6 London Brides Share The Secret To The Perfect Wedding

Paul and Linda. Kate and Wills. Charles and Duckface. London loves a good wedding, but bringing one to life is no easy task. Any number of enticing destinations are just a Ryanair or EasyJet flight away. Your mum is insisting on the local vicar, your partner only cares about a riotous stag weekend and a good DJ, and, really, you'd just as soon get it all sorted at the nearest registry office. Is it too late to book a flight to Vegas?

These London-based brides feel your pain. They've all experienced the highs and lows of wedding planning, from sorting the logistics of nuptial destinations as far-flung as Barbados, to planning receptions attended by fire-dancers. In pursuit of their perfect day, they've all honed in on the details that matter (friends, family, an idyllic location) and the ones that don't. And, in the interest of paying it forward, they're sharing their wedding day tips — and beyond dreamy photos — with you. 

Read on to get informed and inspired. 
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Photo: Courtesy Park & Cube.
Shini Park, Blogger, & Maciej Idzikowski, Economist
Date of wedding: 24 September, 2012
Wedding location: An orangery in Warsaw, Poland
Number of guests: 100

Why did you choose to get married abroad?
"Most of our family lives in Poland, and we met there in high school, so it only made sense to tie the knot there. Plus, the services are so much cheaper!"

What was the most important detail for you?
"I must've been the most easygoing bride ever, but I was definitely quite picky about the venue. We turned down about eight different locations before coming across the orangery in the King's garden during a walk. Once we found the perfect location, everything else just fell into place without trying too hard!"

Did you have any DIY elements?
"Since we were freshly graduated, we had to make do with a lot of the aspects of our wedding. I made my own veil (just bought 3 meters of silk chiffon from a fabric shop), and sourced all flowers the weekend before from the Warsaw flower market."

How did you handle food and music?
"Food was a detail that nobody told me would be such a huge cost! Polish weddings go deep into the night with lots of booze; we chose to skip this bit and have a late-morning ceremony and lunch. We negotiated food from the restaurant in the park, and my father chipped in with a course from his own restaurants. Music was yet another detail we forgot was important. We found a pianist last minute on Google, who turned out to be the best, as somehow the music was always there throughout the event."

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Photo: Courtesy Park & Cube.
How were you able to incorporate parts of your culture into the ceremony?
"Polish weddings are normally done in churches, and then lots of drinking after — oddly, both of which we ended up not including! Normally, South Korean weddings have a colourful ceremony following the white-dress/black-suit wedding. For obvious reasons, we couldn't recreate this in Warsaw. So, I traveled to Seoul before the wedding and had a traditional costume tailored, and wore that at the reception. Normally, the bride wears a hue of pink and light green that symbolizes that she is newly wed. I was actually extremely glad to change into the balloony dress on the day of the wedding — my white dress was so difficult to walk in!"

What was the biggest challenge of planning a destination wedding?
"The language barrier, and the fact that it was so difficult to source the most cost-efficient services while we were based out of London. But, my husband's family helped out a lot, and he did most of the planning. I had quite the easy job as the bride, in fact!"

How did you find a local wedding photographer?
"After hours of fruitless Googling, I cried out to Twitter and got directed to a Polish photographer duo that does beautiful wedding photography. It was pure luck. They happened to be following my blog so that was a plus, too."

What wedding tradition is totally overrated?
"My partner and I are both quiet people, so we always agreed that having a party with lots of dancing and booze was not something for us. To this day, I find it uncomfortable at weddings that are drawn out into the night. Although, I do think all weddings should take the shape of the couple and their closest friends, not simply abide by 'tradition.'"
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Photo: Courtesy Park & Cube.
Where did you get your wedding outfits?
"We wanted our wedding to be as comfortable and familiar as our then seven-year relationship, so we hopped on a train to Bicester Village and picked each other's suits. My dress was a 90%-discounted Amanda Wakeley, and £80 white satin shoes from Alexander McQueen."

Any cost-cutting tips?
"The wedding dress was definitely the biggest cost saved in my wedding, and I was so happy with my discounted dress. I suggest really looking around for options. It's a dress you will wear just once in your whole life, so if money is an issue, do look around for vintage, designer, or even renting!"

