I love it when couples plan their day their way, and this Italian destination seems to be full of innovative ideas.
Starting with a romantic first look in a grove surrounded by vines and citrus fruits where the couple literally can’t hide their joy and love, and then walking down the aisle together before saying I do at a ceremony written with, and conducted by Bride Claire’s father.
But my favourite has to be they way they were all lead to the reception venue Masseria Montenapoleone through the glorious countryside by fabulous jazz band Olivoil. What a fun procession that must have been.
A special shout out also goes to Claire’s seven week old Niece Ari who travelled from Canberra Australia to witness this gorgeous destination wedding in Puglia captured by RMW fave Claire Penn. Full of the most wonderful details and decor of simple white flowers, vintage ladders, olive oil favours, and a truly stunning beaded Eliza Jane Howell bridal gown and chignon up do to die for.
Claire the Bride: I wanted a simple, classic dress that would suit the laid-back, rustic Italian venue. I fell in love with the Eliza Jane Howell ‘Jayne’ dress as soon as I put it on; it was fully beaded and very art-deco in style. It was exquisite although I did end up altering it in a number of places. I had the train removed, as I knew we would be outside for most of the day and it would get filthy! I also had the soft fluted sleeves replaced with capped sleeves. The back was lowered and I added a belt to make it truly unique! Amazingly, it all came together really well and the seamstresses at Morgan Davies Bridal were fantastic.
The Grooms Attire
Will wore a bespoke navy-blue three piece from Suit Supply, with tan shoes from Barker and a classic white shirt from Thomas Pink. He wore antique gold cuff-links which were a gift from his parents and a pocket square which I gave him on the morning of the wedding. Despite being tempted by a hipster bow, he opted for a lovely grey linen tie on the day!
I came across Masseria Montenapoleone when researching potential venues in Puglia, southern Italy. We had spent the last few summers exploring Puglia and fell in love with this beautiful part of the world; the people, the food and the beaches! We also loved how off the beaten track Puglia seemed to be and how few tourists there were. We knew Masseria Montenapoleone was the one the minute we arrived for our visit, a year before the wedding. The Masseria – the Puglian name for old fortified houses– was the perfect mix of modern luxury and rustic charm. It is now a boutique hotel for up to 40 guests, and an organic farm, which dates back to the 1600’s. Whilst they do not specialise in weddings, they were of great assistance in preparing for the big day, offering advice and local contacts. We ended up renting the whole Masseria for three days from Friday to Monday and held the wedding on the Saturday, with a big pizza BBQ on the Sunday evening to extend the celebrations. This was particularly special as it meant all of our closest family and friends could stay together and really get to know each other.
Masseria Montenapoleone is naturally stunning, so we had little to do in terms of decoration! Purple bougainvillea and prickly pears adorned every wall and the wonderful people at the Masseria filled the place with local plants, flowers, olive branches and candles. They even carved a wooden sign with our names on it! We had hay bales covered in white cushions for the ceremony and enjoyed the aperitifs and antipasti under an Italian-style carnival pole and a sea of fairylights. The tables were simple with white flowers, candles and hand written name tags and each guest got a bottle of locally produced olive oil.
We decided to have a simply bouquet and buttonhole and we picked these up from a local florist in a nearby town. The florist didn’t speak a word of English, so we just showed them lots of photos and (amazingly) it all turned out perfectly!
The Wedding Party Fashion
We were not really interested in having a formal bridal party. We wanted our closest friends and family to be involved but without any of them feeling the stress and work that goes with the traditional roles of ‘bridesmaids’ and ‘groomsmen’. This created a very laid back atmosphere which we loved.
We were formally married in London just before we flew out to Italy. We only ever considered this ‘paperwork’ and for us our wedding in Italy was the big day.
As we wanted to walk ourselves down the aisle we arranged a first look just before the ceremony. Whilst we hadn’t followed many wedding traditions, I had kept my dress a secret from Will so I was very excited for him to finally see it! Claire and Lucy suggested we meet in the lemon grove which worked out perfectly. The grove was shaded and covered with sweet citrus fruits and vines. It was such an overwhelmingly emotional and happy moment when we saw each other, and the perfect way to start the wedding.
My father is a Lutheran Minister and he performed the ceremony which made it even more personal. The ceremony itself was jointly written by all three of us, and included readings from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. We walked ourselves down the aisle, and Will’s little brother Oscar played the piano, ‘Hoppípolla’ by Sigur Rós – he had been practicing for months and did a fantastic job.
I found Olivoil Jazz Band on Facebook and immediately fell in their love with their music and retro style. They are a local band who specialise in 1920’s jazz and they were a big highlight of the day for us. They even marched with the guests from the ceremony to the reception area. Their music was so much fun and everyone absolutely loved them – they really suited the vintage style of the wedding.
Food was a big priority for us and one of the reasons we were set on getting married in Puglia. We really wanted our guests to try the fantastic local cuisine and Masseria Montenapoleone was the perfect place to do this. They are an organic farm and extremely passionate about quality ingredients and local specialities. The food, ranging from dozens of antipasti to start, ( il “Casaro” was even present making fresh mozzarella), to a primi (fresh pasta with pears and crispy capocollo), secondi (a choice of steak or almond crusted sea bass) and finally an array of desserts topped off with a ‘naked’ wedding cake.
When researching the venue I came across Claire Penn’s blog of a visit to the Masseria in 2014. She had captured the rustic beauty of the venue perfectly and I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out that not only was she available but she was in Italy the week of our wedding and had another talented photographer friend Lucy Woodrow with her who also came along to shoot on the day. Claire’s style was absolutely perfect for what we wanted; beautiful, natural photos that capture all the joys and emotions of the day. Getting the right photographer was a huge priority for us and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.