Authentic Italian Catholic Wedding Traditions: all you need to know

December 9, 2021

Italy is a land created for lovers. From the sensual sound of water lapping against the walls of Venice's historic palazzi to the enticing scent of citrus blossoms in Sicily, Italy is known as the country of love.

And as the country of love, it is an extremely popular location for couples from around the globe to tie the knot.

But, of course, a huge part of what makes Italy so romantic is that Italy has plenty of sex appeal.

From fairytale castles, stunning beaches, and three very macho and unpredictable volcanoes,  Italy is the perfect location for your wedding.

And if you want to keep things traditional, you'll need to know the authentic catholic wedding traditions.

So, to help you plan the traditional Italian wedding of your dreams, we've rounded up everything you need to know about Italian Catholic wedding traditions in Italy.

No matter which part of the world you choose to get married in, you'll always find different and unique wedding traditions. This is because many different cultures make up the world.

For example, Italy and the Italian culture have some long-standing Catholic wedding traditions and some that may truly WOW you.

catholic wedding with bride and groom in the church scaled

Photography: @davidbastianoni

Italian Catholic Wedding Traditions You Should Know

Catholic weddings traditions are filled with long-standing customs, but they're much more than a few Bible words and a priest officiating. Fortunately, many Roman Catholic wedding traditions are well known. With this guide, you'll know what to expect when you sit down in that pew, whether you're a bride-to-be or a wedding guest.

Before The Wedding

Remove Gold Jewellery

There are some Italian regions where it’s believed that wearing gold jewellery, other than your wedding ring, of course, can bring bad luck.

No Pre-Wedding Glimpses

The age-old custom of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding is a tradition known worldwide, but in some Italian regions, the bride is not even permitted to see herself before the wedding.

La Serenata

This wonderful tradition dates back and is one of the most romantic Italian wedding traditions. La Serenata is the custom of having a pre-wedding night serenade under the bride's window.

To add intrigue to the plot, friends and relatives are informed of the precise time and moment while the bride is kept in the dark. Then the groom secretly brings musicians and instrumentalists to the bride's window, where they sing beneath her balcony. It's a mission completed' if she wakes up to the charming romantic music.

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The Ceremony

Always In A Church

You'll need to get married in a Catholic church if you really want to stick to Roman Catholic wedding traditions. Many dioceses demand that marriage occurs in a physical church because they are "settings created for worship and prayer" that ensure Jesus Christ's genuine presence.

However, some couples might prefer to have their wedding outside or somewhere else, although exceptions are rare. An Italian wedding planner can help you plan your wedding in Italy.

How Long Does A Catholic Wedding Ceremony Last?

A complete mass and communion are generally included in a Catholic wedding ceremony, lasting up to an hour. However, some couples opt for a Rite of the Marriage ceremony (which does not include a mass) this type of ceremony can run anywhere from 30-45 minutes.

The Processional

First up are the guys. The groom and the best man will enter from the side of the church. Then the bridesmaids, or bridal party, and groomsmen escort each other up the aisle, followed by the maid of honour (or matron of honor), who enters alone. And last, and most anticipated, the bride and her father (or another male family member) make their grand entrance.

The Priest’s Greeting

In Italian Catholic wedding traditions, the priest generally greets the wedding guests and invites everyone to join in singing an opening hymn, usually "Gloria".

Once it’s over, the priest will say the opening prayer for the newlyweds. The wedding guests remain standing from the wedding processional through the hymn and opening prayer. Once the priest has finished, everyone may be seated.

Liturgy Of The Word

An authentic Italian Catholic wedding cannot lack liturgies and religious songs.

Traditionally, this is how it is done: it starts with the Liturgy of the Word, which consists of various readings performed by the priest or the couple's chosen friends or family members. It all starts with a reading from the Old Testament.

Frequently, couples select a reading from the book of Genesis, which tells the narrative of Adam and Eve's creation. Following that, the cantor and the entire congregation will either speak or sing from Psalms.

Responsorial psalms are the assembly’s reaction to the word of God; the cantor typically sings the verses, and the congregation, or wedding guests, sing the chorus.

This is followed by a family member or friend reading from the New Testament, and then the priest recites a passage from one of the Gospels.

After the readings will be the homily, where the priest will contemplate the readings and marriage. The assembly stands for the gospel only and remains seated for all other readings.

The Vows

Probably better known to Catholics as the rite of marriage, the vows serve as a declaration of intent and consent by both parties receiving the marriage rites.

In Roman Catholic traditions, it’s acceptable for the couple to memorize and recite the vows to one another, read the vows from a book, or have the priest read them aloud while they respond with "I do".

Wording may vary from church to church, but most follow a similar pattern. Some Catholic priests may allow couples to write their own vows or add a couple of lines to the traditional ones.

