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Guest column/The sanctity of marriage bonds civilization

My wife, Mena, and I confidently took to the dance floor, hoping we would emerge as “the winner.” The occasion was the Italian-American Cultural Club’s Marital Dance Marathon, conducted during the club’s Aug. 9 meeting at the Knights of Columbus in Mingo Junction. The couple married the longest would win the marathon.

The theme of the meeting was An Italian Wedding. This extraordinary enchanting and exhilarating event was masterfully and exquisitely orchestrated by Chairperson Judy Krenzel and her committee. In the course of the meeting a “wedding ceremony” was officiated by former Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci, who “joined” Louise and Steve Donofe in the holy sacrament of “matrimony.” The entire affair was embellished with all the color, panache, excitement, savoire faire, grandeur, spectacle, music, dancing, festivity, gaiety, joy and laughter that attend traditional Italian weddings across the globe. And, of course, the classical event was ornamented with an epicurean buffet and a cornucopia of dazzling homemade cookies, all the culinary accoutrements that attend traditional Italian weddings across the globe.

The bridal party consisted of best man, John Balzano, matron of honor Donna Balzano, ring bearer Lucia Scaffidi and flower girl Michele Fabbro. The bridesmaids were Mariella Pittera, Jane Antonucci and Tina Piergallini. Groomsmen were Camillo Pittera, Richard Antonucci and Todd Piergallini. Master of ceremonies for the affair was the club’s president, Frankie DiCarlantonio. Music was provided by club members Rick Pastre and Al Provenzano.

“An Italian Wedding,” symbolizes the significance of the state of marriage to the health, vitality and integrity of community, society and civilization.

Inherent in the concept of “marriage” is a covenant that binds, stabilizes and civilizes the community in which we live, the milieu in which we work, the world in which we function. Without the solidity marriage provides, families, societies and nations would atrophy, desiccate and wither.

Marriage entails a binding agreement to “love, honor and obey each other, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These words are not dismissive language, robotically uttered and readily abandoned. They are the adhesive that holds families together, the substance that binds relationships, the cement that stabilizes civilization, the elixir that strengthens camaraderie and the nutrient that nurtures friendships.

The institution of marriage did not always exist. It appears in Middle English, as a financial alliance between families, not as a love-interest of individuals. Families arranged marriages to strengthen positions and augment economic ties. Couples did not fall in love and marry — families devised marriages for wealth, power and prominence.

Over time, marriage came to be considered an inviolable commitment to each other, motivated by love, devotion and compassion, not position, prestige or power. The engagement ring, dating back to the ancient Roman Empire, announced an “intention;” the wedding ring broadcasted “a formal compact.” The round ring represented “eternity,” an “eternal vow” that the marriage would “last forever.”

Marriage has become the bedrock of civilization. The institution of marriage is recognized in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares, inter alia, the “right to marry and found a family.”

Elaborate ceremonies and festivities were conducted to celebrate an occasion of marriage, such as the Italian-American Cultural Club held for the Donofes.

Italian wedding receptions start with an aperitivo, a “cocktail hour,” consisting of a special pre-dinner drink that whets the appetite, usually graced with Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, salami, fried vegetables, mini quiches, an elegant selection of canapes, smoked salmon, grilled seafood and a variety of appetizers.

The traditional wedding dinner usually commences with, of course, iconic Italian wedding soup, a gastronomic intoxication of chicken broth, swimming with green vegetables, miniature pork-and-beef meat balls and grated Parmesan cheese. Following thereafter the first course is homemade scialatielli pasta with shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. A dual entree might consist of lamb roll with herbs on a bed of sauteed mushrooms or sausage-based penne with baked Italian meatballs. Lemon prosecco is provided as a palate cleanser between courses. The wedding cake is often a torta nuziale, a multi-tiered, white sponge cake filled with whipped Chantilly lemon cream.

A long white-covered table containing a treasure trove of exotic, homemade cookies prepared by club members, presented a classic portrait of beauty unto itself.

A tantalizingly delicious array offered at the club’s “wedding celebration” included chocolate-covered pistachio biscotti (twice-baked cookies originated in the city of Prato), biscotti regina (toasted sesame cookies from Sicily), anginetti (glazed lemon cookies from southern Italy), baci di dama (hazelnut butter cookies, called ladies kisses,) orange ricotta-cookies, Italian sandwich cookies, espresso Florentines (lacy almond cookies with a rich toffee flavor), pizzelles (from Abruzzo in Central Italy), seven-layer cookies (exquisite chocolate covered cookies with bright colored layers) and ricciarelli (similar to amaretti cookie, created in Tuscany in the 14th century) among others. Following dinner the “marital dance marathon” was conducted, during which married couples danced to Italian classical music provided by The Cavaliers.

Dancing couples were gradually eliminated from the marathon according to the length of their marriage until the couple with the longest marriage danced alone on the floor.

Though Mena and I felt we might win the marathon “hands down,” we did not win. Several couples married for some 60 years were still dancing when we left the floor. But we will “keep dancing” and keep winning — quitters never win, and winners never quit. We just “won again” on Aug. 24 when we celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary.

(Potts is a resident of Wintersvillle.)

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