Justyna & Jason | Tuscany Wedding with Amanda Dumouchelle Photography | Part One
“Oh, you’re a wedding planner? Planning your own wedding must have been so easy for you!” I cannot tell you how many times I heard that phrase over the past two years. Well, let me tell you that as a professional wedding planner, planning my own wedding was still quite the experience. Not only for myself, with the pressure of making sure it was planned, designed, and executed to my exact vision…but you can also imagine the stress it caused my then fiancé, Jason! He definitely deserves an award for how he dealt with me throughout the process. From my corporate-honed project management mentality, to my constant nagging him to check tasks off of our to-do-list, to my slightly anxiety ridden mind of making sure we thought through every single detail five times to make sure it was the right decision! I have certainly come out of the experience having much more appreciation and understanding of the challenges that a couple goes through planning their wedding. From setting (and sticking to) a budget, compromising on details, prioritizing your wish list, to dealing with family opinions on what they think is the right way to get married! Yes, it was a rollercoaster at times, but it was an amazing ride. Looking back, I am so happy Jason and I were able to go through this process together, as a team. I also love the fact that I never have to be a bride to be again, and that I can use my own personal experience to help guide my couples through their rollercoaster, as a wedding planner! So, how did our wedding planning story begin? How did we decide on all of the details that shaped our wedding into the most romantic, breathtaking, fun, and memorable week of my life?
When we started thinking about our vision for the day in terms of design, colors and mood - Jason and I were (thankfully) always on the same page. We wanted something that felt very “us”...Worldly, Organic, Refined and Timeless. We are both very much 'old souls' that appreciate traditions and stories from our past that have shaped us into who we are today. However, we both also suffer from severe and insatiable wanderlust. We love and appreciate the beauty of nature. We love to learn and actively seek experiences that help us to grow, both as individuals, as well as together. While the traditions of the past were important to us when thinking about our wedding, it was crucial for us that we also incorporate these elements into Our Day. We knew that by doing so, we would be able to keep things relatively simple, allowing ourselves and our closest family and friends to thoroughly enjoy the entire wedding experience together. That was the key for Jason and I…we wanted our wedding to be an experience that would live in the memory of those we love, just as it would live vividly in our own!
One of the common threads that Jason and I share is a love of travel and worldly experiences. We appreciate different cultures, history, and making real connections with people from different walks of life. We are also hopeless romantics at heart. When we started talking about where we would like to get married, the first place that came to mind for both of us was Italy. I mean, what better or more romantic place to get married than Italy! It is one of those places that lives life a little slower. Italians take great pride in good food, better wine, and spending quality time with those closest to your heart. It was immediately clear to Jason and I that Italy made a perfect destination for us to live out our dream wedding. We knew we wanted it to be very intimate, romantic and most of all… a once in a lifetime vacation excuse for our friends and family! We really wanted our loved ones to not only be there to help celebrate “us”, but to take a break from the hustle and stresses of everyday life and to just getaway. Since we knew we would have guests coming from multiple continents, we wanted everyone to be able to meet each other before the actual wedding day, and to enjoy new experiences while taking new adventures with new friends.
After searching for and researching various wedding venues and towns across Italy, we had that “AH HA” moment when we found the most stunning villa nestled in the Umbrian valley below the ancient city of Cortona. “Villa Baroncino” appeared to be the perfect setting for our weeklong “wedding experience”, because they were able to provide us with all the amenities we were looking for. Forty of our guests were able to stay onsite with us during a week of day trips, pool parties, and lots of late night wine and family-style dinners. If you want to hear more about those details, look out for the “Part Two” blog of our wedding. But, on top of the great accommodations and perks they had for us, Villa Baroncino also made for the perfect wedding day venue. The villa is perched up on a hill, surrounded by their vineyards (yes, they make their own wine!) with a pool view that made for a grand cocktail hour and a permanent marquee tent that gave us a blank canvas with a breathtaking view, to host our reception.
One of the most difficult challenges of the wedding planning process was trying to figure out how we wanted our ceremony to be conducted. Jason isn’t especially religious. I am very spiritual but non-denominational. But, I was raised Catholic and my family had very strong opinions on believing our ceremony should take place in a church. Now…as a wedding planner, I’ve always envisioned having an outdoor ceremony in a very serene environment. But, also as a planner I know that weather can be unpredictable, and if that is your chosen route then you need to have a back-up plan in case Mother Nature decides to rain on your parade, so to speak. Therefore, instead of focusing on religion as our deciding factor, we ultimately choose history and experience…while pleasing my parents at the same time.
