Times change, trends and fashions evolve and technology impacts on every aspect of our lives but there are still a few rules of wedding etiquette that apply even today.
In Italy, you may receive a partecipazione to a wedding: this is simply the announcement sent to any number of people who might attend the church or civil ceremony, or who should be informed of the marriage. If you find another card accompanying it, this will be the invito, and means you are actually invited to the reception, be it a luncheon, dinner, banquet, cocktail or refreshment.
As there is rarely a reply card, it is polite to RSVP as soon as possible by way of a phone call. If you are declining, a phone call is mandatory to explain the reasons for not attending and a small gift or bunch of flowers would be quite fitting.
Gifts should be delivered personally or sent to the bride’s or groom’s home within a couple of weeks of the wedding. Only in exceptional circumstances (guests arriving from afar for the day) should they be taken to the wedding.
A simple card with a brief congratulatory message will accompany the gift: something like “We wish you a long and happy life together”, should suffice.
If there is a wedding registry, all the better for everyone. Don’t stray from it and even if you don’t like the theme, try to choose something that in some way represents you.
Gifts are not expected from those who only receive a partecipazione; however, a card, a message or flowers would be considered a nice gesture. Avoid sending these on the actual day of the wedding as the couple have enough to worry about.
The dreaded envelope (containing money) can be offered as an alternative to a gift, but only by members of the family or extremely close friends. An unwritten rule as to the amount to give is: cover the cost of the meal and bomboniera then add at least 100 euros.
Unless requested, women should never wear a totally white outfit at a wedding. White is exclusively reserved for the bride. Black is to be avoided but may be worn if the ceremony takes place in the evening. Black and white combinations are now acceptable. Red and violet are a tad too eye-catching. The moral being: No one should steal the show from the bride!
These seemingly indispensable gadgets should be left off throughout the entire day.
At the table
If the occasion is very formal and waiters are about, leave the napkin for them to unfold and place on your lap. Otherwise, you can do it yourself as soon as you are seated.
An array of cutlery on either side of your plate can appear a daunting prospect. But by following the “outside-in” rule, you can’t go wrong. Start with the outermost utensils and work your way inward with each course that is served.
Make sure your elbows are kept close to your sides and keep your hands on the table. Unlike in the United States, laps are a no-go area. When you pause to take a sip of your beverage or to speak with someone, place your knife and fork – tines down – pointing toward each other in an inverted V. When you’ve finished, utensils should be together – knife blade inward – in a 6:30 position.
A professional photographer will not want guests interfering with the photo shoot, so we recommend that you stay out of their way. Refrain from taking pics on your Smartphones and do not post anything before the couple have had a chance to. Furthermore, never post pictures of children without permission.
Unlike in Australian weddings, there are usually no bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid/matron of honour or best man. Instead, a bride and groom nominate testimoni (witnesses) to be at their side at the altar. The testimoni can be chosen from among their family: a brother, sister, cousin or close friend. The witnesses aren’t expected to dress alike but they do serve a symbolic, official and bureaucratic purpose.
Because it is an honour to be a testimone, their gift to the couple will need to ‘reflect’ their status...
The groom’s witness will bring the wedding rings to the church and all the testimoni are required to sign the legal papers.
Even if the guest list is reduced to the core, it would be impolite not to reciprocate an invitation. In other words, whoever invited you to their wedding, should be invited to yours.
Never include gift registry information in the invitation.
Whether you want children to attend the reception or not, make sure the invitations state this clearly. Addressing the invitation only to the adults is the subtlest way of indicating that children are not invited. But being too subtle can lead to misunderstandings, so it may be necessary to confirm this verbally.
Wedding favours or bomboniere are still customary. Whatever the item, it is a way of thanking guests for sharing your special day and serves as a memento of the occasion. One bomboniera, including five white confetti (sugared almonds), is given to each family. The five confetti represent health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life.
The testimoni (witnesses or best man and maid of honour), also receive a personalised gift.
Bomboniere should never be distributed before the wedding: this may be construed as a request for a gift.
Immediately upon receiving the wedding gift, you should open it and express words of immense gratitude.
Within the first year of marriage, you should send a note to everyone to thank them for their gifts and for attending their wedding.
The bride should not wear gloves during the actual church service especially when exchanging rings. Lay the gloves with the bouquet or hand them to the testimone. Gloves may be worn for greetings, the first dance and photos but removed when eating, drinking and cutting the cake.
A veil should not be worn in a civil service at the registry office or for a second marriage. As a rule, there should be no long train or veil if there are no flower girls or bridesmaids.
Even in the harshest of winters, the groom must never wear an overcoat.
He shouldn’t even remotely consider wearing white socks, or short socks of any colour (ever!).
Matching a tie with a pocket square is poor form and lacks sophistication. Any clothier selling them as matching sets is untrustworthy and of dubious distinction.
The groom should never wear jewellery except perhaps a tie pin, cufflinks or a watch.
It is not a requirement for the bride to throw her bouquet to prospective single ladies. She may prefer to keep the bouquet intact for herself, or remove single flowers from it to extend to female guests.
In the church
Generally in Italy, weddings are not celebrated during the period of Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas) nor during Lent (40 days prior to Easter).
The bride should not arrive more than 10 minutes late, and when she arrives, she should stand on the left, with the groom on the right. The bride’s family should be seated behind her on the left, and the groom’s family on the right side of the church.
Friends may sit where they wish.
Enjoy your day and...BUON DIVERTIMENTO A TUTTI!