Katy Perry did it in India, the Beckhams chose Ireland, Ben Affleck took off to Turks and Caicos while Anne Hathaway did it close to home in Big Sur. They all said” I do” in a unique way, far from home, nestled in an exotic locale. Travel is changing in a big way and we at mygola have been at the helm of it, conversing and helping plan trips for over a million travelers across the globe.
While travel changes, so does the many reasons why we embark on our journeys. The latest trend in weddings is to go for places beyond. Getting married on a beach or castle or even in an ice hotel, with hardly any guests, or a few intimate friends and family around you is the new preferred way to tie the knot. In the last few weeks, I spoke to a number of couples who went ahead and got married away from home. The consistent pain-point among all them was dealing with today’s demanding work pressure. They yearn to escape it all for once and celebrate that special day at a beautiful destination.
Planning of course is a major challenge and having not to do it all by yourself is a big advantage. The celebrities have definitely set the trend rolling. Gone are the days when all brides preferred walking down the familiar aisle – now many prefer to drown their feet in the sand and water, soak up in the sun, as they walk towards their partner. Agrees Anna Calzolaio, who has spent the last 10 years of her life planning events and parties for resorts.
With a Destination Wedding, you will have the people there that you really want with you, you will enjoy the combination of a memorable wedding and a relaxing holiday, you will experience something that last more than one day. It’s really reductive to call it “wedding”, it’s much more: it’s a unique and exciting experience for you and your guests.
Anna planned her first wedding in 2007 and ever since have fallen in love with the job of a wedding planner. Puglia in Southern Italy being her native place, she decided to be a destination wedding planner for couples wanting to get married in Italy. The charming Southern Italy, still offbeat for most travelers provides a perfect setting, as it has a rural charm and laid back atmosphere unlike the rest of the country. Decadent farms, rustic villages, and lack of tourists makes Puglia a hidden gem. Getting a local as your planner makes life much easier:
For a wedding in Puglia, in particular, I think it’s always better to have the help of a professional planner or a local friend. Someone who can speak the language, which is the first barrier. I always consider myself a friend more than a planner; I like to establish a relationship of confidence and trust with the couple and their family. My aim is to help make the destination wedding experience easier from start to finish, and memorable! The reason why I decided to specialize in weddings in Puglia, my native region, is because I can really help couples who rely on me. I can advise for the best, because before them, I myself have experienced the same adventures, enjoyed the same dishes and visited the same places. The special touch is showing the real and hidden side of Puglia, what you cannot find in books or magazines.”
Stringing in the local authenticity
While some couples get a local priest to do the wedding in a simpleton fashion, many others prefer to introduce a dusting of local customs and rituals to make it more authentic affair. For instance, in Mexico, there is this ritual of placing a lasso around the necks of the couple and tieing them up in a figure 8. It denotes the uniting of two lives. During the wedding, the groom gives the bride a gift of 13 coins. The number represents the twelve apostles and Jesus Himself. Katy Perry and Russell Brand had a typical Hindu wedding ceremony and the bride wore a nose ring, which is removed by the groom on wedding night – a very old Hindu ritual.
If you come to Puglia whether you are the bride, the groom or the guest, best thing to do is blend with Apulian people. To fully understand a place and a culture, you have to immerse yourself in it! Incorporate local music and offer typical food at the reception dinner are a must! For the days before or after the wedding, it’s such a nice touch planning cooking lessons, wine tasting, and excursions.
This kind of wedding is not only for couples who love to travel but for people who have a laid back attitude towards life, says Anna; ”They should be willing to experiment and enjoy the simplicity of a place totally different from their home”.
In conversation with “In the mood for Love”
Anna runs In the Mood for Love, a wedding planning and styling concept in Puglia, the little known corner of Italy.
[R] Do you recommend couples to fly in a photographer/videographer, hair and makeup stylists? Or is it preferable to get them from near the venue?
[Anna] Each couple is different and has different needs. It much depends on their budget, too. Sometimes finding local suppliers can be less expensive, other times bringing your own hairdresser or photographer will be more convenient. A photographer or a hairdresser can easily carry a suitcase with most of their equipment. So often, I’ve had brides who preferred to rely on their trusted hairdresser, rather than choosing a local one. But for music, flowers, catering and much more, it is almost always easier to rely on local professionals. Living in London I do not have the chance to always be there, but thankfully in Puglia I have a group of experienced people who support me in making all events. From small jars decorated handmade, colorful bouquets and striking settings, to delicious dinners!
