Lisa and James – an exquisite Italian wedding

I’m delighted to bring you this gorgeous wedding today. I’ll leave it to Lisa to explain what made her day perfect….


‘James and I were engaged just after midnight on NYE 2010. We’d met 6 months earlier through friends, and with a whirlwind romance, we’d moved in together after just 3 months. Neither of us wanted a long engagement, so were initially looking at getting married in the Spring 2011, but with another family wedding around the same time, and other commitments, we decided to postpone to Spring 2012.  And what a great decision that turned out to be.

If we’d gone ahead with our initial timescale, the wedding would have been a small local affair, with just some of our family around us. Instead, we had our dream wedding at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, surrounded by all of our immediate family.

By giving ourselves over 12 months to organise, it meant that all of James’s immediate family from Ireland and the USA could make plans to be there. The downside was that we knew we would be very limited on numbers. Most central Rome locations can’t accommodate more than 50 guests, and also it would have been difficult and too expensive for many of our wider family and guests. The compromise we came up with was ideal.

We would have the ceremony in Rome, as we’d dreamt, and follow with a wedding breakfast. Then we would postpone our main wedding reception until we came back, and have it in the UK. It seemed bizarre at the time, but it’s been great – almost like having two weddings, and what girl can resist the opportunity to wear her dress more than once?!

Location choice

We both love Rome, and April in Rome is a magical time. Also, the ceremony was the most important part for us, and as we would have a full catholic ceremony, where better than at the Vatican?

The two main complexities were the logistics of finding venues/suppliers in Rome and the marriage paperwork. Actually, the paperwork for being married in the Vatican was not much more than the usual Catholic marriage paperwork. With the generous help of our Parish Priest and the Salford Diocese, it was a relatively painless exercise, and it was not long after we applied, that we received our confirmation that not only did we have permission to be married in the Vatican, but that we had been granted St Peter’s Basilica. We felt very honoured, as most couples are married in St Anne’s.

In terms of logistics, I decided that whilst it would be great to go to Rome every weekend to organise the wedding details, it wouldn’t be a financially wise idea. So, I decided to ask for help on a wedding blog website.

We had many responses but Gabriella from Weddings & Co was immediately the most helpful and professional. Also, living in Rome, she also was one of the only ones who could understand us being married in Rome, and didn’t want to move us to be married in Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast!

Wedding look and feel

Our ceremony dictated the type of wedding we were going to have. St Peter’s is a formal venue with a huge amount of gravitas, and so we chose to have a very formal and elegant wedding, in keeping with St Peter’s. The bride and groom’s outfits were chosen to fit in with this formality, and the guests were asked to be in full wedding outfits, with the female guests asked to wear hats.

We also wanted a more vintage feel to the wedding, so again that was in mind when we decided on the outfits, and accessories, and venue.

Other key focus points for us were individuality, which we addressed by keeping attention to details, and also the quality of food/wine that would be served.

The “theme” of our wedding began with our invitations (by Sophie at Cards by Sophie). They were designed to be like a work of art. We sourced badges and stickers from Il Papiro in Rome, and Sophie worked them into a pocket fold card which had invitations and inner cards with a water-print of St Peter’s in the background. Most of our guests still have these on their desks at home, they love them so much.

Venue and Supplier Choices

Gabriella, and her co-organiser Carla, were quick to get an idea of what we wanted, and how the day was going to look. They soon sourced suppliers and gave us a honed-down list to choose from, all of whom fitted in with our budget. This meant that when we went out in September for a long weekend, we could focus on deciding who we wanted and most importantly, what venue we wanted.

The venue we decided on was Il Palazzetto, situated at the side of the Spanish Steps. The quality and elegance of the place is evident as soon as you walk in. We were both so taken by the fact that it would be our own venue for the day, and the fact that all the staff we met were so accommodating. James would say he was sold at the entrance which has a sign saying it hosts the International Wine Club of Rome. I was “sold” by the elegance and tasteful setting. We were both “sold” by the quality of the food we tasted at the restaurant, where we ate “incognito” so we could test the service and food as “normal” customers.

Il Palazzetto are owned by the Hotel Hassler Villa Medici – one of Rome’s great hotels. We could never have believed we could have afforded to have our wedding breakfast by such a well known establishment, but a combination of the different Italian attitude to weddings and Gabriella’s negotiation, meant we were able to give our families a real day to remember.

When we talk about the different attitude to weddings, we are really talking about cost. Our experience of the UK market is that venues can be very “corporate”. They like a set format, with a set menu, and as soon as you mention it’s a wedding, the cost of caterers goes up 50%. Rome could not have been more different. We were charged the normal rates for food, flowers and limo services – no add-ons because it was a wedding, and we know Rome well enough to know the prices. In fact, in terms of ceremony, it was cheaper to have the ceremony, musicians and flowers in Rome, than it would have been in a Parish church in England.

