Who else fancies dancing under the stars in an old Italian courtyard whilst feasting on Torta Millefoglie? Yep me too!
And this is exactly what Claire and Joe did on their wedding day in Italy. Having originally started planning their nuptials in London they decided that in fact they’d much rather say ‘I do’ in another country altogether, in a chapel with has frescos from the fifteenth century no less!
Claire wore the beautiful Boston frock by Maggie Sottero – a gown perfectly suited to their Tuscan wedding and was accessorised by a bevy of maids in 50s style dresses. La Dolce Vita indeed!
The Brides Fashion
Claire The Bride: Initially I had a vision of a romantic, lace dress with cap sleeves; I didn’t want a corset (that changed!) and wasn’t sure about shapes. I found dress shopping quite disappointing when it finally came round! I hadn’t got back to my pre-baby weight yet and seemed to pick all the wrong shops on the first day! The next day, I went to Mia Sposa with my maid of honour and was drawn to (and tried on!) lots of Maggie Sottero dresses.
My dress, Boston, had tiered layers of beautiful, delicate lace. When I tried it on Pamela said I went very quiet and she thought I didn’t like it but I was just imagining wearing it on the day! We decided it even looked Italian and was perfect. I didn’t like the belt so I changed it and added tulle sleeves which were detachable (2 looks in 1!). I loved that you could make it your own. I added a hoop which I’d recommend as it made it much easier to walk in! I decided to go full on traditional bridal (when else can you wear a veil and train?!) so had a long train and cathedral length veil with beautiful lace edging that almost matched my dress.
From RMW and lots of wedding mags, I’d fallen in love with Rachel Simpson shoes and eventually whittled it down to Mimosa as my something blue. They are very soft and pretty.
I wanted my hair up and thought it would need a little something, when I took my veil off, so I went for a pretty Beatrice headpiece. It was so delicate I was scared to break it! Joe surprised me with a beautiful locket with pictures of us, Sam and room for a wedding picture. I haven’t stopped wearing it since!
The Grooms Fashion
Joe knew he wanted quite a vibrant blue suit and tan brogues. He had a hilarious (very male) approach to shopping: ordering LOTS of suits online (that he’d never seen or tried on) from Moss Bros, giving us a fashion show and then taking nearly all of them back! I always joke that he needs a loyalty card! In the end he opted for a bright three piece blue suit from French Connection.
We spotted the ties and pocket squares in Moss Bros and thought they were really cute (blue with tiny white hearts), even though they were nothing like the bridesmaid dresses we went for them. We’d have loved bridesmaid dresses to match! They were the bargain of the wedding: in the sale and on 3 for 2!
I got Joe some cufflinks from M&S that said ‘If lost please call my wife’! They made me smile as it would be the first time he could say that!
We booked the venue just off seeing it online and reading reviews on Trip Advisor and then went to see it later. We wanted a venue that was fairly close to airports and a large town/city, large enough to comfortably house all 80 guests, had a swimming pool and beautiful scenery. Villa Catignano was perfect- simply stunning without being intimidating. It was amazing to have such grand surroundings, a huge suite, 4 poster bed and stunning view of the Italian gardens! We had so much fun just hanging out with our friends and family for four days and had a welcome BBQ, a quiz and a pizza party on the last night. You could see the church from the villa in the distance too!
We didn’t have a colour scheme as such, and the theme if anything was Italian. We had blues for the boys; corals and white for the girls and flowers. As the venue was so stunning we didn’t need many decorations which is helpful when your wedding is abroad! We had lemons for the place settings and my bridesmaid wrote the names on little flags. I was really pleased with them- a little burst of colour on the white tables.
We hired the strings of lights for the courtyard which looked beautiful. I asked my family friend who lives in Tuscany to decorate something for the cards to go in and make the table plan. Colleen did a brilliant job, and painted a chest and had a cushion made with our initials, the date and two rings. The seating plan was a sheet of wrapping paper with a vintage world map, we named the tables after places we’d been together and put a vintage postcard (from Zazzle) with a message and photo of us there on the tables.
We booked an AirBnB apartment in Siena (our villa wasn’t available for the first few days of our holiday) and the lady whose apartment it was happened to be a florist! She also doesn’t have a shop so her prices were lower which was brilliant. As the bridesmaids couldn’t really keep their bouquets and despite being lovely they tend to get a bit cumbersome, I decided to get them corsages. They were really pretty and quite different but not the most robust! I sent our wedding planner some images from Pinterest but we didn’t really know what the flowers would be like until they arrived on the day which was exciting!
