Let’s talk about weddings, or rather talk with those who have already gotten married in Tuscany, whose brains I completely and shamelessly plan to pick as Nico and I plan our November nuptials in a nice villa on the outskirts of Florence. This week I am chatting with one of my closest friends in Florence that I wish I could see more of, Alexandra Korey. Naturally she has already been coerced into being a local I love, and her and her husband Tommaso married in Italy some time ago, I should also mention this great post on wedding invitations that Alexandra covered on her wonderful blog.
For those who might not know, I am covering all of the planning, and plenty of red-tape of a Tuscan-American-French wedding, with a special series of special wedding posts on the blog. The point of these interviews is to get a bit of insight from those who have already married in Italy, and I am very thankful that some of you were willing to share your stories. This information is not only beneficial and interesting to me, but I have a feeling plenty of you guys would appreciate it as well.
I also encourage you to check out my ‘locals I love’ series, interviewing those who made the move or even changed their life in some interesting way, their stories and advice are incredibly important and inspiring. Without further ado, let’s hear from Alex on getting married in Tuscany.
Name: Alexandra Korey
Profession: writer/social media manager
Favorite drink: water 😉
Where are you from originally and where are you currently living? Alex’s Locals I Love Interview is Here.
I am from Toronto, Canada, and I came to Florence in 1999 for a MA program in art history. I stayed on as a teaching assistant for a year and that’s when I met Tommaso. We’d been warned to stay away from Italian men (I swear! Study abroad orientation!) but this newly graduated engineer didn’t seem particularly harmful. I finally accepted to go to a Sting concert with him and friends, and kinda fell in love immediately. Our first “real date” was on my birthday, and he said we could go anywhere I wanted to I picked an “art park” in Tuscany that at the time I hadn’t realized was pretty far away. He picked me up in his dad’s Alfa Romeo and the rest is history. That story is told in this article.
Tell us about the proposal! How did your other half pop the question? And do you think proposals in 2015 are getting out of hand?
Tommaso is the love of my life. But he’s not really romantic, he’s an engineer (and a less romantic engineer than yours, it appears). No proposal was planned, no ring was to be had. We were together – long distance – for more than 3 years. We’d pretty much committed to eternal love after a week together. It was obvious that we were going to get married, and this was enough for him and for his family. But I was living in the States and frankly, I love jewelry. I wanted a ring.
Tommaso tried to tell me that they don’t do rings in Italy, and that is only in part true. In southern Italy it’s still a tradition, and his mother has one, an argument that I used to get one myself. But no, there was no carefully planned moment when said ring came out of his pocket. We were actually celebrating our anniversary with a walk in the Parco dell’Uccellina in Maremma (an area we returned to every year for our anniversary and eventually we bought a house there so we could go every weekend) and finally I said “So when the f*ck are we going to get married?” and thus we were officially engaged. We went back to Florence and got a temporary ring at a costume jewelry store. That night, I showed it to his parents and his father asked me if I’d gotten it out of an Easter egg. We explained that we were officially engaged and his mother said “Oh, well we already knew you were getting married.”
Many months passed before I got the diamond ring that I still regularly admire (especially when I have a fresh manicure). I found a 1920s design that I liked, Tommy bought a good diamond (it’s 0.7 carats BTW) and we had a jeweler get creative with it. I love the way it looks like much more bling than it is. I have small hands and this is a wearable ring, and also has proven sturdy (I can’t tell you how often I run it into doorways). As per tradition, our jeweler also gifted us our bands. I’d kinda have liked one encrusted with diamonds and am waiting to upgrade it for an anniversary, maybe the 15th.
I don’t know much about engagements these days – most of our friends are long married, or simply had kids without marrying – but I do know that rings in the States are out of hand. I am really glad I’m not wearing an insurance risk on my left hand.
What made you choose Italy as the destination for your wedding?
