“Your prince is down at the bottom waiting for you,” says the now Christina Marshall, describing the once-in-a-lifetime experience. “It was that sort of a feeling. It was a nice feeling to have.”
Despite the changing times, Italian-Canadian brides and grooms are holding on to their roots by incorporating various Italian wedding traditions into their special day. Christina’s mother Sophie Grossi was the driving force behind orchestrating this Italian wedding tradition at their home in Toronto. “That’s what our parents did in their hometown and I thought it would be nice for that to continue because they both passed away, so that was how I represented them,” says Grossi, whose family hails from Terelle in the province of Frosinone in Lazio.
While Marshall was serenaded, she lowered down a basket with presents including a watch, candy and beer – a spin on the traditional prosciutto, bread, wine and cheese, adds Grossi. The lowering of this basket indicated her acceptance to get married in a few days. “And then once he emptied the basket, he put flowers in there for her,” she says. “And she lifted the basket back up.” Then, the bride-to-be joined the festivities outside and danced with her future husband, followed by a dance with her father. After this, everyone went inside the house to celebrate the impending union with drinks and dessert. “It was an overwhelming sensation to have all your family and friends come to support your new life,” adds Marshall.
Back in Italy, explains Grossi, the groom along with his parents and relatives would walk to the bride’s house. She’d be in her bedroom with the light off and the groom would sing songs to the bride. “And the song is saying, ‘this is the last night you’re going to be at your parents’ home and you are going to be starting a new life tomorrow’ and if she is content with being married, she would turn on her lights and that is how she accepts that she is going to be moving on to a new life.”
Along with the “serenata,” another Italian wedding tradition that Grossi has continued is that of the groom’s parents coming over to the bride’s house. “They are showing acceptance of the wedding,” she says.
The “courtesy visit” where the hopeful groom asks for the future in-laws’ blessing is also common. This is what Toronto-based Salvatore De Angelis, 27, did before asking his future bride Diana to marry him a couple of years ago. “I’m Abruzzese, and in our culture you always ask the parents for their permission and approval before you go ask your bride-to-be,” he says. “I did it out of respect and to know that you’re accepted into the family,” says De Angelis, who was married last September.
He says his future in-laws were quite happy when he paid them a visit to ask this very special question. “We just started talking and they wanted to know what my ideas were and what we were going to do in the future. We had a bichierino – a shot – and that’s it. We went from there.”
At their fall wedding, the couple’s menu was made up of traditional Italian food, including pasta and special antipasto stations including prosciutto and various cheeses.
As well, when the couple returned from their honeymoon in Hawaii they discovered that their mothers “dressed their bed” with money, flowers and other treats “And that’s an Italian tradition per buon fortuna,” adds De Angelis. “Tradition is good to have because not only does it show you have respect for your culture but it also shows that you have respect for your ancestry and what your parents did.”