Ancient Rome, clothing and the groom in Italian culture traditions

Wedding etiquette for the groom at ancient Roman weddings was not as clear-cut
as for the bride.

Here's what we know about ancient Rome, clothing and the Italian bridegroom.

Ancient Roman wedding etiquette :  the groom

Modern weddings may have seen bridegrooms take a more active part in planning the day than was the case a generation ago, but even so preparations and details still  tend to fall to the bride, usually with advice and help from her mother and bridesmaids.

Ancient Roman weddings were no different.  Having provided the engagement ring and partied with friends the night before, the groom's only real task was to turn up on the day wearing his best toga.

In fact, if he was too hung over to be able to get there in person the wedding could proceed with just a letter from him - witnessed, signed and sealed - giving his vows in writing.

Ancient Italian culture, and traditions for the groom

For the bride in ancient Rome there were some quite formal rituals to be carried out on her wedding day.  Wedding etiquette for the groom, however, was far more flexible and he got away with not having to do very much at all. There is nothing to suggest that any formal preparations or rituals took place for the man of the moment.

Italian culture traditions the bulla.
Gold 'bulla',
1st Century A.D.

Young boys in ancient Rome wore a 'bulla' on a chain around the neck containing special amulets which warded off evil spirits. Marriage signified manhood - although women could marry very young it was not unusual for the man to be twice her age - and as a man he was expected to have more adult means of warding off spirits and ensuring good fortune.

So if he had not done so before, on his wedding day the bulla would be taken off and given back to his parents.

End of preparations for the bridegroom!

Ancient Rome, clothing and the groom

Ancient Roman fashion for brides was very specific; just like the brides of today a great deal of planning went into her outfit.

Bridegroom with bulla

All writings and sculptures suggest there was no expectation that, certainly in early ancient Rome, clothing for the groom had to be anything special.  It was considered impolite for him to turn up untidy, but that was about it. 

But contact with the Greeks gave Romans a taste for beauty which was expressed in the grace of their robes, and which has lasted to this day in Italian culture and traditions in male fashion. 

So it's quite likely that, although he didn't have to, the groom in ancient Rome would have made some effort to look good.

The ancient groom wedding suit :  'toga virilis' and 'toga praetexta'

Originally worn by the Etruscans, the toga was then no more than a rectangular blanket of undyed wool thrown over the shoulder and used for warmth. 

But the Romans' inimitable sense of style turned it into a status symbol and a fashion icon. They made it semi-circular, lengthened it to about twenty feet (six metres), dyed it and decorated it.

It became the single most important piece of ancient Rome clothing for men. It may have been  massive and bulky, but it was also dignified and graceful. A sign of Roman citizenship, no Roman of any standing would ever appear at an important function wearing anything else.

Ancient Rome clothing
The toga praetexta.

It is likely that the 'toga praetexta' was worn at ancient Roman weddings in preference to the 'toga virilis'.  The 'virilis' was the everyday, white, undecorated toga worn by all men over the age of about sixteen.

The 'toga praetexta', which has a border of dark red, was normally worn only by important figures - magistrates, Consuls and Emperors.

However it was also worn on formal ceremonial occasions and was a likely piece of ancient Rome clothing for the bridegroom.

Ancient Rome clothing : groom's accessories

Ancient Rome clothing sandal
The original Roman sandal.

Grooms at ancient Roman weddings did not wear any accessories. Whereas fashion for the bride included a veil, head-dress and bouquet, the groom wore no such adornments.

Wedding rings in ancient Rome did not exist and, although engagement ring tradition dictated that the bride wore a ring it was a symbol of ownership of the woman by the man and, for that reason, wedding etiquette for the groom included no rings.

At best, men could make sure that they wore a good quality sandal.   But then, shoes have always been important to Italians.

Ancient Rome clothing, wedding etiquette for the groom and Italian culture traditions :

the groom and the wedding suit

There aren't many of the traditions of ancient Roman weddings that translate into modern day wedding etiquette for the groom. 

Ancient Roman men had it easy in terms of their wedding but Italian men these days play a greater part in the planning than ever before; they do tend to wear a wedding ring and unless you're planning to re-create an authentic ancient wedding, your groom is likely not to want to wear a toga!

But, without taking it too literally, there are parallels.<br>

So - what should you be thinking about if you want to use some of the traditions of ancient Rome clothing for the bridegroom in your own ceremony?

Here are our suggestions  :

Traditions of other cultures - the top hat and tails of England, the tuxedo of America - aren't popular in Italy.

Groom wedding suit
Mike wears Italian style for our Rome wedding.

But Italian men do wear a well-cut, Italian suit and an Italian silk tie for their wedding day (or as a wedding guest) and will quite often spend a lot of time and money choosing it.

The groom's wedding suit is the modern equivalent of the 'toga praetexta'!

Italian shoes are an important part of everyday Italian culture and wedding etiquette for the groom.  They're not as expensive as you might think - so make sure the groom treats himself to a pair.

Looking for gifts for groomsmen?

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We've chosen to partner with "My Wedding Favors" because they provide excellent quality, imaginative wedding gifts, many with an Italian twist.

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If you're not - let us know.

Click on the picture below to go to a new page which highlights imaginative gifts for groomsmen - and browse the site to find other wedding gifts too.


Ancient Roman weddings - the origins of the modern ceremony

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