If you want Italian wedding songs for your big day, you’re in luck because there are a number of classic Italian songs to choose from.
I’m half Italian on my mother’s side so for my own wedding I wanted to add a little something for that side of the family. There’s a wrong way and a right way to do it though.
Most Italian Americans, when they think of Italian music, seem to gravitate towards song like the Godfather Theme or that well known traditional Sicilian Tarantella, both of which are wildly inappropriate for a wedding ceremony (tarantellas are awesome for wedding receptions, as you will find out later in this article).
Italy has an amazing and rich history of music to choose from, spanning the canon of classical music to the modern hit of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here’s a list of songs to include (and not to include) at your wedding:
Italian Processional Songs:
If you want something serene and majestic for your ceremony processional then you can’t do much better than Italian music.
Here are some suggestions:
The Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana:
Written by Pietro Mascagni in 1890, Cavaleria Rusticana became an instant success and is still widely performed today. This is the first piece that comes to mind when I think of Italian music for a wedding. Intermezzos are instrumental pieces written for the intermission of an opera.
This Intermezzo could not be more perfect for a wedding. The slow, regal, peaceful, serene melody of the violins with truly inspire a sense of awe in your guests. It also happens to be my favorite opera of all time.
O Sole Mio:
I’m not sure where the cliché of gondoliers in Venice singing O Sole Mio comes from. Venice is in Venetto, one of the northern most Italian states, and O Sole Mio was written Giovanni Capuro and Eduardo di Capua, both of whom hail from Naples. Naples is in Campania, one of Italy’s southern most states.
In fact, the song isn’t even written in Italian, its lyrics are in Neopolitan dialect, a language specific to Campania that almost certainly isn’t spoken in Venetto.
All cliches aside this song, is beautiful, well known, and above all slow, serene, and majestic, thus making it perfect for a wedding processional. The lyrics are wonderfully romantic as well, in case anyone at your wedding is from Naples and speaks Neopolitan dialect.
Although Ave Maria was written by Franz Schubert, a German, that does not make it non-Italian, since the lyrics are in Latin. This is a well known wedding favorite and a beautiful song as well, thus making it perfect for a wedding processional.
I personally have performed this piece with singers a number of times at weddings and it never ceases to inspire strong emotions in the guests at the ceremony.
The Overture from Aida:
Just like the Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana this is an instrumental piece from an opera. Written by one of the true giants of Italian opera composers, Giuseppi Verdi, this piece, like all overtures, is an instrumental piece that begins the opera.
The melody builds into an intense, awe inspiring climax that would add an air of anticipation to your wedding processional.
If you’re going for the Italian-American angle it doesn’t get more classy than Dean Martin. This song is pretty much in English so it works great if your guests don’t speak Italian (or dialect) and still appreciate an Italian feel to your wedding.
Written by the great Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, this is one of opera’s most famous Arias.
This piece does take a bit of talent to sing, so bear that in mind when you’re hiring someone to sing this at your wedding. If you hired a professional then definitely request this. If you hired a friend or family member who sings karaoke on Tuesday nights then you might go with something else. The melody is very intense and passionate, thus making it perfect as a wedding processional.
Italian Recessional Songs:
This traditional Neopolitan song, written in 1860 by Luigi Denza and Peppino Turco, is light, lively, and matches the celebratory feeling that should accompany the recessional.
Allegro from La Primavera:
If you’re looking for a traditional piece for your wedding this is as traditional as it gets. It also happens to be penned by the famous Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi.
As part of Vivaldi’s seminal work “Le Quatro Stagioni” (in English “The Four Seasons), the first moment of La Primavera (Spring) is a joyful and triumphant melody.
It’s a common recessional selection for this very reason, making it a fine selection for any wedding, but it can also fit into an Italian themed wedding as well.
String Quartet in E Major, Opus 11, Number 5:
This Minuet composed by the Italian classical composer Luigi Boccherini contains one of the most memorable melodies in all of classical music. It is spirited, light, and pairs well as a more traditional (yet still undeniably Italian) selection for the recessional.
