This morning’s real wedding is a particularly special one to us here at RMW HQ. The beautiful bride Gemma and her gorgeous mum Karen are the creative forces behind The Wedding Of My Dreams and Passion For Flowers, two wedding brands we’ve worked with many, many times over the years. Gemma and Karen are so wonderful in fact, that we chose to work with them on the RMW book, Your Day Your Way. And not only are Gemma and Karen super talented but they are also LOVELY and an absolute dream to work with, so blogging Gemma’s wedding is just an absolute treat for us today.
Gemma and Rich chose Tuscany as their wedding destination and found three incredible venues to use for various parts of the big day. If you’re also planning an Italian wedding then do check them out.
The images and film come from Anna and Simon at WE ARE /// THE CLARKES – two more absolute gems we’d recommend in a heart beat. This wedding is an utterly gorgeous one, from start to finish and it’s just even more special that we know the wonderful family involved. Massive congratulations Gemma and Rich, your wedding is every bit as gorgeous as expected!
Gemma the Bride: I have always dreamt of getting married abroad. I work in the wedding industry and have done so for the past 7 years, I joined forces with my amazing Mum and together we run Passion for Flowers as wedding florists, and The Wedding of my Dreams our online wedding décor shop. You may have come across us before as we are often helping out team RMW with features and worked closely with them for their recent book, Your Day Your Way.
Having set up weddings week in week out for as long as I can remember I felt getting married in the UK, although probably the easy option, might have felt a bit too much like turning up at work, how would I make it feel different to all the weddings I’ve designed and worked on? Having been with Rich over 10 years we had talked about our wedding hypothetically and I think we both always imagined it abroad somewhere – we do love a holiday! We have travelled a lot as a couple and have a soft spot for Italy, Tuscany the food the scenery and the people.
When searching for our venue we knew we wanted a laid-back feel, I envisaged a casual setting for the aperitifs, so guests could relax, long tables outside for dinner, followed by dancing under the stars. We came across Locanda In Tuscany in an online search and added it to our list of venues to visit, if you are planning a wedding abroad I really recommend planning a trip to visit venues, you can only get so much from a website. We were sold on Locanda when we visited it in the spring, the venue was still in the process of being restored but the rooms that were completed were top quality and Claudia the owner really had an eye for detail and interior design and we knew she would complete it to high standards. When visiting the venue, we stayed in the nearby village of Bagno Vignoni as a stop off, this quaint little village really sold us the venue. We loved it so much we chose to incorporate the village into our wedding plans. Albergo Le Terme Hotel hosted our welcome dinner and drinks the night before the wedding and we used the Loggiato at the end of the thermal springs for our ceremony location.
After choosing the venue my dress was the next big thing on my list, I was 16 weeks pregnant with our daughter Olivia at the time but knew I wanted to choose my dress before the baby arrived, my bump was only tiny, and I didn’t want to leave my dress until after she was born as it felt like such a big thing to leave until the last minute. I chose my dress from Coco And Kate, we had met Sophie on some of the Rock My Wedding book shoots and I spotted the gorgeous Anna Campbell designs she stocked. Visiting her boutique with my Mum was a real treat, from the moment we stepped through her doors we felt at home, Sophie and her Mum are so lovely, we sat on the sofas and talked about my wedding plans. I tried a number of dresses on but fell in love with the Adelaide design, Sophie was so helpful, she reassured me the dress would travel well and the tulle skirt which was light weight and floaty which would be easy to wear in the heat of the Tuscan sun and the delicate hand embellished top would glisten in the sunlight. Anna Campbell dresses tie with a bow which can be tied as tight or loose as necessary making it a great choice for me as I wasn’t quite sure what size I’d be after having Olivia.
The Weddding Party
I had also been looking for light grey bridesmaid’s dresses online and had come across Jenny Yoo in my searches, I thought they were only available in the USA so it was a complete surprise that Sophie also stocked these bridesmaids dresses when I looked around her boutique. I took my girls to try them on and they were perfect, we chose Sabine in Alpine.
For the boys we wanted a relaxed look, soft grey to tie in with the bridesmaids. Rich’s jacket was from Reiss and the chinos were from Charles Tywrhitt. They all wore brown belts and shoes to tie them together.
