At a hidden, 1,300-year-old monastery in Umbria, Jessica and George were wed surrounded by the rich forest and tranquil valleys of Tuscany. Their venue, the timeless Abbazia San Pietro in Valle, is evocative of rich history and genuine Italian culture. Featuring a historic chapel adorned with romantic frescoes and weathered walls, the building is accented by a serene courtyard and gardens shaded by majestic trees.
Ethereal floral installations enveloped the large timber chapel entrance doors at the couple’s ceremony. Inside cream roses and foliage appeared to sprout from the stone flooring, and soft floral arrangements framed the altar.
Milan-based photographer Paola Colleoni beautifully captured the Umbrian wedding.
Names / Jessica Walker & George Connell
Location / Umbria, Italy
Wedding Date / September 17th, 2022
Guest Numbers / 95
How We Met
In the exciting world of insurance. We both worked at the same company, I was in HR and George was a graduate underwriter. George put in a long charm offensive and I finally let my guard down!
Our Engagement Story
On a trip to Northumberland where George’s parents have a house by the sea, we went for an early morning walk on the beach and George got down on one knee. It was a beautiful morning and we were the only two on the beach. We celebrated with a coffee and porridge that morning and then plenty of champagne over the following days.
What we love most about each other…
We share the same values and outlook and life together is always full of laughter and fun.
Having propped up the Italian economy through prosecco consumption, we thought it would only be fitting to take a trip to Mecca. Situated above a wooded valley surrounded by mountain scenery, this beautiful venue stood out to us above all others. It is unique, secluded, and wonderfully majestic.
Friday night we welcomed guests with pizza and spritz in the local town of Spoleto. We spilled onto the market square and chatted long into the evening. It was the perfect start to the celebrations.
The Abbazia is a 1,300-year-old converted monastery that is first visible from a cypress-lined road. The imposing structure naturally creates a grand feel and we could instantly imagine our guests wandering around the cloisters in their finery so we decided to make it ‘black tie’. We wanted something elegant and romantic but equally something that would stand the test of time.
All of our bridal party and family were staying in the Abbazia with us. George and I had breakfast with everyone and then we did a pilates class out on the lawn overlooking the valley. I remember looking out and not quite believing the day was upon us.
The girls then joined me in the bridal suite where they opened letters and gifts. They all changed into the Piglet In Bed nightshirts and we started on hair & makeup. We enjoyed prosecco and nibbles and they presented me with a book from my hen party full of photos and advice.
George, along with his groomsmen and partners, went for a hike up in the valley and then had lunch back at the Abbazia before getting ready.
“We wanted to compliment the space and not overload it, so we just went for two large floral displays in urns at the front of the chapel along with a floor display in front of the altar.”
I first saw Paola’s work via The Lane as she had shot a wedding in Tuscany the year before. Her photography is stunning and has a sophisticated editorial feel. She is also the loveliest person and made us both feel so relaxed. I feel so thankful that I came across her as the photographs from our wedding are simply stunning.
I trawled through many wedding videos trying to find a videographer that I would be comfortable working with. Capturing the vibe of the day was more important to us than lots of stills of us looking lovingly at each other and Dear Vincent delivered that and more. They are an Australian company so I was delighted when they came back to me to say they spend their summers in Europe and were available. The video encapsulates all the emotions that I felt on the day and brings us such joy to be able to relive it time and again.
The ceremony took place in the 16th century chapel on-site. With its original frescoes, still visible, it is an enchantingly ethereal building. We wanted to compliment the space and not overload it, so we just went for two large floral displays in urns at the front of the chapel along with a floor display in front of the altar. The greens, creams, and whites looked striking against the muted stonewalls. Our florist created a beautiful flower arch around the front of the chapel door, full of wild greenery overflowing with cream roses. It served as the perfect backdrop for photos.
The reception was meant to take place in the open-air courtyard but due to ominous weather we ended up utilising our Plan B and we had dinner set in the marquee on the lawn. We continued with the same floral colour theme running along the center of long trestle tables. The greenery and cream roses were interspersed with pops of gold in the cutlery and glasses. Plenty of candles adorned the tables and reflected off the large glass chandeliers we hung from the ceiling illuminating the marquee with flickering candlelight.
Our guests then moved into the small courtyard for the dancing under a sky of fairy light strings. At the back of the dance floor we had a neon sign reading ‘that’s amore’.
