Taking romance to the next level, today’s featured couple flew their destination wedding party out to Italy and exchanged their vows against a stunning backdrop often featured in glamorous Hollywood movies and Vogue-style fashion editorials.
The ceremony between Samantha and Alex took place against a glorious view of gently undulating mountains and boats skittering across the impossibly picturesque Lake Como. Travelling in a stylish, vintage boat across the lake must have been a real wow moment! Samantha and Alex chose white as their principle colour, accented with sprigs and swathes of silvery green ruscus and urns blooming with white roses and delicate greenery, for simple and classic décor.
Samantha’s bespoke gown is exquisite, with an incredibly detailed pearl and Swarovski crystal bodice and elegant illusion sleeves; a dramatic V-neck back and beautiful fishtail skirt add to the glamour. It’s the perfect dress for the setting and, holding a bouquet of white and eucalyptus, Samantha is the epitome of elegance.
The couple chose some great special touches to add personality to the day too. Instead of a traditional wedding cake, they went all-out with a buffet-style table offering five delicious Italian desserts for guests to sample. We love the idea of giving out fans at the ceremony to keep guests cool and add to the chic vibe, and Samantha even had personalised flip flops bespoke made for guests to wear as the dancing got underway – the perfect touch for a beach-side wedding we think you’ll agree!
With images by Kristos Kabiotis.
samantha says: We got engaged in October 2015, on Richmond Hill in London. Originally from the north, we have since built a life together in London, and Richmond was the first place we lived together, so is very special to us. Alex made up a story about a business meeting with a client who lives on Richmond Hill and asked if I would come and support him. As we parked up, Alex said the client was running late and suggested we go for a coffee in the café in the gardens. We walked down the steps and I just kept walking, noticing he’d stopped; when I turned, there he was down on one knee. I was in complete shock and there were many tears shed before I said yes!
I was quite emotional as I was due to travel away for a few weeks for work and, as our families both live in the north, we wouldn’t get to celebrate for a while. I tried calling everyone and no one was picking up. Alex said he had booked brunch at High Brasserie Road in Chiswick and, as I walked in, our parents and my brother were all there waiting to celebrate. More tears followed, as you can imagine. We spent the whole weekend celebrating with them (whilst taking advantage of my dad’s DIY skills!).
We got married on 31st August 2017. We chose this date as it was the same date my godparents got married. They couldn’t have children themselves and supported my mum and dad bringing me and my brother up (and now my nephews!), so it was special for them too. Sadly, my godfather passed away whilst I was planning my wedding, so this made it all the more special but also an emotional day for my godmother.
Without a second thought we would recommend these venues to other couples looking to marry overseas. I decided to plan my wedding myself (I must have been mad!) and both venues were fantastic at providing support and help where they could. We didn’t even have chance to visit either venue prior to the wedding (again, people thought we were crazy!) as I travel with work so much, so we put a lot of trust in them. We were not disappointed – they were fantastic and we could tell both venues were absolute professionals at organising weddings and had done it so many times before.
We didn’t have a theme – we let the scenery of the lake be the backdrop and create the style for our wedding. The villa we were married in was a botanical garden, which led a lot of the design and style on my dress, as well as the selection of plain ivory and white flowers that both suited the villa and the simple, chic style of the beach restaurant for the party.
We didn’t have a particular colour scheme either; everything was simple in ivory and whites, from my dress all the way to the wedding invites and menus for the day. I thought the scenery was enough to bring in natural colours and white complemented this for simplicity.
When it came to my bridesmaids, however, I opted for a pale blue dress, not because this was my chosen colour but because when we found the dresses I thought they suited all the girls and thought the colour went so well with the surrounding colours of the lake. They wore a simple, one-shoulder dress, with side floating detail, from a brand on ASOS, along with silver, barely-there high heeled sandals. The two flower girls wore a dress we had made by a seamstress from the same material as the bottom part of my wedding dress.
I spent months looking for ‘the dress’ and it never really came about. I was disappointed but coming from a design background I really knew what I was looking for, which made it harder to find. When I got to the six-month mark all the bridal shops were telling me you must order now. I even went to fabric shops in Soho where my mum bought her wedding dress material for inspiration. My maid of honour said she had heard of a really good wedding dress designer from Cheshire called Emma Beaumont. As soon as she sent me her website, I knew I had to make my dress with her. She even had the same embellishment fabric I had seen in Soho and loved! She travelled to London frequently, so I was able to have two fittings in London and two in her atelier in Cheshire. It was amazing to see my dress come to life and Emma and her team created something special for my wedding day that no one else had. I will be forever grateful.
My shoes were a pair of Jimmy Choo Lance sandals – a strappy, champagne style I knew I would wear again.
For the bridal party’s hair, we went to a local salon, and one of my best friends did my makeup for me as a wedding gift.
Alex wore a tuxedo from Reiss that he had tailored to fit, with a white tuxedo shirt and black dicky bow tie. His shoes were a black pair of matt shine monk straps from Hugo Boss. The three groomsmen and dads wore tuxedos, dicky bows and shoes from Dobell, along with the same shirt as the groom. The four pageboys wore shirts and trousers/shorts with dicky bowties to match the groomsmen.
For transport between the villa and reception, we hired one large boat for all the guests and one small speed boat for me and Alex to have 30 minutes around the lake for pictures. Alex and I, along with some of our wedding party, travelled to the villa separately by boat.
