Tijana and Matthew met around 10 years ago whilst interviewing for medical school in London. Both now qualified, and junior doctors working in the NHS, they decided the time was right to formalise their commitment to each other by marrying.
Tijana is Serbian, born in the former Yugoslavia. Aged just 5 years old she and her family escaped the war and became refugees here in the UK. If it had not been for the kindness of strangers, one of whom paid their airline fare (a backpacker who was in line behind them waiting to take a flight and who paid the balance as Tijana’s father did not have sufficient in cash all bank accounts had been frozen) and another who housed them in Portsmouth, the story would have had a very different ending…. Tijana would not have met Matthew and 130 wedding guests would not have connected over the course of a wedding weekend in Florence.
The decision to choose Florence was borne out of the difficulties of arranging visas for all of Tijana’s Serbian family to enter the UK. Because of the Schengen agreement, travel is possible within Europe, and therefore the decision to marry in either Italy, France or Spain was taken.
At this stage, they decided to hire Elegante as their wedding planner to assist initially with their venue search and then subsequently to work with them on planning the entire weekend. Michelle is based in the UK and both the couple and their families felt that it made sense to work with a UK based planner who could provide a more hands-on and personal service than someone based in Italy.
In addition to Italy, the families looked at venues in the Malaga area of Spain and on the French Riviera. “We were hosting a whole weekend, so wanted there to be something additional for guests to enjoy. Obviously, in Spain and France, it would be the beach rather than nice towns or cultural activities. We felt, that this might not appeal to everyone as much as a nice city.
We only looked at venues in Italy that were within easy reach of Florence or Pisa. We felt this provided the best mix of things to do for our guests. Florence stood out as being an attractive place to visit with varied attractions to cater for different tastes. For those who did not want to go sightseeing, we chose a hotel that had a garden with a swimming pool. There are, of course, lots of other places in the surrounding area that can also be visited. The weather is less predictable than Spain so it was necessary to have a good wet weather plan but in Spain, it is really too hot.”
Castello di Vincigliata – Italian destination wedding venue
Tijana and Matthew fell in love with their venue, Castello di Vincigliata immediately they arrived to see it for the first time. It is a medieval castle located in Fiesole, a small town in the hills overlooking Florence. It dates back to 1031, but since 1840 when it was partially restored, it became a place for social and cultural gatherings, creating unforgettable events with its magical atmosphere. This has continued through to the present day.
Once booked, the venue was kept secret and not revealed to their guests. The wedding invitations, designed and printed by Big Day Designs, asked guests to convene at Grand Hotel Villa Medici in Florence where coaches would be waiting to transport them to the wedding. This added surprise and theatre to the occasion (as well as stopping guests from “googling” the venue), and the 30-minute drive to Fiesole from central Florence takes in beautiful scenery along the way.
Destination Wedding Attire
Both the bride and groom spent precious time with their family and close friends on the day of the wedding, as the ceremony was not until 6 pm, once the day had cooled. Tijana’s dress was purchased from Browns Bride in London and was by Israeli designer, Galia Lahav. Her shoes were by Jimmy Choo and her bridesmaids wore blush pink dresses by Maids to Measure. Matthew’s four best men wore French Connection suits hired from Moss Bros, which co-ordinated with his own bespoke tailored suit, made for him by Copperfield of Moorgate. Their ties were from Swagger and Swoon and they all wore multi-coloured socks, adding in an element of fun. Cufflinks featured the couple’s wedding logo, designed by Matt, and used on the invitations, their wedding website, wedding day stationery and projected onto the walls of the castle.
The wedding formalities were taken care of a couple of weeks prior to their wedding day, with a civil ceremony at home in the UK. This left them free to design their own bespoke symbolic ceremony, which took place in the courtyard of the Castello. Katie Keen of True Blue Ceremonies worked with them to write a very personal ceremony that told their love story and included their own vows. The ceremony was delivered by a long-standing friend of Matthew and was concluded with a balloon release:
Matt and Tia, Attached to these balloons are locks and keys that represent all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will be together. As the locks are bound to each other with the vows and promises you have made here today, the keys will be released into the wind to fly wherever it takes them. Love is like the wind; you can’t see it, but you know it’s there! The keys represent your free-spirits, exploring the skies together; and the locks then forever intertwined symbolise the binding of your everlasting love.
