We decided to start with the obvious, large tour operators. Since these were well known and mainly protected by ATOL, they seemed the safe, reassuring option. With Kuoni, Thomas Cook or Thomson organising our wedding day, it would be less likely to be ruined by some scam artist running off with our money or us arriving at our wedding venue to discover the ceremony was being held in a hovel in the middle of a building site.
The great thing about these sorts of weddings was that they would do everything for us. We would literally arrive at the hotel and they would organise the flowers, ceremony, food, drinks and legalities.
I had a friend who got married last year and booked a wedding package through Thomas Cook at the Olympic Lagoon Resort in Nissi Bay, Cyprus. She went into the travel agents and said "I want to get married somewhere hot" and they did everything else. The photos looked lovely and she had a wonderful, relaxed day. No bridezilla moments organising the order of service or table plan, she just handed everything over to the experts.
However, with the large tour operators, there wasn't a huge amount of choice. Most companies only held weddings in Lake Garda or Como, the Italian Riviera or the Amalfi Coast. It seemed that getting married in Greece or Cyprus was much more popular. Added to this, most of the ceremonies were held by the sea, around a lake or in a town hall. None of them had ceremonies in a vineyard and none of them were places in which we particularly wanted to get married.
Lake Como. A popular destination for Italian weddings
The difficulty with this was that it would have taken a lot of time to organise. We simply didn't feel we had the time or money to fly out to Italy to meet with suppliers and, although Adam had basic Italian, we didn't feel confident negotiating with florists and caterers over the phone. We also felt we would have been much more susceptible to being ripped off.
So we decided to find a wedding planning company to do things for us. I guess we were looking for something in between a formulaic wedding organised completely for us and a bespoke wedding we organised ourselves. Something laid back where we had to make some choices, but where we wouldn't necessarily have to sweat the small things.
The sort of wedding we wanted
We decided to base our choice on the following criteria:
- did their website look professional
- did they have lots of testimonials on their website
- were they willing to let us speak to other couples they had helped
- did they speak English and could we communicate with them via email
- did they have a presence on social media
- did searches on blogs and social media find any negative stories
- did they organise the sorts of weddings we wanted
- ultimately did we like the people we would be dealing with
After contacting a few companies, we chose Italy Weddings. They were really quick to respond to all of our emails and had lots of options and information they could share with us immediately. There were probably other companies we could have opted for, but they seemed right for us.
The main planner was Ben Singleton and he had English as a mother tongue. Their website contained hundreds of photos of exquisite looking weddings, beautiful flowers, wonderful destinations and breathtaking scenic back drops. As well as stacks of case studies of very happy couples.
Our friends Natalie and Phil are getting married in Spain next year and they've chosen a wedding planner to help them too. I think this is a really great option if you're getting married abroad. It's maybe not the cheapest route, but for us, we feel it's the best stress free route and we have someone holding our hands along the way. We hope we've made the right decision and I'll let you know over the next few months!