For those of you just tuning in, my fiancé and I were struggling to find a wedding venue in Toronto when we discovered the loft space at Andrew Richard Designs. Right before we were about to sign on the dotted line, Winston threw me a curve ball by asking “What about getting married in Italy?”
Him: “I know. It’s crazy. But I’ve always wanted to do a destination wedding. Let’s just go to Florence for a few days and check it out.”
Although I wanted nothing more than to finalize a venue so I could get on with planning the wedding, who says ‘no’ to a trip to Tuscany? So, instead of booking our Toronto venue, we booked plane tickets and a few weeks later we were off to see what wedding venues Florence had to offer. Suffice it to say, the trip went incredibly well!
While on our recon mission in Florence, we connected with our future wedding planner, Sonia Galina of Wedding Italy (I know it’s a shameless plug, but if you’re considering getting married in Italy, Sonia is an INCREDIBLE wedding planner). Sonia showed us two venues, both in the hills just north of Florence. The first was a beautiful Tuscan villa with a great view of the Duomo. As soon as I saw it, I said to Winston “There’s no way anything can top this - we have to get married here!”
I wanted to commit to the villa right then and there but Winston had a feeling that if Sonia had planned things right, the next venue would be even better. After driving through a maze of winding Tuscan roads, we finally entered a laneway and laid our eyes on an absolutely stunning 13th century castle. We wandered the grounds, the terrace and courtyard and, even though it was a grey misty day, neither of us could get over the incredible beauty of our surroundings. I didn’t grow up fantasizing about a fairy-tale princess wedding, but as soon as I saw Castello di Vincigliata, I knew it was the place I was going to get married.
While still in Florence, Sonia arranged for us to attend tastings with two caterers. The first was with Guidi Lenci, and you know that feeling after Thanksgiving dinner when you already had too much food, and that was two plates ago? Yeah, Guidi’s tasting was like that except 100 times worse, or better, depending on how you look at it. When the sweetest Italian woman is putting plate after plate of incredibly delicious food in front of you, it’s almost impossible not to eat ALL of it. So we did. We each ate the equivalent of five lunches and knew that Guidi was a no brainer for the food and wine component of the wedding.
The rest of our wedding was planned by email and Skype between Sonia and I over the next 11 months. I had a very specific vision in mind for our day and Sonia just “got it”. Pinterest was a great help in sourcing inspiration photos to help define what I was envisioning, but truly it was Sonia’s perfect English and her understanding of the look and feel I wanted to achieve that made the planning process so simple.
When you have such a stunning venue to work with, you don’t need to add much. My plan was to add touches of flowers, lots of candles and then let the castle speak for itself. The look we were going for was “Rustic Elegance” which may seem like an oxymoron, but I was essentially looking for an elegant vibe without it being opulent or gaudy. Every time silver or gold was offered, I opted for wood or greenery. Every time crystal or lace was offered, I opted for simple glass and twine.
The most important thing for me was that our wedding be captured in a beautiful way. Although I’m sure there is no shortage of talented photographers in Florence, I had my heart set on Mango Studios. Their work is so clean, elegant and NOT cheesy. To me – perfect. We decided that we would fly Mo & Nancy (the owners of Mango) to our wedding to ensure that all the hard work of planning and all the love and fun from the day was properly captured. Although this was a cost that could have been reduced dramatically by going with a local photographer, I think it’s one of the best decisions we made.
A fun part of planning the wedding was keeping the venue a surprise from all of our guests. Due to the fact that we would be shuttling everyone from Florence to the castle, there was no reason for anyone to know the exact location. I figured if we shared the name of the location in our invitation, most people would just Google it and immediately know what to expect. By keeping it a mystery, our guests were able to experience the same jaw-dropping reveal of the castle that we had when we first saw it. They were stunned and it was totally worth the surprise!
Once of the best parts about a destination wedding is that it generally turns what would have been a one-evening event into a multi-day party with your closest friends and family! Two nights before the wedding, we hosted our rehearsal dinner at an awesome restaurant in Florence called Konnubio. The next afternoon (the day prior to the wedding) we threw a welcome cocktail party for all of our guests at a lovely restaurant overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. Finally, we knew that a lot of people might need some help recovering from an aggressive night of dancing and drinking at the wedding…so we planned a pub crawl for the day after! Given that we were in Italy and there were no pubs in sight, our “Enoteca Crawl” included three different wine bars over the course of the afternoon, the last being an amazing rooftop patio looking over the Arno River and city of Florence. It was such an amazing opportunity to relax with our friends after all the wedding craziness.
The most challenging part of planning a wedding overseas was the days leading up to the wedding when we were in Florence. There are a million “little” things you have to get done and also 70 friends and family asking questions or needing help. It’s wonderful – but it’s exhausting. Your wedding day is already such an emotionally exhausting experience that when it finally came time for our honeymoon, we were SO excited for some quality quiet time as a newlyweds.
Wondering how the big day unfolded? Stay tuned to find out.