2 January 2014

My 10 top tips for planning an italian wedding

It's been over three months since my wedding in Italy and I am finally sitting down to write about it.

Immediately afterwards, I just couldn't face it. After months of planning with my brain constantly saturated with things to do for the wedding, I didn't want to have to plan anything else. Even so much as putting a few words down on a keyboard.

However, on a wet and wild January evening it seems strangely appropriate to be thinking about that lovely warm day in September which seems a world away now.

Our wonderful wedding in Italy

I won't bore you with every detail. But I will say that, even with the stress, expense and worry, they were the best few days of my life. So I thought I would give you some of the top tips I have for surviving an Italian wedding. I hope you find them useful.

1. Even in Italy, it can rain
One of the main reasons we chose to get married abroad was the weather and the idea of getting married outside with the sun shining down on us. But you have to keep in mind that the weather might not go your way. In the two weeks leading up to our wedding day, I was obsessed with my weather forecast app on my phone. Constantly refreshing the feed as on our wedding day, it was due to rain in Tuscany. In fact, it was forecast for very heavy rain, with thunderstorms.

Getting married outside in Italy

Our venue had a banqueting hall which meant we could get married inside if it were to rain. So technically we were prepared. The issue was that I was not mentally prepared for it. All our planning had been done with the assumption that we would be outside. Our flowers and colour scheme had all been picked to benefit from a backdrop of rolling, green hills. Our dream wedding was not in a hall.

My advice, therefore would be - don't bury your head in the sand about the weather. It might rain and make sure you plan in case it does. Consider, will the flowers look as nice against paintwork as they would against greenery for example.

2. Don't become a tour guide
Our wedding was amazing because we had 50 of our friends and family in Italy with us for the best part of five days. But, if you do the same and hire a venue where your guests can all stay don't fall into the trap of becoming a tour guide.

It's great to help people organise things like flights, transfers, car hire and excursions during the week. And, you want to organise these things because you want your guests to have an amazing time. But it can get too much and you can become the go to person for all questions. On my wedding day, I was even asked whether I could find any fly spray because there was a large wasp in the villa and whether there were any more bin bags.

If I were you, I'd let your guests know that you're not there to solve all their problems. They can solve the dilemma of the large wasp all on their own.

3. If you have a great venue, it can do most of the hard work
We had this unbelievably glamorous place called Villa Di Ulignano in Tuscany which was equipped with a bar, swimming pool, barbecue area, cinema room, pizza oven, games room, table tennis table and sauna.

Our venue was an amazing back drop

It meant that there was lots of things for our guests to entertain themselves with over the five days. So there was less of a need for us to organise lots of day trips or activities. And, as the venue and grounds were so spectacular, they were the ideal backdrop to the proceedings. Everyone felt like they were staying someone special and all of photos look amazing as the villa was so beautiful.

4. Expect an Italian approach
We hired a wedding planner to help us. I'm a bit of a control freak which meant that I wanted to know exactly what was happening and when. However, my experience of things in Italy is that this is unlikely to happen (although I appreciate this might be my wedding planner).

We had a contract which detailed what we had paid for. And, although we had exchanged numerous emails detailing exactly what we wanted, this was never supplied to us as a "running order" for the day or as a complete package for what we should expect on the day. In fact, despite all the correspondence, most of it was actually organised the day before when we did the run through.

So don't expect a slick, well-run operation. Expect it to be pretty last minute, laid back and not exactly what you thought!

The view from my room as I got ready

5. Visit the venue beforehand
If you organise a wedding at home, no doubt you'd spend numerous weekends visiting different venues. However, unless you have lots of spare time and lots of spare cash, you're probably not going to be able to do this if you are getting married abroad.

We decided to go and visit the venue and it really did put our minds at ease. It also helped us to envisage how the day would run and where we wanted each of the elements of the day to take place.

6. Take time to talk to your photographer
This might sound obvious. But again, if you get married in the UK, you meet your photographer beforehand and have lots of face to face discussions about what you want your photos to be like and how you wanted to be treated on the day.

Our photos took forever

Our photographer was organised through the wedding planner. We hadn't met him beforehand. We hadn't spoken to him beforehand, We didn't know his name beforehand. In fact, I'm not 100% sure of his name now.

I'd put together lots of detail around the sorts of photos I wanted and I'd even put together a Pinterest mood board to help guide the photographer. And, on the day, I'd assumed this had been provided to the photographer. However, I don't think it had as he spent a lot of time taking the sorts of photos I didn't want. And, I'd specifically said that I didn't want to spend more than 20 minutes away from our guests getting photos of Adam and I and we were gone for over an hour. Standing in a field with crickets leaping around underneath my dress.

So, on the wedding day, don't assume that the photographer has read the brief. Make sure you sit down and reiterate what you want from him.

7. Drive over
I read lots of articles prior to my wedding about brides going postal on flights because they had to check their dress into the hold. We didn't have that hassle because my dress, the suits, most of the wedding decorations and the flower girl outfits were driven over. In fairness, not by us, but by my parents.

It meant my dress arrived without a crease and that we could bring lots of candles, confetti, lights and table decorations with us.

8. Bank on currency fluctuations
We did all the calculations for our wedding a year before we actually got married. Working out exactly what each element of the day was going to cost and what we could and could not afford.

What we didn't include in our calculations were potential currency fluctuations or the cost of getting the money to suppliers. During the year, the blessed pound became much weaker against the Euro meaning that our wedding cost us quite a bit more than we originally budgeted.

Our tip would be to pay for things in advance if the pound is strong or hold off if the pound is weak.

9. Where is the food travelling from?

It was lovely getting married outside in the sunshine

It was wonderful to be able to sit outside and have our wedding meal in the warm, tuscan evening air. It was exactly what we wanted and we feel truly lucky that the weather did its business for us.

What we hadn't thought about was where our guests would be dining and how far the food had to travel to reach them. Ours was about 500 yards. Which meant the poor waiters had to carry all the courses out on trays from the industrial kitchen in the villa to the tables. It meant that service was fairly slow and some of our guest's meals were cold by the time it reached them.

Don't get me wrong. Our food was delicious (all the meals we had in Tuscany were delicious). But, if I were to do it again, I probably wouldn't have chosen sea bass as there is nothing worse than luke warm fish.

The tables at our Italian wedding

10. Bring a great group of friends
The days around our wedding were like a five-day party. Not since school had I spent such a long period of time on holiday with a huge group of friends. And, although we both had a few sleepless nights worrying about whether everyone would get on (my mother had even asked me what we would do if there was a fight on our wedding day!).

It couldn't have been more of a dream. Everyone got on so well with each other whether from my side or Adam's. Every night, the bar was drunk dry, the swimming pool as used with and without clothing and the sauna was used on our wedding day by our suited and booted guests. Everyone was absolutely amazing and helped make our wedding truly special for us.

If you want to rent my friends and family to come to your wedding, I'm certain they would oblige.

The sun setting on our romantic wedding day

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