Deciding on Destination ‘I Dos’
Jessica The Bride:
Almost as soon as we got engaged, I started thinking about the possibility of getting married abroad. The weather was a factor – I knew that I would be a complete pain checking the forecast in the days and weeks leading up to the big day and stressing about rain if we got married in the UK! But the deciding moment came when we attended a friend’s wedding in New York shortly after we got engaged. They did the traditional American thing of having a rehearsal dinner the day before and brunch the morning after, and – as a guest – I loved how the celebrations played out over the whole weekend. The concept of a ‘wedding weekend’ started to take hold.
My parents have a house in Lazio, Italy, so we decided to explore venues around the area. A few months after we got engaged, we visited three potential venues in nearby Umbria with our brilliant wedding planners, Fabrizio and Anna. They were all amazing in different ways, but we fell in love with the ‘wildcard’ option: a deconsecrated cathedral in Orvieto, a medieval hilltop town. It wasn’t at all what we’d had in mind – I’d pictured a remote farmhouse tucked away in the Italian hills – but La Domus
, with its modern, industrial interior and spectacular terrace with views across the Umbrian countryside, just felt right. The biggest bonus was that our guests could stay in the town itself, minutes from the venue.
Choosing my wedding dress was one of my favourite bits of the process – I loved trying on all the different styles, and could have happily got married ten times over in order to wear them all! I visited three very different London boutiques over two weekends with my Mum, Sister and Best Friend, and as we went into Blackburn Bridal
for my third appointment, I had a clear frontrunner and ‘dress to beat’. I told Russell, the owner of BB, that I wanted something a bit different, a bit sexy, but not too outlandlish, or expensive, and it had to be suitable for a wedding in Italy in August. Not too many demands then! Luckily, Russell is a complete pro, and instantly recommended that I try on ‘Hippolyte’ from French designer Delphine Manivet
. It was love at first sight. Although I’d enjoyed ‘pretending’ in lots of other dresses, this was the only one that made me feel that if Pinch had walked through the door right at that moment, I would have happily got married there and then. If that isn’t the definition of ‘the one’, I don’t know what is.
I bought a cathedral-length veil from Blackburn Bridal to go with the dress and, after being slightly disheartened by the price of bridal hair accessories, my enterprising Mum found a sparkly necklace in Forever 21
, which my grandma made into the perfect headband. My shoes were from L K Bennett
, and I wore an antique pair of earrings that were a gift from my parents as my ‘something blue’.
My sister’s best friend, Nadia, is a MAC make-up artist and we were so lucky to have her with us on the day to make all the bridal party look and feel beautiful. She did the most amazing job – and, as she attended the wedding as a guest too, was on hand for touch-ups throughout the day (and night!)
Pierre aka Pinch is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to clothes, but he wanted something special when it came to his wedding suit. He went to a traditional City tailor, Choppin and Lodge
, and had a bespoke three-piece navy suit made. I’d bought him a pair of personalised map cufflinks as an anniversary present earlier in the year – one showing Durham, where we met, and the other showing Orvieto – which he wore on the day. His tie was by Paul Smith
The Wedding Party
With an eye on escalating wedding costs, I was determined to find beautiful – but affordable – dresses from the high street for my five bridesmaids. I didn’t have a particular colour or style in mind, but when I stumbled across some floaty, navy French Connection
dresses in the January sales, I knew they’d be perfect. The groomsmen wore their own suits with baby-blue ties.
The Décor & Colour Scheme
I didn’t really set out with a specific colour scheme in mind. Once I’d bought the bridesmaids dresses, I knew that navy had to feature, but I wanted white to be the dominant colour. For the flowers, I was similarly relaxed. I pinned hundreds of images of centrepieces and bouquets to a Pinterest
board I shared with my wedding planner, and the idea of baby’s breath centrepieces with mirrored tiles and mercury-silver tealight holders began to emerge. One of our earliest ideas was naming our tables after different gins, having the corresponding bottle on each table instead of traditional numbers. I’m so pleased with how we managed to incorporate this into the overall look – and getting to drink the gin at our self-serve gin bar afterwards was a definite wedding highlight!
Our wedding planners and the team at La Domus went above and beyond with the evening décor – transforming the outside terrace into a festoon-bulb-lit wonderland while we were having dinner. After failing to source light-up letters anywhere in Umbria, the owner of our venue even made a ‘J’ and a ‘P’ for us from scratch! It made for the most incredible setting for our evening celebrations.