Wedding Planner & Stylist
Our wedding planners were Lisa and Gaetano from Rossini Weddings. They were instrumental at communicating with suppliers, trying to keep us on budget, and very patient with all of my numerous questions!
My sister Hannah was chief-stylist. She got married in Australia in 2017 and her wedding was the epitome of chic. I relied on her heavily to soundboard ideas off. She also sourced my evening outfit and bridesmaids dresses out in Melbourne. You can’t beat Australian fashion!
I went for a simple bouquet of cream roses with no foliage. As my dress was lace I was wary of having too much going. My bridesmaids had the same arrangement but smaller.
We skipped hard copy stationery and did an electronic STD through Bliss & Bone and then created a wedding website through That’s The One. As people had to travel abroad, we wanted to give our guests as much information as possible and a website allowed us to do this in one central place easily accessible to all.
My cousin Elis beautifully illustrated our Order of Services with pictures of places and buildings that were meaningful to us. It was such a special touch.
Mille Feuille with chocolate flakes covered with icing sugar and fruit, and custard and chocolate cream filling, chantilly and strawberries.
Food & Beverages
We went for classic Italian wedding food with an aperitivo, followed by two pasta courses and then a main. After the ceremony we had live cheese making, cold cut meats, antipasti and tempura served in the large courtyard from different food stalls. The food was tremendous and is still commented on by guests today.
We opted for a dessert buffet next to the dance floor and bar with all of our favourites such as Tiramisu and Profiteroles.
During the aperitivo we served Aperol and Campari spritz followed by local Italian wines during dinner and then cocktails to accompany the dancing. The bride’s choice was a Picante and groom’s choice, a Negroni!
Fashion & Beauty Notes
Bride’s Dress & Shoes
My dress was by Anna Georgina from Morgan Davies Bridal. It was strapless with a bodice and fitted skirt, made of lace with a nude underlay and I had buttons fitted down the back. I loved the matching lace detail on the dress and veil and it instantly gave me that whimsical, romantic Italian aesthetic that I was after.
Being tall, I have never been a high heel gal and comfort has always been key for me. My friends even joked that I would be wearing kitten heels on my wedding day and they weren’t wrong!
After dinner and in time for the first dance I changed into a Scanlan Theodore two-piece that was 90% tinsel and perfect for the party (just not the sparklers!).
Bridesmaids dresses & shoes
I always knew I wanted the girls to compliment the tones of my dress and aesthetic of the day and I’m a big fan of Shona Joy so whilst visiting my sister out in Melbourne we picked up their cream La Lune Lace Back Maxi dresses. They were perfect and the girls looked stunning. They paired the dresses with their own nude heels.
Flower Girls/Pageboy Outfits
Our nieces were in Next cream dresses with a bow detail on the back and our nephew wore a tux from John Lewis. He notoriously doesn’t like wearing trousers so we felt very honoured that he stuck with them until the dancing!
Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories
We went for plain gold bands. My engagement ring is a statement halo design so I wanted to go simple on the wedding band.
Hair & Makeup
I rarely wear my hair up and wanted to feel like myself on my wedding day, so I wore my hair down in old school Hollywood waves. Cassandra is a magician so I let her do her thing although I’ve always been a fan of eyeliner which isn’t very bridal per se, so I had to do a lot of persuading for that!
The dress code was ‘Black Tie’ so George wore a double-breasted, shawl lapel, black velvet jacket and trousers from P Johnson. The velvet was a bit of a gamble for Italy in the heat but luckily (for him!) it was a cool day. Gavan at P Johnson was fantastic; I went along to George’s appointments and I couldn’t recommend him enough.
Immediately after the wedding we went down south to Puglia with my family. We spent the whole week reliving the wedding and were on such a high. A few months later we went to South Africa booked through Nemo Travel.
We really just wanted all of our family and friends to celebrate with us and appreciated doing that in Italy which came at a cost, so we forgoed a gift registry.
“The greenery and cream roses were interspersed with pops of gold in the cutlery and glasses. Plenty of candles adorned the tables and reflected off the large glass chandeliers we hung from the ceiling illuminating the marquee with flickering candlelight.”
The music was a really important part of the day for us and it was one of the first things we landed on in the planning process. We walked down the aisle to Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Nuvole Bianche‘. He has always been a firm favourite of George’s and the song is beautiful and has the perfect build up for bridal party entrances.
