A lot of people have asked me whether booking a wedding abroad was a daunting and difficult process. I can truthfully answer that with Julie and My Secret Italy it really wasn’t at all! Julie has such a passion for Santa Maria and Italy that every long conversation that we had (and there were many!) on the run up to our big day inspired me with a colourful vision of what our wedding was going to be like from start to finish. She gave us so many creative ideas for things to think about for our wedding day, together with providing invaluable practical advise along the way. It was clear that every little detail was just as important to Julie as it was to us.
During one of our very long conversations I expressed to Julie my exasperation at not being able to find a photographer I liked for our wedding. It was Julie who recommended to us the extremely talented and wonderful Andrea Ellison. I spent a whole afternoon flicking through her portfolio after which it was clear she was the photographer for us! Together Julie and Andrea really were a dream team and such fun!!
Months of preparation and fine-tuning spun by until we were finally there; it was time to get married- in Italy!!! From the moment the we landed on Italian soil we were in good hands. We were efficiently whisked from the airport to the Garden Riviera Hotel by Domenico. The car journey flew by as we took in the scenery and got increasingly excited to arrive in Santa Maria.
We were given a lovely bedroom at the Garden Riviera with incredible dual aspect views down onto Santa Maria and up the coast towards Capri. We spent one lovely evening admiring the incredible view and drinking Prosecco with our friends on the balcony before a night out on the town.
The staff at the hotel were all incredibly friendly and helpful and the food was really tasty and reasonably priced. We enjoyed a number of afternoons with our guests sipping our drinks down by the lovely pool and basking in the Italian sunshine. Talk about chilled out!
The night before the wedding Julie arranged for us to have a cocktail night at Le Gatte bar down by the sea which gave all of our guests the opportunity to get to know each other and settle into the chilled Italian pace of life. The mohitos were delicious!
Here is where I got surprise number 1 organised by Julie and Carl – a ride in a vintage Italian fiat. Such a cute and quirky little car and what a fun surprise! Carl and I were driven up to Castellabate with Andrea to have some photos taken. The views from the top were spectacular!
On the morning of our wedding I was asked to be down in reception with my mum for 8:00am. No mention of why – how cryptic! Time for surprise number 2! Carl and Julie had arranged for me to go on a boat trip with my mum and Carl’s mum. We had little bottles of Prosecco and a Panini sandwich for breakfast. Swimming in crystal clear sea on the morning of my wedding day was so incredibly calming. I was grinning from ear to ear by the time we got back to the hotel – not a wedding nerve in sight!
As suggested by Julie, Carl and a few of the other men had a traditional wet shave at the barbers on the morning of the wedding. I understand the shave was a real treat and certainly not something any of them had ever experienced before and of course another fun photo opportunity. Carl and his best man got taken up to the Torre Perrotti after the shave to be shown where the stand and what to expect. Carl tells me that helped to alleviate a lot of his wedding day nerves!
On our wedding day the only thing we had to be concerned about was getting dressed and ready. Everything else from checking with the suppliers to liaising with the venues was dealt with by Julie (she must have been running around like crazy behind the scenes!). When the flowers got delivered to the hotel I really was taken aback by how beautiful and fragrant that they were. Our colour scheme of peach and pale blue had been meshed together in a wonderfully subtle and scented array of roses and hydrangeas.
Whilst Julie was coordinating all of our guests down in the town, Emillie stayed with me at the hotel to make sure everything was going to plan. It was really reassuring to know somebody was in both places so that I knew everything was being kept an eye on.
My brother had driven from the UK to Santa Maria in his MX5 and he drove me from the Garden Riviera to the Torre Perrotti to get married. Before we arrived Julie had ensured that his registration number was registered with the local authority to make sure he didn’t pick up a parking fine whilst we were getting married – quite a bureaucratic process I’m sure and another example of the attention to detail that Julie put into our wedding.
I decided that I didn’t want to see the Torre Perrotti before our wedding day as I wanted it to be a surprise. The overwhelming feeling of pure happiness when I stepped out onto the terrace to see all our friends and family, with Carl stood at the front looking so handsome, is a moment I hope that I never will forget. The stunning flower arch that matched in with my bouquet just looked amazing in the bright Italian sunshine – the number of roses in the arch was truly astounding.
