23 June 2013

Choosing a wedding venue abroad

We'd decided to get married in Tuscany, Italy, chosen a wedding planner and decided on September so we could get married around Adam's birthday. The next decision to make was to pick a venue.

What we found tricky about doing this was that, it's more difficult to estimate how many people are going to come! At any wedding, you always hope all your friends and family are going to be able to make it. But, when you get married abroad, there are so many more factors that might prevent them from coming. We could have no guests coming at all!

We would be expecting our guests to pay for their own flights and transfers and also would have to contribute towards their accommodation. So cost would be a factor. Plus our wedding was during term time which would be difficult for our teacher friends and those with kids of school age.

The sort of view we wanted from our villa (photo from the Italy Weddings site)

Added to this that some friends have small babies, or are about to have babies, or trying to have babies, or live on the other side of the world and the fact that some friends and family just wouldn't want to come all the way to Italy for a wedding.

So we decided to send out a "save the date" invitation to try to ascertain numbers. But unlike most save the dates, we sent it out around 9 months in advance and we asked our guests to make a bit of a commitment. (Yes, our friends thought we were ridiculously organised!)

We let them know when the wedding was likely to be, asked them whether they wanted to stay at the venue itself or elsewhere, we asked them if they were happy to contribute towards the cost of the accommodation (and gave them an estimate of how much that might be) and whether they would be happy to pay for the flights (and again gave them some idea for how much that would cost).

We were really lucky as we got an amazing response. Lots more of our friends and family could come than we expected, which was a lovely surprise. And it meant that we could pick a nice, big venue for the day which would be much more fun and glamorous for everyone.

The villa where we are getting married

Another thing that was hard is that we couldn't go and visit hundreds of venues as we simply couldn't afford the time or money for lots of trips to Italy!

Our wedding planner had a really good selection of venues on his website. And to be honest, they all looked really nice. And, having never actually been to Tuscany myself, it was hard to decide between them. We spent ages trawling through the photos and finally decided on the villa which Italy Weddings called Villa Francesca.

We picked it because it could sleep the number of guests we estimated we would have coming. The views were of rolling Tuscan hills with olive groves and vineyards, it had space outside for the blessing to take place and it had a large enough space inside to hold everything should the worst happen and the weather be bad. It was near two Historic Towns called Volterra and San Gimignano which meant we could do the legal bits in the town halls if we decided to. And all the weddings that had been held there looked stunning.

Originally, we planned not to visit the venue prior to the wedding. I think we had a romantic idea that the first time we went to the villa and the area would be for our wedding. But, as time went on, I think we got increasingly nervous about what the venue would be like and some of the decisions we had to make which were much harder remotely.

So, we decided to take a little trip to the villa a few months beforehand. And I would really, really recommend that couples did this if they can.

It is a bit of an added expense to the wedding. We only went to Italy for three days and we probably spend £500. But we found it really useful for doing things like deciding where the blessing was going to take place, where the meal was going to be, alleviating my worries about the wedding planner (as we had actually met him) and making decisions about what we would do if it were to rain (gasp).

I also got to drink lots of yummy wine from the region like Vernaccia and Chianti Riserva and sample some of the dishes we're thinking about having on our menu such as wild boar pasta and Tagliata beef steak.

Plus, it actually got us even more excited about everything. As we had seen first hand how utterly stunning the area is and could properly picture what our wedding day was going to be like. And to be honest, it's 3 months away, but I am started to get really, really excited. Not just about the wedding, but also having 5 days in Italy at an amazing villa with 40 or so of our friends and family. We hope everyone has a wonderful time with us.

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