A rustic and romantic wedding in Sicily
28 Jan 2021
Leah Clarke and Lewis Evans managed to hold a magical Sicilian wedding in September 2020 despite the challenges of the year
Photography: Tatiana Costantino Photography
How was your wedding affected by Covid-19?
We were beyond lucky that it went ahead as planned. But as our wedding was dependent on flights running, and the Italy and UK infection numbers staying low enough to keep travel corridors open, it could have been cancelled anywhere up to a few days before. So, it was a very stressful summer trying to decide what was best to do. We didn’t allow ourselves to believe it was happening until we were on Sicilian soil.
What restrictions were in place at the time of your wedding?
Masks had to be worn when people went to the bathroom etc in the evening but apart from that there weren’t any.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
Sicilian - rustic and romantic, to go with the gorgeous surroundings of the town.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
Myself, my mum and my gran first started looking at venues local to us in Cardiff. I had it narrowed down to two places I really liked but then when I told Lewis the cost he pushed for me to have a look to see if we could do something similar in Sicily. His family is Sicilian, he’s half Sicilian so the country is his blood. I found an incredible wedding planner called Isabella from Wedding in Sicily Taormina and she helped me find venues that were within our budget. The hall for the ceremony was absolutely stunning and the evening restaurant meal was cooked by a Michelin star chef which we didn’t know until the evening and it added an extra wow to our day.
We were due to have our ceremony outside the palazzo on the patio but on the day it started to rain. So, it was moved to under the trees in the garden area, it made the ceremony even more magical and atmospheric, and gave me a ridiculously long aisle walk down which I loved.
Tell us about the dress
We went dress shopping about two months after I got engaged just to go and have a fun girly day out and try on dresses. The first shop we went to - Cardiff Bridal Centre, I struggled to find a dress I liked as I didn’t really have a style in mind. So, my party all chose a dress each that they liked, from the appropriate to the ridiculous. Once the assistant got a feel for what I liked she then went and picked out a few dresses that she thought I might like. She gave me one that was creamy, lacy and nothing like any of the others, and when I started to have a little tear up I knew that was the one. So my mum bought it for me. The only problem was – at this point I hadn’t even started looking at venues! I kept the fact I had bought my dress a secret from Lew, thinking what the hell have I done, and then that’s what pushed the wedding hunt forward. It was only when we had decided on Sicily that we then realised how perfect the dress fit with the wedding. It was light for the weather, rustic lace and the colour went perfectly with the palette of Sicily.
Did you hire a wedding planner?
Yes. I saw Isabella get recommended many times when I was looking at Sicilian wedding forums on TripAdvisor. She appreciated my tight budget and found me the most gorgeous venue, arranged the music, our car, entertainment, and as she also has a bar in Taormina, that turned out to be a handy meeting point for family and friends. They gave us exclusive access for a pre-wedding party and we have become firm friends with her and her husband Tony. Isabella’s business had been hugely affected by the pandemic and we were one of only four weddings she had that year, so we appreciated the energy she gave us in such a testing time. Her attention to detail and the fact she spent the whole day with us, until the party ended, was mentioned by many of our guests.
Tell us about your floral arrangements
I was not a fussy bride at all. I didn’t have grand ideas about style and design. But one of my friends Stacey loves flowers and did our bouquets and buttonholes as our wedding present. She also made an arch for us for the ceremony. She used fake flowers and bought everything from Wish, shipped it over to Sicily and spent the day before our wedding putting it all together. She was also a dab hand at helping Isabella with the last-minute ceremony location change.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day
Isabella asked what we wanted our entrance music to be. Apparently when the couple are announced for the reception they play music for them. We wanted a good party atmosphere so chose The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up. It went down so well, with even our nans having a rave when we walked to our tables.
We also decided instead of a formal seating plan, we would give everyone a limoncello shot which had their name and table number (take a shot and find your spot). This is something I saw on Pinterest and found a seller on Etsy for the flags.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
Mostly just impressed that I wasn’t crying my eyes out! But locking eyes with Lewis and finally seeing him was an amazing feeling.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
My bridesmaid Tink did a reading and friend Penny sang and played guitar while we signed the register - one way to make the experience longer (ha ha).
What was your most memorable moment?
Our favourite part was the Mariachi band that joined us as soon as we walked back down the aisle. They sang fun traditional Italian songs and then walked us through the town to where we would stop for aperitifs. Everyone stopped and took photos as we walked past, coming out of the shops to wish us congratulations. We felt like celebrities. The best part was that I’d kept the band a secret so Lewis had no idea. He loved it!
Also, when we were having pictures we drove quickly down to the beach. As the weather wasn’t great that day the beach was deserted. So, running across it in my wedding dress and getting soaked by the waves was amazing, but I did have to hairdryer my dress in our room before we joined the reception,
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
The pandemic! Not knowing what to do for the best or whether it was going to go ahead was very stressful. But our timing was perfect and we managed to go out just before Cardiff got put into lockdown.
Also, the nervousness of shipping all of the flowers/stationery etc over was nerve-racking. Luckily everything got there fine. Plus, Lewis’ mum broke her arm six weeks beforehand so she almost couldn’t come. 2020 summed up!
What was the most important investment for you?
The photographer. We found Tatiana when looking on Instagram and loved the style of her photos. I’m not a fan of the traditional formal wedding pictures and knew that once it was over, photos would be how we remembered the day, so I made sure we had a good amount of time taking pictures while the guests enjoyed the aperitifs. Even though Lewis jokingly described the day as an eight hour long photoshoot he appreciated the effort afterwards. Two days after the wedding I also collaborated with Tatiana for a video shoot that we shot at 5am in the town square. I’m a dancer and she wanted to use me for a promo video. Dancing in the sunrise in the shadow of Etna was incredible.
Tell us about your wedding cake
The cake wasn’t a big focus for us, so we chose something simple. But we were too busy enjoying the night that we didn’t even have a slice. It was made by the chefs at the restaurant.
Will you be holding a celebration at a later date with those who couldn’t attend?
We were hoping to have a homecoming party in October 2020 which got cancelled, so we think we may have a party for our first anniversary instead. We were just so grateful to have managed to get married and all of the important people managed to come to our wedding so we don’t feel like we have lost out.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
To not worry about the weather. When we saw on the morning of the wedding that the weather wasn’t great, we both admitted to feeling a bit disheartened. But it meant that we weren’t disgustingly sweaty, there were no squinty photos, and we managed to have the pictures that we wouldn’t have otherwise got.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Go abroad! I planned for a local wedding but am so glad we went to Sicily. It’s not necessarily cheaper, but it went from being a special day to a special week. Our guests were bowled over by how amazing the location and the wedding was.
Steal Their Style
Photography: Tatiana Costantino Photography
Wedding planner: Wedding in Sicily Taormina
Ceremony Venue: Palazzo ducci di Santo Stefano
Reception Venue: Villa Antonio
Dress: Cardiff Bridal Centre
Make-up: Anna Salvatore
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Club L London
Groom'd outfit: ASOS
Cake: Villa Antonio
Flowers: Stacey Snedden (friend)
Venue dresser: Petalie E Capricci
Transport: Princess Wedding Cars