Several years ago I married an Italian-American man. His Italian heritage means a lot to him and although we were not having a traditional Catholic wedding, we did want to include some elements of traditional Italian wedding customs to honor his Italian heritage.
I performed some research on my own while he called his Dad to find out what we could use in our wedding. A few Italian customs may seem a little antiquated or not so easy to incorporate into a modern wedding. Some are reserved for actual Italian weddings in Italy. Yet there are several customs and traditions that are quite easy to include in a modern wedding and reception.
Some traditions that almost all modern couples do without even thinking are attributed to the Italians. The wearing of a veil can be traced back to Italy (and throughout other regions of Europe as well) to conceal the bride and ward off evil spirits. Folklore claims it is very good luck for the veil to be torn. Even diamond engagement rings can be traced back to medieval Italy. It was believed that diamonds were created out of the flames of love.
Other Italian customs that are easy to include in a modern wedding are:
A tradition from the southern regions of Italy has the bride and groom shatter a glass at the end of the wedding day. The number of pieces the glass shatters into symbolizes the number of happy years the couple will have together.
The groom should carry a piece of iron in his pocket (Toc Ferro) on the wedding day to ward off the evil eye (mal'occhio) and any other bad luck that might come along.
The bride should carry a satin bag (la borsa) at the reception in which guests place envelopes of money. This bag could also be used during the modern dollar dance to collect the money. The satin bag is a much better alternative than having the money pinned to the bride, which was done at my sister-in-law's wedding. I refused to be a bridal pincushion.
Candy-covered almonds, also called confetti (bomboniera), are tied in mesh bags and tossed at the couple instead of rice or birdseed. Traditionally this was to ward off childlessness and symbolize the union of bitter and sweet. The number of confetti in each bag is very important.
It should never be an even number, because that is bad luck. It should always be an odd number, preferably 5 or 7 which are each good luck numbers. If you don't want to be hit with bags of almonds, a modern take on the confetti would be to give the bags away as favors. A little bag could be placed at each table setting.
Food is very important to the Italians and the wedding feast is no exception. Traditional wedding feasts are multicourse dinners, usually beginning with an antipasto salad and continuing on with soup, pasta, chicken and vegetables. A symbolic wedding food is twisted dough covered in powdered sugar (wanda). Traditional Italian candy is also usually served.
After the meal, cake is served with espresso and other coffees.
These are just a few of the traditional Italian wedding customs that can be included in your modern wedding.