My bouquet had two beautiful peonies that opened up throughout the day. We kept the flowers on the tables low so they didn’t block people’s views and as we had the wedding breakfast outside in the courtyard which was in bloom, so we were lucky and didn’t need too many. Maya presented us with a beautiful flower ring holder with ribbons to tie the rings on, which was a lovely gift- so kind. Sam’s tiny buttonhole was super cute!
We hired a vintage car and our best man got us a Just Married sign complete with Heinz Baked Bean cans (Joe’s favourite)! As we drove back from the church through the rolling hills, we slowly lost all the cans and waved at the locals and horse riders then surprised our guests by driving into the courtyard where they were having drinks! The car was so much fun and turned out to be a great prop – it was our photo booth! We went for a lovely drive the day after and just let it sink in that we were married- yay!
The Wedding Party Fashion
Originally I was adamant I wanted peach chiffon bridesmaid dresses (soft, romantic, floaty) and it felt like I’d looked at every peach dress going online! Instead the first dress I picked up in Debenhams with the girls was a white prom dress with bands of roses across it. When they tried them on, there were instant smiles and twirls and the more traditional dresses were met with sad faces! We had lots of compliments on the dresses. They were good fun, different and Italian looking too!
The poor groomsmen were given the same treatment as the groom (by the groom)! They went to their nearest Moss Bros and picked up suits that they had never seen or tried on! Luckily they fit and looked good- I was worried when Joe said they had leather trim but it was subtle!
Sam looked gorgeous in a navy linen suit and wasitcoat from Monsoon with a little car print bowtie. Isla our flower girl was a little princess in a tulle dress and cardi from BHS.
The ceremony was at a stunning Catholic church in the Tuscan hills, Certosa di Portignano. It is part of the University of Siena and has beautiful cloisters and two chapels: one has frescos from the fifteenth century! As it was so ornate, we kept decorations simple. We had Skyped with our priest in advance and had a rehearsal the day before. In the rehearsal the priest hadn’t mentioned kissing the bride so we hadn’t thought of it… on the day he leaned in and whispered to us we could kiss now!
Half way through the first hymn we look at each other and realised no one was singing! It was lovely to involve our close friends and family by reading the readings and being witnesses. I was worried about crying and not being able to stop, but I had cried earlier on in the day reading a poem from Joe and my makeup had run so I knew I had to hold it together! It was lovely seeing Sam being carried down the aisle by our bridesmaid Zoe. We had a confetti tunnel which was great fun but we were laughing so much we were eating the confetti!
On our wedding planner’s recommendation we booked a duo called Guty and Simone, who played guitars and sang as well as played our playlist for the meal etc. They were brilliant and one of the highlights was everyone in a huge circle dancing to That’s Amore at the end of the night. We had Sam Cooke, You Send Me as our first song and on our way in, Joe trod on my dress, the button popped off and down came the bustle! Oops! Luckily the bridesmaids came to my rescue with a safety pin but apparently some people thought we were all going to come in together and burst into a dance routine!
One of the reasons we chose Italy was the amazing food and wine. We visited before the wedding and did two amazing tastings. Italy was far better value for money than London on this front and the food was incredible. When we pictured the wedding we thought of everyone eating and drinking outside as the sun went down. It was such a stunning venue and being able to have the wedding meal outside was perfect.
There were different tables of canapés in the courtyard and they carved the hams etc there. We had two pasta courses: pappardelle with wild boar, heart shaped ravioli with basil, pine nuts and pecorino then Chianina beef in a Chianti sauce with caponata vegetables as the main. We got to help make the wedding cake in front of the guests which was very entertaining for them and us! Our icing wasn’t up to scratch so the chef quickly went over it! It was a traditional Italian cake, Torta millefoglie with layers of pastry cream and fruit- really light.
The lovely Laura, at Candid and Frank did our son’s newborn shoot so it was great that we’d already met her and liked her style. Luckily, she agreed to come to Italy when we changed country! We can’t recommend Laura enough: it was like having another girl friend hanging out with you while we were getting ready and she was so relaxed and friendly. The photos captured the day and the light perfectly.
We started planning a London wedding, then decided to change it all and follow our hearts to Tuscany! So pleased that we did! Our advice would be do what you as a couple want, don’t stress over the little details (people forget them anyway), brides make a speech if you want to and enjoy every second of your day.
Photography by Candid and Frank Photography
- Bridal Gown Maggie Sottero
- Venue Villa Catignano
- Bridal Boutique Mia Sposa
- Shoes Rachel Simpson Shoes
- Groom’s Suit French Connection
- Florist Mag Florist
- Catering Cooking Around Chianti
- Entertainment Guty and Simone
- Bridesmaid Dresses Quiz
- Transport Classic Car Hire Italy
- Headpiece Beatrice by Laurel Lime