Kelly and James headed to Tuscany, Italy in May to marry in front of 73 guests who flew in from all corners of the globe to be with them.
They wanted their wedding to be a relaxed Italian affair where they could celebrate with their loved ones over a couple of days. After their ceremony they exited into the streets where passers by cheered for them, they then jumped into a classic yellow fiat 500 alone for the hour drive to their reception. Incredible!
They laid on the most delicious Italian food and drink, with homemade olive oil favours and limoncello on the tables.
Kelly chose an exquisite lace dress by Lusan Mandongus which she wore with a cathedral length veil, while James found his dashing blue suit in Hugo Boss which he teamed with cowboy boots.
Thanks so much to the amazing Tom Ravenshear for sharing his photography with us today.
The Proposal… After Christmas with our combined families, James took me to Cornwall for a couple for days over New Year to show me where he grew up. After a really relaxed two days in Foey, James told me we were heading somewhere else for our final night – I had no idea where. It was New Year’s Day and as couldn’t check in until lunchtime, we decided to find a nice spot on the way to go for a walk and clear our groggy heads from New Year’s Eve. We went to Luxulyan Valley which is a beautiful forest where James used to walk the family dog when he was little and the river running through it where he tells dramatic stories of nearly falling in and drowning! We had been walking for an hour or so when we got to the spot where he remembered falling in as a child and I got my camera out to take a photo of him. As I looked through the back of the camera, he was stood below me on the river bank holding out a box with the most beautiful diamond and emerald ring in it. I peered over the top of the camera, unsure whether what I had seen through the lens was true, but it was and at that point James asked me to marry him. We’d been together for almost five years so I wasn’t shocked that he was proposing but I definitely didn’t expect it on that day, at the moment. He’d been so relaxed he hadn’t given anything away to let it slip. I was very excited and couldn’t believe the ring that he had designed and had made himself. I think he was relieved to have finally asked me and to be able to get rid of the secrets he’d been keeping for so long! We then drove off to the incredible Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes for the night – it was a hotel I’d look at longingly when I’d visited St Mawes with my best friend a number of years before and James had remembered and booked us in. We decided to keep our engagement a secret and had a fantastic evening celebrating our engagement as a couple, before spreading the news the following day.
The Vision for the Day… We are quite a laid back couple and knew from the beginning that we didn’t want to do anything too large or too formal. So many people had told us how quickly the day itself would go, so we wanted to create a way that we could spend a couple days with our closest friends and family rather than just the day of the wedding. James’s mum lives in Italy and we have spent a lot of happy times over there with her and her partner Rich – it didn’t take us long to work out that Italy would be the perfect location for our wedding. From the start, we were keen not to have an English wedding abroad but to incorporate as much of Italy as we could.
The Planning Process… Whilst James’s mum lives in Italy and was absolutely incredible with the amount she did to help with our wedding planning, we wanted to make sure that she could enjoy the day so hired a local wedding planner to help us source everything we needed as well as helping with the legal requirements and organising on the day. Monina was fantastic, a picture of calm at all times and never anything less than enthusiastic for our sometimes crazy ideas. We had two trips to Italy ahead of the wedding – one in July 2012 to look at venues and one in March 2013 to meet the florist, do hair / make-up trials and a food tasting – other than that everything was done over email and skype.
The Venue… Neither James or I are religious so we didn’t want to have a church wedding, but the idea of getting married in the local town hall appealed to us both. Cortona is a stunning hill top town in Tuscany that we both know well as it is close to James’s mother’s house. The town hall itself is a beautiful stone building in the main square and the interior has all the original features from when it was built 400 years ago. For our reception, we chose the Abbazia San Faustino off the beaten track just over the border in Umbria. It’s a 13th century Benedictine abbey that has been lovingly restored to protect the original stonework and frescoes and once we set eyes on it and the view over the valley, we knew that it was for us. The owners Emanuela and Valentina were incredible – they genuinely couldn’t have done more to make us welcome and accommodated everything and more we could have possibly asked for.
