Wedding Traditions in Italy

As a catholic country in 19-th century up to 70s in 20th century in Italy divorces were not allowed. In 1866 an Italian Civil Code came into force. There were fixed a lot of legal and property relations relative to weddings. For example, it said that wife is obliged to bring her husband “dote” – portion consisting of available capital and real property. In ancient Rome the portion was given to the groom from bride’s father. In the beginning the arrangements were made by word but later they were legalized as acts of law. The portion was divided into two parts – one for the bride and one for the groom. Except the portion the bride was obliged to bring some personal belongings.

The Italian society before used to be very critical and sarcastic to those women who didn’t marry. The families of the unmarried women were very often laughed at and teased. There is even an old Italian saying about it: “An unmarried woman is like fly without head”. That is why the most important thing for fathers and brothers was to find husbands for their daughters and sisters in the first place. Usually Italian boys prefer to marry girls from their region. For women that time wasn’t very smart to avoid weddings.

Following the Italian tradition after meeting the girl he likes, the boy starts courting her but in very interesting and beautiful way. Young people meet usually in churches, carnivals, fairs and feasts. Young women were not allowed to go out alone.The traditional Italian courting was morning and evening singing. Usually the boy and his friends go to the girl’s house and accompanying themselves on portable instruments like guitars they perform music and sing below girl’s window. That’s how boys expressed their love and affection.

If the love songs were performed in the morning, the performance was called “mattinata”, if they were performed in the evening it was called “serenade”. As a sign of approval the girl was supposed to throw a flower from the window. Traditional marriages in Italy were arranged marriages. There was another ancient form of marriages too – that were runaway marriages. In Italy this form of marriage was preferred when there was impossible to find money for wedding i.e. economic considerations. It was preferred also in cases when girl’s parents refused to give their consent to the marriage. There was another form of marriage very close to runaway marriage. It was when a man compromised a girl in public. This was another way for the man to make girl’s parents consent to marry him. If a girl was compromised in public she was forced to marry the man who compromised her since nobody else will ever marry her. The Italians believe that for wedding any time is appropriate except May and Lenten season. This belief is connected with ancient Roman feast Lemuria that was dedicated to the ghosts of the dead.

Most of the people marry in autumn and the most appropriate days according to this belief were Saturdays and Sundays. Tuesdays and Fridays were considered most inappropriate. After discussing the portion and property matters both parties made a list of girl’s belongings even the clothes she was wearing during the wedding and verified a notarial act. In this way the list turned into a sort of a wedding contract.

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