Destination Weddings/Real Weddings

Practically Royal Tuscan Wedding

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So, big question on everyone’s minds, did you watch the royal wedding this weekend? Did you wake up at the crack of dawn (like myself?) or were you one of the lucky ones in the proper time zone?!

Royal mania has been on everyone’s mind lately, and I can’t help but gush over so many grand, opulent weddings lately – for instance, this Tuscan beauty on the outskirts of Florence. I love any excuse to be treated as royalty, and clearly, today’s bride and I are cut from the same cloth.

It started with the venue, after finding their dream castle in their beloved Italy, Sarah and Ravi were told “it can’t be done” by too many vendors. But that just wouldn’t do! Fates aligned and Daniela came into their life, and made their regal wedding they’d always imagined come alive. First, by booking their dream venue, and second by finding an Italian cathedral that would allow them to marry despite their diverse religious backgrounds.

The royal treatment didn’t stop there either. Sarah knew exactly what she wanted for her gown, and no request was too big for her talented designer Sophie Garratt. The custom gown is so regal, with a fishtail train that likely wowed all as she glided through the cathedral. We bow down to you Sarah!

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Our Love Story

Ravi took me away for a weekend in the Cotswolds to mark two years since we had started going out with each other. We stayed in a lovely spa hotel, which was the perfect rural retreat from our busy lives in London. There were open log fires and cosy corners dotted all around the hotel – I fell in love with its rustic charm immediately. We spent the weekend enjoying the local food and drinking lots of red wine.

On the second day, we went for a long country walk, following which Ravi had very thoughtfully booked me in for some spa treatments at the hotel. In the evening, we got dressed up and went to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant before going back to our suite. I noticed that the staff seemed to be watching us very closely, but I put it down to very attentive customer service.

When we returned to our suite, the room was illuminated with the glow of candles and there was a bottle of champagne on ice (thanks to the eagle-eyed hotel staff who had timed decorating the room perfectly). Ravi then got down on one knee and popped the question!

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The Dress & Attire

Ravi chose to wear a Tuxedo as he wanted something more formal than a suit and he did not feel tails would work so well during the Italian summer. He went to Hackett on Regent Street, London and attended a few tailoring appointments to get the perfect fit. He added the little detail of wearing Fleur de Lis cufflinks on the wedding day, a variation of which is the emblem of Florence. His two best men and groomsmen also wore tuxes, hired from a Saville Row tailor in London.

I wore a couture bridal gown by Sophie Garratt, my dress was bespoke for me and made to measure. I knew from the outset that I wanted to a lace bridal gown and I chose a handmade French corded lace that took three months to produce. Sophie listened to my brief and sketched a design factoring in every detail I wanted – to be corseted, strapless, fishtail but with a long train, a separate jacket made in the same lace with a button back fastening, and a separate lace collar so I could move my arms but keep my shoulders covered. Nothing was ever a problem for Sophie and I knew I would be getting the dress of my dreams.

I attended all my dress fitting appointments with my mum and the whole process was a lot of fun. From seeing my first calico fitting to the final fitting, I could not have been happier. I loved wearing my dress on the wedding day (even in 34-degree heat!) and I just wish I could wear it again!

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The Destination

Ravi and I have always loved Italy. The food, the wine, the scenery and the history all contribute to it being our favourite holiday destination. Tuscany is particularly beautiful; the rolling green hills, olive groves, vineyards and the hilltop towns create a gorgeous landscape. We wanted our wedding to be elegant and traditional, and Florence seemed to be the perfect setting.

We had seen pictures of our venue, Castello di Vincigliata, whilst researching wedding venues near Florence. It is in Fiesole, a hillside town a few kilometres above Florence. On paper, it was the dream venue. However, the cynic in me thought that securing it as our venue wedding was wishful thinking. Having spoken to several wedding planners, Daniela Tripoldi of The Tuscan Wedding stood out to us. Whilst other planners had quite swiftly told us that Castello di Vincigliata would be too difficult to secure, either due to availability, exclusivity or price, Daniela approached things with a completely different attitude and came up with positive suggestions. 

We went to see the venue with Daniela and it was just as beautiful as we had imagined – a medieval castle on a hill overlooking Florence. I would recommend a trip to Fiesole to anyone visiting Tuscany – it is full of full of cobbled streets, beautiful churches, parks and piazzas. Most importantly, it offers a stunning panoramic view of Florence.