The Dress + Accessories… My dress was Lusan Mandongus from Teokath in Wimbledon which I added lace cap sleeves and a v-necked back to. I wore it with a very simple cathedral length veil that showed the dress off perfectly through it. My pearl drop earrings were my something borrowed, from my mother, and the Tiffany pearl bracelet was a wedding present from James – my something new. I wore blue suede court shoes with a little platform and heels from Office as I knew they were comfy for dancing. In the evening I had a pearly hair slide from Glitzy Secrets that I put in my hair. My something old was an antique garter bought for me by my best friend.
Finding the Dress… Dress shopping was fun – my Mum was with me for every appointment and alteration. The two bridesmaids, my sister and best friend, came when they could and even my Dad joined in for the final session when I knew I’d found the one. I always knew I wanted lace and after a few appointments, it because clear that fishtail was the style that suited my figure best. We probably went to about 10 or 12 shops in our local area over four months and tried on about 50 dresses, all of them lovely but not quite right. Finally we went back to Teokath in Wimbledon and the local assistant there, Elle, persuaded me to try on a dress I hadn’t picked out as it was the right shape. I trusted her and she had it spot on. With every other dress there had been a ‘It’s nice… but’ whereas there wasn’t a ‘but’ with this one. The lace was beautiful and I felt very special in it. We needed to do some alterations to give it the neckline I wanted but that was straightforward once we had the dress to work from.
Groom’s Attire… We didn’t have a set suite for the male members of the bridal party as we were happy for it to be fairly informal. The important thing for me was that James got to wear exactly what he wanted to and that he could feel as good as I knew I would in my dress. We chose a blue suit from Hugo Boss for him and had it tailored so it fitted him perfectly. The big thing for him was the shoes though. James doesn’t wear smart clothes to work and only really has one pair of good shoes – a pair of cowboy boots we bought from R.Soles on the Kings Road about five years ago. As soon as we started talking about his outfit, he decided that he wanted new cowboy boots so we went back to R.Soles and he picked out a pair of peanut Lizard boots. They were definitely a statement shoe but he loves them and why not, it was his wedding day too!
The Readings + Music… We chose my cousin Jacqui and James’s grandfather to do our readings and had ‘Instructions for Life’ (Dalai Lama) and ‘Maybe’ (anonymous). When we were looking at the various options, they were so mainly that were either overly serious or a bit flippant but those to struck just the right note for us – focussing on love, respect, friendship and happiness. James’s grandfather, who read ‘Maybe’, added some words of his own onto the end – phrasing it as the things we should ‘definitely’ do such as never going to sleep on a cross word – which was a really personal touch.
I played the violin when I was little and wanted to incorporate this into the service, so we had a violinist play Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major’ when I walked in and Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ when we left.
Beautiful Bridesmaids… The bridesmaids were my sister Charlotte and my best friend Hayley, who were fantastic throughout. The girls were very relaxed about their dresses so choosing them was painless. I knew I didn’t want them looking like grown up flower fairies and wanted something simple that would make them look classy and feel special as well. We found a very simple oyster coloured dress from Phase Eight that suited them both – I was lucky that they are very similar in colourings – so went with that. I think the thing they likes best was that it was ruched so they could pull it up to make it shorter when they hit the dance floor later on.
The Flowers… Flowers were important to me as I think this is one of the things that can make weddings feel very formal. I always knew that I wanted my flowers to look like they had just been picked straight from the garden and Mario, the local florist, understood exactly what I was after and managed to interpret this perfectly. We had a mixture of lisianthus, heather, anenomes and eucalyptus in a nod to my Australian side (my mother is Aussie and her five brothers and sisters travelled to Italy for the wedding) tied in raffia.
The Cake… We just went simple for the cake and asked the local baker to make us a mille feuille which they did. It wasn’t a traditional Italian wedding cake, but it is one of the things they do very well and it was delicious and huge!
Your Photographer… Photography was right up there as one of the most important elements of the day for us. I spent many years working in PR and managing photo shoots is a key part of the job. I’m used to being in control of the shoot and am very picky about getting the perfect shot, so knew I needed to have someone I could trust behind the camera so that I could relax and know we would be getting the shots we wanted. For that reason I didn’t take any chances and flew over a photographer from England that I had worked with before and had also done a friend’s wedding. I can’t being to explain how happy we all are with that decision. I know I’m biased but I genuinely think the photos of our wedding are beautiful. Tom perfectly captured the both the story of our day and the essence of Italy immortalising our wedding in pictures.
