Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Weddings, Southern Italian Style

So if you have visions of My Big Fat Greek Wedding when you think of southern Italy and matrimonial festivities, you'd be pretty much right on.  Which sort of makes sense since this part of Italy was, once upon a time, part of Magna Grecia.  There are bound to be genetic traces and traditions still floating about these villages. 

It all started back in November at our festa di ringraziamento when Elisa and Giuseppe told us to mark July 2 on our calendars as we'd be invited to their wedding.  Elisa was the first to befriend me and introduce me into her circle of amiche.  Giuseppe did the same for Bryan, so his little gang of guys that meets at the bar for a beer is now Bryan's posse.

The festivities started just over a week prior to the matrimonio with the pre-wedding parties, one for the guys (a meat fest) and one for the girls (a little raunchier, with an {ahem} anatomical theme running through the evening).  No dancers, just good (mostly) clean fun to embarrass the bride and groom respectively and give everyone an excuse to get together and eat (like they need an excuse for that, this being Italy).

A wonderful tradition here is the serenata.  On the eve of the wedding, the groom and his guys gather in the piazza and, accompanied by musical friends, stroll through the village to the bride's house while playing folk music and gathering friends along the way.  The groom calls for the bride to come down and accept his hand, but she plays coy, while the band plays and sings to coax her.  Our lovely bride gave in easily and came down quickly; others aren't so merciful, we're told.  We heard of one sposa whose mother threw water on the groom, not a very noble beginning, I'd say.  Music, dancing in the street and - a nice touch by Giuseppe, fireworks - rounded out the serenata.

Bright and early, when I went for my cappuccino, the guys were dressed in their suits and on the street taking pictures.  Okay, maybe not that early, since I'm not a real prima mattina kind of girl, but you know what I mean.  About a half-hour before the ceremony, Bryan hung with the boys while I went to the bride's house where a crowd was gathering to accompany her to the church.  We all followed the beautiful Elisa in her bridely glory, walking through the village to the church.  Just like in a movie.  No one enters the church until the bride arrives, then the big doors are opened and everyone streams inside. 

The ceremony was like most wedding Masses.  Vows were exchanged, joyful tears were shed, rice was thrown.  The guests flowed down to the piazza to wait while pictures were being taken.  Nobody goes to the reception until the bride and groom are ready, then they follow along, forming a snake-like parade down the hill.  The couple stopped at the cemetery to lay flowers on their fathers' graves, as both padri had passed away, a lovely gesture, but the parade didn't want to pass them and so the windy road that leads to our town was completely blocked, a line-up of cars backed up about a mile of the hairpin curves. 

The reception hall in the next town over is rather fancy-like.  They  have ceremonies down to a science, and served up gorgeous plates in synchronated rhythm.  It was as well orchestrated as a Broadway production, but tastier.  Truly impressive.  We sat down to eat at 2:00 p.m.  We got from the table to dance at about 8:00 p.m.  But the food wasn't finished; because why stop at 3 plates of antipasti, 3 primi, 2 secondi and cake when you can also roll out eleborate tables of sweets and fruit and gelato?  After a couple of hours of dancing, they brought out pizza and porchetta. 

Everyone asked if "this is how you do weddings in America?"  Yeah, right.  None that we've attended, though some of the music and the old ladies dancing together did remind me of some of my cousins' receptions that I remember attending when I was a kid.

We departed at about midnight, but not before the happy couple presented us with a gift.  That's right; in Italy, the bride and groom give gifts to the guests.  We're not talking about kitchy party favors, folks.  We're talking a really nice pair of china espresso cups and saucers.    

It was a fabulous party, one that we're told is pretty typical for this part of the country.  The bride and groom will be departing for their honeymoon America.  Nice; a couple of Americans celebrated their vows, and now they're off to America to celebrate their bliss.


Anonymous said...

Bella Festa!

An amazing tradition -- walk to the church!

Saretta said...

Yes, Italian weddings are a big event! I took some pictures of the wedding of friends with almost the same title as your post: The pictures go on for 5 days of posts!

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I love the tradition here of the guests following the bride to the church.

Valerie said...

I *love* the tradition of walking to the church. It's just so beautiful to see!

Saretta - Thanks for sharing your photos. Looks like your friends' wedding was even more elaborate, but then things are more informal up here in the hills ;)

Anonymous said...

So glad I didn't have to see Bryan dance!!

Larraine said...

Our family doesn't do it anymore, but weddings used to have a "grand march" right on the dance floor. Probably a modern (then) version of the walk to the wedding that they do in small Italian towns. Remember in the Godfather, Michael Corleone and his bride walked to the church!