Twenty minutes away from Villa Baroncino is the little walled town of Cortona, near the inland shores of Lake Trasimeno. If that town sounds familiar to you, there is a good reason for that. Cortona was the setting of the romantic novel and movie “Under The Tuscan Sun”. Yes, the movie starring Diane Lane was filmed in Cortona, and YES…it is just as quaint and romantic as you may have it pictured! The Cortona Cathedral became our ceremony venue because it allowed us to take our guests back in time (this place is over 800 years old with original artwork by Michaelangelo adorning its interiors), and it allowed us to break up the day with a little Tuscan excursion. Even though our guests had to walk up a little hill to get to the cathedral because the bus was too big to fit through the internal city roads, we also were able to prance through town together after the ceremony – taking a group shot at the symbolic town hall and then treated everyone to gelato in the main square.
Our guest count totaled fifty-six, and included dear friends that we met on each of our travels from Texas, to England, to Qingdao, China, and as far away as Australia…and of course our family and friends from Michigan and Poland! It was a true international melting pot of personalities and humor. By the end of our wedding week, everyone didn’t just share some great memories together – but they left as new friends.
Starting from our custom wedding invitations, which were designed by an uber-talented Stationer (and friend of mine) Laura from “Paper & Honey”, we knew we wanted to keep things feeling very natural, organic and memorable. Our final invitation suite is a true heirloom…with the main invite printed on linen as a keepsake (which we were gifted one after the fact as a throw pillow that we now have in the entryway of our home), the envelope packaging thoughtfully meant to feel like you were receiving mail post from the past, topped with the intentionally curated vintage stamps and a wrap addressing label. The invite suite perfectly introduced our theme to our guests months before they arrived in Italy, to set the tone for the week.
The next key element was the florals. The real beauty of this aspect was that we were already going to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful and lush landscape in the world. We just needed to add the extra pieces that would make it feel our own…as well as the talent to bring it to life. We brought Susan Mcleary, from “Passion Flower”, along for the journey to bring the vision alive. If you know Susan, she is a true floral artist. I knew that she could work with whatever she was given (neither Susan nor I had visited the venue beforehand) and just bring a vision that I simply explained to life! She sourced the florals from a local floral farm, and then foraged around the venue property finding some surprising touches that brought the look together. To say that Susan “nailed it” would be a severe understatement. If you scroll down to the pictures of Jason and I walking the marquee space for our “first look” of the final reception design (on the wedding day)…you can see how in awe I was of how beautifully all of the greenery and decor came together, and how grateful I was for Susan and our TAS coordinator, Chelsey Paksi, to have been there to set-up the details and coordinate the day so I could just enjoy being a bride.
But, even though I allowed myself to finally sit back and enjoy our dream of a day, it did not come without a few bridezilla moments, particularly when it came to being very specific about the details. So, I will admit, I very tightly packed five suitcases just with décor items including linens, runners, grey taper candles and BRASS candles stick holders, a thoughtfully curated vase collection (that I scavenged through ALL of the Metro Detroit antique shops to find), ribbons, trays and all of my own designed/self printed day-of paper goods (that I finished printing the day we left for Italy)…all of which I basically forced Jason into agreeing to bring overseas with us!! Yeah…we didn’t exactly travel lightly. But, it all brought together the organic and intimate nature of the vision for the day. Knowing that all of the décor that surrounded us wasn’t just rented and dropped off for the day, but instead was carefully curated (from all around Metro-Detroit antique shops) and dragged over four thousand miles away…really made an impact on the experience. There was a story about us in all of the details. And those stories coming together, made the story of our day come to life.
Refined & Timeless.
When looking for my wedding dress initially, which I wrote a blog post about the experience and what I learned from it, I thought I wanted something more flowy and whimsical. But, once I tried on “The Garbo” gown by Amy Kuschel at “The Gown Shop” in Ann Arbor, Michigan…I just knew it was going to take an entirely different path. This dress is so unique with its (almost Tuscan like) lace, but yet so timeless and classic…I just felt like a woman (versus a “girl”), and as if it was showcasing the true me.