We didn’t take on many DIY projects, but one of the best decisions we made was to make all of our stationery. It saved us hundreds of pounds, and the end result was something totally unique and personal to us. My incredibly talented sister drew a picture of the Orvieto skyline, which was the front image of our invitations, and I spent hours choosing fonts and designing the rest of the invite (and accompanying menus, place cards, orders of service and stickers) on InDesign. We had everything printed through printed.com
, who were fantastic and so reasonably priced. I also created a wedding website with Squarespace
, which was great for getting information out to our guests early on.
My amazing mum sourced all the tealight holders, mirrors, frames and candles in the UK, which made up a big part of our décor. She also lovingly hand-dried HUNDREDS of rose petals for our confetti, which provided some of my favourite shots of the day.
Our ceremony took place in a beautiful, frescoed palazzo opposite our reception venue. One of my oldest friends played the piano and sang Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ as the bridesmaids and I walked in. I adore that song, and it still gives me goosebumps when I think of that moment. Immediately following the ceremony, we had a small prosecco reception in the palazzo itself (we wanted to try and beat the record for getting a glass of bubbly into our guests’ hands after the ‘I dos’!)
Getting married in Italy, we knew we didn’t need to worry about the food, but the catering by a local restaurant in Orvieto exceeded our expectations in every respect. After the prosecco reception, we had formal aperitivo back at La Domus – with a huge buffet of cured meats, arancini balls and fresh salads. To drink we had yet more prosecco, Italian beer and lots of Aperol Spritz. Our sit-down dinner was two courses, a pasta and a meat course, accompanied by local wines. Then it was back outside for dolce: we had a gelato cart with five different flavours of ice cream and a traditional Italian wedding cake, which the chefs made in front of everyone. We also set up the self-serve gin bar, with buckets of ice and chilled Fever Tree tonic – and different garnishes for each of the twelve gins. Pizzas were brought out as a midnight snack.
Our band, The Gloves
, were – without a doubt – the talking point of the wedding. Initially we weren’t sure we needed a live band: costs were mounting up and we were nervous about hiring a non-English speaking band (flying anyone over from the UK was out of the question). I’m SO pleased we took the plunge. The dance floor was packed until 3am and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Gloves to anyone planning an Italian wedding who’s keen for a BIG party!
We originally booked an Italian photographer through our wedding planner, but a few months into the planning, I realised that his style wasn't quite right for the look and feel of our day. By this time we were less than eight months away from the wedding – cue a frenzied search of RMW and a flurry of enquiries sent out to over a dozen photographers. I'd spotted a gorgeous wedding by Studio A+Q
many months earlier on RMW
, but had discounted them as they were based in France. But my impending deadline prompted me to cast the net wide and I got in touch...I was so thrilled to hear not only that they were free for our date, but that they were Italian themselves and even knew Orvieto! We're so thrilled with the pictures and Alessio and Marta were brilliant on the day itself.
Like lots of brides, I'd considered a video to be a luxury rather than a necessity. But, after a chance conversation with a friend just three months before our wedding, I discovered Jon Alexsander of Happy Wedding Films
. WOW. His videos were some of the most incredible I've ever seen – more like short films than traditional wedding videos. I got in touch and decided to leave it up to fate to decide – if he was busy I'd drop the whole video idea once and for all...He replied less than 24 hours later to say he was available! I am so thrilled with the result – the moving images and audio conjure up so many wonderful memories and, along with the photos, it really is the perfect memento from a perfect day.
My top three bits of advice to fellow brides would be:
- Consider getting a wedding planner – especially if you’re getting married abroad. They’re worth their weight in gold: let them focus on the smaller, technical details (and make the most of their local contacts) while you get on with the fun side of planning!
- Don’t sweat the small stuff...no matter how much you plan, not everything will happen exactly as you imagined. It was only when I got to the end of the aisle that I realised I’d completely forgotten to put my veil over my face! Although it wasn’t the moment I’d imagined – my poor Dad looked so confused after we’d practiced him lifting the veil countless times the day before – whenever I think about it now, it makes me laugh and is one of my more vivid memories of the day.
- Make time for you and your Groom. I’m so pleased that we had drinks with all of our guests the night before the wedding, as not only did it give us an opportunity to speak to everyone in a more relaxed environment, taking the pressure off on our wedding day, but it was also a stark reminder about how easy it is to get separated from your groom if you’re speaking to other people. Pinch and I resolved to stick by each other’s side all day, and as such all of my memories of the wedding itself have him in them – which is exactly as it should be.