What was the most special part of the day?
"Although it wasn't on the same day, we decided to do the wedding shoot in the school we met in — the library we used to study in, the cafeteria where we first held hands... Those are some photos that I will love until I die."

What advice would you give to a bride?
"Take it easy; things just start to click after some time. Keep a list, and share and divide the chores with your partner. It'll be his day as much as it is yours."
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Photo: Addie Chinn.
Julie Padovani, Director Of Communications & Events, Experimental Group, & Xavier Padovani, Founder & Director, Orfeus Ltd; Partner, Experimental Group
Date of wedding: 19 July, 2013
Wedding location: Barbados
Number of guests: 54

Why Barbados?
"It was an easy choice for us! Although we live in London, neither of us are from here. My family is back in America and Xavier’s is in France. We wanted to get married in a place that we both loved and that meant something special to both of us. Having been to Barbados a few times together and getting engaged on the island, it has really become a second home to us. It was a simple choice that would bring all of our family and friends together to a place that many of them hadn’t been, for a holiday filled with balmy weather, rum punch, and beautiful beaches. I think we were especially lucky to have family that supported our wedding plans all along. I know that many brides struggle with parents who have their wedding plan mapped out, but my parents couldn’t have been more supportive in our decision to pack up and celebrate in Barbados!"

How would you describe the vibe of your wedding?
"Our wedding was most certainly a chilled-out Caribbean affair, awash with lots of champagne, rum, and gorgeous sunsets. We both wanted a relaxed vibe with nothing over the top, but a celebration with amazing food and wine, and the ability to celebrate well into the night. For us, it was important to throw a good party and make sure we had time to spend with everyone, as it was really the only opportunity to see all of our friends and family in one place! We ended up throwing a small beach BBQ the night before, and a pool party the day after the wedding with guests coming and going as they wanted."

How did you handle food and music?
"The music for us was simple. One of our friends, Vincent Marino, who has done a lot of the music for our bars in London, Paris, Ibiza, and New York, agreed that in exchange for a plane ticket, he would be our DJ. The food, on the other hand, was a bit more challenging! We had to trust our wedding planner, Malissa Blackman, to find us a great chef who could deliver what we wanted to 50-plus guests. We ended up using Flindt, and they made an amazing family-style meal with a mix of Bajan, American, and French dishes."
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What wedding "essential" is overrated?
"Outrageously expensive dresses, diamonds that cost a down payment (or more!) on a house, and bridesmaids wearing something that doesn’t suit them is [all] for the birds, in my opinion! I truly think that any detail or essential a couple includes in their wedding should be done because they love it, and not because it will impress or outdo their friends and family."

What was your favourite little detail?
"Our wedding was a pretty phenomenal three-day party, so I can’t just choose one! A few of our favourites are our bespoke rum, a fountain that we repurposed as a giant champagne cooler for the day, and ridiculous 3-D glasses that when worn make all lights look like hearts. The epic sunset, midnight dip in the pool, and 2 a.m. rainstorm also made for a memorable night!"

What were some of the DIY touches?
"I have about zero talent when it comes to DIY, so we enlisted some friends and contacts to help us on that front. Our dear friends Jilly and Papa Jules Gualdoni in Barbados made us the most incredible wedding favours. For a few months, they worked with the team at Foursquare Distillery to create a special rum just for us. On the night, every guest was given a bottle, hand labelled and numbered. Our invites, designed by Sam Baum of Studio Baum, were not conventional by any stretch. Spread across an A2 poster, Sam combined tropical island wedding with retro travel posters to create beautiful (and ridiculously large) invites. I’d love to say this was an original idea, but we stole it from our friends. I also worked with a designer I found on Etsy to create menus, order of service for the ceremony, and custom maps in English and French."

What's your top tip for planning a destination wedding?
"Find someone you trust, whether a wedding planner or a friend, in your far-flung destination! Someone to help with vendors and to run interference when you’re planning from a different time zone will be a huge help! For us, some of our guests were independent and wanted to explore, so we made small maps of our favourite places, restaurants, and bars on the island. It was also nice to plan a few other things on either side of the wedding (a BBQ, a pool party) so guests who didn’t want to be left to their own devices had something nice to do."
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Photo: Addie Chinn.
Where did you get your wedding outfits?
"My dress was by Leanne Marshall, and purchased from Lovely Bride in New York. If I could wear it every day, I would! Xavier’s outfit was entirely Vivienne Westwood, all the way down to the shoes, which were arguably far cooler than my shoes!"

