Well.. I thought I should probably write a blog to share my thoughts on our own wedding day! As a destination wedding photographer it was inevitable that we would have our wedding abroad! It was quite a day and planning wise, we did keep things to a minimum. Let me explain and put together a very honest account of our day and experience. As a wedding photographer it was so interesting being on the other side of a wedding day, even with our experience in the industry there are things that I have found now impact me in how I photograph couples days after seeing it all from the other side.

So we always knew we wanted to do a destination wedding, to really get away from it all, have (hopefully) good weather that is more guaranteed as well as having a limited guest list. Italy was always at the top of our list and then it came down to making a choice of where. While we liked the coast- neither of us were ‘sea lovers’ so knew we preferred more of the countryside so Tuscany was our go to place.

We then started to do a bit of light searching initially. I come across so many venues and location spots in instagram all the time with my job so I started to also show my Husband to be a few of these. San Galgano Abbey was one of these and something that he was really drawn to. As my Husband is an architecture photographer as well as my second shooter on wedding days- this really was something that he was quite keen on as it really was quite unusual with the open top roof and pillars. Having an outdoor ceremony was really important to us but if the worst happened with rain then there was an option to have this inside with still the lovely architecture. We then went about deciding on a villa to have the rest of the day- so this would be getting ready, drinks, dinner and the party as well as hopefully having most of our guests staying on site or at least our family. We knew from working other weddings that we did not want the villa any further than a 15-20 min drive max as we know you can loose time to this and also be stressful on the day.

We researched and then found a few villas that we went out to see in Autumn 2019 and then made our choice with Tenuta Di Papena with the lovely Gini managing our day. We chose this villa as it was just shy of a 10 min drive to the Abbey so lovely and close but it also was restriction free. As a few other Villas in the area wanted to control quite a bit of the day in regards to suppliers and restrictions and it was not something we were keen on having. Such as only being able to have a DJ or band and not do your own music- we are not big on music so did not wish to have the large additional cost. Some other villas made you have their on site planning service and then choose only from suppliers preferred by them- again quite a bit of additional cost but not something that we wanted to be restricted by. After being at so many weddings we wanted to make sure we organised the day we wanted. So the Villa we chose allowed us to shape the day we wanted to create and have our guests stay on site.

Another big thing was communication- not being able to speak much Italian it was great that Gini was fluent in English and was able to sort out so much for us. We did actually have a planner before booking the venue- but if this were not the case we could have just had Gini without a planner. As Gini was in contact with the Abbey to book our ceremony time, came with us to do the legal paperwork a few days before and completed the paperwork after the ceremony to send to us. This really did help as locals do tend to like to work with locals- so where the legal side was concerned it was great knowing that it was all taken care of.

Our wedding planner was Valentina from the Stars inside. I know Val from the wedding industry having worked with her and known her for a number of years. She has a very soft nature and with an intimate guest list this was perfect as to not be overbearing but get all the jobs done we wanted efficiently. We then decided to use Valentina to do a few more bits of sourcing suppliers that we needed- but these were more logistical rather than creative as I wanted to be able to design the day and then just hand this over for the logistics of running it on the day for Val to take care of. What was lovely is having Valentina overseeing the day- making sure this went smoothly, sorting out suppliers so we did not have to and she also offered to be our translator for the ceremony. Which was lovely having someone you knew do this and make things feel much more personal. She was the soft and romantic vibe that we wanted for the day- to blend into the day, keep things on track and stay organised.

As we were originally having a 2021 wedding, we had to postpone like many other couples. So this then got pushed back to May 2022 as we felt like it was safer to wait a whole year to let things settle down. This was luckily fairly easy to move all suppliers as we were having a really intimate day- in the end we had 14 guests- so form a planning side this was super easy. Unfortunately the only supplier who was not able to make our day was my preferred photographers which was James and Merika from James Green studios- they did our couple shoot and both myself and Graham got on so well with them. I met them quite a number of years before and always said I would love them to capture our wedding. I was so close to having that happen but once we moved our wedding due to Covid the dates just did not align with our venue and my own wedding diary. I was so so sad and still look back now and do wish they were a part of our day.

