Ancient Castle Ruins Served as the Backdrop for This Couple's Italian Destination Wedding
As fate would have it, Sara and Sam lived across the hall from each other as freshmen in college, but they didn't start dating until three weeks before graduation. Years later, the pair was on vacation in Florence when Sam popped the question on a rooftop with views of the Italian city. "It had just finished raining, and Sam suggested we have a drink upstairs on our terrace overlooking the Duomo and city skyline before heading to our favorite restaurant for dinner," says Sara. "Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was taken completely by surprise."
After an 18 month engagement, Sara (a fourth year medical student) and Sam (who works for Google) got married on September 2, 2017, at Castiglion Del Bosco in Tuscany. According to Sara, the Brooklyn-based couple chose the location because of its warm hospitality, landscape, history, and understated elegance. "It was not only one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen, but also because it represented so much of what is important to us as a couple," she says. About 135 guests attended the destination wedding, which featured a warm-toned color palette and elegant touches influenced by the surroundings.
The Stationery Suite
Julie Song Ink drew inspiration for the couple's stationery suite from the colors and landscape of Tuscany and the land the wedding venue sits atop. A watercolor design emulated the region's enchanting sunsets. In addition to an invitation and response card, the suite contained an information booklet that opened up to show a map of the Castiglion Del Bosco property. It was all tied together with waxed twine and a custom wax seal.
Sam sported a midnight blue tuxedo from Suitsupply, black velvet shoes from Ferragamo, and a black bow tie. "I felt like it was a nice compromise between not being too formal, but still showing importance to the moment," says Sam of his choice in formalwear color. "Plus it's timeless."
Sara wore a strapless Carolina Herrera wedding dress with soft floral detailing on the skirt and a detachable train, which she removed before the reception. "It wasn't what I originally thought I would have ended up with," says Sara. "But once I tried it on, I knew it was the dress because it just made me feel really elegant and romantic!" She added a veil by the same designer, her mom's diamond-and-pearl drop earrings, and a diamond olive branch ring (a wedding gift from Sam).
Sara wore light pink Valentino shoes under her gown.
The Bridal Party
The couple's sisters, Sam's two brothers, and their friends from high school and college made up the wedding party. In fact, many of the bridesmaids and groomsmen lived in the same college dorm where Sara and Sam met. The ladies wore ivory dresses with beaded bodices from Needle & Thread, and Sara's sister (the maid of honor) had blush coloring the bottom of her gown. They also held small bouquets of purple and lilac wildflowers by La Rosa Canina Firenze.
At the ceremony site, parasols in baskets offered protection from the strong Italian sun—though the forecast was mostly windy. Luckily, it was supposed to rain all weekend, but it stopped the day before, right as guests arrived for the festivities. The baskets, which were embroidered with the saying "Pazzo di Te" (meaning "crazy for you") were filled with wine, snacks, and water, were given to welcome guests to the weekend.
The Ceremony Setup
The ceremony took place by the ruins of a castle from 1100 AD. La Rosa Canina Firenze created a stunning floral installation, which blended in with the ruins, to anchor the altar. "We wanted everything to feel as if it naturally could have grown up the walls," says wedding planner Stefanie Cove of Stefanie Cove and Company. "Since Sara and Sam weren't scared of color, we were able to have the most incredible color palette!"
A Closer Look
"The idea of the ceremony installation was to blend in with the castle's ruins while creating the perfect altar for Sara and Sam," says Cove. "We wanted everything to feel as if it naturally could have grown up the walls. And since the couple wasn't scared of color, we were able to have the most incredible palette."
La Rosa Canina Firenze constructed the dreamy structure using snowberry hydrangeas, panicum, roses, brown lisianthus, carnations, brown plum tree, wallflowers, wax flowers, olive, leafy branches, and ferns. "We wanted the overall feel of our wedding to be very natural, romantic, and Tuscan," says the bride. "We just wanted all our flowers and décor to melt in with the already beautiful scenery, and to feel timeless, organic, and elegant without being too fussy or fancy."
Sam and his dad walked down the aisle together, then the couple's mothers processed to "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" by Ella Fitzgerald before the bridal party entered to "Le Vie en Rose." Finally, Sara and her father processed to an instrumental version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." According to Sam, "Seeing Sara walk towards me down the aisle was pretty breathtaking. Finally getting to the point where I'm shaking her father's hand and accepting Sara, as all our family and friends looked on, was the proudest moment of my life."