The ceremony itself was incredibly emotional. Julie had guided us beforehand as to how we could personalise the Italian civil wedding ceremony. We had two moving readings and chose to say our own personal vows in addition to the Italian vows. The beautiful setting together with such a romantic ceremony meant there really wasn’t a dry eye in the house!
The ceremony was followed by Prosecco together with tasty nibbles up on the terrace. It was lovely to take in the view and enjoy our first few moments as husband and wife from such a picturesque promontory. All the while Julie was on hand making sure everyone was happy and that the day was going to plan.
The guitar and mandolin duo were a beautifully subtle accompaniment to the ceremony and they continued to play Italian classical music to entertain our guests whilst we were up on the terrace. When we moved away from the Torre Perrotti to sign the register at the Town Hall the musicians followed along with us playing upbeat traditional Italian music. It was such fun to be walking through the streets with our own band – the locals loved it as well, singing along to the music. We were being congratulated in Italian “Auguri” wherever we walked – we felt like local celebrities.
Whilst we went off to have a few quiet photos taken, the band went back to a bar with the rest of our guests for a cocktail and a sing-song – “that’s amore”!! We met up shortly afterwards by which point the tempo of the music had really got going and our guests were really getting into a party mood with the band spurring everyone on! The band even popped up from behind a bush and in their car as they were leaving for a couple of encores!!
After the we had met with our guests at the bar we were taken by Julie to the Lido Azzurro for a sneak peak of the venue before everyone else arrived. The day after we had arrived in Santa Maria I had handed to Julie the decorations we had brought with us to decorate the Lido – bunting, pompoms, shells together with other odds and ends. When we stepped into the Lido our bits and bobs had been meshed together with the Lido’s decorations and more beautiful flowers to create a vibrant and colourful venue. The falling soft light at that time of day shone into the bar making the place look incredible. As our guests started to arrive at the Lido, the sun was setting on the horizon turning the sky a myriad of oranges, pinks and blues. It was simply stunning.
All of our guests commented on the quality of the plentiful food at the barbeque at the Lido. The bruschetta starter was a personal favourite – really delicious! We paid extra as well for some fish for the barbeque which went down really well with everyone.
After dinner the acoustic guitar duo started their first set – what a cool pair! Luigi (Bruno Mars ) and Peppe (Prince) are both very talented, have a diverse set-list and some excellent kit to really make their music shine. Here I finally got my turn with surprise number 3! The band kindly let my best friend use one of their guitars and I sang ‘Make you feel my love’ for Carl. Another weepy moment for everyone involved! After that the band encouraged me to sing backing with them for the rest of the night- as a singer I was in wedding heaven!
Bring on surprise number 4 – the fireworks that only Julie and I knew about!! All of our guests commented on just how good the display was – it went on for a really long time and included some fireworks that landed out at sea. They provided a celebratory feel for the end of the evening and were really good value for money considering the amount we paid and how many fireworks there were.
Julie was also able to organise a boat trip after the wedding for thirty of our guests that included transfer to and from the hotel and lunch (including a beer!). No fuss – we just told her how many people were going and it was sorted. We had such a fantastic time telling stories from the wedding, basking in the Italian sun and swimming in the amazingly clear and calm water. Everybody had such a fantastic time – it was the perfect way to end an incredible weekend with all of our closest family and friends.
So that was our big day – it really was perfect for us and it was everything and more that we could have possibly asked for. Thanks to Andrea we have the most amazing photos to cherish and remind ourselves that it really wasn’t a dream despite how much it sometimes feels like it was! Julie genuinely cares so much about the weddings that she plans and it shows through the personal touches and level of attention that she gives. She looked after our guests so well and a number of them commented that it was the best wedding they had ever been to (high accolade indeed!).
Santa Maria itself really is a special place – so unspoilt and absent of the usual problems that coincide with the arrival of tourism. Not only is it as quaint and picturesque as you would imagine for an Italian seaside town but the people are so genuinely warm and welcoming that you feel like a local after you’ve spent an evening drinking cocktails in the square. So many of our guests enjoyed themselves so much that they are already talking about returning to Santa Maria some time again in the near future (us included!!).
So thank you Julie. Carl and I really had the time of our lives in Santa Maria and I hope that you know how grateful we are for all your creativity, hard work, generosity and patience. You really are a superstar!
Love the very happily married
Mr & Mrs Gissing
ps. Can’t wait to see you out in the sun again next year!