Rock My Wedding reader Elena has written a beautifully detailed account of her marriage to Scott, so I’m just going to pass you straight over to her.
The Italian Lakes
My parents live in a small village in the mountains above Lake Garda in Northern Italy – it’s really a stunning part of the world and Scott and I are very lucky to be able to visit regularly with friends and family. Once we were engaged it seemed like that little village was an obvious choice for our July 2011 wedding (most people would have to travel anyway as Scott’s family is from the UK, I grew up in Canada, my family is Italian, and we seem to have a lot friends who fall in love with Antipodeans and emigrate).
For our ceremony we were married in a villa two doors down from my parent’s house. It meant I could walk to our ceremony with my parents and bridal party which was kinda nice. We used a cow bell that lives in my parent’s kitchen to let people know we were on our way and I had my crew round me when I faced the crowd waiting outside the villa. You see, in Italian tradition the groom waits outside to give the bride her bouquet (and a cheeky kiss in our case) and the guests usually wait outside to watch.
Once I was bouquet-ed. We were married by my cousin Giogrio who’d just been elected as mayor for a second term. He made sure the ceremony was personal to us and let us adapt the typical Italian civil ceremony to include a reading (a poem by Dr Zeus) and our own vows. Our Mums translated Giorgio’s Italian into English so non-Italians knew what was going on!
After much kissing we were married and moved outside to the villa’s botanical garden which has beautiful views of the nearby mountains. We had some catch up time with our guests and drank some local prosecco.
We then headed up to our reception venue – a family run agriturismo which serves locally sourced and supremely delicious food. We picked it because it had a beautiful outdoor space, crazy-delicious food, and it had a family link – my great-grandfather had built part of the building.
A Simple Equation
Lace + short = happiness. That was my wedding dress equation. I’m way too short to rock beautiful floaty dresses and not elegant enough to rock anything too structured. So, I went to few dress shops in Cambridge and London with my bridesmaid Kate, trying to get an idea of what might work. We refuelled on cupcakes. I developed an unhealthy love of lace.
We went to some beautiful dress shops. But really, when we walked into Fur Coat No Knickers it was pretty much a done deal. I want their store to be my closet.
Owner’s Laura and Emma have a great selection of vintage dresses, but this tiered, creamy, lacey number held my attention more than anything else I tried on. The lace was crazy beautiful and Emma and Laura had some great suggestions for making the dress even more perfect – by shortening it, adding a lace halter neck, and adding just a little more bouncy tulle.
Looking back, I cannot seriously imagine going anywhere else for a dress. These two lovely ladies made the whole dress buying and fitting experience a complete joy. I won’t bore you with all the details of their considerate thoughtfulness, but they are complete aces and I salute them.
Sadly, I do not rock veils. I tried all sorts, but I just looked odd (surprisingly, not the wedding look I was going for). Actually, I generally fail to rock accessories of any kind, so my accessories were pretty low key. The lovely ladies at Fur Coat, No Knickers made a thick, ivory sash for the dress and my bridesmaid Kate lent me her pearls (something borrowed – tick) and that was it.
Around the time I was looking for something to keep me warm, I read the Dolly Pop post on Rock My Wedding and it was like a giant wedding epiphany. The mismatched colours looked so fun – I wanted to have fun too. So I nixed the vintage fur stole I had been eyeing and went with a bright red cardigan with ¾ sleeves.
Our rings were such an important part of the wedding for us. A long-lasting summary of the day and all it meant to us. After much trawling around the internet and being disappointed with seemingly endless clones, I came across RUST which has a great selection of unique (tasteful-unique, not crazy-unique) rings for men and women. They were in Hatton gardens just yards away from where we found my vintage engagement ring, so it was obviously meant to be.
Fit For Dancing
White shoes and an outdoor wedding don’t seem like a happy match. I am also completely incapable of keeping white white. So really, white shoes were never really an option. Blue shoes on the other hand – blue shoes as my something blue – well that made a whole lot of sense. I found a sweet pair at Joules, in a soft shade of blue patent leather with a heel fit for dancing. And there was my something blue (and patent and awesome).
A Down Do
Scott’s only wedding related request (along with no pinatas and no bow ties) was that I wear my hair down. No problem there (I actually secretly had been thinking the same thing). My lovely and talented hairdresser, Yvonne, who I’ve been going to since I was 19, took care of my hair on the day.
