The summer of 2021 is turning out to be the summer of weddings in Italy. And this is understandable: not everyone could pull off a cute, fun courthouse wedding like my husband and I did during the practically year-long lockdown of 2020!
Now that things have started opening up a bit again, those who were waiting for a big, traditional Italian wedding are finally getting their chance to have one – and I had my first chance to go to one!
Here is everything you need to know about Italian weddings and how they are different from American ones, so that you’ll be prepared for your first invite too.
1. Italian Weddings Are LOOOOOONG
American weddings can feel really long at times, but they’ve got nothing on an Italian wedding. It is customary for an Italian wedding to start in the afternoon and last until the wee hours of the morning. The wedding I went to, for example, started with a mass at 4:30pm which lasted until around 6:00pm, then we went to the restaurant for the dinner/dancing/etc. portion. We got there at 7:00 and left at 1:30 in the morning—and we were the first ones to leave! The bride and groom still had to pass out the bomboniere (wedding favors), so we are pretty sure they themselves didn’t get home until around three or four in the morning. And all weddings are like this!
2. There Is a TON of Food
If you come to an Italian wedding, you’d better come hungry! You will know from my book and my previous posts that Italian meals usually tend to have multiple courses. This wedding in particular had a whopping seven of them, not counting the cake and dessert buffet at the end or the drinks and snacks guests were munching on before the bride and groom arrived!
This was the only place I have ever been in Italy where I found myself not being the only one who couldn’t finish their whole meal. It started with appetizers (in this case it was a seafood buffet with various finger foods and fried things), then a couple of pasta dishes and rice dishes (some of which included cheese, which I was certain was a no-no in Italy), then a fish dish, then another fish dish… until we ended with the wedding cake and dessert buffet full of beautiful, delicious looking cakes, cookies, and ice creams at one in the morning. Budget your stomach space accordingly: my husband and I were sad that we could only manage to split one piece of cake and had to leave all the other delicious desserts behind because we were full!
3. Expect the Bride and Groom to Be Late
This can happen at American weddings too. Everyone knows that at a big wedding, there are lots of photos to be taken. For this reason, it isn’t unusual for the bride and groom to show up late for their scheduled entrance into the church for the mass, or for them to arrive much later at the restaurant/reception afterwards than everyone else. This, of course, allows them to make a grand entrance, but if you are like me you might start to get worried at a certain point!
At the wedding we went to, the bride and groom were due to be at the restaurant at 7:30pm so that dinner could start at 8:00. In the end, they didn’t make their appearance until almost 9:00pm!! Maybe that’s why Italian weddings are so long…
I was assured that, while this was a particularly long wait, it was still perfectly normal in terms of Italian weddings. But don’t worry: there were plenty of snacks and drinks to keep guests from starving or getting too bored in the meantime!
4. There May Not Be as Much Dancing at Italian Weddings as At American Ones
In America, the major part of the wedding reception is almost always devoted to dancing. It takes precedence over everything else, sometimes even the food! In Italy, the food is the most important part, as is the mingling with the other guests. There are some couples who plan more time for dancing, but in most cases, it is just a small part of the evening, and is often just done as a way to keep people busy and entertained while the caterers or chefs prepare the next course.
5. You Might Want to Bring a Hand Fan
As I am writing this, August is winding down and soon it won’t be summer anymore. But since many weddings take place in the warmer part of the year (or just in warm locations), I am going to give you the number one piece of advice I wish I had gotten before I went to my first Italian wedding: bring a fan!!
Most Italian churches were built hundreds of years ago and this means that, while beautiful, they usually don’t have air conditioning. At a wedding there are a lot of people crammed into a small space, which makes it even hotter, so feel free to bring a small paper or fabric hand fan. I didn’t know this was “allowed,” but almost every woman in the entire church had one except for me! I would have thought it might have seemed “impolite” or something, but it turns out that this is common and even expected (most women even brought them to an outdoor pizza party/concert I went to for my nephew later this summer as well, so it’s apparently a “thing” I just didn’t know about).
Hand fans are inexpensive and handy as all get-out, so I’d definitely recommend buying one before your next big event.
Have you ever been to an Italian wedding? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments section!