Marriage Italian Style

Advice for clients wanting to tie the knot

By: Susan Van Allen

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Guestrooms Bride and groom in Venice.
Ever since the media firestorm that surrounded the 2006 TomKat wedding in a castle north of Rome, the trend of brides-to-be clamoring to tie the knot in Italy has increased. The country epitomizes romance and its choices of locations to satisfy fairytale fantasies are many from castles, villas and vineyards, to cliffs above the sea.

One of the major advantages of a wedding in Italy is that typically the guest list is kept to a core group of close family and friends who are thrilled to be in on the adventure and often extend their stay beyond the marriage festivities, while the bridal couple enjoys it as a perfect jumping-off point for a romantic honeymoon.

Clients should be encouraged to have a symbolic wedding ceremony rather than a civil or religious one, as the paperwork involved with the latter can be complex and time consuming. Even Tom and Katie got legally married in Los Angeles before they headed off for their extravaganza. Ideally, plans should begin a year in advance and often prospective brides will opt for a pre-wedding trip to her chosen location where she can meet the locals who will help make it happen.

Many tour operators have added Italian weddings to their lists of services. The companies listed below offer group and FIT arrangements, villa rentals and excellent services for every aspect of an Italian wedding ceremony and reception, as well as the honeymoon, wedding week activities and travel for every guest.

Doorways, Ltd
“We have a high-touch, very personal working relationship with clients,” said Doorways president Kit Burns, who founded the villa rental company and arranges weddings in stellar properties up and down the boot. “We know we are creating a legend for the bride and her family for generations.”

One of Doorways’ top “I Do” spots is a 16th-century villa on the outskirts of Lucca, which sits on 300 acres of vineyards, olive groves and woodlands. A special perk here is a pre-wedding cocktail party exclusively for the bridal couple and all the service people involved in the festivities.

“It’s the Italian way.Everyone becomes a family and, most importantly, once the bride has met these people all of her pre-wedding anxiety vanishes,” said Burns.

Twenty to 60 guests can be accommodated at the villa and properties nearby. It also features a fantastic frescoed bridal suite, an arts-and-crafts workshop area ideal for younger guests, and is perfectly located for day trips, which can range from a boat ride to the Cinque Terre or tours of enchanting surrounding towns.

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Bridal party with musicians at a Travel Plans
International wedding in Positano.
Italy 4 Real
“We are committed to clients fully experiencing the environment they are in,” said Rem Malloy, who co-owns the company with his Roman-American mother.

They bring extensive on-the-ground knowledge and cultural understanding to their wedding arrangements, with satellite offices in Italy to offer local assistance.

Country weddings in Tuscan and Umbrian agriturismos, which accommodate 20 to 30 guests, are Italy 4 Real’s specialty. Marriage ceremonies feature stunning backdrops of vineyards and olive groves, local musicians and traditional regional cuisine. Brides and grooms are whisked off to nearby picturesque hill towns such as San Gimignano or Assisi for exquisite photo shoots.

“In the cities, bridal parties are so often surrounded by tourists, which is probably not the way a bride has envisioned her family wedding,” said Malloy.

Italy 4 Real’s countryside weddings offer something more intimate, where local planners and suppliers provide expertise and bring to life the warm spirit of the region, giving guests an authentic experience on the big day and throughout their stay in Italy.

Italy Specialists
Italy Specialists owner Sylvia Giardin, a native of the Veneto region, brings 33 years of experience in the Italian travel industry to her wedding planning.

“There is always a way of doing something. I have so many contacts and always know somebody who knows somebody who can make anything happen,” said Giardin.

Giardin, along with her American and Italian staff, arranges celebrations that cater to a wide range of tastes all over Italy. Past events have included a sunrise wedding on a Venetian dock where the bridal couple wore pajamas and the party continued with a palazzo brunch; an extravagant affair at the Lake Como estate now owned by George Clooney; and a wedding in Taoromina where the ceremony took place at the ruins of the Greek amphitheater and was followed by a reception at The Grand Hotel Timeo.

Attention to every detail is a high priority for Italy Specialists and the staff includes a newlywed who recently married in Tuscany, offering brides-to-be a welcomed, empathetic hand through the process.

Travel Plans International
The wedding division of Travel Plans International works in partnership with Italy-based Punto di Fuga, a wedding-planning company that has customized ceremonies and receptions throughout Italy for 800 international clients since it was founded in 1999.

“The Amalfi Coast was our number-one region in 2007, with Positano the most requested spot and Ravello coming in second,” Lawrence said. The balcony of Positano’s city hall offers amazing views for ceremonies which are typically followed with receptions in one of the town’s top restaurants. Venice is also a popular spot for TPI weddings, which feature bridal couples, musicians and their guests in gondolas, a ride down the Grand Canal after the nuptials, followed by celebrations in palazzos.

Though most of their ceremonies are symbolic, 30 percent are civil or religious. They’ve also pulled off the amazing feat of arranging a wedding of an American bride and Dutch groom in Florence with only three weeks’ notice.

“It’s complicated, but our clients never know that,” said Lawrence.


Doorways, Ltd
Commission: 10 percent

Italy 4 Real
Commission: Starts at 5 percent on net prices for escorted wedding tours

Italy Specialists
Commission: 10 percent

Travel Plans International
Commission: 10 percent