Marriage was never just about love, and money and social status were factors in every match. Italian Jews felt strong about social and economic statuses and took great care when choosing the families with whom they married their sons and daughters. Here too, family symbols have taken on an interesting role. One of the most common uses of family symbols by Italian Jews, is in Ketubbot (marriage contracts). The custom was so common that there are examples of such contracts, made at the same workshop,
where one contract has a family symbol, while the other, its twin, only has a dedicated space for a symbol, left undecorated. Meaning the owner of one had a family symbol, and the other did not, but the maker made it so, to satisfy the need should it arise.
The very existence of a symbol on a marriage contract, let alone its position on it, plays an important role in the wedding story. The richness of the Italian ketubbot preserved in collections in Israel and around the world reveal the development of a convention in the use of family symbols on such objects: When the family symbols of the bride and groom appear side by side at the top of the contract, the groom's family symbol is almost indefinitely on the right. In other cases, the groom's family symbol appears alone at the top of the ketubbah, and the bride's family symbol follows immediately below it, or at the bottom of the ketubbah. Sometimes only the groom's family symbol appears.
The question is whether these different styles or any deviation from them, carry any significance hidden from our modern eyes, about the families and their status. Does the absence of a symbol of one of the families indicate its status? And what does it mean that the bride's family symbol appears on the right instead of the groom's family symbol? Does a bride's family symbol next to, or immediately below her husband's family symbol indicates to her father's position in the community? The answer here, too, is complex. Yet, there is certainly reason to believe that the manner in which the symbols are used on marriage contract and other objects, has some meaning.
And yet, if it seems to us that our ancestors married only out of convenience, or social and economic reasons, it is enough to examine but some of the items on display here, to correct this impression. The wedding was celebrated as a joyous romantic event, a union between a man and a woman. Many customs have developed around the Italian Jewish wedding, especially the exchange of gifts between the families and between the couple - mostly gifts made by the bride to her husband to be - which demonstrate how much thought was given to love.