Are there any London shops or vendors that helped you along the way?
Paul Antonio Scribe did our name tags on each bottle. Hanne Laitinen is based at Liberty, and was an absolute wizard when it came to tailoring my dress. Our wedding bands are from Berganza, and are far from traditional. Mine is a Viking ring from between the 9th and 11th centuries. It’s a small, gold twisted ring. Xavier’s is a Roman ring from between the 1st and 2nd centuries. His is a ‘summer’ ring, so it’s gold but hollow in the centre with a blue intaglio. When we purchased it, we were told the intaglio was of a couple dancing. After some research, we realised it was quite a specific dance, as the ring is a fertility ring!"

What was your biggest expense?
"Wine and champagne. There were epic amounts of both!"

Is there anything you might have done differently?
"I most certainly would have stressed less! In the lead-up I was overcome by last-minute RSVPs and minor details that seemed a lot more important at the time. I had always told myself, after years of doing events, that unless something goes horribly wrong, no one will notice a missing detail here or there. It was only as the church doors opened, and I saw Xavier at the end of the aisle surrounded by all of our friends and family, that I relaxed and enjoyed every second of that day!"
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Photo: Courtesy Katie Antoniou.
Katie Antoniou, Writer, & Ibrahim Sha'ath, Software Engineer
Date of wedding: 3 May, 2014
Wedding location: La Chartreuse de Mon Plaisir, Lauzun, France
Number of guests: 18

Why did you decide to have a wedding without an actual "official" aspect?
"My husband has never been very comfortable with the idea of getting married. We both come from families with a number of failed marriages between them, but he particularly seemed to have always felt it wasn't for him. And, after 12 years together (we met at Glastonbury when I was 18 and he was 22), actually signing a piece of paper no longer seemed very important. We'd already been through better and worse together, sickness and health, so it almost felt like we'd outgrown the need for a conventional wedding. However, a couple we know had a really wonderful wedding, which they really made their own. They did the registry office stuff on a separate day, so like ours, it was mostly just vows and music and food and drink, none of the boring stuff. It made us realise we would like to do something to celebrate our relationship, and gave us the confidence to make it completely unique."

Why France?
"It wasn't actually a conscious decision. We just wanted to be somewhere that was more likely to be sunny than the U.K.! I've been using Airbnb for a few years now, so I just did a search for places that could sleep all of our wedding party, and then filtered through them based on things like expense and location. It was important for us to stay in Europe, so travel didn't get too expensive for guests."

Where did you get your wedding outfits?
"I had an exact idea of what I wanted to wear in my head, which is always a bad start. In fact, what I learnt most about the whole wedding dress experience was that you should always keep an open mind. I'd tried buying something vintage off eBay, but it didn't suit me, then I panic-bought a dress from Mango just because we were running out of time. But then, just a few days before we were due to leave for France, Kate Moss' new collection for Topshop came out. I'm not a huge Kate Moss fan, not even a huge Topshop fan, but they had made the perfect dress for me. Off I trekked to Topshop the night before we left to see the collection unveiled. It fit perfectly and was just as nice in real life as it had looked online. I particularly like that the cream slip it has on the inside can be removed and replaced with a slip of any other colour, so it can definitely be recycled in the future for non-wedding wear! My husband wore a suit he already owned, and trainers. He looked gorgeous and was comfortable, which was the most important thing. My priority was being comfy, being able to eat and drink and sit on the grass if I wanted to without worrying about bursting out of my dress or getting grass stains on it."

