This morning we’re escaping to beautiful Umbria in Italy for an intimate, minimal and stylish wedding brimming with fun, family and friends. Having a destination wedding is a sure fire way to ensure that guests are relaxed and really make the most of their weekend and it certainly looks like Alice & John’s guests did that! They actually used the destination weddings we feature here on RMW to help them narrow down their venue and they opted for the stunning Abbazia San Pietro.
Alice and John look utterly glamorous and sophisticated in a minimal elegant gown Charlotte Simpson and a black tux with red rose corsage. Images come from Paolo Ceritano who we rate highly for his authentic style and it also sounds like his help was invaluable for Alice & John when planning their destination wedding.
Alice the Bride: After looking at numerous places online around London (where we live) and Kent (where we’re both originally from) we couldn’t find anywhere we liked that:
- Was within our budget
- We hadn’t already been to about 5 weddings there (we’re at that prime wedding guest age!)
- That we really, really, REALLY liked
So we decided to use our summer holiday in 2016 as an opportunity to look further afield. Having been to the Amalfi coast 4 years previously (in fact on my first holiday with John) which we absolutely adored – I instantly gravitated towards Italy. The food, the wine, the people, the sun…it was a no brainer. After a lot of google research and after chatting to someone who had just got married in the region I settled on Umbria as a good scouting ground for our venue search.
Rock My Wedding was super helpful when it came to homing in on potential venues in the region. We visited 5 venues whilst on holiday, everything from villas to castles, but the venue we fell head over heels for was Abbazia San Pietro in Valle, an old monastery in Ferentillo. It was perfect, on top of a hill in the middle of the Umbrian countryside and unbelievably it fell within our price range.
The people that own Abbazia are ridiculously helpful, kind people, which made it so much easier when it came to planning our big day. Chiara and Frederica were always very open to our weird and wonderful wedding dreams…questions like ‘can we transform the basement into a hip hop club?’, ‘can we invite a local brewery to come and serve craft beer?’, ‘can we party until 5am?’ were all met with a friendly ‘it’s your wedding…do as you wish!’…this is pretty unheard of normally! They really couldn’t have done more, which was so helpful as we planned the entire wedding on our own to save on a wedding planner.
Walking down the aisle was very emotional with my dad next to me, my smiling mum at the front, my brother singing and John waiting at the end with tears in his eyes – but I somehow I made it down without losing it!
We had the lovely Sofia from Tuscan Pledges leading our ceremony. Our sisters, Rosie & Helen both chose their own readings to read during the service and they were perfect. Helen read an extract from The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) and Rosie read a beautiful poem called ‘The One’. We asked my best friend Hannah to ‘bring the God’ and read a verse from the bible, and she made it extra special for us by talking about mine & John’s relationship and how the bible verse corresponded.
After a lot of buying dresses and sending back I managed to find my final bridesmaid dresses on ASOS, my bridesmaids looked stunning on the day, the red lipstick and gold accessories looked great with the nude colour dresses. My pretty little flower girl, Tiggy, wore a dress from M&S and our handsome page boy, Freddie, wore a suit from John Lewis. John fancied going for a ‘Godfather’ black tux and red rose look (being in Italy) but although his groomsmen and him looked super suave in their tuxes, retrospectively it may not have been the best idea for 36 degree heat! My dress was by London designer Charlotte Simpson.
Abbazia San Pietro in Valle is so incredibly beautiful we didn’t really need to do a lot to it, although I did spend quite a bit on candles and festoon lighting…everything is so much more magical in candlelight!
We hired a local florist to make the groomsmen’s buttonholes and the bridal bouquets but again, as the venue was so beautiful we didn’t need to fill the place with flowers. Instead our wonderful family and friends mucked in and helped create simple olive branch garlands for our banquet tables and a few wild flower displays for the church – all sourced from the surrounding countryside!
The food at our wedding was incredible! Apollinare Catering were just fantastic. For the Aperitivo we had four stations serving an abundance of cheese, prosciutto, bread and fried vegetables alongside Aperol Spritz, Prosecco and local white wine. This was followed by two delicious pasta courses (our guests couldn’t get enough of the gnocchi with saffron and truffle!) and the most beautiful pork and red wine main course. Later in the evening we had a buffet of sweet treats and the most perfect cake made by John’s mum!
Fortunately for me I have a superstar singer/guitarist for a brother who was only too happy to play as I walked down the church aisle, his voice was perfect and had everyone in tears (happy tears!)…check out Jack Eastwood on SoundCloud. Jack also played his own version of Finlay Quaye “Your Love Gets Sweeter” for our first dance in the cloisters. Both are very special, unforgettable moments for John and I.
We also had two bands. The Fire Dixies played during the Aperitivo and the Soul Buddies took us dancing into the night. I can’t recommend them highly enough! Our guests loved the music, both bands bought such a great atmosphere to our special day and had everyone up and dancing in the cloisters. Again, as with all our suppliers…lovely, kind and relaxed people – something that Italy has in abundance!
When the Fire Dixies finished we took the party downstairs into the basement at Abbazia. The day before, John, his best man Jimbo and his wife Lauren had transformed this space into the ‘Get Down’ complete with fairy lights, a craft beer bar, posters with Tupac quotes and of course a disco ball). John’s cousin (DJ Dom) took us partying into the wee hours with some classic garage and hip hop tunes!
Paolo has been fantastic. Not only has he been great at checking in with us since the moment we booked him, he has also helped us with finding our other wedding suppliers. Not speaking Italian is pretty tricky when organising an Italian wedding without a wedding planner (google translate can only take you so far!) and so Paolo massively helped by introducing us to key contacts and helping us with any language barriers.
On the day Paolo and Emanuela (our videographer) were completely chilled and just lovely to be around. They even kept their patience with me after I drunk a bit too much Prosecco and missed out on a few key photo opportunities! (Apologies again Paolo!
We would definitely recommend going abroad as it ultimately means you can draw out all the fun for at least a long weekend! We hired a villa nearby in Ferentillo, which had 5 apartments and a pool, it was a great place to have the family together for a bit of a holiday before and it was the perfect party pad for our pool party the day after the wedding.
Remember it’s yours and your husband’s big day, so don’t be confined by typical ‘wedding etiquette’. John and I drunk a lot of booze, I asked both my mum and dad to do speeches, we had our brothers and sisters on the top table – all of which may be frowned upon by traditionalists, but which suited us perfectly!