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Superstitions surrounding the choice of wedding date in Italy: What has changed since the beginning of the economic development process to the present?


In Italy, it is believed that Tuesdays and Fridays are particularly unlucky days for weddings as well as the 17th day of each month. Previous studies realized in the aftermath of the Second World War have shown the strong influence that these superstitions had in determining the wedding dates in the entire country. We have used exhaustive data collection of all marriages celebrated in Italy in the years 2007–2009 to investigate whether superstitions are still able to influence the choices of spouses. We find that this influence is still present after the great economic, social and demographic transformation of Italian society. We also show that a wife’s education reduces the influence of superstition on the choice of the date of marriage while those who opt for a religious rite are also those who are more careful in avoiding inauspicious days.

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Fig. 1

Source: Our elaborations on Istat, Rilevazione Annuale dei Matrimoni, 2007–2009

Fig. 2

Source: Our elaborations on Istat, Rilevazione Annuale dei Matrimoni, 2007–2009

Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. See, among others, Bourgeois-Pichat (1946), Belmont (1978), Perrenoud (1983), Lucchetti et al (1996).

  2. In addition to the dedication of Tuesday to the God of the War, Di Nola (1993) reported that according to popular tradition Tuesday is also the day in which the apostle Judas Iscariot was born, while for Friday he reports also the saying “those who laugh on Friday will weep on Sunday”.

  3. However, in Italy the number 13 is considered unlucky in one particular circumstance, namely when consuming a meal with friends: the number of diners must not be 13. This belief is clearly rooted in the evangelic episode of the last dinner of Jesus Christ.

  4. For instance, regarding the May superstition, Perrenoud noted that: “The church generally condemned those beliefs that rivalled the religious prohibitions. In 1624, the provincial council of Bordeaux recommended to eradicate from the minds of people the insane superstition where they refuse to marry in May” (our translation from Perrenoud 1983, p. 927). See also Van Gennep (1949).

  5. See also Fudenberg and Levine (2006) for a formal game-theoretic model explaining why superstitious beliefs may survive even if the players are rational.

  6. In addition, religious marriages are accounted for in this data collection. In fact, in Italy, the so-called “matrimonio concordatario” is a marriage celebrated in front of a minister of a religious faith that has entered into an agreement with the Italian State (The Roman Catholic Church, The Italian Union of Adventist Churches, The Italian Union of the Jewish Communities, The Italian Union of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches, The Italian Union of the Baptist Churches, The Waldesian Church, The Italian Pentecostal Evangelical Church). Unfortunately, we are not able to distinguish to which religious faith belong those who opt for the religious rite. However, Bonarini (2013) reports that, in the year 2009, 95% of the population in Italy had received the Catholic baptism, and given this great religious homogeneity, we assume that the incidence of non-Catholic religious marriages for the total number of “matrimoni concordatari” is negligible.

  7. Because of the privacy law, these data are not publicly accessible but can be used by researchers in certain laboratories located at the regional offices of Istat, provided that the central office has approved the associated research project. In addition to this limitation of access, the researcher must not produce descriptive statistics using less than 10 statistical units, so in the case of very rare events the data must be aggregated into a macro-area.

  8. We could have run two separate regressions for Tuesday and Friday to take into account the fact that these days may have different degrees of attractiveness for the spouses. We decided not to do this because the aim is to analyse which factors are related to the choice of challenging the superstition “Nè di venere, nè di marte…”. Spouses are violating the superstitious rule when they get married on a Tuesday and/or when they get married on a Friday. Therefore, if the aim of the analysis is to examine this violation, in our opinion, there is no reason for comparing the results for Tuesday with those for Friday. Furthermore, even if the Friday prohibition has a religious rationalisation, the prohibition of wedding celebrations on this day does not derive from a religious norm imposed by the Church but, as in the case of Tuesday, from popular beliefs about the negative consequences of celebrating weddings on these days.

  9. To be precise, we consider the Italian provinces that were constituted in the years 2007–2009. Currently, the number is 110. To avoid the dummy trap, we leave the dummy associated with the province of Rome out of the analysis as a reference.

  10. In demographic literature, Sardinia is usually considered an outlier with respect to the rest of Italy. As noted by Breschi et al. (2014, p. 824), “Although it is situated in the heart of the Mediterranean, it is paradoxically the least Mediterranean of all Italian regions. Its system of family formation and reproductive behaviour does not fit any of the theories put forward in the literature”.

  11. The average number of marriages in the day j is calculated dividing the total number of marriages celebrated on the day j in the period 2007–2009, by the total number of days j in the same period (i.e. 156 for Sundays, Fridays and Saturdays, 157 for Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays).

  12. In Table 8 in the Appendix we report the absolute number (and the associated percentages) of marriages on each day of the week for each region.

  13. Furthermore, a recent survey carried out by an Italian association of consumers reports that celebrating a marriage on a day from Monday to Friday has an economic cost that is considerably lower (25 % lower during summer, the period of the year in which celebrations are particularly concentrated) than a marriage celebrated on a Saturday or on a Sunday ( Therefore, Friday offers the double advantage of being near to the weekend and of being cheaper compared to Saturday or Sunday.

  14. Netherlands: England:

  15. Generally, public offices are closed on Sunday in all the Italian territories, however, each municipality may establish its own regulation allowing or not the celebration of marriages on this day. So even in the case of civil marriages, there may be a sort of “prohibited Sunday” problem similar to the case of religious marriages in Apulia and Sicily. Theoretically, in the regression analysis described in the second section, one may account for each specific rule by inserting a dummy for each municipality, however this would require the inclusion of about 8000 dummy variables, which does not seem feasible from a practical point of view. Therefore, the underlying (maybe strong) assumption is that municipalities of the same province tend to adopt similar rules.

  16. Including the characteristics of both spouses may induce a problem of collinearity due to the high degree of social homogamy typical of Italian society. Though this may be a problem for small datasets (and we are not in this category since we are working with more than 700,000 observations) we believe that not including the characteristics of both spouses would risk an even worse statistical problem, i.e. the omitted variable bias. Suppose for instance that the true determinant of the choice of the wedding date is the level of education of the bride, but we do not include it in the regression because it is correlated with the husband’s education, which is instead included in the regression. Then, the estimated effect of husband’s education will be biased because it is positively correlated with the error term. A similar argument may be formulated for the inclusion of statistical controls for both educational levels and occupation types.

  17. The complete table is available upon request to the authors.


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All the elaborations of the data coming from the “Rilevazione annuale dei matrimoni” were carried out at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Elementary Data (ADELE) at the Istat regional office of Cagliari and performed in compliance with all the regulations regarding the protection of statistical confidentiality and of personal data. The findings and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent an official position. We want to thank the personnel of the Istat office of Cagliari for their kindness and courtesy. Finally, we thank two anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions that have significantly improved the quality and the robustness of the paper.

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Correspondence to Gabriele Ruiu.



See Fig. 5; Tables 7 and 8.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Italian provinces (NUTS III). The provinces of Monza Brianza, Barletta-Andria-Trani and Fermo were not yet constituted in the years 2007–2009. Note: See Table 7 for the correspondence between the two-letter alphabetical code of each province and the extended name of the province

Table 7 The influence of superstitions-provincial differences
Table 8 Marriages (civil + religious) celebrated on each day of the week, 2007–2009

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Ruiu, G., Breschi, M. Superstitions surrounding the choice of wedding date in Italy: What has changed since the beginning of the economic development process to the present?. J Pop Research 34, 45–78 (2017).

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  • Marriage
  • Seasonality
  • Superstition
  • Religion
  • Culture