Planning a wedding in Italy has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions over the last 18 months. Excitement gave way to anxiety and disappointment when we decided to postpone our wedding – twice.
But in the end, since Italy announced weddings could restart from June, we’ve decided to go ahead with our third (and final) wedding date in August.
Travel restrictions between Italy and the UK mean that my family and friends have dwindled in numbers to barely enough to fill one table, but we don’t want to wait any longer after months of uncertainty and frustration.
And as it turns out, there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about walking down the aisle, even if your wedding is likely to be largely different from the one you imagined.
Many readers of The Local have been getting in touch with the same questions and concerns I’ve been facing when re-writing guest lists and changing plans for the umpteenth time.
So, we spoke to Billy Folchetti, a wedding planner who runs Luxe X, an international wedding and events company to get answers, advice and reassurance.
His approach to getting hitched in Italy during the pandemic is creative, fun and just might make you look at your wedding plans with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of hope.
From extended cocktail hours to less formality, here’s Billy’s expert advice for brides and grooms looking for wedding inspiration that imaginatively goes outside the boundaries of the rules – while still adhering to them.
“It’s never been a better time to really do what you want to do and celebrate with those who you truly cherish,” Billy told us.
As smaller guest lists are inevitable for those with international guests, Billy said this can actually be a good thing, allowing more space in the venue and the budget to make it “extra special for those closest to you who really help you get through life – in and out of quarantine”.
Instead of viewing the restrictions negatively, Billy said this is an opportunity instead to “throw the rule book out the window” and dispense with old traditions of how things used to be done.
“Allow yourself to indulge how you wish,” Billy said, nodding towards ideas such as extended cocktail hours where people move around for longer and spend less time seated at the dinner table.
This idea of extra aperitivo time “is an amazing new wave in the wedding trend that allows your guests to mingle, enjoy and have fun,” according to Billy.
So how about working around the rules? Here are ten questions you might want the answers to if you’re planning a wedding in Italy this summer.
Social distancing still remains in place for my wedding in Italy. How do you suggest I create the table plan when I have to have fewer guests per table?
“Adding tables is the obvious way to do this. My suggestion would be to get creative in your space – long, extended tables is a creative yet beautiful way to make it happen.
“You could keep everyone at one long king’s style table but just skip a place between each chair. It will give an ethereal look to space that is dramatic yet functional.”
I’m getting married at a venue indoors and dancing is limited to just 15 minutes. What else could we do?
“My suggestion is to focus on ways to make the other parts of the evening fun and interactive. Consider the extended cocktail hour that feels more like a cocktail party rather than a sit-down dinner.
“This allows guests to circulate in the space without actually dancing, so the 15-minute intervals of dancing don’t feel so daunting. You can also break up dinner. Instead of one period of many courses, you could perhaps offer some food stations.”
My wedding supplier is booked because of the backlog of postponed weddings increasing demand this year. What are my options?
“I know when I have clients who request dates that are already booked I have a list of preferred referrals I send them to. If you trusted your vendor enough to book them for your day, trust that they have a few contacts that offer a similar quality of service.”
A lot of my guests from overseas can’t make it to Italy after all but I still want to get married. How can I still include them in my big day?
“Many times, even pre-pandemic, when my clients were missing certain guests from their day they would plan a celebration at home a few weeks or months afterwards.
“The idea can be as simple as a backyard garden party where you could rent screens and projectors to show photos and videos of your special day in Italy.
“It helps those who cant make it to feel welcomed and a part of the experience. What is a nice way to top that off? Bring those guests a token of your Italian adventure, such as wine, soaps, candles, or a small leather present like a luggage tag.
“Italy has so many amazing small artisans – the right gift won’t be hard to find.”
Lots of restrictions are in place for my Italian wedding, such as social distancing. How can we make the day friendlier for our guests if they’re supposed to stay at a distance?
“Keeping people occupied with other types of entertainment is a good way to keep them excited about the day without being in large groups or together.
“You can set up smaller, separate areas for cocktail hour – think lots of different little VIP cabanas or set-ups of beautiful rental furniture,” said Billy.
He recommended holding a speed dating game, by coordinating small groups of people in separated areas and then asking people to move on every few minutes to keep the conversation flowing and the groups small.
“We have to be creative in times like these,” he said, adding that this “could be a fun new trend in covid weddings.”
Billy also recommended hiring a DJ or MC to help keep this flowing.
How much notice is reasonable to give to suppliers and guests if we decide to postpone our Italian wedding this year?
“My suggestion is sooner the better. Giving your vendors the opportunity to rebook locally if you decide to postpone is always appreciated.”
It feels like the rules have made our wedding impossible. What can we still do that hasn’t been affected by the pandemic?
“You can still be in love and you can still celebrate that! You must not let a pandemic ruin the celebration of love,” he said.
“Your union is the most important part and that must remain so. Even if it’s smaller or not what you imagined celebrating, the bond you share with your loved one is really what it is about,” he added.
Well, doesn’t that give you the feels?
And if you had any wobbles about hardly anybody making it, Billy cuts to the core with this pearl of wisdom: “Focus on each other, it never really should have been about the crowd in the first place.”
We’ve got fewer guest numbers now due to travel concerns. How can we turn that into an advantage?
“In the over 250 events I have done in Europe no client has ever said, ‘I wish I would have had more people’.
“Having a smaller, more intimate crowd of your true nearest and dearest is a gift in and of itself.
“What can you do? Enjoy more one-on-one time with your besties instead of feeling like you need to circulate a room and spend 5 minutes talking to 100 people, when you can spend an hour talking to 20.”
We’re struggling to coordinate different vendors who have either gone out of business or are unavailable. What parts of the day can we drop but still find an alternative way to have a wonderful wedding?
“Find a coordinator or planner. It might cost you more but a professional with years of experience will have a robust rolodex to find you everyone you need to make it fabulous!”
How can we make our wedding look less ‘clinical’ and more romantic when there’ll be masks and hand gel everywhere?
Billy recommended finding unusual masks online to make it funny rather than serious.
“If you are a romantic at heart, find a mask-maker that can print on masks. Research famous or well-known quotes about love and have them printed on the masks. Everyone can take one home and your photos will be full of beautiful love quotes.
“For sanitiser? Easy! Find aesthetically pleasing pump bottles and put the sanitiser in those.”
If you’re planning a wedding in Italy or are a guest making travel plans, find more information about the current coronavirus-related restrictions on travel to Italy on the Foreign Ministry’s website (in English).