As mentioned above, if you’re going for an Italian-American angle you can’t go wrong with Dean Martin. This is probably the most famous and well known of his Italian-American songs, so if you’re having a big Italian wedding here in America this is a classy and classic song for the recessional.
Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu:
This song, also known as “Volare,” was written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno in 1958.
It has since been performed by a number of singers, and not just Italian singers. The flamenco group “Gypsy Kings” has a particularly amazing version that you should definitely listen to. Plenty of Italian-American singers have covered it as well: Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Al Martino, as well as celebrated Italian opera singers such as Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli.
The lyrics are romantic and the song itself is very spirited. There really isn’t any reason why this shouldn’t be a part of your recessional regardless of your background.
This Sicilian folk song translates to “flowers” and the chorus, sung in Sicilian dialect, translates to “Flowers all year long, the love that you gave me comes back to you.”
The romantic and beautiful lyrics of this regional tune are punctuated by a beautiful, passionate melody that quickly flows back and forth from a major to a minor key.
Normally I wouldn’t recommend minor key songs at a wedding because they usually sound sad, but this is a notable exception. The verse is in a major key, but the chorus is in a minor key. Both sound very joyful, however.
This song is everything a recessional should be: Upbeat, uptempo and cheerful.
Italy has a rich history of folk music that makes for great dancing. Any Tarantella will do, and it doesn’t matter which region you go with. Each region has its charm, from a Sicilian Tarantella to a Calabrian Tarantella to a Neapolitan Tarantella.
If you don’t find these pieces dance-able than you probably don’t like dancing in the first place. Tarantellas get their name from Taranto, a coastal city in the southern state of Apulia.
It was thought that dancing the tarantella would cure the bite of a spider. I’m not sure if I can recommend Tarantellas as a folk remedy, but I can definitely recommend them for an Italian wedding reception.
You can also go with more modern dance tunes as well. Italy has a long history of infectiously dance-able pop just like any country, but I am particularly partial to songs such as Umberto Tozzi’s “Gloria” and the late, great Rino Gaetano’s “Ahi Maria.”
One thing to keep in mind, just because it’s Italian doesn’t mean it will work for your Italian Wedding. I am writing this article both as a fan of Italian music and as an Italian-American. There are some songs you don’t want to have at your wedding.
I am just plain surprised at what you find on certain “Italian Wedding Compilation” CDs and MP3 collections that just could not be less appropriate for a wedding, period.
Yes, I like the Godfather, and yes, it’s one of my favorite movies. Nino Rota is one of the greatest film composers of all time but I’m sorry, it belongs in the film and not at your wedding.
Also, if you’re going to go with traditional tunes, do yourself a favor and do a little research on the translation of the lyrics. I have about a dozen LPs and CDs of Pavarotti singing traditional Italian ballads, but not all of them are suitable, even though they have great melodies and are sung by a master.
I love “Core ‘Ngrato” and I have heard it countless times, but the lyrics are about a love smitten man and the title translates to “Bitter Heart.”
The same goes for opera arias. Check the lyrics before you embarrass yourself in front of your bilingual relatives. We all remember the melody to “La Donna E’ Mobile”, one of opera’s most famous arias, but that doesn’t mean you should put it in your wedding. It’s sung in the Verdi opera “Rigoletto” by the lecherous Duke of Mantua character and it’s basically him singing about how you can’t trust women.
It’s just not wedding material.
So, above all else, remember this: If you don’t speak the language but want an Italian song at your wedding as an homage to your Italian heritage, then you’d be wise to research the lyrics first before you make an embarrassing mistake on what should be a very special day.
Are you Italian or Italian-American and are in the middle of planning a big Italian wedding? Leave a comment below and let us know what songs you plan on using for your wedding or what songs your family and friends have used in theirs!
For more info on themed weddings, check out my article on Themed Wedding Music.