The Details + Decor… We wanted to have some special touches for our wedding that would make it personal and memorable, some of these were:
Daisy, the original yellow Fiat 500, that we borrowed from a lovely couple Tim and Anna who are friends of James’s mum. We provided transport for everyone throughout the day and put prosecco on the buses taken people from the service to the reception so they could start the celebrations.
On arrival at the Abbazia San Faustino, our guests had prosecco and canapés by the pool as the sunset, listening to chilled out tunes from our Italian band We gave everyone a bottle of home-made Italian olive oil as their favours, made by James’s mum’s friends. We created a little Black Book with a funny line about each of the guests and put a couple on every place setting to act as an ice breaker and get everyone mingling.
A traditional four course Italian meal including antipasto and a pasta course as well as the main and dessert. James is known for always starting the sweepstake for the length of the speeches so we decided to make it official and put a betting card on each table, inviting them to place their bets with a list of forfeits for the losing times. After the meal, we put a bottle of homemade Limoncello on every table and let them pour their own shots to get the party really started.
We had a photo booth so that everyone could take drunken photos of themselves once the meal had ended and we hit the dancefloor – not new to the UK but certainly rare in Italy (there are only two in the whole country). In true Italian style, the party just kept on going. The band finished playing at 3 and the last to bed (two of my uncles) finally called it a night at 5.30am.
The Honeymoon… We stayed in Italy for a couple of days after the wedding and James surprised me with a stay at the wonderful Casa Vissani – a two Michelin star restaurant and boutique hotel on the shore of Lake Corbara – and a night in Rome.
Memorable Moments… It is a legal requirement to have the service translated into English and we were very lucky that James’s Mum agreed to do this for us. It was very special to have someone that close to us officially pronounce us as husband and wife.
When we opened the doors at the top of the stairs out of the town hall, we were greeted not just by our friends and family lining the steps but also all the locals and visitors to Cortona that day. There were so many people and they all clapped and cheered and shouted ‘Baci! Baci!’ (Kiss, Kiss) when we walked down the stairs. It was a magical moment and I was blown away by it.
We had an hour drive back from Cortona to the Abbazia San Faustino with just James and I in the Fiat 500 which was fun. As well as having the chance to spend some time as just the two of us, everyone was cheering as er drove past – it felt very special that everyone was so happy for us and sharing in making our day so exciting.
Fairy lights! I brought lots of solar powered fair lights over from the UK and two of my friends spent hours putting them into trees on the morning of the wedding. We had no idea if they had absorbed enough sunlight to work so it was magical when we came out from dinner to find the whole garden illuminated with tiny little white lights
We had 73 people at our wedding and of those, only 2 hadn’t flown to Italy for the wedding. Our guests came from the US, Dubai, Norway, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, the UK and 18 from Australia. We were so, so lucky to be surrounded by such generous friends and family.
Advice for Other Couples… People told me not to worry about the little details that no one else will remember and just to focus on the big things that will make a difference – food, wine, music – but I disagree. I probably took on too much (creating all the stationery, designing labels for the olive oil and limoncello, making the table runners and confetti etc) but I think it is the little details that made our wedding memorable and I wouldn’t change the amount of thought I put into that.
Make sure you find some time for yourselves in the run up to the wedding. It’s easy to get carried away doing all the things that other people need you to do but it can mean the things that you want to focus on (writing speeches, practising your first dance) get put to the bottom of the pile.
Remember that it is a journey and not just one day so enjoy the planning and preparation and every moment leading up to the wedding and don’t just focus on the day itself.
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Wedding Planner – Monina Bucci: www.italianweddingdream.com
Wedding dress – Teokath: www.teokath.co.uk
Venue – Abbazia San Faustino: www.sanfaustinoresort.com
Photographer – Tom Ravenshear: www.tomravenshear.com
Make-Up – Milo Sabariz: www.weddinghairitaly.com
Band – Guty e Simone: www.gutyesimone.it
Photobooth – www.noraphotobooth.it
Utterly beautiful. Thanks so much to Kelly and James for sharing their wedding with us today XOXO Lou
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