Kate and Davide – Catania, Sicily destination wedding

As a huge fan of all things Italian shooting the wedding of Kate and Davide in Catania last year was one of the highlights of my 2015. The intense heat, bright sunshine and completely irresistible food posed slightly different challenges to that of a wedding in the UK but I was willing to give it a go. Aren’t I nice. See below for Kate’s low down of the day.

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How did you meet?: I’m an EFL English teacher, living in Sicily. In 2013 I was resolutely taking a year off and definitely NOT teaching – until I got a desperate call from a friend of mine, telling me that one of the teachers at his school needed to go back to England ASAP. This would leave her students without a teacher, with a month to go before exam time. I therefore took over some of her classes, of which one included Davide. I thought he was good looking, but he was my student (and he used to ask me off-the-cuff grammar questions which made me sweat!), so nothing happened between us at that point.

In the last lesson of term, however, he invited me to come to the beach with him and his friends. (I later found out that he’d been smitten from the first lesson, but his classmates had banned him from doing anything until school was over.) We spent another month regularly going dancing and staying out too late before he *finally* kissed me, just as I’d almost got to the point of giving up on him. We got engaged in March 2015. It wasn’t at all romantic – he was doing the washing up at the time and threw the question over his shoulder at me: ‘So, do you think we should get married, then?” I got uncharacteristically weepy and replied something along the lines of, “I thought you’d never ask!” and the rest is history …

Venues: As a bi-cultural couple we experienced a good few moments of total bafflement about the different ways in which the English and the Sicilians celebrate weddings, but the venue choice was one thing about which we never had even a moment of doubt. We’d seen a few different places, but none of them were quite right – until we saw Villa Fago. It’s a turn-of-the-last-century traditional villa with views of the sea from one side, and Mount Etna on the other, surrounded by beautifully-curated gardens. Our ceremony took place under an avenue of linden trees, and, although the roses and wisteria had mostly finished flowering when we got married in August, there was still lavender and green grass to bring a little touch of England to Sicily. Finally, Stefania (who runs the venue), Master of Ceremonies Ianni and Chef Santino Tripoli couldn’t have been more friendly, helpful or organised, making everything run like absolute clockwork.

Outfits: When we first talked about getting married, neither of us had envisaged doing so in traditional wedding outfits. Davide, in fact, had always had a hankering to get married in jeans, and as we weren’t planning a blow-the-budget kind of a wedding I’d imagined that I’d probably just get a lovely, not-specifically-wedding-type dress that I liked and felt pretty in. I’m not quite sure, therefore, how I ended up in a bridal boutique trying on white and cream dresses, but there you go! In the end, I went for a customised St Patrick dress in off-white satin. I’d loved the bodice when I looked at the pictures, but it was full-length with a train and that felt over the top for our low-key, open-air wedding. When I was talked into trying it, however, I realised that (quite unexpectedly) I was wearing ‘the one’. I therefore asked for it to be shortened to ankle length, to give it more of a late-1940s feel. Explaining this to a Sicilian seamstress was a bit of a mission, however! Language issues meant that at first she was all set to rip out the net underskirt and shorten the dress to knee-length. When I’d realised what she was up to and said that that was absolutely NOT what I wanted, she then tried to shorten only the front, leaving the train behind. Finally I managed to explain that I wanted it tea-length all the way around, but she wasn’t at all happy about it. “Get rid of the train? But no-one will know you’re the bride!” I laughed and told her that I thought people would work it out somehow …

There was an elbow-length veil thrown in with the price of my wedding dress, but I decided to go my own way with a handmade headdress and birdcage veil from Agnes Hart. Proportionately, it might have been the most expensive part of my outfit, but I think it might also have been my favourite. It was super-comfortable (I wore it all day without it either annoying me or getting in my way once), and it went with my whole late-1940s vibe perfectly, making me feel like a bride without being too full-on bridey. Having bought a much more wedding-y dress than I’d envisaged, I had to break it to Davide that jeans weren’t really going to cut it. He was a little disappointed, but perked up when he realised that he could still wear them for our legal ceremony at the town hall.

For the Villa Fago part of the wedding he wore a Tommy Hilfiger suit with a silver-grey silk tie and waistcoat. I also bought him a pair of made-to-order cufflinks from Hannah Louise Lamb as wedding gift. She’s a Scottish artist who does beautiful map cutout designs on items of jewellery. When I first saw her work, I imagined getting the UK and Italy as designs, but when I spoke to her and explained that I’m English and he’s Sicilian, she suggested focusing on just England and Sicily instead. I was more than happy to go with that – and thankfully Davide loved them, too. ]

Flowers and table pieces: Flowers were the biggest headache for both of us. Neither of us had a clue what we were after or where to start looking for help, so when Stefania at Villa Fago recommended the local florist we headed straight there. Signora Enza got probably the vaguest brief ever from a bride – “errrr … I like lavender …?” – but did herself proud, with a beautiful bouquet made up of alstroemerie, white roses – and, yes, dried lavender which she’d managed to magically source from somewhere at short notice in holiday season. She even came back from her annual holiday a day early to prepare everything for us, and was so kind in all of our dealings with her. I only wish she had a website so I could promote her more widely, but when at one point I mentioned Pinterest to her she just chuckled and told me that all she knows is flowers. I loved her.