The wedding guests will stand for the duration of the entire vow exchange or Rite of Marriage and ring exchange.

Ring Ceremony

Following the vows, the rings will be exchanged and blessed as the priest's symbols of love and fidelity.

brde and groom are exchanging the rings in their catholic wedding

Photography: @wedding_photography

Nuptial Mass

If the couple opts for a nuptial mass, this is the point at which the wedding service begins to resemble a Sunday mass.

This starts with the preparation of the altar for the Eucharistic Liturgy,  or communion. The offertory, or the offering of gifts of bread and wine to the priest, maybe assisted by particular family members or close friends who are chosen ahead of time.

Lords Pray & Sign Of Peace

The Lord's Prayer is spoken or sung in unison by the entire congregation. The newlyweds will next kneel in front of the altar to receive the priest's blessing on their nuptial blessing.

The assembly may join in quiet prayer and offer the newlyweds their own blessings. The wedding party and guests then share a peace sign by shaking hands and saying, "Peace be with you."

Holy Communion

The couple may choose to include communion or the Eucharist; this event represents the Last Supper where Jesus broke bread with his disciples before his death.

Guests will leave their seats to line up before the priest and wait for their turn to receive bread and wine.

While non-Catholic wedding guests or those not prepared to receive communion may come forward for a  blessing, with arms crossed over their chests, or may choose to stay seated [or kneeling] while silently expressing good thoughts or prayers for the couple, only Catholics can partake in this particular in the Eucharist.

The Big Kiss

Although the kiss is not part of the religious ceremony, it is commonly practiced and a part of most rituals.

How The Catholic Wedding Ends

As the catholic wedding ceremony comes to an end, the priest will recite a final prayer and bless the new union and the entire assembly. The couple may choose to sign the marriage certificate at this time, and then the priest will dismiss the congregation.

At this time, the exit recessional takes place in the reverse order of the processional, beginning with the newlyweds and bridal party. The recessional can sometimes include the ministers, and it is usually accompanied by a song of the couple's choosing. A wedding reception, or cocktail hour, will usually commence shortly afterwards.

wedding cuople in the garden

Photography: @jez_dickson

What To Wear To A Catholic Wedding?

Are you wondering what is appropriate to wear to a Catholic wedding? On the fence about your outfit? Here are some tips on what to wear to a Catholic wedding and what not to wear.

What Is Acceptable To Wear To A Catholic Wedding?

Choosing the appropriate outfit to wear to a wedding may be a stressful experience for wedding guests, particularly those attending a Catholic wedding in Italy.

You may be concerned about the style of attire you should wear to the wedding and the colours you should wear. However, with some knowledge of the dos and don'ts, you should be able to attend that Catholic wedding confidently.

Because most Catholic weddings are semi-formal, guys should wear shirts and ties, if not suits.  

Women, on the other hand, can dress in skirts, dresses, or even dress pants.

When it comes to Catholic weddings, modesty is essential. Also, they aren't that dissimilar from other types of weddings. So, make sure to pay attention to the wedding invitation, the time, and the season of the wedding to determine if the event is semi-formal or formal.

For the ladies, it’s essential to understand that modesty also covers the length of your skirt, showing your shoulders in church, low backs, and of course, plunging necklines. So, don’t show up at church showing too much cleavage, have a wrap or shawl to cover your shoulders, and don’t show too much leg.

bride with flower on the balcony

Photographer: @photosantucci

What Is Not Acceptable To Wear To a Traditional Italian Catholic Wedding?

White Is A No No

This rule, of course, applies to the wedding guests. Whether the bride is wearing a white wedding dress, all-white attire is forbidden for anyone but the future wife.

Unless you want to commit a huge fashion faux pas, here are some other things you should not wear to a Catholic wedding.

Avoid Sweats

We’re not sure that sweats are ever acceptable wedding attire, but most certainly, they are not appropriate at a Catholic wedding.

Avoid Denim

Any type of denim is always fashionable and in style, but please don’t embarrass yourself by showing up to a Catholic wedding in denim.

Avoid See-Through Material

Uh! Does this need an explanation? See-through clothing shouldn’t be worn to ANY wedding.

No Shorts

While shorts might be acceptable at an outdoor, rustic wedding, or a barn wedding, they are not acceptable at a Catholic wedding.

Catholic weddings are a beautiful expression of love and faith.

But they are also filled with lots of time-honoured traditions, some Bible verses, and emotions.

So, whether you’re planning an Italian Catholic wedding, want to incorporate a few religious traditions in a less formal wedding,  or are attending a traditional Catholic ceremony, we hope you found this guide helpful. Stay tuned for more wedding inspiration!

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