L’amore e per sempre – Love is Forever
And parents of the happy couple hope it is forever – it can be a costly, extravagant affair and is expected to last forever. Happily, there are fewer Italian divorces.
Usually preceded by an engagement party, the bridal shower, and the rehearsal dinner, the wedding can be affair of 100 to 300 guests. Italian families are large and may be why the bridal parties are, too. it is not unusual to have 8 to 12 attendants, plus 2 flower girls and a ring bearer.
After the stretch limo, Mercedes or horse-driven carriages to the place of reception, the guests are greeted for cocktails in a Monaco-hall type setting resendent with enormous crystal chandeleirs, marble columns and floor to ceiling mirrors. Finger Hors deoveres are served along with cocktails.
The formal dinner is served shortly thereafter, a 5 or 6 course meal, starting with a room filled with appetizers. The appetizers range from fresh fruit, shrimp, assorted tuna, shrimp, crabmeat, egg and varied salads, along with the familiar italian delicacies; ricotta stuffed eggplant, meatballs and sausages, pasta dishes, and varied fish dishes, mussels, crab legs, lobster tails, scallops, calamari and many more. There is a bar set up with different mixed drinks, champagne, wines,and liquers.
When dinner is announced, the guests move to the formal dinner room. Dinner usually begins with soup, a minestrone or wedding soup, followed by a salad. The next course is always a pasta course. The main course comes next, your entree choice usually of chicken, salmon, or prime rib.
The band or DJ is already playing when you come into the hall, and continue playing while dinner is eaten. Danciing is popular and everyone dances.
After socializing, dancing and the traditional first dances, cake cutting and garter removal and boquet throwing, the hour is near midnight when the dessert room double doors, also know as the Venetian Room or Viennese Table are opened. The same large room that carried all the appetizers are gone and in their place are tables and stations of every fresh fruit – fruit is a favorite Italian dessert along with fancy cakes, tortes, sherbets, cannoli, cream puffs, puddings, ice cream bars, Italian cookies, tira misui, cream and fruit pies, including the sliced wedding cake. There are coffee urns and an expresso bar both caffineated and decafeffatee. Lattes, capaccinos and Irish coffees are served here also.
When the guests return to their tables, there are highly anticipated mounds of fancy home-made Italian cookies, decorated with tulle and fancy papers – they are the most popular and quickly consumed or carried home for the next day.
One Italian tradition is for the newlyweds to give a wrapped favor gift to the guests as they present the couple with their money gift. Almost 100% of wedding gifts are money gifts. When the guests presents the envelope which is placed in a money bag on the bride’s wrist and usually matches the wedding dress, they get a gift in return. These are lovely gifts, sometimes figurines from Italy, many in crystal. Sometimes it could be a bowl or vase, wine glasses or even an expresso serving gift of 6.
One wedding we attended was a Cinderella-inspired wedding. The gift to the guests was a Svardoniski crystal coach in sterling silver. Before the couple left the reception, two white doves were carried in and all the guests were invited to the outside veranda to let the doves go – if they left together, it was a good sign for the couple. They did.
Some weddings have cigar bars with someone from the islands rolling fresh cigars. Others have sushi bars in addition to all the above menus. Many have artists roaming around drawing caricatures for the guests.
Some of these weddings may cost what a grand down payment on a house would be or a high-priced new car. In addition, the parents may also present a honeymoon trip as a gift.
Italian weddings reflect not only the generosity of the families towards the newest ‘family’, but also the closeness of all the relatives who partake. For all the grandiosity and splendor they project, the family love in toasts, remembrances, hugs affection and multiple toasts of good wishes are extremely high. Auguri!!
Marie Coppola October 2012