We were already living in Italy, and frankly, my permesso di soggiorno was expired! So I couldn’t leave the country if I wanted to. But, jokes aside, Italy actually offers a really good deal for weddings. It costs a lot less to have a very fancy party here. I had 30 guests from abroad, and Tommaso’s family made up for 70 guests (that’s his closest family and a few friends). People are still talking about how great our wedding was and what an amazing trip they had in Italy with their families around it. Food plays an important role in this, though people really appreciated how well I had planned the wedding, too.
How did you start planning, can you walk us through the red-tape you needed to do before getting married?
In our case it was a Canadian, living in Italy, marrying an Italian born in Florence, in a church in Florence (outside of our jurisdiction). It wasn’t too hard, or maybe it was but compared to getting here in the first place it was a breeze.
I had to go to the Canadian embassy in Rome to get a nulla osta, which wasn’t hard. We made a trip to Toronto to the registry office which had to declare that I wasn’t already married. The interesting thing is that I never registered our marriage there, so I could probably go to Canada and marry a Canadian and nobody would be the wiser.
For the church marriage, we went to the parish in which Tommaso was baptized and confirmed and got a certificate for that. There was a problem in that I hadn’t been confirmed, so I had to go through lessons and do that. As the Bishop was running confirmations 2 weeks after our wedding date, I had a letter from the Bishop authorizing our wedding in advance.
Then we did 6 meetings with other couples and the priest, the famous “wedding course”. Our priest (at San Martino a Mensola) was really cool and advanced. Another couple, whom we became friends with, was only getting “half married” in the church – she was catholic and from the parish, he was atheist. Due to them, conversations were interesting. The other two couples never got married – it seemed pretty clear during the course that they were not cut out for it! We also frequented this church during the year or so leading up to the marriage. It was the closest I ever got to being a good Catholic.
Did you use a wedding planner or not? Please explain why.
It never occurred to me to use a wedding planner. I live here, I know people, and I am very organized. Pretty much everything that we used came through connections – the location through a friend of my mother in law’s, the flowers by the woman who did them at the library I frequented at the time… But I was also 28 years old, still a graduate student, and doing a traditional Italian style wedding. I realize now that there are some great wedding planners out there and that they can inject some really lovely, original touches into the event AND they can save you time and hassle.
What were the hurdles you ran into while planning a wedding in Italy?
If there were any big ones, I can’t remember. Time and happiness have made it fuzzy.
Let’s talk culture! What traditions did you keep from your country and which ones did you adopt here? Feel free to elaborate as much as possible.
I think the only tradition in Canada that is particularly obvious and was particularly lacking in my case is a slew of bridesmaids in matching outfits. In Italy you have 2 witnesses each. I had 3 girlfriends, all very different body types, and together they chose to wear light blue, but each in a different way (one wore a grey pant suit with a blue shirt). Everything else was so totally, typically Italian I feel like I was a bit unoriginal. I’ve been to dozens of weddings since and they were all so similar.
One big Italian tradition is the bomboniere, and I hate it. I don’t like dust-catching tchotchkes in my house, and usually the bomboniere is both a small gift (which can cost, like, ten euros per person) tied to a tulle baggie full of candied almonds. But there was no getting around it. Good bomboniere’s I’ve gotten over the years include: a bottle of customized wine, a small bottle of olive oil and a rather large handpainted ceramic box with lid that I use for jewelry (good job, Brenda!). I won’t mention the scary ones. Either way, I consider this an unnecessary expense and clutter, so we did the baggies (which I made myself) and attached a little rolled up note with the name of the charity to which we donated.
We purchased a large stock of food for a charity run by the church that serves the poor elements of the community in which we were married. We also had to give bomboniere out at my husband’s office, so I made 200 little boxes for that occasion. I got very good at tying ribbons, and lost a few friends who were given the opportunity to help me in the craft, yet failed. We never spoke again. 300+ bows will do that to a friendship.
Yes to the dress! How did you choose your dress and what advice can you give someone (like me) who is looking. Also did you do anything DIY for your wedding?