Are there any London shops or vendors that helped you along the way?
"Andrew R. Ullmann is the antique jewellers where we found my Georgian diamond ring. Without me knowing it, my husband also bought me a stunning Art Deco diamond necklace from there that he then gave me at the end of the wedding ceremony."
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Photo: Courtesy Katie Antoniou.
Tell us about finding your chateau.
"One of the big bonuses of not having a legal part of the ceremony meant that we weren't restricted in terms of venue at all. And, when I came across La Chartreuse de Mon Plaisir, it just seemed perfect. It wasn't far from Bergerac, a city with an airport served by Ryanair, so guests could get there cheaply. It was within walking distance of a little village, so we could pop and get groceries without driving anywhere. It had a swimming pool, a billiards room, big open fireplaces, and slept 18, which was exactly the number we were. It wasn't until I started emailing the host that I found out the property was built under the reign of Louis XIV by the Count of Lauzun for his mistress, a cousin of Louis XIV and the wealthiest heiress of the French kingdom. The king opposed the wedding, and Lauzun was thrown into prison for 10 years, but the two lovers are believed to have wed in secret, and Lauzun was eventually freed. And, all that for £250 a night, which meant we could afford to hire the whole venue, paying for all our guests' accommodation for five nights, making a proper holiday of it."

What was the biggest challenge?
"Feeding everyone for five days without any caterers. We did a couple of shops at local supermarkets, and then on the Sunday, we went to a wonderful local village market for loads of meat and vegetables to grill and, of course, endless bread and cheese. Our friends were amazing and all pitched in. Two of them run a street food company in London actually, so they did a wonderful meal for us on the Saturday night. We'd completely forgotten to do anything about a cake, but again, our friends stepped in and found a local patisserie, where they bought us some gorgeous local delicacies; one cake was made of crepes and one of ice cream!"

How did you handle the music?
"One of our priorities for the event was being able to have our own music, as my husband and I both DJ. Unfortunately, neither of us can drive, but we managed to rope two of our friends into making a road trip of it, so we could bring our decks and sound system in the car. It was actually so much fun getting the ferry and then driving down through all the beautiful villages in France. One of the friends who was driving is French, which was a huge help!"

What were some of the DIY touches?
"I couldn't be bothered with the hassle of trying to find a French florist in advance, so I just hoped there'd be some local foliage we could use. On the Saturday, we went for a walk around the nearby fields and harvested a load of white flowers, which I'm pretty sure were just weeds, from wild hedgerows. I then tied these in little bundles with string and put them on the backs of the chairs, as well as along the mantlepiece, etc. One of my guests picked a load of daisy heads to use as confetti, which was a really nice surprise. Luckily, one of our friends took it upon himself to be unofficial photographer and did a wonderful job. Another friend took Polaroid pictures throughout the weekend, which are a really lovely memento to have. My husband's sister wrote a beautiful poem, which she read for us, and all our guests secretly rehearsed The Darkness hit 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' together and serenaded us at dinner!"

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Photo: Courtesy Katie Antoniou.
What was your biggest expense?
"Probably the chateau and the jewellery."

Is there anything you might have done differently?
"I loved not having a professional photographer. We were such a small party, I think it would have been weird to have a stranger there. And, I generally hate posed photos. But, I do regret that I didn't get everyone sufficiently organised to have a group photograph of us with all the guests together. Though, the reason that didn't happen is just that we were all having such a great time and were so relaxed, it totally slipped my mind. I'm so glad that our friends did make us bother to pose for a few photos as a couple, though, otherwise we would probably have forgotten to do that, too!"

What wedding "essential" is overrated?
"There are so many things people consider essential that cost a fortune, and don't actually make a difference to how much everyone enjoys themselves on the day at all. I don't think special invitations or an expensive cake or formal flower arrangements would have made our day any more enjoyable. Having said that, if something's important to you, then it's important. Above all, put yourselves first."

What was your favourite little detail?
"The vows my husband wrote were so beautiful. Just thinking of them makes me well up. They're not a little detail at all, of course; they're basically what the whole thing was about and they were perfect."

What's your top tip for planning a destination wedding?
"Just remember the things that are important to you. For us, it was making sure that the people we really wanted to be there could make it, so we chose somewhere we knew all our guests could afford to get to. Other than that, I'd say having at least one person in your party who speaks the local language is very useful!"
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Photo: Sarah Gawler.
Katey-Ellen Price, Partnerships Director At NEO-KIN, & Freddy Mandy, Creative Director At Mother
Date of wedding: 25 August, 2013
Wedding location: Preston Court, Kent, England
Number of guests: 90

What was your vision for your wedding?
"We wanted it to be an outdoor garden party that was centred around a big feast. For the bridal party, I was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite look of long, flowing hair and floral headpieces. It kind of worked with the gardens at the venue."

