few months ago, I accompanied my boyfriend Fabio to a friend’s wedding in Calabria. Since I’ve pondered the idea of one day marrying in Calabria, I was curious what to expect.
In general, Calabrians do things on a large scale: birthdays, college graduation parties and weddings. Before the wedding, I asked the Rome bride and the Calabrian groom just how big was big. She gave me a tired but happy look: “Three-hundred and forty guests.”
My eyes widened. His list had 300, hers 40.
Talk about “My Big Fat Calabrian Wedding.” I couldn’t fathom it. Just the thought of having my tiny family and 10 of my closest friends and Fabio’s whole hometown of Bovalino at my wedding seemed, well, crazy.
The groom read my thoughts. “Beh, se invitiamo Giuseppe e non suoi cugini, si offende.” If causing offense was their deepest concern, mine would be offending my bank account.
After the couple left, off to hand-deliver Rome invitations, Fabio and I got into a heated discussion about gifts. The couple told us they had a bridal list in Calabria, but Fabio had other ideas. He said they’d be much happier with a busta.
“Una busta? Che cos’è?” I was confused.
“An envelope with money,” Fabio explained.
Cash in an envelope? Not that other Italians don’t do it, or Americans, but I’ve never seen it. I was taken aback.
To my next question — “Well, how much do we give?” — Fabio responded bluntly, “Dipende dagli altri.”
The others were all of Fabio’s invited friends.
But just how did our gift depend on those of others, I wanted to know.
“Perché se Giancarlo dà più di noi, facciamo brutta figura.”
Basically, whatever you do, don’t look bad to bride or groom.
Fabio suggested we meet with his friends to agree on an amount that each of us would give. I opposed the whole idea.
Why, I insisted, couldn’t we just buy them a nice China set or a household appliance, something they really needed? But Fabio and company wouldn’t budge. After weeks of back and forth, €250 was the agreed-on sum (because, after all, a couple must guadagnare — “profit” — from a wedding.)
On the big day, only 280 people showed up. The bride’s friends and family received only two tables at the reception. The dinner was indistiguishable from an Italian wedding: Three hours of eating endless amounts of food (I think it goes to waste). My mom thinks that Fabio and I should break the trend at our wedding and go buffet-style — and daringly throw in some Mexican food (I’m half Mexican). I agree. Not sure, though, if the folks in Bovalino would be ready for it.
The reception was enjoyable, though it lacked the games and speeches that go hand-in-hand with American weddings. There’s nothing funnier than a drunken best man crying his heart out and spilling his undying affection for a once-single now chained-down-for-life friend.
But there was none of that in Calabria.
The highlight was when six guys — post-champagne — removed shirts and ties and jumped into the pool. Just our luck, though, they were pot-bellied and obviously single (no normal girl would let her boyfriend submit to that kind of embarrassment).
After they dried off, they decided it was time to hijack the band’s microphone and sing their own songs. Suddenly, guests started dancing the Tarantella, a traditional southern Italian dance. And the night took off.
As I watched people party the night away Tarantella-style, my own big, fat Calabrian wedding played out in my head. I saw the strange looks on people’s faces when the Mexican Mariachi band performed as guests munched on fajitas and spaghetti alle vongole.
Oh, that would really get people talking.