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Saturday, January 09, 2016

THE ITALIAN WEDDING


There are few nationalities that are noted for wedding days, in fact the only one that I know of, and have heard tales of time after time is the olden Italian wedding days.

The traditions of the families who attended these events were filled with characters in their own rights.

The father of the bride usually spent the week before on his job, working hard and thanking God that she was finally off his hands, although she should have done better. He scrubbed the night before to rid the telltale signs of his labor. The mamma was all-abuzz: with the preparations and planning, including the cooking and cleaning, in case someone dropped by after the reception. Running shotgun over the wedding dress, that it was full, neat and in perfect alignment with her daughter’s movements, nagging and interrupting the flows of conversation, annoying the bride.

Her other children basked in the glory of the day by either being in the wedding party or getting their cheeks pinched by errant relatives who all said: “Momma Mia, how you’ve grown!” Of course there were 20 bridesmaids, all cousins: God forbid you left one out!

Getting aunt Rosa up to dance!
If you were the groom, chances were your friends gave you unsolicited advice about what to expect in that first marital bedroom hour and rode you right up to the altar, as hard as you might try to stay steady, avoid their getting you drunk and teasing you about your lost liberty. “Eh, Gino, if it don’t work out, send her to me!” This was not necessarily Italian in custom, but slick back hair with pointy shoes and cigarettes rolled up in the t-shirt sleeve. (Basic white, of course)

Back in the 50’s and 60’s the ceremony was usually held in a big old church, with white columns and vaulted ceiling that swallowed the mass of people who attended. As the bridal party made its way down the aisle, the little flower boy distracted and not really wanting to be part because no one bothered to take him to the bathroom before, the flower girl with her forced curly hairdo, tossing flower petals too many too soon, to the oohs and ahhs of her side of the family.

There was of course the father of the bride who would escort his daughter down the aisle one last time to give her away. His mindset was one of “Let’s get down to the altar and get this over with before I cry in front of everyone!” Clumsily he lifts the veil and kisses her one more time as his daughter and awkwardly retreats to the safety of his wife, who is running more water from her eyes that an open spigot on a hot day!

Of course there is the grandmother, usually without her husband who passed 20 years ago because he wanted to, dressed: in mourning black of course. Rings on her fingers, hair cemented in place and bosom propped over the bench in front of her, along with (His) grandmother on the other side of the aisle, same attire, same position and same stern look of the matriarch.

The crowd turns as the bride marches down the aisle with her veil, an important sign to the gossipers!

Now what Italian wedding would be complete with a 5 piece band to provide the Tarantella, and cause most of the guest to not only raise their voices, by their hands as they spoke to be heard over the music? We talk of course of the Italian ‘Football’ wedding, where there are three or four distinct platters of piled high hero or submarine sandwiches, separated by choice of cold cuts, wrapped in white paper and ready to toss across the room.

“Eh, Nunzio, uh cappacola?” Looking ceiling ward you would see the sandwiches on their way to their destinations. You better provide a bottle at each table and make sure it was filled for a certain uncle or grandfather (if he was still living), that the band played and played what the crowd wanted. Such songs as: Mala Femina, The Tarantella (played twice), Funiculi Funicula, and of course: Volare!

The most important thing in the wedding plan, the thought that went into the food, band, catering hall and booze was of course the verdict. They came with a certain amount of money in their envelope, and depending on the critique they gave, the men retreated to the Men’s Room and subtracted money for such demerits as bad food, being ignored lousy music or who they sat with that they weren’t talking to.

Of all the relatives, usually an aunt would interview each of the cousins of marital age and ask: “But when are YOU getting married?”

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