What was the biggest challenge about planning?
"I am from New Zealand, so the biggest thing was deciding on what side of the world to get married. In the end, we decided to do it in the U.K., so we could enjoy the planning (and the tastings!)."

Where did you get that lovely dress?
"John Zimmermann, from New Zealand. Mum saw it in the window, sent me a picture, and I knew instantly that it was the one for me."

What London vendors helped with the planning?
"Renée Williams was a lifesaver. She made everything so simple, and asked all the right questions up front to avoid the last-minute panic. I would 100% recommend her for a stress-free day!"

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Photo: Courtesy Sarah Gawler.
What about the venue spoke to you?
"We instantly fell in love with the barn. The garden and the lake outside were beautiful, and allowed us to move around the one venue."

Were there any DIY elements?
"We drafted in friends and family for any jobs that we could. Freddy’s mother made the beautiful cake, friends helped with catering and supplies, other friends did the music, and everyone was there on the morning helping to dress the venue."

What was your favourite detail?

"The lighting. We had a huge amount of festoon lights brought into the barn, and they really made it feel magical on the night."

How did you handle the food?
"We wanted it to be like a medieval banquet, so we had big sharing plates in the middle of the long table."
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Photo: Sarah Gawler.
What should every London bride know?
"Choose the things that matter the most to you, and spend the money on those things. The guests aren’t obsessing over every tiny detail like you are."

What was your wedding song?
"Al Green, 'Let's Stay Together.'"

What do you wish you'd known then that you know now?
"Have a few moments with your partner away from the crowds to allow it all to soak in. After months of planning, the actual day was over in a flash!"
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Photo: Andrew Leo.
Beckie Stanion, Campaign Director At Mission, & Tom Stanion, Project Director In Construction
Date of wedding: 15 June, 2014
Wedding location: Son Termens, Bunyola, Mallorca, Balearics
Number of guests: 110

What made you choose Mallorca?
"We were going to get married in London, but decided we wanted somewhere with guaranteed good weather, where we could party late into the night. After extensive research, we found a few beautiful venues but, most importantly, a wedding planner that everyone seemed to recommend. Mallorca is also a beautiful island, and we knew we wanted to do a beach party for the welcome drinks and host BBQs with friends pre- and post-wedding. And, that's exactly what we did."

How would you describe the vibe of your wedding?
"Filled with love and laughter."

What was the biggest challenge?
"I have worked in events for years and had a clear idea of what I wanted, but then I realised when you have to pay for it, you can't have everything you think you want. So, I guess managing your budget versus your dream. However, looking back now, there is not a single thing I would want more or less of. Decide on what is nonnegotiable for you and stick to it. If we wanted it, we committed to saving for it and making it happen."

Where did you get your wedding outfits?

"Tom's suit was by Reiss and shoes by Church's. My dress and veil were by Halfpenny London, a couture design by the most wonderful Kate Halfpenny. Kate was literally the shining light in the whole thing. I found the dress and worked the rest out from there. Not only did Kate and her team make me feel the most beautiful I have ever felt, she also loaned me a French lace skirt to change into for the evening. A true sweetheart."
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Photo: Andrew Leo.
How did you handle food and music?
"Food and drink were at the heart of the wedding, as we love both things to distraction. We didn't scrimp on either, and made sure that our guests felt loved and looked after, rather than a number at a party. My favourite part was the oyster chukka and jamón carver. We then did palate cleanser shots in between each course, which were our favourite cocktails. With the music, we looked at each part of the wedding and worked out what would be most fitting. I walked down the aisle to Etta James' 'At Last.' For the ceremony, we had a Spanish guitarist and one of our closest friends sang Adele's 'To Make You Feel My Love.' We entered the courtyard as man and wife to The Contours' 'Do You Love Me,' then had a mariachi band appear as a surprise when we danced to our first dance, which was Frankie Valli's 'Can't Take My Eyes Off of You.' The DJ then played our own themed nightclub until the very early hours."

What were some of the DIY touches?
"My sister and best friend made my bouquet, and it made it all that more special. We also had old pictures of all of our grandparents, who couldn't be with us, as our heads of the table."
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Photo: Andrew Leo.
What's your top tip for planning a destination wedding?
"Hire Mandy Alago! Get a wedding planner who can support you every step of the way, including sourcing the best suppliers and getting the best value for [your] money."

