This is part of my unconventional interview series, designed to demonstrate the wildly varied ways we can live, work, and chase our dreams. Please keep in mind that, since these are interviews, the opinions, methods, and websites contained within do not necessarily reflect my own views or experiences. (Which is, in my opinion, part of what makes them wonderful.)
Today, we’ve got the fabulous Georgette Jupe of Girl in Florence, here to tell us about planning and having her wedding in Italy!
First, tell us about you.
My Italy adventure all started when I was still a student in Los Angeles, though I am originally from Texas (San Antonio). I chose Florence a place to study abroad during my junior year and fell in love with the country, probably mostly because I didn’t have crazy expectations on what la bella vita was really like.
I returned to school a year after and then Italy came a calling in 2007, which is when I moved back again that fall. I haven’t left since and am coming up on almost 10 years in Europe now. This is surreal to me.
I currently live in a 14th-century palazzo in the heart of Renaissance Florence, in a neighborhood called the Oltrarno (on the other side of the Arno), which is a bit like the Rive Gauche in Paris. This area is known for the eclectic artisans that have called it home. With plenty of cafes, restaurants, and fellow dog-lovers, it would be hard for me to leave this neighborhood.
For work, I am the editor at ITALY Magazine, a digital publication all about Italy, and by trade I am a social media consultant and manager. My major client is currently a five-star hotel and restaurant in the center of town. This is all in addition to the various freelance writing and guide gigs I get through my personal blog Girl in Florence or privately.
For fun, I do everything! No seriously, life is a lot of fun here in Florence and I am embracing its new Renaissance of new businesses. Because of blogging and my type of work, we are invited to many interesting things, mostly cultural, fashion, and gastronomy-related sorts of events, which is great since I work from home and need to get out and about quite often. Another great thing about my newly-adopted city is that it is a very human-scale place. Everything is reachable by walking or bike; I never need to use a car which makes meeting up with friends a heck of a lot easier. On any given day, you will find so many interesting things to do, many of them free: art exhibits, urban hiking, book readings, outdoor concerts, and even just walking my dog and checking out street art. The fun never really ends and I’m eternally grateful to live in a place where people get out so much.
Tell us about your romance. How did you meet your fellow and how long have you been together?
I met Nico in 2008 when he was a fresh-faced French expat who just had moved to Florence, while I had been there for over a year. We became friends in a small group of fellow internationals in the city and he became my best guy friend for over six years. He was always the guy who had a “real job” (in Italy, you’d know what I mean) as a biomedical engineer, while I was juggling several different jobs while trying to stay in Italy.
During this time I was with someone else. Eventually, when I became single in 2013, we started dating after sharing a kiss during a night out with some very good friends of mine. It was really unexpected at the time, yet as soon as we got together I knew this was meant to be. It was just so easy, so seamless, who would have thought that a Frenchman and Texan would meet and fall in love in Italy? I certainly never imagined my future like this and yet it all feels like it was meant to be. Right now we have been together for a little over three years and just got married last November.
Photo credit: Francesco Spighi Photography
Let’s talk about weddings in Italy. Can you give us a brief overview of yours? Where did you have it? How long did you give yourself to plan? How big was it?
We got engaged in March of 2015 and married that November, the 28th to be exact. We had about 100 guests from Italy, France, and America and sort of blended all three cultures on the big day. We decided on this date because it made sense for the American guests who have less vacation time, as we were able to conjoin it with that of Thanksgiving.
Our location was at Villa Montalto, a pretty villa built by a Russian prince in the 1800s on the Maiano hills, which is about a 10-minute drive from Florence.
Obviously, we would have liked to have had more time to plan the wedding, but we were able to do everything in nine months and it wasn’t a problem. We picked the venue and date immediately and set about doing all of the legal stuff necessary to get married, as neither of us is Italian. This took a few months.
We planned to get married at the Palazzo Vecchio earlier in the day, before heading to the villa for a second symbolic ceremony in French and English, then dinner and dancing. In the between times, we planned for both an American and French tour guide to take guests on a short walking tour of the city. It was a fantastic day with the perfect amount of people.
Did you hire a wedding planner or do everything yourself? Why?
We had the help of a friend who was a former wedding planner in Italy but now owns a bed and breakfast, Villa Landucci, as well as a day-of coordinator, Carolina of Tuscan Dream. I knew I needed help with contacting vendors and the logistical side of things, particularly handling so many out-of-town guests and our own personal details.
But, since we were living in the city, we didn’t need the full wedding planner services. I picked my own dress and Nico, being an engineer, was very organized with our guest list, organization details, and even picking out stationary. That said, I am so thankful we had help the day of, because you can’t be in control of everything when you’re the bride. You need people who can handle guest questions, pay the vendors, coordinate the bus to the venue, coordinate times. There is so much going on at any given moment, I can’t imagine doing everything without help. They were a godsend!