Now, while I would say I’m no slouch in terms of makeup, my lovely cousin Alessandra is on a whole other level. She was a total super star, making sure I had all the makeup I needed and then getting me ready on the day. And yes, I had somehow completely forgotten to paint my nails so I did them in the morning. While Alessandra did my makeup. While drinking coffee. And no, I would not recommend that to other brides.
A long-time family friend, my bridesmaids and I made all the arrangements for the tables and the ceremony. We used wildflowers from the meadows behind my parent’s house mixed in with flowers and herbs pilfered from my parent’s and neighbour’s gardens and some flowers we’d bought from the florist. We used jam jars from Italy, the UK and Canada to hold flowers for the reception and we arranged the ceremony flowers in two zinc milk containers that my mum has had forever.
I will tell you now arranging your own flowers is hard, even if you’re purposely aiming for a ‘relaxed, off-beat’ kind of feel (or the ‘zero flower arranging skill needed’ school of flower design). It took us about 5 hours to arrange 40 jam jars and 2 huge containers. Luckily, I was blessed to have the most awesome team of people work their behinds off to pull it all off. They of course will now know better than to ever volunteer their services, but we totally lucked out with some beautiful displays. I loved how each jar was different and I loved that most of the flowers came from the land around my parent’s house.
Luckily, I didn’t dare dream that we would be able to pull off bouquets as well, so those were left to the devices of a local florist. I was really keen to avoid having anything too formal or too stuffy. He even obliged me by using some vintage ribbon I loved to tie up the bouquets. I was really happy with what he came up with. A result as July is supposedly the WORST season for flowers. Who knew?
Multi Coloured Maids
My bridesmaids are an awesome bunch of ladies and I wanted them to be happy and comfortable. I asked if they could find a short, purple dress that wasn’t too booby (to keep the conservative Italian relatives sweet). I was a bit of a colour Nazi – asking they all wear different colored shoes and cardigans. Because they are so awesome they had even bought (without me knowing) coloured flats for the evening party.
One of my very talented friends makes jewellery and offered to help me put something special together for Kim, Bri, and Kate. We decided on silver necklaces and earrings with a chain of flowers and a turquoise stone similar to the stone in the ring Scott proposed to me with.
My Mr of Honour (my very best friend from childhood, and the son of my parent’s best friends) and Scott’s best man wore their own suits. Scott picked out some ties he liked the look of and we went with those.
A Bit Of Cary Grant
Just before the wedding I’d found a company that made cufflinks with vintage maps and had them customised to include a map of Toronto (where I grew up) and a map of Brighton (where Scott grew up). I was supposed to keep it as a surprise for Scott on the day, but was so excited I showed them to him the day they turned up. Oops.
Candid And Creative
How can you not look at Cooper photography and not want to hire them right away? Stu and Anna have a great eye for photos and are so easy going and friendly. They weren’t even phased when we bundled them into a Fiat Panda (possibly the smallest car ever) with ourselves and my Mr of Honour to take a few extra photos on the way to the agriturismo.
We looked at so many photographers (me being a bit of a fanatic when it comes to photography), but it was Stu and Anna’s mix of candid and creative shots that really stood out for us. I became completely enamoured with their fresh, relaxed style and their creative cropping. Then we met Stu and he was so easy to get along with – and we knew we were set.
A Bevy Of Cake
Geez. The cakes. They were maybe a bit of a crazy undertaking now that I look back on it. My mum and I did all the baking for the wedding. Yup, that’s right. Three types, all made by us. I love baking and both Scott and I are seriously in love with dessert so in my head it made sense to make our favourites and share them with all the guests. Scott and I each chose our favourite cake of all time (mine vanilla cupcakes, Scott’s chocolate fridge cake) and then we added a third rouge choice inspired by My Big Fat Greek Wedding (a lemon bundt cake… it’s a cake!).
My mum and I made everything but the fridge cake 5 months in advance and froze everything. My lovely and ever-put-upon bridesmaids and some guests helped frost the cupcakes and make the fridge cake the day before. And bam. Done.
I’m not going to sit here and lie and pretend to anyone that the cakes looked anything other than homemade (no secret cake decorating genes in my family) but everything was eaten and I saw lots of happy faces. Which is the whole point of cake really, isn’t it? Our cake stands were made by a neighbor using wood pruned from the walnut tree in my parent’s garden. And they are secretly one of my favourite things from our wedding.
We had quizzes and a fill-in-the-blank game for people to play at their tables. Each set of games was wrapped up with guest’s names and tiny golf pencils, acting as fun-filled place names. The fill-in-the-blanks were actually pretty funny – and we ended up keeping them as a sort of informal guest book.
