. Well, maybe that’s one benefit of living up North! I did read your blog about making the dress, very interesting. You must be skilled, I can’t imagine making clothes, nevertheless a gown!

      1. Thanks for your kind offer. I’ll take you up on it if I need to. I’m excited about making the dress, but feeling the stress a little. What would life be without a little stress! ; )

  3. I find this fascinating on a number of levels. I married my husband who is a southern Italian (but we live in Florence currently) last september in Utah, but we are planning another wedding here in May. My experience is nowhere near as lovely as yours. I didn’t make the assumption that it was cultural, having studied sociology I try not to make those assumptions unless I’ve read studies about them first, but now I’m pretty sure it’s not cultural, rather specific to his family in particular (who seem to be clinically insane). So far I’m not allowed to make any decisions for the wedding, if I have an opinion about anything that contradicts what they want it’s met with bipolar level hostility which usually results in a fight of nuclear proportions (a fight I’m usually not even part of since in America screaming at the top of your lungs at your mother in law is not usually our thing). I’m not even allowed to pick out my own ring (as far as they’re concerned, but I’m going to do it anyways). I’m happy for you that you’re husband is so relaxed and that his family didn’t take over everything for you. You’re dress is gorgeous! The wedding was beautiful. Can I ask you if you bought it here or in the US? I loved your wedding. Ours is going to be in Cassino (between Naples and Rome, where the battle of montecassino took place).

    1. Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry to hear about all your troubles with the wedding process! That’s got to suck! I know that Italians like to do everything together, with a concensus (they really value each others opinions in the family), but I’ve never heard of them taking over the bride and groom’s responsibilities like that. My experience was completely different. My mother-in-law helped with everything and everything was my decision in the end. The Whole family was really helpful and Always asked me what I wanted (or what we wanted). I went with my mother-in-law to help her pick out her dress, and my Italian bridesmaid wanted my approval of her dress and such. For the rings, my husbands family did try to convince use to get the standard gold ring because it’s tradition to wear gold, but we just didn’t like gold and told them no! It was no big deal. Anyways I got my wedding gown in America before I ever moved to Italy because I knew that the dresses here would be super expensive! Well the best of luck to you for your wedding! I hope after it’s all said and done that the planning will just be a small memory and you will be able to remember the day of your wedding instead. 🙂

    1. That’s funny. Have a good trip! Where are you guys going and for how long? We went for 20 days and went to Bangkok, Ayuttaya, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Koh Phagnan for a resort. (not sure if all of those are spelled right). Ya, I’d love to get a coffee sometime. Let me know next time your down here.

  4. Hi, Neat post. There is a problem with your web site in internet explorer, might check this?
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  5. Hey! I’m going through your blog, it’s always fascinating to see Italy through the eyes of an American, and the writing is brilliant 😀
    Anyway I have this burning curiosity. Is Fabio a carabiniere or a police officer of some sort? (Polizia, Finanza, etc.) His suit looks definitely like a divisa di gala but I can’t place which one it is. 😀

  6. I am getting married in a few months in the States but I have family from Italy that will be coming. I have enjoyed reading your blog and wanted to know if there is a traditional Italian blessing or reading that is done at the ceremony that I could incorporate into mine. Thanks!

    1. Hi, I’m glad you enjoyed it. They do read stuff during the ceremony, usually there are like 3 readings, but that’s for traditional Catholic weddings in general I think. They read parts of scripture. Other than that, during my wedding we had a guy read off the Sailor’s prayer at the end as we had a military wedding.

  7. I’m not that mucch of a online reader to be honest but your sites really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later.
    All the best

  8. Hi – really enjoyed reading your post. I married my Italian husband ten years ago in the UK but I think our wedding was closer to an Italian than an American wedding. A lot of the things you describe just aren’t done in the uk – and I decided that I didn’t want bridesmaids at all!

  9. fantastic publish, very informative. I ponder why the opposite specialists of this
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  10. Hey there! I’m reading this post a bit late as I’ve been now searching online for ideas to incorporate American customs into an Italian wedding (I’ve been living here about 8 months). I live in Naples and we plan on getting married late December of next year (2018). I’ve been so stressed out thinking of how to blend our 2 cultures (sigh).
    I am debating having bridesmaids. I really want them and I’d have 4 (my 4 cousins who I grew up with) but I feel it’s somewhat pointless since we won’t get to do any bridesmaid/bride activities. They would literally be my bridesmaids just to walk into church.
    How did that work for you? We’re they part of your planning? Did they all wear the same dress and did they pick them out on their own or were you part of that process?
    Also, I explained to my fiancé the reason why I want bridesmaids (they are an important part of my life) and he said if I want them then he could find 2 friends to walk with them down the aisle (2 of them are married). Did you have a head table at your wedding or just the sweetheart table?
    Ugh, I’m already so stressed out just thinking about all these decisions that would normally be easy if I was getting married in Chicago. I’d appreciate any advice you have!

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