We all gathered into the light-filled civil hall, the same room we had been in two days before to sign pre-wedding documentation. Pasquale Marino was officiating, and he looked very official indeed with a wide sash in the colors of the Italian flag draped diagonally across his body. Kris and Nichole could easily have been mistaken for a local couple, exchanging vows in their home town of Praiano.
Pasquale stood behind the long wooden desk, the cloth crest of Praiano providing a regal backdrop on the wall behind. Anna took her place at his side, ready to provide the English translation. Even though Pasquale spoke perfect English, it was a legal requirement to deliver the ceremony first in Italian and then have a separate person translate it into English.
It was time for the ceremony to begin. We, including Angelo, sat in the white cloth-covered chairs placed in rows facing forward. Nichole and Kris sat in two chairs placed directly in front of the officiants.
Pasquale read several paragraphs from a huge book, stopping after each one to allow Anna to deliver it in English. Since this was a civil wedding, the readings included the legal rights and duties of a husband and wife.
Then it was time for the vows. Pasquale asked the bride and groom to stand. As he pronounced each of their names, and each of their parents’ names, and all of our places of birth, my eyes filled with tears. Something about hearing this part in Italian really brought it home for me. (Thanks again, Allie, for that Mother-of-the-Groom handkerchief! I knew I’d need it.)
After Pasquale’s reading was complete, Anna made the most moving speech to all of us. She talked to us about how wonderful it was that we, as Italian-Americans, had returned to our roots to honor our country of origin and how the people of Praiano hope that we will return in the future, again and again, someday with children, and children’s children.
Pasquale pronounced them husband and wife and the couple kissed. The tears flowed. Everyone clapped. Tony and I were called forth as witnesses to sign the official book.
Pasquale had a surprise for the bride and groom. Bringing forth a large hardbound book about the Amalfi Coast, he presented it to the new couple as a gift from the town. The mayor had even signed it.
As we all crowded around, Anna turned to a page in the book to point out a picture of Angelo, telling us that he is well-known in this area. An entertainer, she said, her eyes twinkling merrily. (Earlier she had told Allie that he is also “the Italian lover to many ladies!”)
Pasquale came over to Tony and I, curious to know why Praiano had been chosen as the venue for the wedding. The location of the villa made the decision easy, but it was also because Praiano was low-key and more relaxed than its famous neighbors to the left and right: Positano and Amalfi. Pasquale agreed and said the people of Praiano are also very pleased that their town retains a true small Italian town atmosphere.
We strolled outside to wait for Kris and Nichole to finish up. Anna was surreptitiously detaining them to give us a chance to assemble ourselves and grab fistfuls of heart-shaped white and pink confetti brought from California, just for this moment. Then out they came!
We tossed our handfuls of confetti at them, laughing and clapping as the tiny hearts fluttered onto their hair and shoulders and the stone path, a time-honored tradition of congratulating the newly-married couple.