Our photographer was Kristos Kabiotis. I wanted a British photographer with us on the day, as it was important we could translate what we wanted and all the guests felt comfortable. His photography style was very modern and romantic but with a relaxed flare – nothing rigid like many wedding images I have viewed. I arranged a meeting in my home town in the North East with Kristos to go through our ideas and, as soon as we met, we hit it off. I knew he would make us all feel comfortable and relaxed on the day and he certainly did. All of my guests commented on how lovely he was and how he blended into the wedding party so comfortably. I still get comments now from friends and family about how relaxed they were with him taking pictures, even those who hated being in front of the camera. I would highly recommend Kristos.
We had a videographer on the day as we really wanted to capture the stunning scenery around us and the special day with our friends and family on video. We wanted a company that could supply a drone, so we could get images from above the lake and, due to this, it was more cost efficient to go with someone in Italy. We selected Aberrazioni Cromatiche; Andrea and Giacomo created a beautiful two-minute trailer for us within the first three weeks of the wedding and then three months later a full-length video with all the speeches separately. It is wonderful to have this to complement our photographs.
Our florist was Haute Couture Flower, recommended to us by Lido di Lenno. Nathalie was fantastic and gave us lots of advice for what was in season around the lake, before we settled on bouquets of white flowers of roses, lisianthus, bouvardia, veronica and mixed with greens of carnation, eucalyptus, olive and ruscus. I didn’t see any examples of the flowers before the wedding, so I put full trust in Nathalie and I was so happy with what she delivered..
The wedding reception flowers were similar to my bouquet, with the two long imperial tables adorned with green ruscus down the middle of each table with vases holding smaller bouquets to break up the ruscus along with tall and small candles, intertwined. We even utilised the bridesmaids’ bouquets after the ceremony to add them to the tables to save on costs and add more décor. As we were at a beach restaurant and the venue had done many weddings before, they had a lot of existing decorations, like a rustic basket for all our personalised flip flops for everyone.
We didn’t give out favours; we did, however, give out fans at the ceremony: white for women and black for men with thank you tags. We also had personalised ‘Mr and Mrs Gildea’ flip flops with our wedding date and Lake Como on, which I had made in one of my work factories in Indonesia and shipped to Italy – white and gold for women, black and white for men.
We decided not to have a traditional wedding cake as we love too many different desserts! We spoke with our reception venue and asked if we could make a large dessert table with five different dessert options from Italy for everyone to try, which was amazing!
For our food and wine, we chose everything to be from the local area of Lake Como and traditional Italian dishes. For the wedding breakfast, the restaurant gave us some beautiful options and we settled on carpione, a traditional Lake Como fish dish, as an appetiser, ham and buffalo mozzarella ravioli or (for the pescetarians) garganelli pasta as the first course, passion fruit and mango sorbet, and for the second course, beef pil pil or crispy sea bass for the pescetarians. The desserts on the buffet table for everyone to try were white chocolate, saffron and passion fruit, crème brulèe, Sicilian cannoli, yogurt parfait with strawberries and mint, chocolate and raspberry tiramisù, lemon cake with crushed pine nuts, and peach compote.
For entertainment at the reception, we struggled to find a band we really liked in Italy from the local area. A colleague’s wife was in a five-piece swing band in London called The Clicks, who had played at our Christmas party and were amazing. I had tried to find a similar band in Italy but to no avail. Alex suggested contacting them and asking how much they would be to fly to Italy and perform. I contacted one of the singers, Chantal, and to my surprise she was able to fly out and hire a backing band in Italy as she knows many people in the industry. She and the band were amazing, singing a selection of soul, jazz and swing music with a through in of some modern tracks. They played for 45 minutes at the reception and then again after dinner for over one hour. They really got the party going and I am so pleased we asked Chantal to come all that way for us.
For personal touches on the day, I walked down the aisle to Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma, which is very special to Alex and his family as it was his grandad’s favourite song, who is sadly no longer with us. We also displayed photographs of the family members who could no longer be with us at the reception. Our ceremony was performed in Italian with a translator; whilst we cannot speak Italian, it was beautiful to have the ceremony in the local language. My dad is an exceptional singer and we asked him to sing us one of my favourite songs he sings at our reception, Andrea Bocelli’s We Believe, both in Italian and English, which was fitting for the day. We also bought a polaroid camera to sit alongside the guest book with props, which was good fun.
One other supplier, not yet mentioned, that I would recommend is Papier.com, which did all our invitations and wedding menus. The paper quality was amazing, the prices were really good and they delivered really quickly.
On reflection, if I had to pick my favourite part of the day, it would be the party and dancing that went on till 2am. I remember looking around the room and seeing everyone enjoying themselves so much and thought, wow, they have all travelled this far for us and I’m so pleased they all look so happy. Whilst I loved walking down the aisle to Alex and seeing the lake setting with all our family and friends and thinking this is amazing, the party was the time we could truly relax.
We are yet to go on our ‘big’ honeymoon as we wanted to save but, as I travel with work frequently in Asia, we took a trip to Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island, and travelled to Japan to visit Tokyo and Kyoto not long after our wedding. This year we will go back to Lake Como for our first anniversary and our ‘big’ honeymoon will be in November, when we will go to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be not to try to keep everyone happy; it is your day, so it’s the only time you can be truly selfish. We worried too much about everyone else throughout the whole process. Funnily enough, my best friend gave me the same advice! I would also say relax and don’t let the small things on the days leading up to it, and on the day, get to you. So many small things did not go exactly to plan for us, but it doesn’t dampen your mood on the day. The most important thing is having your friends and family around you – all the laughter, happy tears, dancing, eating good food and celebrating while they watch you marry your best friend. It is the most amazing day, no matter what.