Italian culture traditions : engagements and wild bachelor parties in ancient Roman culture

Engagement party etiquette :

if you want to know how to include Italian culture, traditions and customs in the celebration of your engagement ...

...this is the place to start!

Italian culture traditions : engagement party etiquette in ancient Roman culture

Engagement traditions ancient Rome

Italian people love to party, and have done for centuries.  The ancient Romans knew a good excuse for a party when they saw one.

And what better reason for a party than an engagement?

Italian culture traditions : how did engagements happen?

The father of the bride played a very important part in the ancient engagement process.  The system in ancient Roman culture was very similar to modern day arranged marriages.

Engagement traditions ancient Rome

Many girls were betrothed at a very young age : twelve was legal, though not common, and it was more likely that a future husband would be identified when the girl was aged fourteen or fifteen.

Although he would generally speaking consult his wife, it was always the father, or 'paterfamilias', who would make the ultimate choice. His decision would be based on financial and often political considerations. Love just didn't come into it.

Once the decision had been made it was again the father who would do all the negotiating with the husband-to-be's family. A dowry would be agreed, and a date set for the wedding.

And then - party time!

What exactly was engagement party etiquette?

Ancient Roman  weddings betrothal

An ancient Roman engagement was just as much a cause for celebration as it is today, but was also a legal part of the process of betrothal.

So, before the party began, there was the official business to complete.

The dowry would finally be agreed between the two families at this party, a formal and legally binding contract signed, and the betrothal officially sealed between the bride- and husband-to-be - with a kiss.

The giving of a ring was never part of the wedding ceremony in ancient Rome.  Instead, engagement ring tradition dictated that the betrothal ring, which would later also serve as the wedding ring, would be given as part of engagement party etiquette.

Engagement traditions ancient Rome

Once the ring had been given and the bride-to-be kissed, the contract was binding.  Only death could release either side.

And in the engagement party etiquette of ancient Roman culture, who would foot the bill for the celebrations?

The father of the bride - naturally!

Italian culture traditions  :  were there wild bachelor parties?

Engagement party traetiquette ancient Roman culture

Were 'hen and 'stag' ('bachelor' and 'bachelorette') parties a part of ancient Roman wedding traditions?

Engagement traditions ancient Rome

There is some evidence that Spartan soldiers used to have something very similar to the wild bachelor parties of today.  It's documented that on the night before the wedding, the husband-to-be would gather together a group of his friends and would eat, drink and gamble the night away.

It was seen as his last chance to say goodbye to the carefree days of his bachelorhood, whilst at the same time swearing everlasting allegiance to his friends and comrades.

Were there bachelorette parties for ancient Roman women?

No. 'Hen' or bachelorette parties are a relatively recent innovation, probably starting in America in the 1970s.

Engagement traditions ancient Rome

Ancient Roman women just didn't have the kind of freedom that women today have.  Although their husband-to-be could go to as many wild bachelor parties as he liked - and was encouraged to do so - the bride-to-be and her friends had no such leeway.

The most she was able to do was to be pampered with a fragranced bath on the morning of her wedding.

How to introduce Italian culture traditions into your own engagement

So - what should you be thinking about if you want to use some of the traditions of ancient Roman culture in your own party?

Here are our suggestions :

Although arranged marriages were a feature of Italian culture traditions they are no longer common practice, with the occasional exception of the south of the country where the tradition still exists amongst some old families.

However, it is still generally expected in Italy that a prospective son-in-law formally sees the father of the bride-to-be to ask for permission to marry.  If you're marrying into an Italian family, make sure you take note of that expectation - ignore it at your peril!

Go with Italian engagement ring tradition and use your engagement party to make a public statement of your intentions by giving and receiving your ring(s). Make sure you seal the promise with a kiss!

If you are going to stick strictly with Italian culture traditions, the father of the bride would pay for the party.  These days, however, the bride- and groom-to-be usually foot the bill themselves.

Women in Italy tend not to go in for the kind of bachelorette parties seen in the UK or America, but take the opportunity to have a quiet dinner with girlfriends.

However, if you want a bachelorette party with an Italian theme, think about a spa package. Ancient Roman baths were an important part of Italian culture and, although the Roman bride-to-be's pampering took place at her father's home, these days spas are a very popular way for Italian women to relax and be pampered with friends

Wild bachelor parties remain a part of Italian engagement tradition, from a night out  with friends to a weekend away. Think about an Italian-themed party - Rome's gladiator school is a brilliant venue.




Looking for Italian  words of love for a
girlfriend or fiancé?

Here's a page to help you!

Basic Italian love phrases and how to pronounce them











More about ancient Roman weddings
and their influence on the modern ceremony

Italian culture traditions to our home page about Italian culture


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