We also set up garden games. There was croquet, bocce and ring toss for people to play between courses. We used what we had – all games were given to us as Christmas or birthday presents. It was great to see people out, mingling and getting down to some fierce, but fun, competition.
OK. Maybe too much? Ah, well, we also had a photobooth (provided by the resourceful Cooper photography) with a mix of props, including homemade moustaches, glasses and lips on sticks. And a speech bubble chalk board which was begging to be bought.
Live music would have been a lovely, but just not possible in our small venue. So we sent out requests for playlists and added our own favourite songs to make a wedding party playlist. Kitted out with our little iPod of joy and a set of speakers we kept the party going for hours. Guests took turns playing DJ. By the end of the night people were plugging in their iPhones and iPods to share whatever music they had. It was random. And great. I secretly loved the fact Scott and I got to dance to our shockingly uncool, but secretly favourite songs. And no one could say anything because it was our wedding day.
Dance the Night Away
We hadn’t planned on a first dance, but our guests/superstar DJs spontaneously chose a song for us from our playlist. They went with ‘I Just Want to Dance the Night Away’ by The Mavericks. That song was built for dancing. Though I’ve since listened to the song lyrics and it’s all about heartbreak. Oops.
For the Love Of Jam
Our favours were mini jars of raspberry jam from Tip Tree. We consume gallons of the stuff each summer at The Orchard, an outdoor tea room in Cambridge. My Dad also spent a summer of his misspent youth picking fruit for Tip Tree back in the 60s.
We spruced up the jars with simple kitchen string and fabric leftover from making bunting. On the day we put out the jam with a framed ‘Story of the Jam’ (so guests could appreciate why we’d dragged 80 odd jam jars across from Britain). We also put out a picture of my Dad back in the day picking strawberries, as well as a picture of Scott and I at The Orchard.
I know I shouldn’t love bunting as much as I do. But I do. I spent ages messing around with vintage fabric from charity shops and leftover scraps my Mum and I had lying around. I ended up making meters and meters of bunting and the boys spent an hour or so putting it up the day before we got married. It feels like a bit of a cliché to have bunting at weddings, but, hey, whatever. It was festive. It was colourful. And I love bunting.
We also set out ceremony programmes (made by us in our little study in the same style as our invites) in a basket along with some flags. The flags were a last minute albeit inspired addition, and were for people to wave in celebration instead of throwing confetti. I made the flags using bamboo skewers (the kind you BBQ meat on), wood glue and leftover fabric from the bunting. I wasn’t too sure how guests would take to them, but they were a huge hit. Not one spare was left!
Our neighbour also made us a signpost with all the different places our guests had travelled from. My Dad (as Dad’s do) calculated distances and GPS co-ordinates so that each signpost was totally accurate. It was a bit of a hit and gave guests something to talk about when they first got to the agriturismo.
I was also quite smitten with the table numbers, which I embroidered by hand. Clearly, embroidery is not my strength, but I love the texture of embroidery and think they’re a bit different to printed table numbers.
Wedding Nerves Of Steel
Maybe your readers don’t need this bit of advice. Maybe this is something they already know, but for me, I wish someone had told me that second-guessing yourself comes with the territory. Not all the time. Not everyday. But sometimes. Usually at really awkward moments, like when you’ve just paid for something really big (like the dress, or the venue). You may even have a bit of mini meltdown. Like I did.
I looked at all these self-assured, amazing, quirky weddings on Rock My Wedding and other blogs and felt that these people were completely confident with their pom-poms and their fish-and-chips-for-dinner and their home made bow ties. They had wedding nerves of steel. Surely we couldn’t pull off the same thing. We should just play it safe. Do things like everyone else.
Scott was amazing and talked me down from the wedding-panic ledge. And now I realise that probably most people who plan a wedding will have moments when they doubt their choices. And I also realised that in retrospect you really don’t spend your time thinking about the things that didn’t go quite right, or the choices not made, but on your new husband, the awesome day you had and the amazing people you got to spend time with.
Dress Fur Coat No Knickers
Photographer Cooper photography
Favours Tip Tree Jam
Suit Hugo Boss
Some great advice at the end there from Elena. I guess it is very easy to think that everyone has their big day planned down to a tee and that they are 100% confident in all of their decisions when all you see is the final result on one of the blogs or in the glossies.
In reality there is much heartache, wobbles and panic and that’s ok. It’s all part of the *ahem* fun!
It’s human nature to think ‘what if?’ or ‘What would I do differently?’ but ultimately as long as you’ve got your nearest and dearest with you it’s going to be fine. Trust me!