We also felt we got a lot more for our money. The Hotel Hassler for example threw in free nights stays at their hotel, and also a full lunch a couple of days beforehand so we could sample not just the menu we had chosen but also the wines which would accompany it, and the canapés which would be served at the start. In all, we had a superb quality 5 course banquet for no more than the price of a nice 3 course meal in a good restaurant in England. Plus, we were able to design the menu to what we wanted, and were able to give guests a choice for each of the courses. Plus the attention to detail and attentiveness of all the staff – it was as if they were all on a personal mission to make sure that your day was absolutely perfect in every way.

One example of that attention to detail, was the wedding cake. We were leaving our wedding cake to the reception in the UK, but they insisted on making us an Italian wedding cake as a gift. Not only did they do this, but they also made sure they had a mini one made for our wedding tasting, and matched in the ribbons to match the colour theme. They also made us menus for the tables, done in the colours of our wedding.


Colours & Outfits

Our colour theme was navy and silver-grey. We had ties made ( in our wedding colours for all the men. They were striped with our initials and the date of our wedding on the tail-end. It made it easy to spot the guests in the crowds of Rome, but also were a great statement, and a different wedding keepsake.

My bridesmaid was in an Alfred Angelo gown in Navy, with a navy wrap tied around her shoulders. We had the added issue of Vatican guidelines for dress code, so shoulders, back and arms needed to be covered, as did knees.

This made my dress shopping a little more complex. All dresses were strapless or strappy – no long sleeves. Not even the long sleeves at the Royal Wedding changed things. The dress I fell in love with was “besotted” by Suzanne Neville. It’s in ivory silk and a really classic in design, and formal enough for what was a formal ceremony location. The issue was that it was strapless, but we met with Suzanne herself at one of the fittings, and between us we added the right bolero to complement the dress and also meet the Vatican requirements.

At the time, I was just going to wear the bolero at the ceremony, but it fitted so well with the dress that I never took it off – it almost looked bare without it.

In terms of accessories, my shoe requirement was tall and sparkly. I didn’t want matching shoes – and as my dress was very long, it didn’t really matter that my shoes were distinctive, so I wanted Princess Shoes. Thanks to Christian Louboutin, that is exactly what I got.

My veil was long and matched in with the dress – another Suzanne Neville I think, as the silk edging matched identically to my dress silk. The tiara and comb were made by Melt Tiaras. It had the perfect vintage look for this wedding, and the formality that was needed.

James had his suit handmade. He’d always wanted a handmade suit, and as we would need it for quite a period of time, it made more sense. Plus, I wanted him to wear a double breasted waistcoat, and couldn’t find anyone who did one. James’s suit was by Richard Smith Bespoke, based on St Mary’s Street in Manchester opposite Kendal’s and next to Gaucho restaurant. It is a beautiful suit – well made and individual. Again, it was Richard’s knowledge, skill and attention to detail that meant he was first choice for us.

Highlights and Memories.

My highlights and memories are mainly of the Ceremony.

My overriding memory is walking into St Peter’s for the first time and all the flashbulbs going off, as the hundreds of tourists who had been waiting for a bride to turn up, aimed their cameras straight at me.

We had arrived by black Mercedes into an area behind St Peter’s basilica and walked into St Peter’s square through the arch and towards the Swiss Guards who opened an avenue for me to walk up the main steps. The marble steps were slippery and in high heels with a big dress this could have been a disaster. But all I remember is the sound of clapping from the tourists who were on their way to leave St Peter’s, and the odd cheer and “congratulations”. Out of no-where Sister Theresa, who had been helping us all week with the Vatican details, came and helped carry one side of my dress and may dad helped carry the other side. Then we walked in the main entrance, and the flashbulbs started.

It’s quite a walk up to the Choir Chapel, and the guards had created a corridor for me to walk along, and keep the tourists and visitors to one side. The experience was quite surreal but amazing.

One of my favourite photos from the day is the one taken as I’m about to enter the chapel. My bridesmaid, Mirae, had me wait while she adjusted my train before I walked in, and the photo is looking back at me from the chapel, and all you can see is my dad and me, and the huge semi circle of visitors behind me all taking photos.

Another favourite memory is when the gates and curtains to the chapel were closed behind me – the great sigh and groan of the visitors who really wanted to see the whole thing. Then there was the Parish Priest of St Peter’s handing our celebrant our Papal Blessing, which he had gone himself to pick up for us, and which was read out in the Ceremony. Unusually I didn’t cry at all during the day but this moment did bring a lump to my throat.

Our joint favourite memories are walking out of St Peters with our families behind us, and visitors and tourists all around. Some would jump into stride next to us and get their partners to take photos, others just wanted to shake our hands or say “Congratulations”. This warmth was felt as we travelled around Rome whilst we were having photos taken – everyone would wave or clap or shout congratulations.

Everyone says it’s the best day of your life, and you don’t believe them, because you’ve had great days before.

But, it is actually the best day of your life – but for quite unique reasons that no other day can match.

On no other day will you feel such love and warmth, with everyone rooting for you – not just from your family but from complete strangers too. And despite all that I have done and achieved, at no other time in my life have I felt so at peace with the world, and so utterly content, as that moment in the Chapel in St Peter’s when I held my new husband’s hand and the soloist chorister sang Ave Maria.’

This post is part I of Lisa and James’ wedding and I’ll be bringing you part II soon – the English reception.

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