Before we left for Italy, I had become sort of addicted to a strange show, "Say Yes to the Dress". The show is centered around a bridal store in NYC where women come from around the world to pick the dress of their dreams. It is sort of like driving by an accident on the highway, where you feel guilty watching the mess but you can't turn your eyes away. I am always appalled at the crassness of some of the clients, sometimes mothers and daughters coming to blows over price points, wow factor and all the other cliches that are thrown around on the show. It is a sad display of some of the worst of American culture.
Weddings in small Italian towns tend to be different, a little more modest and more restrained, yet with their own charming traditions. While I have seen some pretty horrendous dresses advertised on TV here, for the most part things are fairly tasteful and geared to family and close friends. Bridezillas don't usually rear their ugly heads here!
This Sunday there was a wedding at the Church of San Nicola, our local parish. Just about every home in Cervinara is within easy walking distance of a church, so when a wedding takes place it involves the whole neighborhood. While we didn't know "Salvatore and Angela", the bride and groom personally, everyone is welcome to participate in some aspect of the celebration.
Balloons were tied festively to the railings on the bridge over the river and to any pole or door knob that was available. After the church service the bride and groom, as well as the guests and wedding party proceed on foot through the streets, usually to the bride's home. Along the way, well-wishers shower the couple with confetti, rose petals, sugared almonds and other treats. Sometimes a bottle of champagne is opened and poured for anyone in the vicinity. Fire crackers are de rigueur for a wedding celebration. After the procession, either the family or a hired pyrotechnician will set off a fireworks display. There will be many episodes of booms and explosions throughout the rest of the day, not to mention the continual honking of horns as the wedding party eventually drives to the reception.
The day after the wedding, evidence of the revels lingers. Stray candies litter the streets, along with confetti, deflated balloons, rose petals and bottle tops. Very often the host family will share their leftover biscotti with folks at the bar or will hand out bombonieri (small packs of sugared almonds wrapped in lacy fabric) to anyone who passes by.
By their very nature, weddings are happy but emotional events, shared with those we love most. In Cervinara, as in most other small Italian towns, they are also shared with everyone along the way, and we are all happy to join in the celebrations!