Photo credit: Francesco Spighi Photography
What were some of the greatest joys of planning and then having your wedding in Italy?
Being that we both don’t have family in Italy, it was really up to us to decide everything and do most of the planning. I really enjoyed doing this together with my (now) husband as it was a sort of first big test in organizing potentially stressful events together and making big decisions. It really demonstrated to me that we were a wonderful match, as throughout the planning process we both seem to fall into our respective roles. Him being the detailed organizer, me the creative side.
I loved visiting all of the different wedding venues and seeing all of these majestic places to get married in Italy; it was hard to choose between them, but this part of the planning was something I really enjoyed. Also, of course, food was of utmost importance. Both Nico and I are pretty into eating seasonally after living so long in Italy and picking the menu was fun, as we were able to really dive into Italy’s fall menus, with chestnuts and truffles, and pick some really nice local wine from the Maremma area of Tuscany. We also got quite a few accessories online from sites like Etsy. Like so many other people I imagine, I scoured Pinterest for ideas and created secret boards to help organize the fall theme. There is almost too much to choose from, yet we got some really cool ideas (like using a cool guest globe instead of the traditional sign-in book).
What were the biggest challenges?
In the beginning, choosing a date was quite difficult because we had to keep in mind the needs of the guests we really wanted to come and give them plenty of advance notice so they could plan their trips.
Once we locked that down, my next big challenge was actually finding a dress! I went to a few stores in the suburbs of Florence and had some really not-wonderful experiences; nothing made me feel special or excited and I was running out of options quick. There aren’t a ton of ready-wear options in Florence that I liked, so I was getting quite stressed about it all. In fact, it even inspired a blog post.
Finally, I found Anna Fuca, a local atelier that was just a few streets down from my house. She made me feel comfortable and excited and I gained a friend out of the experience. Now I can always treasure having a hand-made gown from someone I truly respect in Florence.
What was the craziest experience of the planning process?
People warned me about the fact that people wouldn’t RSVP and I probably should have listened. We had a few last minute additions that I had no clue were coming, and while I was excited that they could make it, it put a lot of stress on us as we had to totally rearrange the seating chart. My feeling is that many people forget to RSVP, so if I were doing it over, I would personally reach out to each and every single person to get an idea of whether they could come; it would have helped! I also had a few last-minute hiccups with the legal paperwork I needed to get married for the commune in Florence; while not exactly a difficult process, one of the offices made a mistake that I had to remedy on the fly on the opposite side of town. Not ideal, but if living in Italy has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected and roll with it.
Photo credit. Christine Juette Photography
What tips and insights do you have for someone interested in planning a wedding in Italy?
Keep the guest list to people you really want to be there. I enjoyed the fact that we knew each and every person at our wedding and that made it a more intimate, poignant affair than having to share awkward conversation with people my parents forced me to invite. Of course, this was easier to do getting married in a place where most of our family had to travel to get there.
Also, consider getting help. You don’t want to put all of the work on family and friends. Having a planner or coordinator alleviates a lot of stress, especially for a destination wedding. Consider a symbolic ceremony and a courthouse wedding. Probably the thing our guests commented on most was the fact that our ceremony was so personalized, which is easy to do with the help of a local celebrant.
Talking money: budget varies on what is important to you. If, like me, having tons of fresh flowers aren’t your thing, consider seasonal touches that are easier on the wallet. Floating candles, fresh rosemary, olive branches, it keeps to an elegant theme yet costs much less than a full floral brigade. When it comes to favors, keep in mind to put a sign out clearly asking your guests to take one or they won’t. I actually love the idea of providing a little something for your guests, but you likely will end up with a lot of leftovers.
Also, invest in a good photographer. The one thing that stays for the rest of your life are you photos and thanks to Francesco Spighi, I get to relive moments of that amazing November day for the rest of our lives.
Lastly, just remember that it is your wedding and no-one else’s. Input is great, but I have plenty of friends who have later told me that they wish they would have been more insistent on what they really wanted at their wedding. It’s 2016, which means you tend to see the couple’s individual personalities moreso, and that’s a good thing.
What’s next for you?
Oh gosh, so much! We are truly enjoying life as a married couple and it has been go go go since the day we said si, yes, oui. We had a whirlwind honeymoon traveling through Thailand, followed by Christmas with my family in Texas and a stop in NYC. Now, we have been concentrating on taking more time to enjoy quality time as married couple (and with our beagle puppy, Ginger) and not using work as an excuse to be too busy. We’ve planned a ton of trips for 2016 all over Italy and Europe, which makes my heart happy. Both of our careers are going really well so at the moment; it’s more about living in the moment and taking time to see what’s already there in front of us. La vita e veramente bella!
Going to Italy? I wrote a book for you.