Francesca is Italian and Ben had always wanted to get married in a castle. So the obvious choice? A fairytale wedding, in a medieval castle, in Italy! We take time out to have a chat with Ben about getting married abroad, some problems they ran into and some quirky local traditions. Over to you Ben…
Tell us about the proposal…
“I proposed to Francesca on a trip to Cornwall in May,” says Ben. “It couldn’t have been further from the ‘stereotypical’ proposal – the weather was awful all weekend and Francesca was ill. I had a ring ready and had planned to propose with it hidden inside a Russian doll. While walking around Cornwall I saw that just about every shop sold similar dolls, so I decided it was fate! I managed to drag Francesca from her sick bed on the second night for a walk on the beach, where we sat under an umbrella with a portable lantern… and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Why did you decide to get married abroad?
“We nearly got married in the UK and we were really close to booking a venue in London, on the Jubilee weekend,” says Ben. “Thankfully that didn’t happen as the weather was appalling. In the end I got my wish and we were married in Italy. For me, getting married abroad makes it extra special and you have a lot more choice with venues. Also, Francesca is Italian!”
What made you choose your venue?
“We wanted to marry in the town where Francesca’s mum grew up and where she spent her holidays as a child,” says Ben. “What was even more perfect was that it had an amazing castle, the town itself is beautiful and we knew our friends and family would love it. Francesca’s grandmother was even married in the same church. After the church ceremony, we held a wonderful reception at the castle Il Castello di Compiano.”
How did your family react to you getting married abroad?
“It was difficult at first. My parents were worried about the logistics of how people would get there,” says Ben. “My grandfather had been ill in the build-up to the wedding and we were worried he wouldn’t be able to come. Francesca’s parents were obviously delighted.”
Do you think holding your wedding overseas stopped people coming?
“To be honest we were confident that the most important guests would all make the effort,” says Ben. “Especially as many had never been to a traditional Italian wedding. We made sure we sent save the dates out early so people could plan, we also created a website and a detailed information pack for our guests.”
Was it easy organising your wedding in Italy?
“We used a couple of recommended wedding planners and they had some really good, local contacts that sourced everything we needed,” says Ben. “Plus, they were on hand during the day to make our lives less stressful. We visited Italy several times beforehand to check out a selection of hotels for our guests and agreed rates in advance, which we listed on our wedding website.”
Was there anything that didn’t go to plan?
“We had quite a few dramas,” laughs Ben. “The man we originally booked the wedding with, lost his contract to host events at the castle and didn’t tell us. We made an emergency visit to meet the new owners of the venue and re-organise the wedding. As for the weather, the night before the wedding there was torrential rain for five hours. It hadn’t rained for three months, but the sun came up at 7am, everything dried up and we enjoyed a day of 35 degree sunshine!”
Did you incorporate any local traditions into your wedding day?
“Quite a few. Francesca’s brother and cousins painted messages on the street, for us to see on the way to church – the best one being the ‘Jail’ sign pointing to the church on my route,” says Ben. “We also had the cutting of the groom’s tie after the speeches, where the best man and groomsmen snip the groom’s tie into bits to be sold off to the other guests.”
Is there anything you would have done differently?
“During stressful moments Francesca would say, ‘Why didn’t you just take me to Vegas?’, but in truth we wouldn’t have done anything differently,” says Ben. “To us, the day was perfect.”
Any tips for other couples tying the knot abroad?
“I would insist on getting contracts for the venue, planner and decorations,” recommends Ben. “We found that the local culture there was to do everything on trust, which is lovely, but risky! If you don’t speak the language a wedding planner is a good idea but make sure they know the area. Also check the small print as some planners charge for site visits and a percentage for each of the services provided.”
Photographs courtesy of Studio-Storie
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