Louisa the Bride:
We wanted everything as casual, relaxed, and to our own taste (not very smart!) as possible. And also had to take into account the blazing sunshine. But despite not wanting anything too formal, and wanting our own style, the more time we spent thinking about it, the more we actually went towards the traditional "wedding" things as it did just seem important to the sense of occasion. I guess I also got to be my stubborn self and wear a short green dress to our registry office wedding instead of a wedding dress, so for our actual wedding I realised it would be nice to embrace the idea of a wedding dress. However, I still resisted a lot of "you must" things that people told me I had to do... e.g. people telling me that the bridesmaids "must" match, I "must" wear my hair up, I "must" have a make-up artist etc. I didn't want a make-up artist, and Amit flung off his tie the minute the ceremony was over! So we both felt very relaxed, and did what suited us.
It feel very laid-back, people wore what they liked and what suited them, although people did take cues from the chic Italian countryside and everyone looked pretty chic. As a result, I was actually pretty surprised to see how well put together we all looked in the photos! Looked like it had all been carefully planned ;)
For my dress, I wanted something simple and not too hot/layered/lacy, as Italy was really hot. I tried on a few dresses that I loved, and were very "weddingy" and actually nearly bought one, but just didn't feel quite right in it. I chose the one I did, as I was with my best (and oldest) friend Alice when I tried it on, and she got teary-eyed, and I realised it was special, and that it was "me". I like the 1920s look, but not full-on Gatsby style, so this felt just right. We were also having a sun-kissed, evening, Italian wedding, so this felt slinky, sophisticated and like an evening gown, rather than too frilly and fussy.
Also, Charlie Brear
is an incredible designer, and their advisor Holly was totally chilled, and understood me completely. It was more expensive than I originally planned, but I guess everyone says that?
The groomsmen chose their own suits, but I think they collectively decided to all be in blue. Amit wanted to look cool, Italian, summer chic (although those might not have been his exact words!) so he went for a cream suit.
We were inspired by a wedding we went to on a campsite in Wales, where everyone stayed for the whole weekend, so they were together the night before the wedding, got ready for the wedding together, and had a breakfast together the day after. It felt so nice to spend the whole journey together, rather than the bride making a grand entrance in the middle of the weekend, and then the couple disappearing again after the dancing. We wanted to spend as much time as possible with our friends and family. So we decided we wanted to rent a big place where everyone could stay together.
Next choice was that it had to be somewhere warm, as we're both sun-worshippers, and for a really relaxed feeling, we didn't want to be worrying about whether it would rain or not. (Little did we know we would actually end up having a storm of typhoon proportions on the day - didn't expect that!)
We chose Italy as we wanted somewhere close to UK, and easy to spend time in, so that friends with kids/older relatives would feel comfortable there and could enjoy a holiday there. And also as one of our first holidays together was in Italy, so we had fond memories of it.
With these criteria in mind, I typed "BIG ITALIAN VILLA" into Google, and Villa Pianciani
came up on Air BnB. And that was genuinely the end of our search. I loved it immediately, so we booked flights to go and see it. We didn't look at any other locations or venues. It was a pretty easy choice as it felt really great when we arrived, and we fell for it straight away. It's absolutely stunning, but with a faded grandeur, very informal feel. Perfect for a big boozy Italian feast.
The villa owner recommended the caterers, and again, we didn't really shop around. We went for dinner in their restaurant and the quality and amount of food, wine, desserts, etc. they were offering was jaw-dropping. They also understood our desire for big communal tables, under the stars, plenty of wine, piles of olives, mounds of cheese, fresh fruit etc. "No heart shaped chocolates and napkins folded like swans please" was the request from Amit, and they got it.
We wanted it to look gorgeous, but we just didn't understand how people can get so hung up on obsessing about the details, and the amount of decorations people pay for! We let the florist have a free reign. Having a certain type of flower or shade of pink seemed such a weird concept for me, when I just wanted to celebrate love, marriage, friends, and family. It's a beautiful venue in a beautiful and stylish country, and we knew she'd done weddings there before that looked great, so we just let her go for it! We had a vague notion of peachy colours, as the villa is a sort of terracotta/peach colour, and because we would be celebrating around sunset, but we really didn't get more involved than that. It was also all outdoors, so there was very little needed.
We had huge strings of lights hung above us at night, and candles all up the driveway to the villa, which again were not our idea. It was really pretty, but very chilled.
