With something wonderful available for everyone regardless of faith, Italy is the most popular country in Europe for destination weddings. Couples can have any religious, civil, or symbolic wedding ceremonies that they desire, and Jewish ceremonies are no exception! Jewish couples from the US, UK, Canada, Russia, and even Israel come to Italy every year to tie the knot.
In Israel and throughout Europe, including Italy, the main Jewish religion is Orthodox.
In this blog, however, we will talk about different elements of a non-Orthodox Jewish wedding, popular among Jewish couples, planning their destination event in bel paese.
A typical Jewish wedding in Italy is similar to what we see in the US: it involves many traditional elements such as the ketubah signing, chuppah, hora, etc. Let’s take a closer look at the most important components.
Location. Most Jewish weddings in Italy take place in the areas with access to Jewish staples such as kosher wine and catering options which suit both kosher and non-kosher parties. Though Rome, Milan, and Florence offer the widest variety of options, there are many other places in Italy to explore. Other considerations for your Italian venue search can be found here.
Rabbi. Italian rabbis are orthodox, with the exception of the few reformists who specialize in foreign weddings. One can also get in touch with the organization called Italy Rabbi, which performs services across the country. However, most couples bring their own rabbi. I can also recommend the US-based rabbis who are willing to travel to Italy.
Ketubah. The couples are usually getting the marriage license in their country and then perform the ketubah signing in Italy prior to the ceremony. It is an exciting part of the planning, to find the ketubah style that reflects your personality. I loveMalka Klein, a talented ketubah designer, and calligraphist. Another talented designer is Hadass Gerson from thePainted Ketubah, who makes watercolor ketubot.
Badeken. This is the ceremony in which the groom veils the bride, the term derives from the Yiddish word "to cover". This is the moment, where the bride and groom first see each other just minutes before the main ceremony begins under the chuppah. Many couples love the charming tradition of veiling and make it a part of their Jewish ceremonies in Italy.
Chuppah. The chuppah is at once a structural and ceremonial center of a Jewish ceremony. A symbol of the house the couple will go on to build together, based on the story of Abraham and Sarah, the chuppah is a promise to create and sustain love, and welcome everyone to their happy home.
Italian floral designers capture this idea perfectly and will create masterful chuppahs, ranging from the delicate and simple to the glamorous and sumptuous. I work with many talented florists who are familiar with Jewish ceremonies.
Seven Circles. At this phase of the ceremony, the bride walks around the groom seven times during the ceremony, as a symbol of breaking down any barriers between the two. The circle is a symbol of the union the couple creates and the number “seven”, symbolizes “completion” in the Kabbalah. The bride’s circles symbolize the delineation of her own private world within the outer world, with her husband-to-be at its center. Until recently, some liberal Jews did not use this ritual as it suggested the submission of the bride to her husband. Now, at some ceremonies, you may see the groom also circling the bride to highlight their equality. I just had a wedding where the couple split the circles: the first three were done by the bride, the following three by the groom, and the last they did together! Just imagine how exquisite this ritual would look in an Italian garden...
Seven Blessings or Sheva Brachot and Kosher Wine. Seven blessings are said (or sung) over a cup of wine, from which the couple drinks, giving them these blessings for the rest of their life together. Either the rabbi will sing these blessings to the couple under the chuppah, or their relatives and friends can do it. Italy offers many options for finding the perfect kosher wine for your wedding. I also always recommend that my couples bring a kiddush cup with them on their trip (some simply take a bottle with them to avoid having to find one abroad). While you can purchase an Israeli wine in specialty Jewish shops, there are two kosher wineries, both located in Tuscany, totally worth a visit: Le Macie Agriturismo, a producer of Terre di Seta label, and Cantina Giuliano, a boutique producer of the kosher Chianti Classico and other reds as well as white wines.
Smashing the Glass. Needless to say, we all wait for this moment at every Jewish wedding. At the end of the ceremony, the groom is supposed to break a glass by smashing it with his foot against the ground. There are many reasons for this tradition. A humorous interpretation states that the moment the glass breaks is also the last time that the groom will ever be able to “put his foot down”. The act of destroying a precious object further symbolizes that marriage is not about material possessions, but about two people who are together and commit to each other. I recommend bringing a velour pouch (often sold with glass already in it) with you. You can find one on Amazon and check if it can be delivered directly to your venue along with other useful things.
Yichud. Immediately following the ceremony, it is customary for the bride and groom to be alone for a short period of time. The complete seclusion of the couple in a closed room is a public act symbolizing their new status as husband and wife. In an Italian venue, there are always secluded areas available for the newlyweds to spend these few precious moments together.
Banquet Service. Similar to what we have in the US, kosher catering in Italy is expensive as it has to follow many strict rules, including the use of special cuisine and a rabbi. There are several kosher catering companies in Italy that deliver their food throughout the country. Though they are mostly located in Rome and Milan, one can also find kosher catering in Florence and in the south of Italy. On the other hand, kosher-style catering is simpler and most frequently used because it does not have the same strict requirements. As in standard kosher practice, meat and dairy products are never combined, and often fish will be the main dish. Kosher-style food does not include shellfish and pork-based products. However, in Italy, despite its limitations, there is an impressive variety of kosher-style offerings to choose from.
Entertainment and Hora. As we know, at Jewish weddings dinner and dances are inseparable – meals are often interrupted by music so good that the guests have to get up and dance. Often, a band or a DJ plays Jewish music at various points throughout the night. There are a few options to choose from in Italy, including the Jewish band in Tuscany and a couple of bands in Rome. There are also options to invite a band playing Jewish and international music from the UK, such as Balagani. However, a DJ can do just fine if the couple supplies him or her with their preferred medley for a Hora.
Organizing a wedding in Italy is an incredible opportunity to create a unique experience, full of all of the country’s innumerable treasures. If you choose Italy as your destination, you and your guests will have the experience of a lifetime, one filled with all things “dolce vita”, and I don’t just mean the tiramisu!