Per Cent'anni: Italian Wedding Traditions

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010 in Practical Planning | 9 Comments

As you may or may not know, I’m part Italian. Oh, you didn’t guess that? Xochitl Gonzalez didn’t strike you as Italian? LOL.   Statistically, it probably only accounts for about 1/4 of my makeup, but culturally there are about 50 Lubrano descendants in Brooklyn and beyond who I have shared a wealth of Sunday dinners with involving boatloads of pasta and somebody’s homemade wine.  So, today, while simultaneously preparing my Sausage and Pepper run to the San Gennaro Feast  and reading the paper, I was particularly intrigued when I saw this story about Italian Americans dealing with discrimination in the CUNY (City University of New York).  Anyway, I realized that we have written about wedding traditions from all over the world, but we really haven’t ever written much about  Italian wedding traditions.  I think these are some fabulous small details that, if you are Italian-American, or marrying an Italian, are wonderful to incorporate into your wedding day.  They are subtle, lovely nods to culture that extends beyond cuisine.  Many of these traditions have died out over the years, but I think they are delightful, symbolic touches to add to your day.

1.  Green at your rehearsal dinner.  Wearing green the night before your wedding is considered the ultimate in good luck charms, so plan your outfit accordingly.

2. This one CLEARLY dates back to the “old country”, where the groom should “pick the bride up” at her house and walk to the church with her.  Barring that from reality, the groom should actually wait outside of the church (or in modern day, ceremony site) for his intended and have their first greeting BEFORE the ceremony.

3.  DECORATING THE CHURCH.  An old, longstanding tradition is to tie the doors to the ceremony location with a large ribbon symbolizing the uniting of the couple… obviously, this presents a few challenges when it’s actually time to go inside!

3. FAVORS.  I can’t COUNT how many times on this blog (and to our clients) I have spoken against favors.  HOWEVER, they are in fact a long standing Italian tradition… Though, it didn’t involve ugly knick knacks, just “confetti” (those sugar covered almonds) which are meant to represent good luck.

4.  CALLING FOR KISSING.  Funny how what I thought was just something annoying that my family did at wedding receptions is actually a VERY long standing tradition- guests SHOULD feel welcome to call out for the couple to kiss.  Sometimes in the past we have actually gotten bells to place on tables to avoid the screaming of “Kiss, Kiss”, but, now that I know it’s a time honored tradition, I’ll be more patient. And of course, toasting with “100 years!” or “Per Cent’anni” is a must!

and finally… (and this one was a mystery to me!)

5. BREAKING A GLASS.  Not during the ceremony, but during the reception.  The number of pieces is supposed to represent the number of fabulous years together!

Image by Roey Yohai

Image by Roey Yohai


  1. Carrie for Anders Ruff Custom Designs
    September 15, 2010

    Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful traditions. My favorite is the groom carrying the bride :)

  2. Danielle Cococcia
    September 17, 2010

    One more…the reception dinner (no matter what time of day)is called the wedding breakfast. I learned that while planning my own wedding in Italy 3 years ago!!

  3. Wedding Traditions In Italy
    September 17, 2010

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  4. Kendall Fowler
    September 17, 2010

    These are really special wedding traditions!

  5. Emily
    September 19, 2010

    Thank you for sharing some insight into the Italian wedding traditions. It is always interesting to read and learn more about all the different traditions and cultures.

  6. Michael and Anna Costa
    September 22, 2010

    Once again, a great read. Thank you!

  7. JoannaM
    May 21, 2014

    In some regions of italy, the couple only arrived together to the CIVIL ceremony and usually not considered “married” until the religious wedding where the father gave away the bride.

    Also, sundays were considered the luckiest day to get married saturdays were reserved for widows. The bride wore green the day before and spent the night at her parents house. It’s bad luck for the bride to wear gold the day before and the day of her wedding. The groom often sent over a gift the morning of (groom/mother of the groom send over flowers (bouquet) and/or love note/jewelry). The groom also carried a piece of iron in his pocket (toc ferro) to ward off the evil eye. Ribbon tied on doors of church to symbolize unity. Bride carried satin pouch (la borsa) for guests to place money in in exchange for a dance with the bride. Can’t forget the tarantella! Also almonds wrapped in tulle must be in odd quantities (5 or 7) to represent luck and fertility. Glass is broken at end of reception for luck.

  8. Stephanie Martino-DiBelardino
    May 21, 2014

    In the Castelli Romani area, someone puts up a bow across the main entrace to the bride’s apartment building. In order for her to exit the building, usually accompanied by her father ir mother, one of the neighbor children gives her a pair of scissors in exchange for a small cash token, and with those scissors, she cuts the ribbon and exits the building.

  9. Kathy
    May 21, 2014

    Traditions in our area are homemade italian cookies on trays
    For after dinner, Usually served with coffee. Bags are set out
    For guests to take some home too. On each
    Tray are the confetti almonds and hershey kisses
    Spread around the tray.


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