Back in the day before the internet dominated our lives, we actually went to a wedding fair at the Fortezza called Tutti Sposi. Now I’d find one on Instagram, or Pinterest. Although 110% super cheesy, we found both the stationary service and the store for the dress there. On via Pisana, it’s a store that looks like your southern Italian cousin might get her poufy confirmation dress there. But it has a sample sale twice a year and I got a dress with a €3000 price tag for €800. Thankfully wedding dress samples are something like an 8/10 and I was a 4/6 at the time (long gone the day) so there was lots of cloth to allow the seamstress there to rework it quite a bit. I love my dress, which had three layers of heavy silk in a cream colour, and a very traditional line, not at all revealing, with a long train. You only get to wear a train once in your life. I had a lovely veil made in the Sicilian style, oval with a heavy lace border. What I regret the most though is keeping it in a box and not selling it. On the one hand I feel a bit sentimental about it, but on the other, we could have bought a couch with the proceeds when we were newlyweds. As we won’t be having kids, I have to hope that some niece may want it when I am an old lady.
If you had to get married again, what would you change? (if anything)
I’d love to do something slightly less by the Italian books. It was 2004 and I was still trying hard to integrate and make everyone happy. And while the wedding made both Tommaso and I and our families and friends very happy, looking back I’d have changed a few things.
1. I had my hair in an overly severe pull back style with a really great big bun. I should have had them push up some hair and leave more bits out because in some photos I look like a bald child bride.
2. I had a make up trial and came out looking like a transvestite prostitute, so I did my own. I did not wear nearly enough and hey, I still don’t really know how to apply eye makeup. Again, for pictures, it’d have been useful to have some makeup on.
3. Now that I’ve seen the amazing tables that planners like Italian Eye can lay, I think I’d have enjoyed something more like that. More colourful, more atmosphere. Maybe something a bit thematic?
What advice can you give a future bride on what she should focus on for the big day, and what maybe should be a little less of a priority.
If you’re planning your own wedding, one stress factor can be forcing everything to happen in the right timing. This is the one thing you might delegate to someone you can pay, be she a planner or just someone you know who is not a guest. Then again if you are an organizational Nazi like I am, it’ll all fall into place!
Focus on yourself and your happiness, and not on your guests nor on satisfying that one crabby aunt. They’ll be thrilled for you anyway, and you’ll of course do your rounds. But do make sure you sit down and eat everything! I am a rare bride who ate and remembered her wedding lunch. We had risotto ai fiori di zucca, I love it. I also made sure I left room in my dress for my bloated after-lunch tummy so that nobody began to suspect a pregnant bride.
We had a vegetarian menu through the appetizers and primi and nobody even noticed – sneaky me. But when a roasted suckling pig came out on stretcher, in flames, carried by four waiters, everyone got up and clapped and whistled for it. Nobody did that for the two of us .
But seriously, what sticks with me most was the presence of those that mattered the most to me. My grandparents were already dead but my great uncle, with whom I was very close, came and walked me down the aisle at age 85. He came back to Italy just 2 years later and then, sadly, he passed. It meant so much to have him here. My closest friend from kindergarten, Catherine, came as a bridesmaid with her whole family, who were like a second family to me. Every year at our anniversary she writes to say that she and her family were reminiscing about our big day. I think it was as amazing for them as it was for us.
Lastly let’s talk honeymoon! Where did you go and why?
So, we went to Sicily. Why? My permesso di soggiorno had expired, so if we left Italy, I couldn’t get back in! Plus hey, Italy offers just about everything, so why leave? We spent 10 days down there and frankly it was really disappointing. Back then we were less savvy travelers – I started ArtTrav 5 months later, but the world of travel blogs didn’t exist until a few years later. Now we’d find the best spots, the boutique hotels and the quirky little restaurants. But in 2004 there were no digital tools for this. We’d booked various locations from a chain of hotels that looked better on the website than in person, where they were too business oriented. The best tip we got was from the Slow Food guide for a memorable meal in a small spa town called Sciacca that we went to when we decided to abandon our itinerary, cancel the rest of our hotel bookings, and play it by ear.
A big thank you to Alexandra, of the wonderful blog Arttrav, who also happens to be a pretty damn good friend too :). If you enjoyed this and want more, follow #MyTuscanWedding on instagram, twitter, and facebook. I can’t shut up about it quite frankly!