One of our neighbor’s sons, just got married. I asked if I could write about going to the chapel, aka, the wedding and the answer was Si! Weddings are a fun and interesting way to get a glimpse into any culture. This wedding in particular was great mix of old traditions and modern trends.
Francesco was about 10 years old when I moved in next door with Mauro in 1999 so I have watched him grow up. He is one of the first kids I actually remember watching grow. When you are a kid yourself you don’t really notice how other kids are changing around you or at least I didn’t. I wasn’t really a grown up until I moved in with Mauro at the age of 29 anyway. I know this isn’t really true but I didn’t have friends with kids yet and I was never into babysitting.
Nearly a year ago, in a conversation between terraces Francesco’s parents told us about the wedding and that the date had been set. They know I am usually on tour at this time of year so this way I could plan ahead. The actual invitation was delivered in mid-June and a few days later we went and bought their gift even though the wedding wasn’t until September. Buying early gives us the pick of the list and I like giving people things that they will use regularly rather than pieces that get pulled out once or twice a year, if ever. So now you know that the Italians create gift registries just like we do. They often register with a travel agency to pay for the honeymoon too. A lot of couples nowadays live together before getting married but not in this case. Francesco and Cristina have been building their home for the last year and have always lived at home with their parents. This is still quite common here.
The Big Day has finally come and for the parents of the groom, it started early. I drove away around 7:30 am and Valentino was walking in through his back gate. I suspect he was checking out this mess in the front.
There were pictures of the happy couple pasted all over the brides and grooms hometowns. Directly across from his home was a giant sign that said ” Ripensaci Frenky” (rethink it Francesco!) Another sign said “Salvezza ” (salvation) with arrows pointing in the opposite direction from the church. The wedding was held in Cristina’s village and the plastic wrap with the orange writing on it was used liberally all the way to the church at every intersection the groom would take to get there. All in good fun!
The photographer arrived at noon but the bride and groom will not see each other before the wedding. All of the couple’s pictures will be taken between the ceremony and the reception.
By 2:00 pm the festivities have begun…people have started to gather at the respective parties house for an aperativo, sweet and savory pastries to nibble on and some Prosecco (sparkling Italian wine) soft drinks and juice in this case. At 3:30 it’s time to pile into the car and drive to the church. We grabbed a fiocco (bow) for our car’s antenna and everyone follows each other to the church. There was a lot of horn honking along the way so the world knows this is a wedding party.
The wedding mass was scheduled for 4:00 pm but in true Italian fashion it started 15 minutes late. It lasted about and hour and aside from the two witnesses there were no bridesmaids or groomsmen but the church was overflowing, standing room only! Close friends often slip into the back of the church so they can leave during the ceremony for the post wedding fun outside. In this case they had prepared a giant paper heart for the happy couple to break on their way out into the world. A heart with the couple’s initials is drawn with rice just outside the church and an improvised table with balloons and Prosecco awaited their first toast as a married couple. After the ceremony finished the couple posed with family and friends in front of the church. At this wedding the photographer brought a drone to take some pictures from the air.
Flash forward a few hours…The reception didn’t officially begin until the newlyweds arrived which was around 8:15 in the evening but even without them, the party was in full swing an hour earlier. There was an antipasto buffet served in the restaurant garden which kept our hunger at bay. Thinly sliced salami and pancetta, focaccia and grissini (breadsticks), cheese and fruit and lots of tasty fried tidbits among other things. It could be dinner…but it wasn’t!
Around 9:00 we made our way into the dining room and the real eating began. Tables were assigned (named after famous musicians) for the roughly 300 guests and we found our places. We were sitting with all of our neighbors at the table called Paganini. Sitting on every plate was a Guatemalan bag with a note. The couple had decided not to give a traditional bonboniere, a gift for all who attended, often hand delivered to friends and family either before or after the wedding. The gift is always accompanied by five Bonbons, small candies often Jordan almonds or coated chocolate that looks like Jordan Almonds. Instead of a bauble, Francesco and Cristina decided to spend this money on a charity that educates children in Guatemala. Perfect!
We finished eating our dinner but hadn’t yet moved onto la Torta Nuziale (wedding cake) by 11:30 when we were called out into the garden for a surprise. The father of the bride ordered up a fireworks display to add to the celebration. It was a complete surprise for everyone, including the newlyweds and an elaborate display of rockets had us all oohing and awing in the garden, once it was done, we moved onto dessert accompanied by bubbly wine, sweet Moscato d’ Asti and Berlucchi 61 Franciacorta Brut.
At Italian weddings it is traditional to play some games. The guests were given a sheet of paper with five categories (1. if you have blue eyes, 2 if you wear glasses, 3 if you are single, etc…) and if you fit into one of the categories when the DJ called your number you would stand up. The bride and groom then had to guess what all these people had in common. At random, guests also started ringing their glasses with their silverware and yell out baci baci! (kiss kiss!) Sometimes it’s the bride and groom who had to kiss and sometimes their parents. The witnesses were also urged to kiss at one point but not being a couple themselves, a kiss on the cheek was good enough.
After cake and fruit, coffee comes next, a shot of espresso to help our digestion and our level of sleepiness… that’s when the crowd started to thin out. It’s usually the oldest guests that go home first followed by those of us with kids. Emanuele, my 9 year old, was pooped so at 1:00 am we said goodbye but the party was nowhere near done. Buonanotte!
We learned the next day when the grooms family finally crawled out of bed around noon that they got home at 5:00 am. while the kids were still wrapping things up with their friends.
Viva Gli Sposi!