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The Ceremony

Once we had decided on the reception venue, we had to focus all efforts on securing a Catholic church for the ceremony (I am Catholic and Ravi is Hindu). This was something that we anticipated would be very difficult, as there are strict rules in Florence for couples wanting to marry who do not belong to the local parish, particularly if one of them is a non-Catholic. We learned, however, to never underestimate Daniela, as she contacted us a month or so in saying she had some exciting news and had managed to book an incredible church – 13th century Chiesa di Ognissanti – for the date of our wedding, having spoken to the parish priest.

On our wedding day, the priest, Don Luciano, made a sermon about marriage that touched all of our guests and his words still stay with us today. We both found the ceremony very moving and I cannot think of anything that we would change.

One of the most emotional parts for me was walking down the aisle arm in arm with my Dad – I kept my veil over my face until the end of the aisle to hide the tears! We also involved our family and friends in the church ceremony where we were able to; Ravi’s sister and my sister-in-law did readings, and other friends and family read out the bidding prayers. Ravi’s two nephews and my two nieces (both aged 5 and 3) were the page boys and flower girls – they all looked absolutely adorable.

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The Photography

I went to a wedding Fair in London soon after I got engaged, and I met Neda from Storyett Photography. She was particularly warm and friendly, and I went through her portfolio of wedding photos which were very creative. After talking to her about the plans for the wedding, Neda seemed to have thought about all of the little details and this reassured me.

Her photos from both our welcome party and wedding have come out beautifully. At both events, she was very good at talking to people and making them feel at ease whilst taking photos, and I think this is very important.

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Favorite Moments

I really enjoyed getting ready with my Mum and bridesmaids. My sister in law and my Mum helped me get dressed and the anticipation and nerves really started to kick in at that stage, knowing that we would be heading to the church imminently.

It was also very emotional seeing Ravi at the altar as I walked down the aisle. After our ceremony, we stopped on the way to the castle for some photos in central Florence. This was the first time I got to speak to Ravi properly and process the fact we were now husband and wife. We were greeted and cheered by local Italians – it was really lovely.

Both my Dad and Ravi made amazing speeches at the reception, and these were a real highlight for me (Ravi also claims that his speech was one of his favourite moments of the day – clearly very modest).

One of my favourite moments was towards the end of the night, when we were all dancing outside on the terrace of the castle, overlooking Florence. The castle was lit up beautifully and there was also a full moon, and I remember looking around and feeling so happy that everyone we loved was with us having a brilliant time.

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The Decor

In terms of décor, the venues, views and setting were so beautiful that I did not want to overdo the décor and flowers in the church and castle. I opted for a colour palette of ivory and gold, as I wanted to maintain the theme of traditional elegance throughout. In the church, I chose to have candles and lanterns to light up the aisle, which worked beautifully.

We went to the showroom of Flowers Living outside of Florence and chose the tablecloths, crockery, table settings and decorations that we wanted. I was keen to have a mixture of tall candelabras on the tables and flowers to fit in with the castle setting. I chose a bouquet of cascading calla lilies and baby’s breath, and we also chose these flowers as decorations for the church and castle.

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The Food

The food was exquisite. For us, wine is a very important part of any celebration, and my Dad and Ravi spent a lot of time speaking to the Galateo staff about the best wine to suit the various dishes we had chosen – they were very helpful and accommodating at all times.

We decided on a 4 course meal; porcini mushroom and vegetable mezzalune to start, followed by risotto with saffron zucchini flowers and burrata, breast of duck with a red wine and plum sauce accompanied by candied baby onions and asparagus gratin for mains, and wedding cake for dessert.

Our wedding cake was a giant mille feuille cake, made out of layers of pastry, fresh chantilly cream and wild berries. The Galateo staff made the cake after dinner in the courtyard of the castle with all our guests watching – it was quite a spectacle and one that our guests still talk about.

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The Honeymoon

After the wedding, we drove to a hotel just outside Grossetto, in the Maremma region. The hotel was tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. We stayed there for a few nights, and then headed to Pietrasanta, ending the trip in Florence for our final two nights. It was the perfect way to finish off our Tuscan wedding and it meant we could unwind and enjoy reminiscing about the amazing time we had both had at the wedding.

Later on in the year, in September, we went to South Africa for our honeymoon for just over two weeks. I would highly recommend this as a honeymoon destination for couples who prefer the idea of an active holiday. We saw and experienced such a range of things; we travelled from Jo’burg, to a private game reserve near Kruger for safari, to whale watching in Hermanus, wine tasting in Franschoek, and finally enjoying everything Cape Town has to offer.

South Africa had been on our list of holiday destinations for years and it surpassed all expectations. It also has some of the best food and wine in the world and this formed a key part of our trip – the post-wedding diet was definitely more fun than the pre-wedding diet!

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