Sicilian wedding traditions: between Italian and local customs
Sicilian wedding traditions are undoubtedly ones of the richest in emotions and romance. The vibrant colours of the Sicilian island, among green hills, golden beaches and crystal clear sea, frame the deep feelings of the most beautiful day of your life.
The traditions of Italian marriage here blend with local customs, creating an atmosphere suspended in time full of joy, love and colours.
But are you sure you know all the traditions for an authentic Sicilian wedding?
Let’s see together the origin of some of the oldest customs of marriage in Italy and Sicily.
The rice throwing…or of wheat?
One of the traditions that can not be missed in a wedding is the throwing of rice, which welcomes the bride and groom after the big yes. The tradition of throwing rice is ancient: the Romans threw wheat to the newly married couple to wish for fertility and wealth. It then moved on to rice because, historically, it was less expensive and easier to find in the pantries of Rome.
Some even say that the throw has a different meaning according to the type of rice that is used:
- Carnaroli rice to wish union and sharing;
- Basmati rice for the couple’s fertility and passion;
- the Arborio for eternal love;
- Roma rice, with a coarse grain, for economic and family prosperity;
- the integral for pure and simple love.
And the wheat? In Mazara del Vallo, in my Sicily, it was common – and still is for those who want to follow the tradition to perfection – to throw wheat to the newlyweds. The symbol evoked is still that of economic prosperity and fertility.
But there is at least one other toss that comes within the typical Italian traditions: that of the bouquet!
Let’s see the customs concerning this essential element of the wedding ceremony.
The bouquet: orange flowers and traditions
Like almost all traditions concerning marriage, even that of the flowers is antique. In this case, we go even further back in time. It seems that the classic bouquet of flowers, proudly held by the bride on the big day, originates from an Arab tradition.
The Arabs used to give orange flowers to the bride as a wish for healthy and numerous children. And those flowers went to form the first bouquets!
According to Sicilian wedding traditions, the bride’s parents give the bouquet to their daughter. This bunch of flowers is used for photos at home and before arriving at the ceremony site.
Upon arrival, the bouquet is given by the bride to the groom’s mother as a symbol of her gratitude. And it is the groom who gives, as the last gift of like an engaged couple, a new bouquet to his bride. With this latter, the bride proceeds to the marriage ceremony.
Didn’t you know this tradition? Then you should really take a look at my article on groom’s etiquette: you might discover something interesting for your big day!
But why is the bouquet then tossed? This tradition is now widespread all over the world. Let’s see where it comes from!
In ancient times it was believed that the bouquet, to be really a good omen for fertility, at the end of the celebration, had to pass through three different hands: from the groom to the bride and from the bride to an unmarried girl. From here, the tradition changed into the one we know now: the bouquet toss with a crowd of maiden friends waiting anxiously!
And the dress? Has it always been white?
The sky-blue dress in the Sicilian wedding traditions
One of the typical colours of Sicily is blue. After all, we are on a splendid island surrounded by one of the most beautiful seas in the world. How could it be otherwise?
The love for blue was also reflected in the colours of the traditional Sicilian wedding. In particular, it was the bride’s dress, in many areas of Sicily, that was sky-blue!
In Milazzo, in the province of Messina, the dress was light blue and adorned with pearls and ribbons. A red coral necklace was often added: a riot of bright colours for a party full of joy.
But the traditions regarding the dress do not end there.
In Sicilian weddings, the dress was never allowed to “sleep with the bride”. In the sense that it could not stay in the same house!
It was kept by one of the family’s women – often the bride’s grandmother or mother – until the wedding day.
Another exquisitely Sicilian tradition, which only a few know, concerns the bride’s blessing before leaving her father’s house.
Do you remember the rice throwing ritual we talked about above?
In Sicily, there’s a tradition that concerns the bride’s blessing with rice – or with sugar drops for desserts. After being helped by her mother and mother-in-law in dressing, the bride introduces herself to her relatives in the living room Here waits for the eldest woman of the family. It is she who gives her the final blessing by scattering a handful of rice or sugar drops on her head. The symbol is always that of prosperity and fertility for the future family.
“Compari d’anello” and “a’ cunzata dò lettu”: most genuine Sicilian wedding traditions
I cannot conclude this article on tradition without talking to you about the two maybe most famous customs of Sicilian marriage. Let’s start with the first: the ring buddies.
Family ties and feelings have great value in the Sicilian wedding. And this custom puts them absolutely at the centre! Prominent protagonists are the wedding rings, which according to this tradition, are given to the newlyweds by a couple of very close friends – married – who will remain tied to the future family just like the wedding rings on the finger of the newlyweds. They will give continuous emotional support for the family that is born!
Another important tradition concerns the wedding gifts. In Sicily, you must know it is usual to deliver wedding gifts before marriage at the couple’s future home. These days, the lights are always on to indicate the house’s opening to relatives and friends.
The gifts are then displayed, according to family traditions, either on the wedding bed, in the centre of which we find a pillow with the wedding rings, or on a table in the living room. Displaying the gifts received is a symbol of good wishes for a stable economic future for the family.
The tradition of the “cunzata dò lettu” concerns the wedding bed instead. A few days before the wedding, two or four unmarried girls to turn down the wedding bed. The sheets must be pure white, traditionally hand-embroidered and accompanied by silk pillowcases. In ancient times it was inserted for good luck under the bedspread money and rice, but in recent times we indulge with jokes of various nature or gender.
A traditional wedding in Sicily
Inserting these small sicilian wedding traditions into your big day will make this event even more exciting and full of sentiment. At the centre remain family ties, friendship, love and good wishes.
In this article I have not mentioned the traditions concerning the wedding banquet: I will write about them soon. There is really a lot to say on this, after all, Italy is the country of good food! And throughout the South, as we know, banquets are distinguished by the abundance and excellent quality of the preparations.
If you want an exquisitely Sicilian wedding, it will be a great pleasure for me to choose some of these traditions of my land with you to enrich your dream day.
Special Thanks to Alberto Cosenza for the wonderful reportage of Sicilian weddings