Although I wasn't officially invited, the very kind family of Masseria La Greca allowed me to crash their daughter Beatrice's wedding in Salento. Part Sardinian on the bride's side, and part Salentino on the groom's, this wedding not only brought together two families from different regions of Italy but also two wedding tradtions. With explanations from Rosalba (the bride's aunt who came from Sardinia and was clearly in charge of keeping traditions in tact), I got an inside look at a wedding in Puglia. Big, boisterous, food-focussed and one that carried on centuries-old traditions, this wedding was molto Italiano, or should I say, Italianissimo!
We arrived at the house of the bride's parents. The white stone home was decorated inside and out with red ribbons & roses and white tulle, which also flowed from doorways and banisters. The house was abuzz with women bustling from one room to another, and hairdressers, photographers, and videographers doting on the bride. In one room the scent of roses dominated the senses; in another it was hairspray. The main room of the house looked somewhat like a photography studio with bright lights and photographers capturing every movement of the bride. The bride, Beatrice, was radiant and covered from head to toe in white and red, with roses and baby's breath pinned in her hair and encircling her updo.
On a large table in the center of the main room, red and white decorated baskets filled with Salentine and Sardinian foods filled the table. The bounty included cheese from the family's masseria, Pugliese wine, salami, Sardinian cookies, a basket overflowing with seasonal fruits. These were part of the offering to the church. The wedding procession carries these baskets into the church. After the ceremony, they leave them at the altar. (In my opinon, this food offering would increase the blessing the couple received from the church, even more than the fee would.)
The wedding party also kept with Italian tradition. What we in the U.S. would call bridesmaids, are known as le damigelle. They're traditionally the bride's female cousins. There was no "made-of-honor" either. Instead all three equally helped the bride during her day and stood alongside her at the ceremony. Then there were the children of the wedding party, i pagetti. These "flower children" are ALL the nieces and nephews of the bride. As adorable as they were, it was almost impossible getting the three little pagetti to pose for a single photo. Imagine if you were the youngest of a huge Italian family and your wedding had pagetti numbering in double digits? Just thinking of corralling these kids into all of a wedding's formalities made me laugh. And, oh the drama if the nieces and nephews were brats and/or didn't like each other! Luckily these three were very loving towards each other. Besides a few photo mishaps, everything went smoothly. Ylenia told me she has seen weddings where there have been 10 or more pagetti!
The only drama in this wedding came when everyone was being a little too loud. Beatrice's Aunt Rosalba settled that. "Silenzio!" She declared, and everyone - parents, children, and even the photographers - became silent. Zia Rosalba organized everyone into a line and the wedding procession began, yes, at the house. First to leave were everyone not in the wedding party. Then the flower children followed; then the bride's maids. Finally, before the parents left, they gave their daughter a blessing and exited. The bride exited alone, one last time as a single woman. Once Beatrice was outside, Aunt Rosalba broke a plate, and we threw its contents in the bride's direction, and off she went to the church.
Il grano per portare l’abbondanza
Il sale per portare la sapienza
I petali per portare la tenerezza
le caramelle per portare la dolcezza
I soldi per portare la ricchezza
Breaking the Plate ~ Rosalba explained the symbolism of the Sardinian tradition of breaking the plate. In Italian it sounded even more poetic, so I've rewritten it above in the way I heard her explain it.
The plate is full of five items: grains (symbolizing abundance), salt (symbolizing wisdom), rose petals (symbolizing tenderness), candy (symbolizing sweetness), and money (symbolizing richness). Sardinian tradition says you break the plate and throw its contents onto the bride and groom. By emptying the plate and throwing its contents, you symbolically pass these same qualities (abundance, wisdom, tenderness, sweetness and richness) onto the bride and groom and their life as a married couple.
The ritual of breaking the plate occurs three times during the day. The first happens right before the bride leaves for the church. The second, as the newly married couple exit the church; and the third, when the couple arrive at the wedding reception.
The reception was held at the Masseria San Lorenzo just a few kilometers from Lecce's city center. This masseria, dating back from the 16th century, now hosts events, receptions and parties. The lush grounds are filled with olive, palm and pomegranate trees, and the building has been restored with Leccese Stone from the masseria's own quarry.
Before everyone sat down to a formal four-course, fish-filled Salentine meal, we munched on fresh shellfish, bombette (grilled meat rolls ~ so popular I could only get one quick photo before they were snatched up), fried fish, and plates of finger foods.
I'm certainly grateful I was able to be a wedding crasher at this wedding. A huge grazie di cuore to Beatrice and Leonardo, Beatrice's parents - Maria and Alberto, for letting me join in the celebration, to Rosalba for taking time out to explain the Sardinian wedding traditions, and to the entire wedding party for making me feel so welcome!
Join me in Puglia in 2013! For this food lover's culinary tour, we'll be cooking with our beautiful Italian mamme and professional chefs. We'll also be eating and exploring our way through the region. For tour details, check out this page: Food Lover's Culinary Tour in Puglia
Masseria San Lorenzo
Via Francesco Flora, 1
Phone: +39 333 333 6045