How I planned my destination wedding in Italy...
With international travel slowly opening back up, we can return to planning our next international getaway – or a dreamy destination wedding.
A few years ago, I planned my destination wedding myself from my keyboard. In the spring of 2017, I held my ceremony and reception in Ravello, a small mountaintop town that overlooks Italy’s Amalfi coast.
I was never the girl who grew up dreaming about my wedding day. I dreamed about seeing Paris and Rome and Rio. I didn’t want a traditional wedding. I wanted a stellar vacation. And if we could work a wedding ceremony somewhere in there, great. My fiancé, a travel lover himself, agreed.
After a few months of going back and forth with Italian wedding planners, and reviewing their complex and expensive services, like fireworks, bands and parades through the town square, I realized I only had a few requirements for this ceremony – simple and intimate with really great food and wine. Here’s how I did it.
1) Marriage license
Two days before our trip, my husband and I married at our local city hall. A legal marriage in Italy required way too much paperwork, rules and a pre-trip visit to our local consulate. My advice: get a marriage license domestically and save the fun stuff, the ceremony and reception, for the destination.
I didn’t want to waste time and money selecting decorations. For our ceremony I picked the patio garden of the hotel, Palazzo Avino, which overlooks the Mediterranean. The spot was already stunning so no extra décor needed! There was no fee to conduct a wedding ceremony on the hotel patio, if the couple was already staying at the hotel. Palazzo Avino is ranked as one of Europe’s romantic boutique hotels so that was an easy enough decision. I booked a room for 4 nights. Although the hotel did try to sell me on extra flowers for the ceremony and the dinner, I declined. Their bouquets started at 250€ (which was about $300)! The morning of my wedding, my mom and sister-in-law walked over to the local florist shop and picked one up for 20€.
The wedding party was minimal – me, my husband and our officiant, my father. He’s not ordained but he is a magician. He performed one card trick and then declared us husband and wife. Easy!
4) Food & booze
Food and wine were my number one extravagance for this event. After the ceremony we enjoyed a 5-course dinner and wine pairing in the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant. We were celebrating during Amalfi Coast’s off-season, so I suspected the restaurant wouldn’t be crowded, and I was right. We had the place to ourselves for most of the night.
Most photographers I contacted charged thousands for a team to follow me around all day and produce an album of around 20 edited photos. I negotiated with one photog who agreed to shoot for 2 hours and hand over a disk of all the raw (unedited) images. After watching a few photo editing tutorials on YouTube, and now we have an online album of 100 beautiful images that we can share with anyone, or print and frame.
6) Guest list
For the invitees of a destination wedding, the trip can be too far, too expensive or too inconvenient. If you chose to throw one, you have to be okay with the smaller turnout. I knew many of my invited guests wouldn’t attend, but I let them know they were welcome to join, and I would be comfortable with whatever decision they made. I invited close friends, immediate family and some extended family. I didn’t invite distant family members or casual friends that I may have invited to a local wedding. We invited about 80 people and 15 attended.
7) Guests are coming – what now?
Provide some good foundational info like the closest hotel to your ceremony. You don’t have to hold their hands throughout their travel planning process – they have Google for that! I didn’t obsess about how the guests were going to spend their free time, but I did come up with 2 easy group activities. I invited my guests to a local spot, Pizzeria Mimi, for a casual dinner night before the ceremony and then a guided tour of the nearby island of Capri the day after the wedding. I only asked that my guests reimburse me for their tour ticket. The pizza was on us!
I started my planning process one year in advance. It required lots of research, reviewing lots of lots of quotes, and the Amalfi coast is definitely a pricy tourist destination, although I did go in April when the rates are lower since the high season doesn’t start until May 1. But if you’re the kind of romantic who’d rather say your vows on a faraway beach or overlooking the sea or the mountains, go for it. Your wedding doubles as the vacation of a lifetime, and your family and friends will remember it as the wedding of a lifetime too.