Yes! You are reading it right! Having a luxury wedding in Italy for free (or almost) is possible. How? Let’s discover it together!
You are the queen of everyday organization and multitasking, Marie Kondo actually learned it from you. You have an Excel template for everything, your books are ordered by color, you never missed a deadline and there’s literally nothing you can’t do. What’s so difficult in planning your small destination wedding for 50 people or so by yourself? Everybody could do it!
All you need is to find a location and a catering, right? How difficult can that be?
You google “Wedding locations in Tuscany”, pick up a few, email them, choose the best value for money. Same with catering.
You ask uncle Bob who used to be a photographer when he was young to take your wedding photos, he is very excited about it. You will order the floral arrangements once you get in Tuscany, maybe the same ones for the church and the reception, so you don’t spend double on them. You order your stationery online, it costs less.
Everything goes smoothly and you spend your wedding day radiant for both the event itself and the awareness of having saved a fortune on your reception!
Sounds amazing! Except… sorry, that’s not how it usually works!
You start the planning all hopeful and excited. You email a few properties and get no reply. Two months later they reply… in Italian and without the details you asked for or telling you to call them. You spend another month between Skype and Zoom before you give up because you just can’t communicate. They either don’t speak English or you don’t understand their English at all. At this point you contact a wedding planner but it is too late and the best locations are taken.
Or maybe you finally book a location, send an account… only to discover half of the things you needed were not included in the price or the things you liked in photos do not look so great live.
Same with catering. It is not easy to understand how good it is before you taste it. Italian food is quite different from Italian-American one, or what is considered typical Italian in other countries. If you do the food and beverage pairings yourself, they may not go as expected.
Also, you know that part when your parents remember those twenty more relatives you had no idea were relevant, your in-laws do the same and your wedding suddenly has more guests than initially planned? If your location cannot host that many people you will have to spend extra time and money to get their accommodation and transportation arranged.
Wedding ceremony at the church requires lots of bureaucracy you can’t figure out because no one is answering or all the churches you like are fully booked for the next 2 years, so you decide to do your ceremony at the location.
Then you arrive in Italy to arrange the last details and discover there are too many of them. You can’t get floral arrangements on time so you put fewer, but they don’t match with your wedding concept and the location. You constantly need to ask the bridesmaids for favors, so the day before the ceremony you and your dearest people are really overwhelmed and just want it to be over.
On the wedding day, everybody comes to you with lots of small, unexpected issues, so instead of enjoying your wedding ceremony carefree you have tons of things on your mind, trying to make everyone else comfortable and really stressing out. Someone forgets some task you assigned and you spend part of your special day disappointed.
When evening comes, part of the location becomes unusable because of inadequate lighting, and the lighted parts of it become overcrowded.
Let alone the logistics and the production of the event! The vendors arrive and they need someone to follow up with them, but you are too busy because, hey, you are the bride and need to get ready, right? And you had no idea about this part of the wedding organization!
A year later, when uncle Bob finally develops your wedding photos, half of the best moments are missing. Turns out he doesn’t know how to do wedding photography, at all. You wish you had a professional photographer and videographer but it is too late now. You can’t even say anything to poor uncle Bob, it was for free and he did the best he could.
So, you cheer yourself up and advise all your friends to get a wedding planner.
This might sound overly dramatic to you, but trust me, this is how it usually goes.
Let me give you an example. Is like when you have a toothache; you have two possible options:
1. Ask your brother to tie a thread around your tooth, tie it to the door and close it so that the tooth flies off, taking away the pain once and for all. Of course, it will hurt, and maybe it won’t work at all, but at least it was for free!
2. Go to the dentist: Here you are paying for a service. Of course, you want to go with someone you trust 100% as you have no idea of what to do and he/she studied for years, has made so many trials/errors, and has worked with hundreds of patients. You are paying for their expertise, their knowledge and you can be sure they are going to solve the problem and the ache, leaving you with a smile on your face at the end.
Well… it’s the same for weddings! Being passionate about events or organising all your prompt parties or your sister’s bridal shower doesn’t count. There’s a lot more, so many logistics, cultural differences, language barriers, and if I can tell you something, this is once in a lifetime moment and trust me when I say that you want to live it with ease.
Weddings may become very stressful when so many factors are involved, so you’d better rely on a professional wedding planner. Always check their experience and portfolio, make sure the weddings they claim to have organized did actually happen and were not just a photo shoot. Check their reviews, read their blogs; a professional will always find a way to make their experience shine thanks to their attention to details and online presence.
A professional wedding planner will have a detailed contract with the whole timeline to respect. If your personalities don’t match, she will be honest and won’t waste your time promising things she can’t do. On the other hand, everything she promises, she will deliver on time, she will go above and beyond to make your special day truly memorable and perfect, so you don’t have to worry about any aspect of your wedding.
There are many situations where you can save lots of money but, trust me, your wedding day definitely isn’t one of them.
So, what’s the answer to the fateful question…
Here it is: of course it depends on your taste, location and number of guests, but for the wedding day only (no accommodation, no welcome dinner, no brunch on the next day, no flights or transportation) consider at least 1200 euro/1400 USD per guest. This should cover catering, bar, lights, photographers, videographer, stationery and all the small attention I mentioned in this blog post; basically the most important things you need for the wedding day.
Many people think small weddings are less expensive but this is not always the case. If your location has internal catering, it might be true, otherwise, there are fixed costs that an external catering needs to cover no matter what, so for fewer people you will actually pay more per person, not less.
If you think it’s expensive, remember your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You won’t be able to live this destination wedding again.
When so much is at stake, it has to be perfect. This is not just one of the many vacations you will have in your life that can go wrong and you will have a better one the next year. Your wedding is important. If you needed a lawyer, who would you choose? The one you pay 100 dollars to save money or a professional who can get the job done?
And since I’m giving so much useful information in this blog post, here’s the answer to another question I get a lot:
When you hire a wedding planner, you get years of experience in handling unforeseen events, hundreds of site inspections and relationships with the most reliable and professional vendors (who become friendors) in the area, the ability of efficient problem solving, knowledge of local language and realities and last but not least, your mental sanity throughout the whole organizational process. Isn’t all this worth the money?
If you want to save money, you might consider someone who is starting this career but do you really want your wedding to be a trial for someone who doesn’t have enough experience?
You’ll see it yourself, and if you have married friends you probably already know that something unforeseen always happens during a wedding ceremony. If you have a professional wedding planner by your side, you won’t even notice that something might have gone wrong, because she will solve it before it happens. A novice might simply not have enough experience to do so.
Do you really want to risk your wedding day and mental health to spend less?
Or do you want to be taken care of on a perfect wedding day that you and your guests will remember as one of the best experiences ever?
It’s your choice! I will be happy to be on your side throughout the whole process and I guarantee that you will actually enjoy it!
DIY or wedding planner? Let me know what you think in the comments!