Sara's mother's best friend served as officiant; she wrote a beautifully personal ceremony and quoted French poet Francois Cheng. Sam's sister, Alex, recited a heartfelt reading by British novelist Louis de Bernières, and the couple wrote and exchanged their own vows.
After the ceremony, Sara and Sam spent time alone together, and those precious moments were Sam's favorite memories of the day. "We had some time to gaze at the Tuscan sunset with a bottle of prosecco while our guests were at cocktail hour. Getting a chance to live in that moment together and really process the beauty of what had just happened is something that's going to stay with us forever!" he says.
Cocktail hour took place next to the ceremony site on the grounds of Castiglion Del Bosco. Guests drank Moscow mules and gin-and-rose cocktails, enjoyed the sounds of a jazz ensemble, and nibbled on passed hors d'oeuvres, including tuna tartare, octopus salad, bruschetta with mustard beef tartare, focaccia with salami and pecorino cheese, parmesan shavings with balsamic vinegar, and garden herb fritters.
Burgundy monogrammed cocktail napkins were set out on the wood bar, under an arrangement of lunaria and panicum.
Sam's parents, who have been married for 35 years, shared a moment. "One thing Sam's mother told us in her rehearsal dinner speech which really struck a chord was to be loving and kind to each other," said Sara. "Be patient, generous with your time, and keep that little bit of stubbornness to get you through the cloudy bits."
Instead of traditional escort cards, Stefanie Cove and Company had wooden boxes made in a nearby town, then filled them with fresh herbs and a jewel-toned stone adorned with guests' names calligraphed by Julie Song Ink.
Guests walked along a candle-lined pathway to get to the reception tent.
The reception took place behind the winery at Castiglion del Bosco. The elegant white tent from Le Coperture was built around the gorgeous trees in the area. Glass jars filled with glowing white candles lined the walkway leading to the tent, while string lights hung from the ceiling.
Three long tables covered in neutral-toned tablecloths with torn edges were set up for the family-style feast. Gold silverware, white plates, and clear glasses popped against the neutral furniture.
For dinner, Castiglion del Bosco catered antipasti, homemade pici pasta, Florentine steak, sea bass fillet, arugula and shaved parmesan, crispy potatoes, and fresh spinach. "We both really gravitate to the warmth of the Italian culture. We love food and wine and think so many of all the best memories happen around the dinner table!" says Sara, who is part Italian.
The raw-edge linens were made to fit the tables, and embroidered napkins and deckle-edge menus matched the color and style. Vibrant arrangements of roses, seeded eucalyptus, lunaria, snowberry hydrangeas, ferns, wax flowers, panicum, brown lisianthus, carnations, brown plum tree, and wallflowers by La Rosa Canina Firenze brightened things up.
A Place to Lounge
Lounge furniture from a vintage warehouse in Florence provided an eclectic place to sit. The warm-hued couches and armchairs, patterned rug, and coffee table had a rustic appearance. The setup highlighted the small trees that were growing at the site, and which the tent was built around, with the addition of long grasses and stemmed flowers at their bases.
Castiglion del Bosco prepared a traditional Italian Millefoglie, "which is made with thin layers of crisp puff pastry and pastry cream, topped with fresh strawberries," says Sara. The decadent dessert measured approximately four feet across, and it sat atop a crescent-shaped table. Guests also enjoyed a gelato cart and other passed sweets.
The First Dance
Sara and Sam danced to "Simply Beautiful" by Al Green. Then Sara and her father danced to "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor, while Sam and his mother danced to "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" by Stevie Wonder. The band, Project M from Élan Artists, also played many tunes from the 90s and early 2000s. The dance party lasted way longer than expected—until the morning hours on Sunday.
After the wedding, the newlyweds stayed at Castiglion Del Bosco for a few nights. Then they ventured to Il Pellicano Hotel to start married life on the Tuscan coast.
Photography, Stefano Santucci
Location and catering, Castiglion Del Bosco
Event planning, Stefanie Cove and Company
Flowers, La Rosa Canina Firenze
Videography, Living Cinema
Stationery and Calligraphy, Julie Song Ink
Music, Project M
Rentals, Le Coperture
Custom linens, Designing Life
Custom furniture fabrication and rentals, Carolina Casini
Bride's gown and veil, Carolina Herrera
Bride's shoes, Valentino
Bridesmaids' dresses, Needle & Thread
Groom's tuxedo and menswear, Suitsupply
Groom's shoes, Ferragamo