We walked out of the ceremony to ‘Stand By Me’ but it has to be an orchestral/classical version due to the rules set by the Priest of the Chapel. It was very Bridgeton vibes!
The bridal party walked out to ‘You Got the Love‘ by The Source & Candi Staton at dinner and our entrance song was ‘One More Time‘ by Daft Punk. This was a last minute switch decided by George and my brother-in-law and it certainly got everyone up on their feet.
First dance was ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher & Higher‘ by Jackie Wilson. We wanted something upbeat and fun and we ended up doing a little routine to kick off the song. We did a couple of dance classes and it was one of the best parts of the planning process. The routine itself was extremely basic but everyone’s reactions were amazing, it was hilarious!
Last song was ‘Never Forget’ by Take That. This song was played at George’s sister’s wedding and will always mean a lot to his family.
We chose Vagaband, a modern brass band, to play during the aperitivo. I would book them a million times over; they were absolutely fantastic and really set the tempo for the party. Maurizio, our surprise tenor, was incredible and one of the nicest people, he was such a great hit we were so happy that he could perform for us. We spent many months curating our perfect party playlist and George’s friend Scotty DJ’d for us and kept everyone dancing all night long.
Luca from Wedding Celebrants in Italy performed our service. We really enjoyed speaking with Luca and his wife Bonnie and he instantly made us feel relaxed.
We worked with Luca to create a service that was representative of us as a couple but we also had some fairly strict rules that we had to abide by which were set by the Priest of the Chapel. We wanted our family and friends to be involved so we had four readings. Our nephew Oscar expertly delivered an excerpt from Dr Seuss, ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ and then our friend Hugo read from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. I absolutely love True Friendship by Judy Bielicki and my friend Roz spoke it so well. Our final reading was ‘I’ve Learned’ by Maya Angelou read by our great friend Jamie.
A memorable moment…
When we surprised our guests during dinner with the Opera singer. Maurizio stepped out and performed Nessun Dorma. I will never forget the look on everyone’s faces and the magic of his voice. I will think of that moment over and over again….
One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…
Practice sitting down in your wedding dress before the big day. My dress fitted perfectly standing but was slightly too tight when I sat down for dinner so I had to unzip it slightly at the back to be able to eat and breathe! Luckily it was chilly so I had George’s jacket over my shoulders so no one noticed!
Italian’s do not drink as much as us British and even though we warned our suppliers that we had some big drinkers we did end up going into the reserve stock so make sure you have enough ordered!
If I could give other brides-to-be one piece of advice…
Everyone says not to get lost in the detail, but I was passionate about the detail throughout the planning process and it gave me great joy to see it all come to life on the day. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a perfectionist as long as you also perfect your Plan B!
Write your letters to your bridal party, parents, partners, etc. in advance. You want to write meaningful messages so give it the time it deserves and then enjoy the days leading up to your wedding soaking it all in.
Ironing takes a lot of time, especially with an old dodgy iron on offer in the hotel so factor in time for this.
Invest your budget in entertainment, good quality food and drink is important but entertainment creates the vibe and leaves people with lasting memories.
Don’t be nervous to break traditions, we did a first look and then walked round to the Chapel together. It made a potentially anxious time so special and relaxed. George then walked down the aisle first with our baby nephew and niece which was a great opener.
Sources of inspiration…
I spent a lot of time looking through different photographers and videographers portfolios, mainly honing down on Italian weddings. I found The You and Me podcast really helpful.
The Lane was hugely inspirational to me, I absolutely loved reading everyone’s stories and it was where I found my photographer Paola through another wedding she had photographed that was featured.
I also joined ‘Planning Your Italian Wedding – La Lista on Facebook. A group dedicated to those wanting to wed in Italy. It was here that I saw the recommendation for Maurizio, our incredible Opera singer!
Wedding Venue / Abbazia San Pietro in Valle
Wedding Stylist & Planner / Rossini Weddings
Photography / Paola Colleoni
Videography / Dear Vincent
Wedding Rings / John Waytt
Hair & Makeup / Cassandra Lusi
Florist / Sartorie Floreali
Cake / Lincei Catering
Catering / Lincei Catering
Celebrant / Luca from Wedding Celebrants Italy
Bridesmaids & Wedding Guests
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