Football Weddings Aren't What You Think They Are!

Just in time for the 2016 Super Bowl, we looked to the past to shed light on the wedding tradition you may have never heard of.
Married couple at a football stadium
Lissa Anglin Photography
irina grechko the knot wedding planning expert
Irina Grechko
irina grechko the knot wedding planning expert
Irina Grechko
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Irina Grechko is a Senior Fashion and Culture Editor for Refinery29.
  • Irina is an experienced editor who has focused on fashion and wedding content.
  • Irina served as an Assistant Editor of News and Planning for The Knot.

If the phrase "football wedding" conjures up images of a sports-loving couple exchanging vows on the 50-yard line, playing a game of catch during cocktail hour and serving a football-shaped wedding cake for dessert, you're not alone in your thinking. Turns out, a football wedding is a custom that goes back almost 80 years and has little to do with the American pastime. Just in time for the 2016 Super Bowl, we looked to the past to uncover what a football wedding actually is.

Football weddings are an Italian-American tradition that dates back to New York in the 1940s. At the time, only wealthy families could afford catered weddings; working-class couples, especially ones with large families, would host informal parties at home or at a casual hall after the ceremony. The main part of the football wedding meal would be premade meat and cheese sandwiches, wrapped in wax paper and stacked high on a table.

At any point in the reception, guests could yell out which sandwich they wanted to the designated quarterback (usually a relative or friend) handling the table. They, in turn, would hurl the sub sandwich, like a football, across the room to the guest—thus literally launching the phrase "football wedding." The receivers not only had to catch their heroes but also be on the lookout for possible interceptors, like other guests who weren't satisfied with their sandwich choice or just wanted another one. This tossing over talking heads and dancers would go on for hours until the wedding was over.

Football weddings are long out of fashion now (for obvious reasons!), but if you're looking to give a nod to your New York or Italian-American roots, arrange a selection of Italian-style canapés at your cocktail hour, or have a waiter pass out mini sub sandwiches on the dance floor as a late-night snack.

For other takes on tradition, check out:

< 50 Wedding Traditions and Superstitions

< 10 Wedding Traditions From Across the Country You Should Steal

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