From an oceanic proposal to the vineyards of Tuscany, Holly & Alexander' s wedding, beautifully decadent and rich with rustic Italian ambience, was filled with serendipitous moments. Captured by Jean-Laurent Gaudy, their magical weekend began with an intimate ceremony in the timeless city of Castelnuevo de Beredenga, Italy and continued to Villa Catignano a vineyard shy of Tuscany, bringing loved ones and impromptu celebrations with them....
NAMES: Holly Elizabeth Cope & Alexander Robert Miller
WEDDING DATE: 26th & 27thSeptember 2014
GUEST NUMBERS: 105
HOW WE MET: We met in 2008 when Holly was on secondment from her firm in Nottingham, England to my accounting firm in Adelaide, South Australia. After 12 months of lots of expensive phone calls and 1000’s of air miles we moved to London together in 2010.
OUR ENGAGEMENT STORY: Alex proposed to Holly on their balcony overlooking The Andaman Sea in Langkawi in January 2014 on the way back to a London from a trip to visit Alex’s parents in Adelaide, Australia.
MARRIAGE TO US MEANS: Family. And that we’ve made a commitment that can’t be broken. There will be challenges and probably some big ones but we’ll work through them as a team.
WEDDING LOCATION: Australia was always out of the question as Holly thought (mistakenly it turns out!) that her mum wouldn’t fly. Holly’s elder sister had a very English Robin Hood themed wedding in her home village of Gunthorpe, Nottinghamshire in 2013. So rather than trying to match that we decided on something very different – Italy! We have had a number of trips together in Italy and both love the scenery, culture, food….
The next challenge was finding something big enough to accommodate all our guests. Villa Catignano is an old vineyard situated just outside of Siena in Tuscany, as soon as we saw the photos we knew we had to book (even if we didn’t see it in person until some months later). The owner Sofia and manager Irene could not have been more hospitable and helpful – and I’m sure we’ll be back to visit for anniversaries! We were legally married on the Friday morning in the small town of Castelnuevo de Beredenga. The coffee shop next door opened up a bottle of Prosecco for us and we had an aperitif with our close family at Borgo San Felice, which was a magical start to the weekend.
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THEME/STYLE: The wedding venue was so beautiful and we hoped that the majority of the weekend would be spent outside so this allowed us to go very minimal with the decorations. We brought from London flags, postcards and simple white candles, Italia our wedding planner negotiated with local vineyard owners to obtain a car load of olive branches to help create our vision of the table setting. My dad has amazing handwriting so he spent hours (and multiple bottles of wine) writing out menus and namecards.
PHOTOGRAPHY: We searched for photographers in Italy and found a mix of VERY expensive or VERY cheesy. Flying a photographer to us was the best option. Jean-Laurent came very highly recommended and we were not disappointed. His photos are very relaxed and he spent time getting to know us, our family and our friends and feel that he really captured the essence of the weekend. By the end of the weekend every guest at the wedding knew him by name and commented that if they got married (or got married again..) they would want him there! The photographs are beautiful, and I don’t think we’ll ever get bored looking at them.
BRIDE’S DRESS: Holly knew she wanted something relaxed, boho-ish.. and was really struggling to find this in the UK. After a few failed shopping trips she was about to book the Eurostar to Paris and did a final check. The Mews Notting Hill had just opened and was only a ten minute walk from our flat in West London selling two of her favorite French designers! The problem then was which of the Dree by Rime Arodaky and Laure de Sagazin dresses to choose! She decided on the Dree by Rime Arodaky dress. With the addition of the top and veil it felt like two wedding dresses!
BRIDE’S SHOES: Holly’s shoes were from Kurt Geiger London and despite everyone's gasps were very comfortable and lasted (almost) the whole day. As they are nude not white they have been worn multiple times since the wedding!
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: This was surprisingly easy! Especially as the bridesmaids although very beautiful (We’re not being biased – look at the photos!) have very different colouring / heights / body shapes. One by one the girls tried on the navy blue Jarlo maxi and were all in! Holly’s sister Lucy made the olive branch headdresses a couple of hours before the wedding and they were just perfect!
WEDDING RINGS: Holly spent hours at Liberty searching for the perfect wedding ring to contrast with her asymmetric platinum diamond engagement ring from Kamila Ruberg in Islington, London. The Italian sales assistant understood her vision and helped find the perfect band from Alex Monroe. Coincidently her brother was also the manager of a boutique hotel in Castelnuovo Berardenga the small Tuscan town we had our civil ceremony. She helped us arrange a beautiful aperitif for our close family after the wedding at the venue, Villa San Felice.
GROOMSMEN ATTIRE: Alex wore a bright blue suit, the groomsmen wore grey suits from Reiss London. Holly maintains that it took longer for the boys to choose their outfits than the bride and bridesmaids combined!
HAIR: Kept it natural with a blow dry.
