A lot of people questioned us when we decided to get married so far away from home. It wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. We had a ton of stressful paperwork to endure for the legality of being married in Italy as well as through the church. We struggled against language barriers, culture differences, time zones. We delayed the wedding for over a year to allow extra time for everyone to plan and save (including us). In short, it felt like we waited a decade. We now look back at that time with so much happiness. It was absolutely the most amazing 3.5 weeks of our lives. Side note – thank you to my mom who at times literally pulled me through days where I thought I couldn't endure the stress any more.
Still to this day we get asked “why Italy?”. Our answer is “why not?”. We knew we wanted to have a destination wedding from day one. Shawn proposed the day before we went on a huge family vacation to The Dominican Republic, so that set the theme pretty quickly. For someone who had been working in the wedding industry for 8 years, it was going to be a challenge for me to break away from work mode & separate the two worlds. We literally made a list of our top places, did the research and Italy won. At first we had our hearts set on The Amalfi Coast (hello have you seen that place?). After a bit more research Tuscany was slightly in the lead. Then I surprised Shawn with two tickets to Italy for his birthday in the fall of 2014. We used that time to explore and visit different places all over the country. When we arrived to the medieval town of Petritoli, which was neither in Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast, it was instant – we were in love.
We had driven all night and were so tired when we arrived, but were greeted by the two most gracious hosts imaginable, treated to a meal fit for a king and given two nights complimentary accommodation in their Palazzo. We stayed in a total of 5 different places, but Petritoli was the only place we stayed for 2 nights. When we left, Shawn kept asking “do we have to go to the next place?”, but I insisted that we give every place a fair shot. Though the last destination was the only real contender to the Palazzo, we found ourselves researching info on Petritoli while we were visiting this lovely countryside hamlet. That was pretty telling to us. I remember putting my iPad down, looking at Shawn and saying “what am I doing?”. We just knew. We could not wait to get back. Any one of our guests who joined us will tell you that Petritoli is simply enchanting. Waking up every morning to the most spectacular views of the rolling hills, mountains and other hilltop towns in the distance is beyond words.
Our favourite thing was walking down the steep cobblestone streets to the nearest cafe (our favourite was Bar Tre Archi) every single morning, greeted by smiling faces and treated to the yummiest croissants and pastries (I have to say also, we went to France for the first part of our honeymoon and no croissant even came close). Having our family and friends with us this time was so fantastic. They were able to fall in love with everything that we did when we were first there.
So, one year ago today, in that small hilltop town in Italy, I woke up to the birds chirping and the sun shining. I literally opened the shutters on my window and saw this view.
After jumping into the shower, I peeked out the door and saw Heather Wilkinson (our awesome photographer) on the lower level of the property working away and snapping detail shots. This confirmed my nerves – yep it was really my wedding day.
When I opened my door & walked down the little pathway to the pool, I was greeted by many smiling faces. It was such a blur, I can't even remember who was there with me that morning. I sat down poolside and I remember breakfast being offered to me – I wasn't sure if I'd be able to eat, butterflies were taking over my stomach at a rapid pace. I remember soaking it all in (or at least trying to) and that in spite of everyone scurrying around me and doting on me – it was so quiet and so calm, the wind was light and it was already warm so early in the morning. All of a sudden, I heard Shawn yell “I'M GETTING MAAARRIED TODAAAY!!!!” from the rooftop of the building beside us. It was the sweetest thing. I realized his excitement in that moment; all of the butterflies were completely gone and I was reminded that I was about to marry the most incredible person ever.
I also had a personalized leather Bible made for him with our names and date, as a wedding gift.
I remember being so excited as the clock approached 4:00. I couldn't wait to get down to the church, even though we had a crazy walk down steep cobblestone hills to get there (errr, did you see those shoes?). I wanted to run down! Thanks to my posse, I made it without even a wobble.
The ceremony was beautiful, I will never forget Shawn's face when he first saw me. Ever. Or the words that he said to me when I reached him at the top of the aisle. My fellow brides - are you with me? Is this not the most memorable moment ever?
Shawn also said some very sweet words to Victoria during the ceremony and we surprised her with a rose gold engraved locket. I don't think there was one dry eye in the house.
Afterward, we had local dancers perform outside of the church, which is a tradition in Italy (we tried to follow as many of their traditions as possible as we wanted an authentic experience). Our guests still comment on how this was the best surprise. Shawn was right in there with them, high kicks and all.
They led us down into our cocktail, a sweet multi-level space overlooking more stunning countryside views, where we had Italian bellinis, lots of food and hand made local gelato from a vintage cart. Sooo good.
We took some family photos during the cocktail and lots of the people in the town came out to see. They waved, told us in Italian that we looked beautiful and honked horns as they drove by. This little cutie insisted he must blow me a kiss & we stopped taking photos so he could do so.
As our guests enjoyed cocktail, we eventually left to take photos. While driving, we passed this random field, and hit the brakes when we saw the most stunning sunset view over the hillside imaginable.
Needless to say we stopped and snapped some photos in this field. We had to get up onto a little hill by foot and I had to take my shoes off (thanks Heather for lending me your flip flops and photographing barefoot to get the shot). I remember Shawn pushing me up onto the top of the hill while our photographers pulled me. Oh the things we do.
My favourite photo came from this place though. My favourite moment, unscripted. Just us, taking it all in and enjoying an embrace.
Afterward, we met our guests back at the Palazzo for a five course meal that was inspired by our very first dinner in Petritoli. But first, this group shot in the main house of the Palazzo!
Our favourite quote, from Ruth 1:16 "Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay" was placed on the back of our chairs. This past January, we each got a part of the verse tattooed on our arms. #crazy
Our guests received locally made, organic olive oil in vintage bottles to take home. We also followed Italian tradition and incorporated rosemary which is meant to be a sign of good luck.
We ate al fresco in front of the landmark “Tre Archi” (three arches) & enjoyed some live Italian music.
During dinner, Shawn surprised everyone (especially me) by playing a song that he had written, sung and recorded for me as a wedding gift. What, you didn't believe me that he was incredible? Told you. It was the most romantic thing I could have imagined. More tears. It was beautiful.
We ended the night dancing to his song.
The experience at times really did feel like a fairytale, but for me the blessing to marry the man I married was the biggest fairytale of all.
I get to be sentimental, it's my anniversary.
Shawn, I can't say enough about you and how wonderful you are. You teach me about myself every day, you help me to grow, offer me your strength. We fail and succeed together. I am so happy and proud to be your wife. It's so hard to believe a whole year has gone by since that amazing day. Thank you for the privilege of being your best friend. Happy 1st Anniversary!