Three weeks ago a couple from Panama was in Puglia for their wedding. During our planning, one day the groom expressed his desire to spend a day with an authentic Apulian family and do something typical. I managed to find someone willing to teach how to make “Panzerotti” (an Apulian speciality) and welcomed us in his house like we were part of his family. And we felt part of the family for real! It has been a fantastic experience, and I cannot be more thankful to Saverio, Anna and Pinuccio for their time and kindness.
With Grant and Annelise who did it in style
I had the chance to talk to Grant and Annelise from Panama City who both live and work in the metropolis. Grant is the General Manager of an International Life Insurance Company and Annelise is a lawyer and VP in a telecommunication firm. With six kids between them, none had the time or patience to date and met through an online dating site. They fell in love and last year Grant proposed Annelise on the stroke of midnight in Cape Town, where they were vacationing.
[R] Why did you decide to have a destination wedding?
[Grant and Annelise] With the logistical challenges of having family and friends on different continents we decided to “elope” to a neutral continent and get married without all the bells and whistles of an ordinary wedding and just the two of us (no guests). We both love Italy so choosing the country was an easy one for us. We searched online for “weddings in Italy” and narrowed it down to Puglia as a possible destination and made first contact with Anna Calzolaio.
[R] What are the things you looked for when choosing a wedding planner?
We wanted someone who would accommodate our wishes and budget but at the same time add her own personal flair with a touch of the unconventional – man did we choose well ! We started our relationship over skype and were automatically impressed with Anna’s professionalism and creativity. We fell in love with her before we even met her … Anna and her Dad Franco more than made up for the absence of family and friends at the wedding – they are now both family and friend to us. How much more could you want or expect from the person taking charge of the most important day of your life. God bless you Anna !
As is the norm, Anna went into the finer details of the planning – everything from booking a Bed and Breakfast for the couple, plan tours and make recommendations of places worth a visit.
For Grant and Annelise, it was the romantic road trip of a life time. It’s a business that never remains just that. “Our first physical meeting with Anna was in Noci days before the wedding where our relationship changed from virtual to personal. We get tears in our eyes when we remember that first encounter when we first met in person – a moment that defined the start of a beautiful friendship”.
Allow me to set the scene: imagine farm setting with an antique tractor, plough and hay bales, a clear blue sky Puglian sun set with a little crisp nip in the air, a camp fire providing a some warmth as the heat of the sun slowly slid over the horizon, a plump jovial Italian accordion player playing in the background, generous and regular servings of local cheeses, hams and expensive Prosecco, sitting on a picnic blanket with the person you love and are about to marry.
The day of the wedding had all the right fanfare. Breakfast in an Italian dawn, in front of an open fire in a private room, individual pampering. The church subtly decorated with flowers, candles and fresh petals and leaves. Annelise drove up in a 1960’s Fiat 500 while Grant nervously stood in front of the church waiting to fight back the tears and emotion.
Mrs Rosa Paola Pauli Luypen recited the vows to the couple. End that with a dinner for two created by a personal chef, wine steward and musical duo.
Professional photographers Paco Nobili and Andrea Volpini, part of the Aberrazioni Cromatiche team. recorded every second of our Puglian experience by snapping over 2000 photos during the picnic and wedding celebration – these guys are brilliant and come very highly recommended. Their photos speak very loudly for themselves no additional praise or comments are warranted.
Marriages are made in heaven they say, to cherish those memories for your entire life do something different. A foreign land, unknown customs and rituals, exotic destination, local cuisine, will make your entire experience far richer than a traditional wedding. It takes away the tension or headache that is usually associated with a normal wedding, and instead gives you the feeling of being on a holiday. Exactly how the feeling should be when you are getting married!
If you go: do it like the locals
The best possible guide to any place is a person who’s actually been to a place, experienced it like a local and came back to tell the tale. We have curated the world’s largest collection of such authentic trips. If you go, start by searching the hand picked trips to Italy below. Customise them as much as you want and let the smart planner take care of the rest.
Trulli Il Gallo Rosso Bed and Breakfast is where Grant and his bride stayed. The personalized attention offered by Trullo owner Ugo and his mother Virginia is worthy of note.
In The Mood for Love: Anna’s wedding planning and styling service
Photography by Aberrazioni Cromatiche Photography