Italian Wedding Customs & Etiquette

The custom of the bridal veil began in Italy.
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Just because you don't live in Italy doesn't mean you can't have an Italian wedding. Many Italian wedding traditions and customs can be incorporated into a stateside event. Don't worry about your guests feeling out of place, either: Although there are a few minor differences, wedding etiquette in Italy is not much different than in any other country.

1 Pre-Wedding Customs

Traditionally in Italy, the bride and groom would walk to the church on foot, and the groom would slip a bit of iron into his pocket to ward off evil spirits. Today neither of these traditions is very practical, but the bride and groom can incorporate other customs into their wedding preparations. In Italy, a ribbon is tied across the front door of the church to signify that a wedding is about to take place. And brides, don't forget to rip your veil. Italian brides wear a face veil to symbolize innocence -- and ripping it is considered good luck, so tuck a small tear into the corner. Finally, plan a morning wedding. In Italy, most weddings are held early -- traditionally, on a Sunday -- so that the couple can rest quietly before the big reception later that day.

2 Wedding Customs

Italian brides carry "la borsa," a small, satin bag used to hold money. Guests place envelopes full of money into the bag to help pay for the wedding or honeymoon. Sometimes the bride wears it while dancing at the reception, and men who want to dance with her can pay for the privilege. Although the guest list may be large, the wedding party likely will be small -- Italian weddings usually only feature a maid of honor and best man, who also serve as the witnesses. In Italy, when the bride and groom exit the church, guests shout, "Auguri!" which means "best wishes." The bride and groom leave the church in a car decorated with flowers.

3 During the Reception

Receiving lines are important in Italy, so be prepared for a long line of people who want to kiss and hug the bride and groom. Traditionally, the bride and groom would break a vase at the reception. The number of broken pieces represents the number of happy years the couple will have together. During the reception, the bride and groom lead the guests in a circular dance called "La Tarantella." The participants hold hands and dance clockwise, changing directions every time the music speeds up until finally, they collapse in a dizzy heap. Finally, consider forgoing the wedding cake. In Italy, it is customary in many areas to serve candy-covered Jordan almonds, which symbolize the sweet and bitter that comes with every marriage. They also serve the almonds with a traditional Italian cake, such as mille-foglia, which features layers of pastry and cream, and they top it with doves, which symbolize lasting love.

4 Etiquette Tips

In Italy, it is acceptable for guests to wear black to an evening reception, but guests might want to choose a different color for the morning wedding. Guests should not wear white, however, as this is seen as an affront to the bride. Italian wedding receptions feature a lot of plate tapping -- a signal for the groom to kiss the bride. The kisses should be short and sweet, and guests should not start tapping until a member of the wedding party leads off the tradition. Entertainment and dancing -- which is always a big part of Italian weddings -- should wait until food has been served.