Once I had chosen the venue, the dress and sorted the bridesmaids and groomsmen’s attires out I felt I could start to envisage the day and how it could be styled. As it is our business we knew we would be doing the flowers and taking out all the decorations ourselves so didn’t have to make any final decisions until nearer the time. I felt it was important to create a look in keeping with the natural surroundings, the venue is very rustic and calm so the décor had to reflect this, so it wouldn’t look out of place. We chose a colour palette of predominantly whites and greens, bringing in some brass and gold tones to tie in with the golden fields which surrounded the venue.
As we were doing all the décor ourselves we arrived at our venue a few days before the wedding, our décor arrived on a van and flowers by lorry. One of the most exciting (and relieving) parts was seeing all these things arrive, the masses of flowers arrived on a huge pallet and they filled the restaurant in the venue, at one point we ran out of buckets for the foliage so had to use the bath tubs. Setting up the venue was a real team effort, as we were doing it ourselves we tried to keep things as simple as possible and create florals that could be made in advance, after all I was the bride and my Mum was the mother of the bride, so we ideally didn’t want to be up until midnight creating florals the night before as we usually do for our clients. Though I did make the bridesmaids bouquets around 6am on my wedding morning and Mum was adding flowers to a backdrop right up until she had her hair styled but we wouldn’t have it any other way. For the décor that could be set up in advance my cousins, aunties, parents and even grandparents all chipped in, I am so thankful to them all for all their help, hanging endless amounts of paper lanterns, making foliage rings and lifting heavy furniture around the place, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and very organised so probably drove everyone mad with my lists, we took one of our florists with us too, Lois who we really couldn’t have done without.
The florals were predominantly foliage based to create an organic look to the displays with locally grown olive as well as pistache and eucalyptus. Large luxury scented garden roses in white tones, as well as additional blooms for texture. My bouquet was a hand tied organic style bouquet using a mix of the above blooms tied with beautiful hand died silk ribbons in a spectrum of colours from white to soft greys.
The ceremony was under a Loggiato with rustic wooden beams in the roof and thermal waters to one side. Guests were invited to welcome drinks before the ceremony, these were set out under the Loggiato in drinks dispensers which we had taken out with us from our drinks station range. We had a saxophonist playing in the background while gests helped themselves to drinks and mingled before I arrived. To keep the laid back elegant look we had soft cream crumpled table cloths laid over the wooden tables, with gold straws and brass photo frames for signage for an accent colour. The cream table cloths were used on tables throughout the ceremony to continue the look. They were also tied to the aisle chairs to lighten the area, this was a great addition as they looked so floaty as they billowed in the breeze.
Around the ceremony we had loose organic floral displays in bronze urns, with large luxury roses and foliage with added textures. Our celebrant was Sofia from Tuscan Pledges, I would highly recommend this company, Sofia tailored the ceremony just for us. It was lovely, our guests commented on how personal the ceremony was, it included personal stories as well as a wine ritual where we shared a cup of wine, symbolising us sharing our future together from the cup of life.
Our daughter Olivia was a dream for the whole ceremony, she was 9 months old and sat and listened to the entire thing. She was of course our chief bridesmaid and we created a floral garland for her cot which looked adorable.
The narrow streets of Bagno Vignoni leant themselves to a confetti tunnel, guests grabbed a handful of confetti from our confetti bar and sprinkled it over us as we walked through the streets (we used ivory delphinium petals which we sell but added in olive leaves at the last minute for an Italian twist).
Rich and I left the ceremony in a Triumph Spitfire, my Mum had created a floral garland for the car earlier in the day, driving to the venue along the winding roads to our hill tip venue was so much fun, our photographers followed us, and we stopped for portraits on the way to our venue.
The Photography & Film
For me the photographer was an important decision, I wanted someone who would capture everything as it happened in a relaxed way. I wanted someone I could get along with well and who fitted into the day, we didn’t want to spend all day having portraits we wanted to enjoy our wedding with our family and friends. I made the best decision! Anna and Simon Clarke from WE ARE // THE CLARKES are amazing. I have worked with them on many weddings and seen them at wedding fairs but over the last year we’ve spent quite a bit of time together as they photographed the Rock My Wedding book and various other Rock My Wedding shoots we were all involved with. Anna is amazing with a camera, I’m sure she makes things look better than they are in real life, she captured every moment of our wedding perfectly. Anna and Simon stayed with us at our wedding venue which was great as they took us out for a pre-wedding family shoot the day before the wedding, took photos at our family meal and welcome drinks the night before the wedding as well as the wedding day when they stayed up until around 3am making sure they captured everything, we have photos we will cherish forever.