Signora Enza’s husband sorted out our olive tree table centrepieces/wedding favours for us. In Sicily, favours are often in the form of statuettes or similar, which I wasn’t keen on. Davide, on the other hand, was mortified by my suggestion that we get rid of favours entirely and donate the money we would have spent on them to charity, as, to him, favours are a physical way of reminding guests of the wedding that they attended. Our compromise came as a bolt from the blue one day when we went to talk to Signora Enza about flowers; I spotted the olive trees in the nursery behind the florist’s part of the shop and realised that they’d make lovely gifts. Happily, when I pointed them out to Davide he was just as taken with the idea as I was. They seemed appropriate, given their strong connection with the south of Italy and their symbolism of peace. We also both loved the idea of giving a wedding favour that – rather like a marriage – needs some love and attention in order to live and to grow.

The ceremony: My dad walked me down the aisle, which caused a moment of comedy confusion when we realised that grooms in Sicily stand on the opposite side to grooms in England. Not that we realised until we were walking towards Davide; I was oblivious, but Dad suddenly clutched my arm and whispered, “He’s on the wrong side! How am I supposed to hand you over?!” We worked it out … As Davide and I were already legally married, it wasn’t necessary to have an official celebrant. His older brother Nunzio therefore conducted the ceremony and I think he was more nervous than we were – and he wasn’t even the one speaking in a second language! My friend and bridesmaid Lexy also did a fabulous reading. I’d asked her to read, but had given her free rein as to what she chose. In the end, she wrote something specially for us, which included wise words about love from a whole variety of sources – including Boyzone – and which made me weep like a baby (in the very best of ways).

Photography: We absolutely loved having Alice around. What was really fabulous was the fact that, as the wedding took place in Sicily, she was with us for a couple of days before and after the ceremony, so by the time of the wedding day it felt just like having a friend (albeit with some properly serious camera kit) there with us taking our photos. We had so much lovely feedback from guests as well, about how relaxed and unobtrusive the photography was throughout the day, and we couldn’t be happier with the photos themselves.

Dancing: One of the aforementioned cultural wedding bafflements for me was the fact that Sicilian weddings don’t involve dancing! We didn’t therefore have a first dance in Sicily – we saved that for our English wedding, a month later …

Entertainment: During the ceremony we had Dammen, a female string duo, playing for us. They would more usually play as a quartet, but we didn’t have the budget for all four! Despite the pared-down instruments, however, they produced exactly what we were after. We’d had a couple of special requests (I wanted to walk down the aisle to the Prelude to Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite no.1, and we wanted to walk out again to Elbow’s One Day Like This) which they were more than happy to arrange for us, despite neither being in their usual repertoire.

What was your favourite moment: Difficult question – there were so many! Seeing Davide smiling at me as I walked down the aisle towards him; laughing and crying at the same time at Lexy’s speech; spending time with my two bestest friends who had flown out specially from England to be my bridesmaids, and who would be right there with me again a month later in England; the food (my GOD, the FOOD); relaxing in the sunshine on the balcony of Villa Fago; seeing my mother-in-law’s face when she realised that Lex had abandoned her uncomfortable shoes, and then her glee when she allowed herself to do the same; picking rice out of EVERYWHERE for the entire day – the list goes on.

What would your advice be to those getting married: Make the most of menu-tasting before the big day, as when it comes to it you’ll be too happy and excited to enjoy it fully. (Also, wedding dresses don’t allow for much expansion as a general rule.) If you’re planning on doing your own make up and on wearing fake lashes, practice with them beforehand. I didn’t, and they were spidering off my face ten minutes into the ceremony, which was probably at least in part because I kept crying due to a potent mix of nerves, emotion, and cloud-nine elation. Don’t forget to carry tissues! (see above note about crying) Leave much more time than you think you’ll need to get ready. My one tiny (and it is miniscule in the scale of things) regret about the day was that I was still frantically getting ready right up to the last possible moment, so I don’t have any pre-ceremony photos of me in my dress. Finally – don’t sweat the small stuff and I hope you have the most wonderful, wonderful day.

Suppliers:

Kate’s dress: San Patrick Bridal – http://www.sanpatrick.com/it/

Kate’s headdress and veil: Agnes Hart – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AgnesHart

Kate’s shoes: Mandarina shoes – https://mandarinashoes.co.uk/

Davide’s suit: Tommy Hilfiger – http://eu.tommy.com/

Davide’s cufflinks: Hannah Louise Lamb – http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/hannahlouiselamb

Bridesmaids’ dresses: http://www.lightinthebox.com/

Bridesmaids’ boleros and corsages: Lexy’s mum and Aunty P

Venue: I Giardini di Villa Fago – http://www.villafago.it/

Music: Dammen – http://www.dammen.it

Flowers: Signora Enza at Oasi Verdi, Santa Venerina