Traditions associated with food and drink abound in Italian wedding reception customs. Food symbolising fertility and for good luck are called ‘confetti’ – candy covered almonds tied in mesh bags which are thrown at the couple – and twists of fried dough powdered with sugar called ‘wanda’. Guests are also given ‘Bomboniere’ favours – 5 sugared almonds wrapped in lace symbolising health, wealth, fertility, happiness & long life.
The menu at an Italian wedding reception is of huge importance and a lot of effort will be put into making it just right. Guests may be served as many as 14 different courses with wine and other drinks. After dinner, the customary multi-layered Italian wedding cake is served with espresso and coffee. Italian wedding cakes are not customarily on display throughout the reception, but are brought out just prior to cutting and then served to the guests.
The father of the bride is the first to make a toast at the reception. After this, the best man is in charge of giving the toast that will take place right before dinner, known as the “per cent’anni” which is a wish for the bride and groom to stay together for one hundred years, and for which the guests are served sweet liquor and strong drinks.
Whenever there is a pause in the meal or celebrations, be sure that a guest will call out “evviva gli sposi” which is a cheer for the new couple. The groom also receives demands from the crowd to kiss his new bride, and guests also kiss the bride for good luck.
An Italian wedding seating plan
Some sources indicate that traditionally, there is no “top table” at Italian weddings. However, as the European / USA tradition of organised wedding seating plans filters into many countries, modern day Italian weddings often do have a standard top table layout. Sweetheart tables (a great alternative to the traditional top table) for the bride and groom are popular – the Italian custom is for the bride and groom leave their table and visit every table at the reception to greet their guests, prior to leaving for their honeymoon.
There is often a table set aside for gifts, and the new mothers-in-law are seated near to it. They are expected to thank the guests and write a list of the gifts.
Traditionally, an Italian bride will carry a satin bag (la borsa) in which guests place envelopes of money. Sometimes the bag is guarded by the bride’s grandmother during the reception or, alternatively, the bride will wear it and allow male guests to put money in it in exchange for a dance with her. As another way to raise funds for the couple’s honeymoon, the groom’s tie is cut into pieces and sold to the wedding guests as a memento.
The first dance will take place before the evening meal. Upon entering the reception, the newly weds are introduced and take their first dance, followed by the bridal party and then the rest of the wedding guests. After the first dance with her new husband, the bride shares a dance with her father, and the groom dances with his mother.
It is traditional that a group dance, the Tarantella, be performed at the reception. The men who dance it hold their jackets open to the sides – apparently to reveal any weapons they may be carrying!