I’m getting married in the morning, or late afternoon if you prefer a sophisticated Roman affair.

At 36, you’ve been to a fair few weddings, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Thankfully I’ve only been a bridesmaid once for my auntie wearing a dress from Marks and Spencer that was too short. I was 7. It didn’t matter. I got to wear fake flowers in my hair. There was confetti, there was a buffet, there were bad speeches and a disco in a working-men’s club. A proper Bradford wedding. But how do the Italians do it?

scrubbing up well

   Italian weddings tend to start in the early evening to avoid the scorching heat, not conducive to glamorous guests if everyone is sweating into their posh frocks. Clothes need to be chosen on the basis of will it stain? or stick to your back? However, while in England elegant pastel colours are the order of the day, in Rome the wedding guests appear to favour tight, shiny, satin numbers. The shinier the better. Why settle for just skin-tight satin when you could have lace, ribbons, corset ties and ridiculously high heels too? And as for the meringue wedding dresses themselves, well Princess Diana would be proud. 

     Italian church weddings are very formal, religious affairs which would be very sombre if not for the fact that everyone acts in a completely relaxed manner, chatting both inside and more loudly outside the church’s open doors, walking in and out, children run around, children are wheeled around in pushchairs and nobody pays that much attention to the lengthy ceremony. 

   In England evening weddings are rare. I had friends who got married at midday to maximise the drinking opportunities during the then 12 hour drinking marathon that was the reception and after dinner evening disco. In Italy evening guests do not exist. You have a second class of guest at your wedding? an Italian friend asked me. Don’t people get offended that they’re not liked enough to be invited to the whole day? Fair point.  

   As with all Italian events food is the focus of the day. Whilst I have sat through pretty bland, mass produced hotel grub at English weddings, at an Italian wedding you need to be prepared for some serious eating (and again a loose fitting dress would be beneficial here) Don’t make the rooky mistake of eating a lot of the anti-pasti – usually a deliciously huge buffet of cheeses, meats, fish even freshly shucked oysters at the last wedding I went to. You must leave space for the real eating still to come. 

   The anti-pasti is just the taster. You are obliged to eat at least two pasta courses, a risotto, a fish or meat course or both, followed by cake and a extravagant dessert buffet. And then that’s it. It’s 2am and you’ve just finished eating. Wedding over. There is no tradition of a disco party. A northern lass who married an Italian last year faced a barrage of very definite NOs when she asked for music after the feast. It took her months to find a venue in Rome that would accommodate such English proclivities. But who could dance after all that food?!

   However, a wedding without a disco really isn’t a wedding. For an appreciation of a northern end to a wedding, Peter Kaye says it better than me.



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