We then decided to have a husband and wife team based out in Italy for safety in case we did have to go quite minimal with the day and any restrictions that might have come into force. It did mean though that we were not able to do a couple shoot- which was fairly important for us as both being photographers we know we wanted a certain style and also wanted to be able to direct that portion on the day. Our new photography team did listen to our ideas and were flexible with our requests. The only regret we do have is time- we did allocate quite a lot of time to couple photos and do wish we had a little bit more variety with the level of time we handed over to the team. We know the venue is quite tricky as you have members of the public here so as a photographer you need to be quite forceful in knowing the shots and angles that you want to create. We also wish we had more natural shots of our guests and reactions to the day- with only 14 guests we wanted to make sure we had enough especially of our parents. I think that is the only thing we felt fell short on the day. As I knew for speeches for example I hand over to my couples a very large part of the day there with as many angles as possible with the space/restrictions allow and make sure I get key people and reactions. So we did feel that we did not quite receive the same level of photos for the natural part of the day which was a shame given the small guest list we had. I would say that if this is something that is important make sure to communicate to your photographer and see full galleries to make sure you get a healthy portion of each from the day. This in particular is what has made me shoot even more candidly during down time at a wedding day and have altered my approach to make sure I am not taking up too much time on a couples day so they can enjoy things. It did then unfortunately end up in us releasing the photographers had held back the drone footage during the ceremony and some intimate photos with me and my mum and it did then take a more negative turn in communication and the final wrap up of the gallery was a negative one in regards to the communication with the photography team.

We completely fell in love with video created by Handcraft Pictures, We knew we wanted to have Toby to capture our day as his style is natural and cinematic at the same time. We also had our friend/guest Stefano who is also a videographer as a guest and to make sure he enjoyed the day so wanted someone equally as good to capture the day instead. Stefano was lovely and did do us a little super 8 of the ceremony which we thoroughly loved as a little momento! If you are considering video and are not sure: DO IT- as video creates a different memory to photos. Photos are a snapshot of the day and more stylised for a posed shot. But having video means you get movement, voice and moments that let you relive the day in a different way. I often find myself watching my video on the train or plane and just being back on the day again. Toby actually got Covid a few days before flying but sent out Ayla who came out and shot the day alongside Tom. It was not easy for her looking to have a brand new wedding couple and client in only a few days notice but she did amazing and got some really creative shots for us and moments that allowed Toby to edit in his normal style.

For the design we wanted to do things ourselves. As we know weddings can be super expensive and as our postponement date was now falling in a year where we were also moving house, we needed to make sure we had the day we wanted but not going silly on costs getting out of control. With such an intimate day we decided to keep floral and decor to a minimum. So decided to do dried flowers which I gathered in the UK, packaged and took them with us in around 5 suitcases with everything else for the trip. I sources pampas, palms, bunny tails and other varying grasses to give a bit of variety. To make the table pieces and the main floral scapes which sat at the ceremony and at the ends of the dinner table. I also bought linen table runners which actually should have had one more on but this accidentally got left in the van after the ceremony. We then hand candles and personalise geodes with everyones name on them. I do wish I actually took more pampas out to create a floating hanging scape as the chandeliers were slightly smaller than I thought so I could have had one in the centre.

We had the amazing L’Aurora for our caterer which was recommended by Gini at the Villa. In 2020 we managed to head out to do our tasting and pick our wedding menu which we still kept the same in 2022. As we were such a small wedding we had two caterers for the day instead of a full team as it was not needed and it made the day even more intimate. Nothing was too much for them and always polite- my mum even hugged the main caterer goodbye! ha. What was nice is that they also came around with seconds for guests in the main and starter so you could also try the option you might not have picked. Which does not happen in the UK so it was lovely for our guests to experience.

We also picked a cake with the caterer who works with a local patisserie, we were not worries about cake and this was more of a formality, so picked a simple 3 tier take in hazelnut, pistachio and coffee cream. I then brought out rice paper butterflies that I decorated the cake while having my hair and makeup done.

Our day went by in a flash, but looking back often at our wedding video allows me to relieve our day. We are considering going back in 2024 to see our ceremony location and stay in the area on our anniversary. So that we can take in the experience we had and dee how far we have come over the couple of years as a married couple. It has given me a new found love of weddings, of making sure couples have a real wedding day of their dreams and get everything planned to perfection. so if you are considering getting married at San Galgano Abbey, it is now one of my favourite wedding locations- obviously. I would love to go back and capture a wedding there. San Galgano wedding photographer.

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