The atmosphere in the romantic courtyard, coupled with the beautiful words of the ceremony led to there being hardly a dry eye amongst any of the guests.
Food and Drink
Following the ceremony, a drinks reception (or Aperitivo, as the Italians call it) was hosted in the Castello’s gardens. Tijana and Matthew decided to incorporate as many Italian traditions as possible, and this included a focus on food. Their caterer, Galateo Ricevimenti, based in Florence, provided not only canapes but “food corners” featuring traditional Italian delicacies such as a Tuscan Ham station and a Caprese station.
The wedding breakfast featured a delicious and beautifully presented pasta course, fish course and meat course and these were followed later on by the Italian wedding cake spectacle, where the Millefoglie cake is prepared by the chefs whilst the guests watch. Once complete, Matthew and Tijana cut the cake as fireworks exploded in the sky.
The wedding cake was served alongside a selection of “mignon”, traditional Italian sweet desserts, and a Gelato cart was on hand to complete the traditional Italian lineup.
Entertainment was always going to be a key ingredient of their wedding day and they decided to bring out “The Function Band” from London, a 12 piece show band, including 4 vocalists, a horns section and an electric violinist. The band interacted fully with the guests, providing entertainment throughout the wedding meal, not just for the “after party”. At one point, between courses, all 130 guests were standing on their chairs, singing and dancing along with the band, with the vocalists, sax player and violinist circulating between and around the tables, having been connected wirelessly to the PA system. Lighting, sound and production were provided locally in Florence by Alma Project 24/7.
Details, details, details…
From a styling perspective, Tijana and Matthew incorporated a number of carefully curated details, including fans, parasols and flip flops for the ladies (“ a little treat for your dancing feet”), and a beautifully styled card and gift table. Guest favours were traditional Italian “mandorlata” sweets, sourced in Florence, from Caffe Gilli in Piazza della Republica, which has been trading in Florence for three centuries. The favours were packed into bespoke “boxes”, designed and printed by Big Day Designs, which also acted as place cards at the tables. Big Day Designs also provided all of the other event day stationery including menus and order of service booklets. There was also a caligraphy welcome sign in Serbian, English and Italian.
The florist for this wedding was Il Giardino delle Fate, a Tuscan florist based in Prato, who worked closely with the couple and their wedding planner to ensure the floral design matched closely with their vision. Tija’s bouquet included peonies, roses and lisianthus and colours were white, ivory and blush. This co-ordinated with the boutonnieres, bridesmaid bouquets and corsages. The table centrepieces were based around candelabra and flowers were also incorporated into the ceremony with a flower arch, flowers for the chairs and urns filled with flowers on pedestals. Chairs were dressed with ivory sashes and for dinner, this fabric was teamed with tobacco satin table linen.
The photographer, David Bastianoni, an award-winning Tuscan photographer, worked with two additional photographers to ensure every single detail of this special day was captured. Additionally, there was an interactive “Selfie Mirror” from Mime-o-Fun, who encouraged guests to group together for formal and informal (with props) shots which could then be uploaded onto social media, using the hashtag #tija4matt.
Other Wedding Weekend Events
Tijana and Matthew were immensely grateful to all of their guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to spend the weekend with them in Florence. Realising that a destination wedding is a big ask – in terms of both time and money – they decided that their wedding had to be a stand out event. In addition to serving fabulous food, flowing drink and providing fantastic entertainment, and hosting it all at a magical venue, they also arranged a welcome party the night before at “B-Roof”, the rooftop terrace and restaurant of the Hotel Baglioni in central Florence. The views of the Florence Duomo and the rest of central Florence are spectacular and guests were wowed. A traditional Italian style food buffet was served and entertainment, again from the UK, was provided by The Diamond Boys.
Putting together two events on successive nights in Florence, when based in the UK, is no easy feat. Details of the “dream team that made this happen” are listed below: