Classic red and white Italian wedding in Sorrento

01 Oct 2019

Elizabeth Hill married Grant Darling at Villa Antiche Mura in Sorrento, Italy

How did you meet? 

Grant: I sold Liz her first car, at the time I worked at a main dealer and Liz arrived one Saturday afternoon with her parents to enquire about a car on the forecourt. There was an instant connection between us and I wanted to make the purchase special, so when she came in to sign the paperwork a couple of days later I put a sign in the window saying “I’m Liz’s, please don’t touch”. A few days later when she came to collect the car I had to somehow give her my number while being professional. The car had Bluetooth, so I set it up and suggested she call my number to check it worked. Then a week later I got a text from her and the rest is history.

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Tell us about the proposal.

Grant: We are both very close to our families, so I wanted to organise a dinner on the night of the proposal to celebrate, but to ensure nobody suspected anything the only day I could do this without any suspicion was my birthday. 

I arranged for us to stay at Brooklands Hotel and Spa the night before, we then got up in the morning and went to Painshill Park - a beautiful country park in the Surrey hills, where I managed to convince Liz we were going to meet my brother as he was photographing an event on that day (in fact he was there to capture the proposal). We had coffee and then went for a walk around the park. I had previously found the perfect spot where I wanted to propose, in the beautiful gothic temple they have there. It is right on the top of the hill and has stunning views looking over the lake. I was so nervous and Liz was completely blown away, she had absolutely no idea.

The rest of the day was great and we managed to celebrate with our closest family that evening with dinner at a local country pub, where I had booked a private room for us all.

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

Our theme was a romantic, classic Italian wedding with our colour scheme being rose red.

What venue did you choose and why did you choose it? 

Our venue planning experience was a crazy one. We started looking at local venues and loved the idea of getting married outside, the only problem is the British weather. Following a few glasses of wine one evening, we thought “why not just go somewhere nice with class, like Italy?”.

We researched wedding venues in Italy when we came across the beautiful Villa Antiche Mura - the venue was just perfect and beyond our wildest dreams. We contacted them directly to see if it was possible within our budget and when they replied with their figures we both couldn’t believe this could become a reality.

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We decided that before we confirmed the venue we should go to Sorrento and visit Villa Antiche Mura and explore other venue options. In September 2017 we flew out to the beautiful Sorrento and totally fell in love with the people, the culture, the architecture - if you haven’t been you have to go.

We visited eight venues over two days, saving Villa Antiche Mura until last. Although the other venues were beautiful, Villa Antiche Mura totally took our breath away. 

Walking down the iron-railed staircase looking over the gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius for the first time, imagining all our closest friends and family sat on the terrace on our big day, was absolutely incredible. All of our questions went out of the window, we just knew this was where we had to get married. 

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress? 

Liz: Everyone tells you that you won’t go for what you think and I thought that is crazy. I thought I might not know exactly what I wanted, but I definitely knew what I didn’t want and that was lace and strapless. 

I took my mum, mother-in-law and bridesmaids (my twin sister, older sister and two best friends) to London for a day of dress shopping. We went to Berketex Bridal first and I said to everyone to pick out a dress each and my twin sister picked out a strapless lace dress. I wasn’t even sure I was going to try it on, but I did, and loved it. 

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The sales assistant then said they had a lace bolero to go on top and when I tried that on it simply made the dress for me, I was in love. I had that feeling, but I didn’t want to get carried away as it was the first shop we had been in. 

We left the shop and I cried, I was emotional and I think at that point I knew that was the dress I would marry my soulmate Mr Darling in.

However, we carried on to various different shops and tried on about 20 different dresses in total, none of which compared to the Berketex lace mermaid dress. 

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What did the bridesmaids wear? 

I had five bridesmaids: my twin sister, Lou; my older sister, Becky; and my two best friends, Fliss and Grace. They wore beautiful red '50s vintage style off-the-shoulder dresses from Chi Chi London. They were absolutely perfect for the classic Italian look we were going for. My bridesmaids are all different shapes and sizes and it is difficult to find a style of dress that suits them all, but they all looked absolutely incredible and they felt good. 

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What did the mother of the bride wear?

A gorgeous colourful floral '50s style skirt from Coast, teamed with a black off-the-shoulder top with black fascinator and shoes. She looked absolutely amazing and most importantly felt amazing. 

Where did you find your suits?

Grant: I wanted the classic Italian three-piece dinner suit and bowtie. I found the perfect suit on Charles Tyrwhitt. I am hoping it will never date. 

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

Again, in-keeping with the classic romantic theme we went for simple red rose arrangements on the tables and a gorgeous white rose arch to frame the ceremony. 

Liz then made the buttonholes out of artificial roses. The groomsmen and father of the bride had red roses, and Grant and the bridesmaids' bouquets had a white rose with some pearl detail. 

The bride’s bouquet was also artificial but Liz added pearl detail herself, it looked absolutely stunning and nobody would ever know it was artificial. We liked the idea of artificial flowers as not only could we transport them to Italy ourselves, but we could also keep these forever, with potentially our children using them in the future. 

Tell us about the details of the day…

  • To help guests with the heat, we had white fans for the ladies in a box with a sign saying: 'We’re a big fan, please take one' and personalised handkerchiefs for men with a sign saying: 'Don’t sweat it, please take one' on arrival.
  • We also gave our guests little organza bags full of white confetti with a personalised tag 'Mr & Mrs Darling, 30.06.2019'; these were placed on each seat ahead of the ceremony.

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  • We gave our guests travel perfume bottles filled with male/female eau de parfum as favours with a little poem Grant came up with saying; 'Because you are here for the whole day, We thought it’d be nice to have a little spray, Ladies are red, Gents are white,  So you can you can smell fresh until the end of the night.'
  • We also had disposable cameras on each table with a sign saying: 'Help us capture the love laughter and happily ever after”.
  • Liz also created floral letters spelling out 'Darling' which framed our gift and guest book table. 
  • The best memento we got from our wedding day was the ‘Soul Train’ like the 1970’s dance show. We asked all of our guests to do it beforehand and nobody seemed keen but on the day, once they’d had a few drinks, everyone took part and it worked out great - the perfect end to a perfect day. 

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

Liz: I felt beyond happy, excited and literally like I was living my dream. I just wanted to take it all in and see the love of my life. Those moments with your dad are also so very special.

How did you make the ceremony personal to you? 

We had a violinist play while the bridesmaids, ushers and bride walked down the aisle. The bridesmaids and ushers walked down first, going down parting staircases and meeting at the top of the aisle. It was truly a spectacle and made the most of the gorgeous staircase. The bridesmaids and ushers walked down to Spring Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi and the bride and father of the bride walked down to Marcia Nuziale, Mendelssohn; it was absolutely perfect. 

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We had two close friends do readings: one was Bob Marley's Only Once In Your Life, and the other Richard Bach's The Bridge Across Forever. We chose these readings because we love the words and could completely relate to them and wanted them to represent our relationship and how we feel about each other. 

We wanted our vows to be traditional, so kept them as the beautiful words they are. 

We then walked down the aisle to the violinist playing All Of The Lights by Kanye West - something a little bit different but ended the ceremony on a high and got the party started. 

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What was your most memorable moment? 

Grant: However cliché it sounds, it was when Liz was standing out on the top of the stairs with her dad and seeing each other for the first time. 

What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

The most challenging part of planning our wedding was definitely the aspect of it being abroad and making sure we had everything and could take everything that we needed with us. In addition getting married abroad and having 60 people flying out for you is a big responsibility. You want to be around for everyone's arrival and make sure you see everyone equally.

As well as planning the wedding, we planned a beautiful dinner in a lemon grove for all those that were there on the Friday night. We then also arranged a drinks reception on the night after the wedding to say goodbye to everyone before they jetted off home. 

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Although it is challenging getting married abroad and feeling like you should arrange more than just the wedding for everyone, it is definitely a bonus. It makes it even more special and creates even more memories that you will treasure forever and it means your guests can get to know each other even more and mingle before the big day. 

What was the most important investment for you? 

Definitely the venue - our venue was absolutely beautiful and everyone’s reaction when they first walked into the villa and down the stairs was worth every penny. It set the tone for our day and did the speaking for us; it made the atmosphere unforgettable. 

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why? 

We choose Bring It On Home To Me by Sam Cooke because the words are beautiful and wherever life takes us I really do hope we will always come back home to each other. 

Did you have any evening entertainment?

We had a DJ as our entertainment. Our friends and family love to dance and know how to party so we didn’t feel the need for anything more. 

Tell us about your wedding cake. 

Sorrento is known for its lemons so we had a three-tier lemon cream cake - it was absolutely delicious, very light and tasty. We wish we could have bought it home with us. It was covered in white icing with red roses on top to fit with our theme. One of Liz’s bridesmaids, who owns her own stationery company on Etsy called You Make My Dreams, made us a personalised 'Mr & Mrs Darling' wedding cake topper. 

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

Honestly, hand on heart, we wouldn’t change a thing, it was absolutely perfect, it was far more than we could have wished for. The only reason we would go back is to do it all over again.

Did anything go wrong on the day?

Liz: Grant had a little trouble with tying his bowtie, the pressure got to him with guests arriving - they really are harder than they look. Thankfully my sister’s boyfriend is quite the pro with bowties and managed to come to the rescue.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

To be honest, we had put so much effort into making everything exactly as it should be. By the time we got to Italy we were fairly calm about the whole thing.

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Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We did a minimoon in Sorrento after the wedding, moving to a gorgeous boutique hotel just on the outskirts of Sorrento for four days. It was so lovely to have some 'us' time, relax and revel in married life and reminisce over the Darling wedding. 

We are due to go on our proper honeymoon on 2nd January to Cuba. We are staying in Havana for five nights and then moving to Varadero, a beautiful beach resort for nine nights of all-inclusive luxury...we are both very excited.

We are so glad we have done it this way as it means we have something amazing to look forward to after the wedding.

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages? 

Our five top tips for any couples in the planning stages would be: don’t comprise, follow your dreams, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, don’t let other people’s opinions sway your opinion, it’s your day and enjoy every second.

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Steal Their Style: 

Venue: Villa Antiche Mura
Photographer: Adams Brides Wedding Photography
Welcome catering: O'Parrucchiano
Celebration after wedding: Hotel La Favorita
Video: Watch Elizabeth and Grant's wedding video here.

Click here for more destination wedding inspiration.

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