I currently have a new favourite friend in Puglia, who works in my new favourite shop (it’s called House of Cheese, need you ask why I love it so much).
Today he proposed to me. It was a raucous affair - I told him I was going to have to leave Puglia for a bit and would thus no longer be available for deep meaningful conversations about Gorgonzola and Emmental, and he burst over the counter, got down on the floor, kissed my hands and asked me to be Mrs House of Cheese.
What sounded and looked like a rather monumental moment, was actually just a deeply embarrassing one for us both, particularly when people started to clap, I dropped my mozzarella balls all over the place, and we had to let them all know that this was all just friendly jest and that our relationship was purely lactose based.
This brief prenuptial encounter did get me thinking about Italian weddings, and all of their idiosyncrasies; the good, the bad and the really weird.
1. It’s a day event. The ceremony usually kicks off at around 10am (in a church obviously), and finishes in the small hours of the next morning. Accepting an invitation to an Italian wedding is, therefore, not to be taken lightly. It is a commitment.
2. Getting married on a Tuesday is a really bad idea and getting married on a Friday is just asking for it. This is why, upon hearing that a family friend had run off with another man, my uncle said ‘what did they expect, they got married on a Tuesday’. Not, as I had previously assumed, because Tuesday sounds like a surefire way to have a bad wedding filled with irritated people who have had to use up a holiday day. No, apparently, Marte (from Martedi, which means Tuesday) stems from the word for 'God of War', so in tying the knot on a Tuesday you are essentially rendering yourself to a lifetime of arguments with your spouse.
3. Tradition dictates that a bride wears her veil at a length which reflects how long she has known the groom. With each year, you are supposed to add a metre. Surely an incentive to marry childhood sweetheart at inconceivably young age.
4. In Italy the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, to symbolise the journey of marriage. I like this one. Makes Brits seem archaic.
5. Someone needs to break a glass after the ceremony, and the number of shards which remain symbolise the number of years said couple will stay together.
6. After the wedding the Bride and Groom will disappear off together, to have a little photoshoot. This will usually only feature the pair of them (occasionally Maid of Honour and Best Man) and will usually take place at some far-flung iconic destination. It is a bit like someone getting married in London and cheerily disappearing off to Stone Henge to take a few snaps of themselves artfully rolling around on the rocks with RayBans on. I am not sure if this is just a Southern Italian thing but, judging by the number of wedding photo albums which have been plonked on my lap by distant relatives keen for me to understand exactly what happened at their children’s/grandchildren’s weddings, it is clearly a popular ritual.
7. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of food. To really enjoy an Italian wedding you must see it as a useful exercise in stomach expansion and a means to test the limits of your stomach. Otherwise, you will actually become bored of eating.
8. Guests fork out quite a lot to attend the do. Brides traditionally hold a little satin bag or small box, into which guests are expected to donate envelopes full of money. Really, a very good idea.
9. You will leave with something called a bomboniere. This is a small parcel of sugared almonds, covered in a small piece of net and adorned with a miniature statue, usually Jesus. I am not sure what you are supposed to do with this. It is sort of like a party bag but without the birthday cake.
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