What wedding "essential" is overrated?
"Theming and colour coordinating — no one really cares. Also, remember it is 'your' day, and that you can't make everyone happy all of the time."

What was your favourite little detail?
"Getting our friends to write their own readings — hilarious and heartfelt all in one. Pink roses that we tied with ribbon to hang from the trees in the courtyard. The poem that featured on the back of our menus. It was called 'The perfect way to make a Crane Stanion Stew' (Crane is my maiden name)."

Is there anything you might have done differently?
"Not a single thing. It was perfect for us in every way."
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Photo: Courtesy Sissy Best.
Sissy Best & Aidan Jean-Marie, Model Agents
Date of wedding: 26 July, 2014
Wedding location: Le Caviere, Pieve Santo Stefano, Tuscany, Italy
Number of guests: 75

Tell us about finding that wedding venue.
"Le Caviere is a beautiful barn in the hills of Tuscany — very romantic. It's actually a holiday villa, and we somehow managed to convince Kate, the owner, to let us have the wedding there. We couldn’t have done it without her, she was so incredibly helpful."

What was your vision for your wedding?
"An alfresco ceremony and dinner, with a formal wedding day and a pool day the following day. Getting married in Italy, we had obviously envisaged a nice hot summer wedding, only to be showered with hail stones on the actual day! While it wasn’t ideal, it turned out to be very romantic, as we said our vows while the hills were echoing with thunder and lightning!"

What about the venue spoke to you?
"It was in the hills of Tuscany and wasn't a traditional wedding venue. Kate and Brad are an English couple who live there, and they made us feel so at home and welcome when we first stayed there. It was love at first visit! We loved the relaxed feel of it there. The views were stunning, and we just wanted to share that place with our friends and family. Total bliss."

How did you keep guests comfortable so far from home?
"We organised everything — from booking flights and hotels, transportation to and from the airport and venue, etc. A constant flow of prosecco and wine helped, too."

Did you have any welcoming events for guests?
"We had a drinks reception at the hotel where all the guests were staying on the day everyone arrived. The hotel had a lovely little garden area, so it was great for all the guests to meet each other the night before the wedding. Everyone ended up at a restaurant in the village getting very drunk together."
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Photo: Courtesy Sissy Best.
What was the biggest challenge about planning?
"Not speaking Italian, and the weather. There was an enormous storm an hour into the wedding."

Where did you get your dress?
"My dress was from Lanvin."

What London vendors did you rely on?
"The only London/U.K. vendor we used was Gee Brothers, for the invites. We also had the men’s suits hired from Buckleigh of London, who were superb for those who didn’t have suits already."

How did you handle food, drinks, and music?
"We were extremely lucky with the food, as this was provided by a local restaurant called Guidi, with an amazing chef, Simona, and a brilliant sommelier, Saverio. It was all done on-site, and we couldn't have imagined a better wedding meal; it was so delicious. The music was mixed and produced by Leon Jean-Marie."
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Photo: Courtesy Sissy Best.
Did you have party favours?
"No. Instead we decided to do a ‘recovery day’ on the Sunday after the wedding. We wanted everyone to see the venue in the daytime and be able to relax and have fun by the pool. We had some amazing local cooks come and make fresh pizzas in the stone pizza oven for lunch. And, a lot more prosecco."

Were there any DIY elements?
"Aidan coordinated the whole wedding himself. He had a lot of help from Kate (the owner), and we also hired a set designer, Angus Buchanan, to help us make sure it all looked beautiful. It was very hands-on — Aidan went four days early with his brother and two good friends to get to work on the lighting and furniture arrangements. Kate managed to find this treasure trove of second-hand furniture not far from the venue (Urbani), so we got to hand-pick everything we wanted."

What should every London-based bride know?
"We actually had a very small ceremony at the Mayfair registry before the huge day. It was nice to do something beforehand that was a bit more intimate and just about Aidan and me. I’d recommend that for anyone doing a big wedding abroad."

What was your favourite detail?
"The flowers from La Gardenia were incredible. We had so many different kinds of roses, but we didn’t have them arranged very formally, so it all felt very natural. The smell was amazing."

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