Initially I wasn’t sure I needed a video, they do add a lot to the budget and I wasn’t sure how much I would watch it after the wedding. Would we really sit and watch our wedding film? The answer – yes! It was my Mum who really pushed me to get the film and I am so glad she did. We absolutely love it, and have probably watched it more than looking at the photos which surprised me. Simon is incredible at what he does, and we hardly noticed him on the wedding day yet he captured everything in such a natural way. We have 3 films all different lengths as well as the full ceremony and speeches. If you are on the fence about booking a videographer I would really recommend you go for it, you won’t regret it and Simon is your guy.
The venue was split into two main areas, a chill out area for guests to enjoy casual Italian food, we had meats and cheeses with background music from our saxophonist, games set out on the grass, shaded areas decorated with paper lanterns and hanging potted succulents and a gazebo complete with sofa, cushions and a polaroid camera which kept guests entertained. We used the central olive tree as a family tree to display old family photos which guests enjoyed looking at.
The other area at our venue was for dinner and dancing. At The Wedding Of My Dreams we specialise in selling table decorations for weddings so our tables were one of my favourite parts to style, I used items from our ‘warm rustic metallic’ range. We had 2 long wooden tables under strings of lights. The caterers we chose supplied the tables, chairs, linens and glasses and everything else we drove over from the UK. As dinner was timed so that we would sit down as the sun was going down and we would finish in the dark I wanted to ensure we had both pretty florals as well as lanterns to give enough light. I chose to use an assortment of bronze and gold bottle vases filled with blush pink, apricot and white blooms with bronze lanterns and tea lights scattered along the tables. Each place setting had an individual menu, tied with dusky blue grey ribbon and names were placed in small brass frames which guests took as favours.
These brass frames tied into our escort card display which was set out under a tree. I used brass tea light holders to hold the guests’ names and set them out in front of brass lanterns which housed wooden table numbers so guests could find which table they were on.
To tie in the outdoor dancefloor, bar and fire place we hung white paper lanterns, loads of lights and signs in brass frames. The pool was lit by lanterns which looked amazing as the sun went down.
As it was dark by the time we did our first dance we asked guests to create a sparkler tunnel leading to the dancefloor which we danced through – it felt so magical. One of the great things about the venue being in the middle of nowhere was there was no time limit, so everyone stayed partying until 3am with us all ending up in the pool. I know everyone says it but it was without doubt the best day of our lives.
The Wedding Planner
For anyone planning a wedding in Italy I can’t recommend hiring a wedding planner enough. Although initially we thought we could do it all ourselves, part way through planning I felt I needed someone based in Italy to help us keep everything on track, Italians are so laid back. Francesca from Tuscan Wedding Events is one of our customers from The Wedding of my Dreams, she orders props from us for her weddings. When I saw she was based in Montepulciano not far from our wedding venue I got in touch. She was a dream to work with, working with predominantly English couples she made everything so much easier for us. We chatted over Skype regularly, she helped us find our music and lighting company, caterers and organised transport for our wedding guests which would have been almost impossible for us to do ourselves. It wasn’t just finding suppliers for us, she was on hand to do site visits with these suppliers. She visited the venue several times with the caterers, and lighting companies. Francesca was invaluable when we made our final planning trip to Italy, she came to our menu tasting with us, she helped translate and liaised with the caterers on our behalf. She visited the venue with us and we talked her through the ceremony, showed her the location for the aperitifs, marked out where the tables would go with lighting overhead and up lighting against the walls, talked about the location of the bar, band and dance floor, everything. This meant that on the wedding day itself I had full confidence in Francesca and she dealt with all the suppliers in the set up and during the wedding and at the break down ensuring everything went to plan and issues were dealt with without me being involved.
Although I work on weddings week in week out I was amazed how stressful I found the whole planning process, I did have a new born to cope with and working in the industry had the added pressure of friends expecting big things. So, looking back if I was to offer any advice it would be not to stress about small things and keep to a style that is true to you as a couple, if you do this you can’t go too wrong. Remember everything will work itself out in the end, your guests won’t know your plans so if something doesn’t quite go to plan or you can’t have something you wished you could the likelihood is no-one will realise apart from you. You will all have an amazing time celebrating your marriage, which is what it is all about.