An intrinsic part of all cultures is how they celebrate their marriages. The how, when and where of the wedding ritual very often gives us an indication of what is important to the bride and her family. In America we all know and accept that the groom has little imput into the traditional wedding, even when he is footing the bill for it.
New York Italians are not the only ethic group that have over the top weddings. If you boast any ethnic background and are from New York then chances are you rank right up there with the Italians for ostentatious. I have seen bridal couples, when announced, rise out of the center of the dance floor in a smoke-filled elevator to enter the reception room. A stage that extends out into the room with the couple locked in an embrace, and another happy pair being carried in by the bridal party ala Cleopatra are a few of the grand entrances that I’ve witnessed.
One time I was invited to a Jewish wedding ceremony at a temple in Queens. On either side of the Huppah (wedding canopy) were two pedestals each holding a potted, full, garden sized, rhododendron bush. These plants were so big that when the mother of the groom generously gifted me with one to take home, two people carried it and we could barely fit the bush into our car. Upon arriving home we sat this virtual tree in the middle of the kitchen table thereby rendering the table useless for anything else. Not even a glass could be placed on the table alongside the plant.
At this same wedding – we were given hor d ourves as soon as we entered the building so we shouldn’t be hungry while waiting for the huge cocktail hour. After the one and a half hour cocktail hour which had banquet table after table of food, carving stations, caviar stands, fruit, cheese, crackers, and if you didn’t want to get up, servers to bring you hot things on a stick. Some people never get up at these events, but I promise you they get as much as everyone else.
This was just the warm up for dinner – chicken, beef or fish. Then the Venetian hour with cakes, cookies, liquors. Then of course just before you put your coat on to go home, bagels so you shouldn’t be hungry on the ride home, and the newspaper.
Italian weddings are similar to this, some differences are, fountains. There must be fountains splashing in every lobby, vestibule and nook. There is usually so much water in the air that my normally curly hair is out of control in one half hour. The frizz brings my hairdo to three times the size it was when I left the house.
Another difference is shell-fish and seafood. You would be talked about if the cocktail hour did not offer calamari, scungellis, mussels and clams fra Diablo, baked clams, clams on the half shell (we’re big on clams) shrimp at least three different styles, scallops (with or without bacon) and then the other norms, pasta, carving stations and stuff on a stick.
Again this is the warm up for dinner, chicken, beef or fish followed by the Venetian hour. Cakes, sundaes, cookies and liquors.
Did I mention that Champagne, Wine, hard liquor and naturally Diet Soda flow freely at both affairs.
To be continued……