Officially getting married in Italy was a little complicated, so we actually sneakily did the official bit in London before what we called our "proper" wedding in Italy. So we had freedom to do exactly what we wanted for our ceremony. The ceremony was in a hidden forest to one side of the villa. Amit's best friend, Emyr, conducted the ceremony. I also know him well, so it was very personal. He spent such a long time writing it, and it was so moving. As well as vows and readings, he threw in less traditional elements, like talking about how we met, about our families, and said a little bit of a poem I love.
For our readings, we chose four people to speak, and asked each to pick something that represented four things that are important to us: love, friends, family, and marriage. Our mutual friend Sarah, who was with us when we first met at Glastonbury, did the reading about "friends" and read out a Dolly Parton song "You can't make old friends" as we had seen Dolly the year before at Glastonbury! That was really special, to talk about the things that are important in our lives like friends and family, not just talk about only ourselves. And the other most memorable reading was from our friend Maggie, who read a newspaper article about how to have a good marriage. I think about that article regularly. It meant a lot to me.
Emyr was brilliant. I can never thank him enough. I wish we'd recorded it. He moved everyone to tears.
We wrote our own vows, but heavily based on some we found on the internet. I struggled to make it to the end of them as I was crying so much, despite intensive pre-ceremony vow-reading-training from one of my bridesmaids just before it started.
We wanted as many of our friends to be part of the wedding as possible, so one couple, Rachel and Gareth, played guitar and sang at the beginning of the ceremony. Rachel had their little baby daughter on her lap as she sang and I walked up the aisle to see my wonderful friends singing and smiling at me... I was already in tears at that point.
After the ceremony, another friend, Arran, played guitar and sang, whilst everyone drank prosecco and lounged around in the evening sun.
We had a band in the evening, and like many of our decisions, we chose them fairly easily as we didn't have the luxury of being in the same country to actually go and watch bands to pick one. We used the website Scarlett Entertainment
and chose this really cool, funky band, based mainly on the fact they had a wild frontman and a horn section and we knew they would not be your traditional same-old wedding band.
Our photographer Krish, and her husband Joey, were incredible. The way they both became part of our wedding was something we will never forget. We didn't want anything too formal, and both felt a bit uncomfortable about the idea of posing, but they made the whole thing feel really special, and captured photos that feel genuine, heartfelt, and make us swoon! She respected our wishes of not wanting to spend too long taking time away from our guests, and the photos she shot in the little time we gave her, around sunset, are so gorgeous. I just loved having Krish around, it wouldn't have been the same without her. I love our photos, they're so special. She's a complete wizard behind the camera. A real talent.
Our photographer and her husband made a little video to go with our photos. It's hilarious, captures the bits that you can't quite get on photos, and also captures a little bit of Amit's speech, which gives me a massive lump in my throat.
Just do exactly what you, as a couple, want to do, and don't listen to all the advice other people give you. I constantly felt pressure to do things a certain way. But I am so glad we ignored everyone. For instance, we didn't need party favours, fancy invitations, lots of decorations, order of service etc... all the things people told us we must have. Instead we blew our budget on a stunning venue, where we could all relax and build memories together. As a result, it felt relaxed, it felt true to us, and people had a great time.
Let people help you plan, if they want to. I pushed away help because I didn't want to trouble people, but actually I eventually realised that close friends and family WANTED to be involved in helping you choose things, and to go on that journey with you.
Have a back-up plan. We didn't! We had the most tremendous storm just before the wedding... trees blew down and blocked the roads to the villa, the garden flooded, the decorations all had to be taken down. We had no idea what we were going to do as there was no alternative to being outdoors. Eventually the storm passed, so we just postponed everything by a few hours, and the sun came out to reveal the most serene, fresh, rose- coloured evening, but it would have been pretty crazy if it had carried on raining as there was nowhere really to go.
Get married in Italy! Everyone loved it, it was super relaxed, and it was so memorable and different than other weddings we have been to. People talk about the food at our wedding all the time, even a year on. And the food and wine was far cheaper and more delicious than anything you'd get in England. Lots of our friends came with small children, and had a brilliant holiday, as they could let all their kids run wild around the gardens whilst they sat back and enjoyed the red wine! It was also a truly memorable holiday, not just a wedding. We loved it so much. We want to go back...