MAKEUP: Holly’s sister Daisy helped with my make-up after a lesson at MAC in London, we kept things very natural with a signature bright red lip.
STATIONERY/INVITATIONS: We used an Italian/boozy theme for our save the dates and wedding invites (You would be surprised looking at a photo of Alex how many people asked if he was really Alessandro..) Ever the center of attention Alex had named 2014 “The Year of Miller”. We had a YOM stamp made, which we added to the place cards, menus and breakfast packs we created for guests.
FAVORS/BONBONNIERE: We ran out of time and inspiration for favours! Although a breakfast pack for all guests were provided on arrival with bread, milk, eggs, cheese and tea and coffee supplies.
FLOWERS & BOUQUETS: We didn’t use a florist. Our wedding planner Italia managed to get hold of a car load of olive branches. Holly's sister and our friend Liz made the head-dresses and bridal bouquets a few hours before the wedding. A close family friend came to the rescue of the bridal bouquet and added a few springs of lavender for good luck.
CAKE: The wedding cake was a traditional Italian millefoglie provided by our caterer Alberto at Class Ricevimenti. It was absolutely delicious and despite all the food I heard lots of guests asking for a second slice!
WEDDING SONGS: Holly walked down the aisle to one of her and her Dads favourites, Forever Young by Bob Dylan. Our first dance was to Paul Simons, Call Me Al. This reminded us of our childhoods and also a holiday we had in Fiji back in 2009. It was so much fun to dance to and had the whole wedding party singing and dancing with us.
ENTERTAINMENT: An old schoolfriend of Holly’s Will Jeffrey flew over from the UK and played some classic Bluesy/Folk numbers early on. Holly and Alex met Roman Cleiss on a “The Yacht Week” tour of the Greek Islands and Alex managed to persuade him to join us as guest and DJ for the wedding. His endless energy got everyone up and dancing from Saturday night to the early hours of Monday morning!
FOOD & BEVERAGES: As our guests arrived on the Friday evening our bridal party had prepared and cooked an amazing Italian/Aussie BBQ. Everyone helped out – with salads served in saucepans and slightly controversial aprons worn by the groomsmen! Our caterers Alberto at Class Ricevimenti were fantastic and I would recommend them to anyone getting married in Tuscany. We served an appetitive of amazing meats, cheeses and salads on the terrace over looking Siena. Then a beautiful sit down meal in the courtyard of the villa. All washed down with plenty of Prosecco, Nastro Azzuri and Chianti! The caterers also served a delicious buffet on our “recovery” day on the Sunday.
TRANSPORT: Nearest airports to the wedding venue, Villa Catignano, are Siena and Florence (both bout 1.5hrs by train, 2hrs by car)
HONEYMOON: Alex and I escaped for a mini-moon in Florence for a few days of quiet and relaxation after the wedding. We stayed in the most beautiful, luxurious hotel in the hills overlooking the city, Il Salviatino. After a chaotic few weeks we breathed a massive sigh of relief as soon as we walked in the door!
GIFT REGISTRY: Our guests donated to our honeymoon fund, we plan to go to Latin America at the end of this year. (As soon as Holly stops travelling for work!).
CELEBRANT: Jo Bertolino from Tuscan Pledges
READINGS: We didn’t do a rehearsal so our ceremony was slightly chaotic, but more relaxed and enjoyable because of that. Our sisters and some of our close friends spoke briefly, including lyrics from one of my favourite Artic Monkeys songs. A toast by the whole congregation during the ceremony was unconventional – but fun!
A MEMORABLE MOMENT: We were legally married on Friday before the wedding at CastelNuevo de Beredenga town hall about 20 minutes from the Villa. The ceremony was in Italian and we had seen it as more of a tick box exercise, but it was a beautiful ceremony and was a really special part of our weekend. We had all of our closest family in attendance, and were presented with an amazing magnum sized bottle of “Chianti Classico”, which we are saving to open for a very special occasion.
ONE THING I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED MY WEDDING PLANS…I knew Italy was bureaucratic… but the number of appointments, documents and stamps on documents needed to legally marry in Italy was amazing! One of our wedding planners was a superstar and able to navigate the process and saved us a lot of heartache. But I would suggest anyone marrying in Italy to consider legally marrying in their home country prior or post the blessing in Italy.
IF I COULD GIVE OTHER BRIDES TO BE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE… My mum told me the day before, no one knows the plan! So nobody will know if it goes wrong!
HOLLY & ALEX'S CONTACTS
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jean Laurent Gaudy
BRIDE’S SHOES: Kurt Geiger London
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES: Jarlo
CATERING: Alberto at Class Ricevimenti
WEDDING PLANNER: Wed in Italy
CELEBRANT: Jo Bertolino, Tuscan Pledges
HONEYMOON DESTINATION: Il Salviatino, Florence.