Italian-American Wedding Etiquette That Will Make You Want To Elope


real-italy002Italian weddings may be the stuff of nightmares.


When my sisters got married, the word “tradition” lost all meaning for me. My mother used that word so often, I offered to tattoo it on her forehead. If the dress is mermaid and not a ballgown, it’s not traditional. Weird flowers? No flowers? SAY IT AIN’T SO. It must be cocktail hour with more food than you’d have to feed Cambodia, pasta served before the salad course, and one of the entrees must be filet mignon.

Oh, and my mom about had a heart attack when neither of my sisters threw the bouquet or did the whole creepy garter thing. Why? Because TRADITION.

Useless favors no one likes or uses

The only favors that are acceptable are rococo serving dishes with cherubs carved on them, that almost everyone will hate or else display in their china cabinets until they die. They must be wrapped in white paper with confetti—those three Jordan almonds in tulle—for good luck. If you choose something quirky or gasp! give a donation, you’re basically spitting on your ancestors.

Grannies who bring blank checks to the wedding

Italian nonne will wait for the reception to assess how much they’re willing to spend on you. If they’re not happy with the food, or they think the decor was tacky, tasteless or heaven forbid—modern—they won’t give you a big busta, i.e., money. They also confer with each other and will end up all giving you the same amount so that no one looks better than anyone else.

The word “abbondanza”

In case you don’t speak Italian, the word “abbondanza” means “literally all of the foodstuffs you can possibly imagine, so that your third cousins you’ve never met don’t call us cheap.” Abbondanza is a word you’ll only hear your mother/grandmother say when you’re discussing your menu. Of course you have to have three pasta choices and six entree choices! Didn’t I raise you right?? Now, call the maitre d’ and tell him you want the extra soppressata table at cocktail hour.

Viennese Hour that everyone criticizes

If there’s no cannoli and the cappuccinos cost extra, you may get a severed horse head in your marriage bed.

Family pictures

This may seem obvious, but think about the difficulty of joining every single family group together during the reception just to take pictures with the bride and groom. These photos are obviously the job of the professional photographer, and it’s their worst nightmare to take two dozen stiff, posed shots that no one, including the happy couple, will ever want or pay money for. Family pictures take hours away from time better spent shooting tequila and twerking, but God forbid you don’t ask every single family member to take a photo with you.

Table visits

Another requirement of the couple during the reception is to visit every single table, kiss everyone on the cheek, and thank them endlessly for attending, the same way you’d thank a stranger for taking a bullet for you. Table pictures are also a necessity to stroke the considerable egos of the Italians.

“La Bella Figura”

Another old-world Italian phrase, la bella figura means showing off for people you didn’t know existed. This means buying the $5,000 dress instead of the $2,000 one, making sure that the music isn’t all Top 40 and that the tarantella is somewhere in there, dancing to “Ti Amo” with a great-aunt, making sure everyone has been asked 37 times if they want another drink, and having the most expensive invitations, hall, food and—everything else.

If it’s not a full mass, you may be going to hell

My mother told me if I don’t get married in a Catholic church, she’s not coming. So I guess that limits my choices to Italian boys and/or guys who don’t mind doing some converting a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Forget the small outdoor wedding I had planned: If it’s not a full mass, I can kiss heaven—and my mom in a beautiful dress—goodbye.

Someone has to do one of the readings in Italian

Even if literally no one understands what the heck they’re saying. No one listens to the readings anyway, I guess.

Sending invitations to Italy knowing that side will never come

There’s nothing better than spending an extra hundred or so dollars on expensive invitations and expensive postage to send to your family in Italy—those cousins who hate you, haven’t met you, or can’t afford to come—just so they won’t be offended. And afterward, you have to send thank-you cards so they know you’re grateful to them for having done nothing to “make your wedding day that much more special.”

All of your cousins have to be involved with the ceremony

At my cousin’s wedding, I passed out programs so that the bride knew I wasn’t offended for not being a bridesmaid. My aunt is required to have a corsage and to bring up the gifts during the ceremony. The guys who didn’t make the cut as groomsmen were asked to roll out the runner for the bride to walk on. Everyone important must have a job to do, or else those checks may be slashed—and maybe even your necks.

You can’t get married in November

My sister and my mother didn’t speak for a week when my sister decided she’d like to get married in November to save money. Apparently, getting married in November results in the kiss of death: literally. Getting married in November causes calamity, catastrophe, chaos—and not only because the bride’s mother is crossing herself with a life-size crucifix and/or didn’t come to the wedding.

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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