Wedding: Italian Style

I love Italy. On this, my fourth trip to the country, it was real Italian love that brought me here. Our niece, Andrea Goldstein was marrying her fiancée, Fabio Ferrarelli near his hometown of Frosinone about forty minutes outside Rome.

What we got to experience was a once in a lifetime event for us. Andrea’s childhood friends and family had travelled from the USA, Japan, France and Senegal. We boarded some busses at our hotel at 10 AM and wound our way to the Abbey of Casamari (Abbazia di Casamari) of Veroli, Italy.Abbey Casamiri It was a beautiful setting on a crystal clear day, complete with Roman columns and ancient gardens. The wedding ceremony was mostly in Italian, though the priest, from Africa, delivered his address in English as well. I loved the fact that this was a carefully planned wedding, primarily by the mother of the groom, without any of the  typical obsessiveness we see in American wedding extravaganzas when it came time for execution. This was Italy after all. The father of the groom, Angelo handed out programs in both English and Italian sometime after the service had already begun. He also stopped by our pew a few minutes later and spoke to my daughter, in Italian and with pointing and gestures, to ask her to read some scripture at a later point in the services. Katherine and I wrinkled our brows together, shrugged and waited for the signal for her to step to the podium at the side of the altar. Somehow, even though she wasn’t sure what to expect, we know it would all work out.

Katherine had spent the night with the bride in the home of Fabio’s parents, Angelo Ferrarelli and Anna Rita Pizzutelli in order to help her to dress and for a little moral support.  It was a good move. Katherine found herself helping to liberate the wedding gown from the watchful confines of the master bedroom where it had been stored for months with barely enough time for Andrea to dress, repair a last minute broken zipper and to get her hair done so that could get to the church on time. The priest had warned them that if they were late, he would not perform the service.  He too knew the vagaries of operating on “Italian time”

The Italians knew what to expect from the Catholic ceremony. The American side consisted mostly of lapsed Catholics and Jews who followed along with a sense of adventure and curiosity.Andrea and FabioAndrea of course was a stunning bride and her husband Fabio, handsomely dressed in a traditional Italian wedding suit, a smiling and attentive groom.  The ceremony was quite long- about an hour. During much of it the wedding couple spent seated on cushioned stools in front of the altar.I captured this one photo of Andrea’s hands during the ceremony-a romantic gesture of both patience and hope...useful qualities for sustaining long marriages.

Andrea's Hands

We out-of-towners boarded the busses again for a winding scenic route to the site of the lunch, Ristorante Il Barone in Ripi, perched on a hillside with waterfalls and gardens, enormous trellised patio and a room designed just for this sort of large occasion. There were about 175 guests, including 60 American friends and family. Arriving at 2 PM, we were welcomed by two extravagant outdoor buffets of smoked meats and fish, fresh oysters, fried calamari and sardines, cheeses, prosciutto, champagne, prosecco and wines.  That was just the antipasto- or maybe I should say, the first antipasto, called an aperitive on the menu.

The crowd made short work of the display and we were ushered inside.  The  luncheon was surely a test of endurance from a digestive point of view. It was also, as expected, great fun. The bride and groom were once again seated together alone at a raised table. But with all those courses they had plenty of time to circulate among the tables of guests. When they sat, a steady stream of guests came to them with envelopes of money…another traditional Italian wedding custom. We ate for hours then, and at a lull between courses found ourselves drifting outside briefly for air and a walk in the garden to keep from falling asleep.  Here is the menu andAndrea and Fabio some photo highlights:

Aperitivo- The welcome buffet and drinks


Seafood Salad “Il Barone’

Primi Piatti

Medallions A La Rossini

Tagiatelle with Porcini mushrooms

Gnocchi with seafood sauce

Secondi Piatti

Seabass Filet  with jumbo Shrimp and Calamari

Braised Beef and Lamb Chops

Roasted Potatoes, Stuffed Eggplant and Garden Salad


Pineapple Cake

Wedding Cake


Seafood SaladTaglietelle










Wedding Cake










I have often studied the art of ritual and celebration and written about it over the years. There was a rhythm to this wedding that seemed slow and steady, a certain energy that was sweet but restrained in some way. That changed in an instant as the music resumed and there was a moment of great rambunctious spontaneity as Andrea was encircled by her female cousins, mother, great-aunts, and lifelong friends who danced her into the circle. It felt almost tribal.  We, her primal circle of women, who had known her most of her life, were sending her off and yet fully claiming her as one of us as she entered this new stage of life. The love was palpable.

Fabio was briefly pulled in to dance with many of the women. After long hours of eating and sitting, the energy had simply let go, and contagiously drew in the Italians to join their crazy American counterparts for a round of dancing.  The samba, the cha cha, babies, grandmothers, aunts and young American  and Italian men and women all mixing it up. There were some great dancers to watch. Even the little bichon dog, who had attended the ceremony and lunch,  joined in.

The final courses were served, the wedding cake cut, and the bouquet was thrown.  Lovingly wrapped gifts of hand painted espresso cups were passed to each guest by the groom’s family. We basked in the golden light of the setting sun which punctuated how long the lunch had lasted. We reboarded the busses in a slow and steady parade, many women carrying their high heeled shoes and men with jackets slung over their arms, ties undone.

The twinkling lights of the hillside city came into view. Children slept intheir mother's arms. The rest of us smiled quietly to ourselves, lingering over images and tastes of a sweet Italian wedding day.  Buonanotte. Good night.


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