And how ironic that the true me complemented Jason’s custom made suite by 1701 Bespoke in Birmingham, Michigan that he had made (without me knowing any of the details) so well. It is like we were just meant to be. He even had our initials sewn into the breast pocket, as an added touch…how sweet!
OUR MUSICAL CHOICES:
- Processional: A Thousand Years - The Piano Guys
- Recessional: Viva La Diva - Instrumental
- First Dance: Ends of the Earth - Lord Huron
When it came to selecting certain details, I turned to Jason for his keen eye. He is very stylish and well traveled. He enjoys some of the finer things in life and appreciates quality over quantity, just as I do. Being an old soul like myself, I was not surprised at all when I saw the vintage automobile he selected for our wedding day. Jason chose a classic 1963 Bentley SIII from England (complete with the steering wheel on the right hand side), in a perfect light champagne color…which fit in with our overall theme and dress colors perfectly. Driving into Cortona with my parents and my sister Agata, I felt like a princess living a real-life fairytale. Then, following our wedding ceremony, photos in the square of Cortona, and gelato with our guests, I felt like royalty as my new husband escorted me to our fine automobile…our chauffeur waiting patiently aside it, ready to open the door for me. I could not picture a more perfect way for Jason and I to embark down the road of marriage together.
All of the thoughtfully planned out details that were complimented by the scenic landscape, the live music, and the new found friendships of the guests brought together for a celebration of our love - created this genuine and intense romantic ambiance that took your breathe away. And once we got seated for dinner when the sun started to set and the candle flames set the mood for the heartfelt speeches, thats when the real magic began. I remember just sitting back during our 4 course meal and just looking out to everyone and soaking it all in---this was OUR wedding...the most romantic, intimate, and just perfectly "us" wedding that I couldn't even have dreamt up to be better than it was. It was a fairytale come true... and I didn't want it to end! And then... it got even more mind glowingly perfect when we were surprised with a special song and dance where all of our guests circled us while we cut our cake, while singing "Thats Amore"!
As Jason and I soaked in the magic of our day (which always goes by too quickly), we were relieved and comforted to know that our friend and amazing photographer, Amanda Dumouchelle, was there to capture these memories, and preserve them for the rest of our lives. From the beginning, Amanda was a critical aspect of our planning process, as she even helped us to decide on a wedding in Italy. Jason and I love her photographic style and how she captures the world around her…especially being able to get those precious candid moments that allow your love to be most evident. She has a way of making her subjects feel at ease and natural, so as to get the best photos possible. Our family and bridal party all agreed that shooting with Amanda was fun and we were all so happy with the photos…as you can see throughout this blog. It was just such a beautiful whirlwind of a day that came together as a timeless, modern day fairytale. A day that I will never forget...and a day that I will never want to change anything about.
Overall, I approached planning and designing my own wedding the same way I would have for one of my clients. Digging into their story, how did they fall in love, what is most important to them, what makes them who they are, and creating a beautiful wedding day and experience that celebrates their love, and creates a memorable guest experience for their closest friends and family. Reflecting back on my wedding day with Jason fills my heart with joy and happiness! I look back and realize just how perfect it was for us, and how it captured our love story together. Of such great meaning to me as well, is talking with friends and family who were there, and listening to how much they enjoyed and appreciated the experience too.
And this was just ONE of the days (although the MOST special) that we shared with our friends and family. We spent one full week at this amazing Italian villa with our guests, wandering Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and Florence…followed by another week traveling through the Amalfi Coast and Rome in southern Italy for our honeymoon, which some of our friends accompanied us for as well! If you want to hear about THE FULL WEDDING EXPERIENCE, make sure to look out for PART TWO of this post coming in the near future!
Full list of vendors below.
Event Planning, Coordination & Styling: Take A Seat Events // Photography: Amanda Dumouchelle Photography // Venue: Villa Baroncino // Ceremony: Duomo di Cortona // Custom Invitations: Paper & Honey // Floral Design & Execution: Passion Flower // Floral Farm: Puscina Flowers // Linens: La Tavola // Silk Ribbon, Table Runners & Deckled Paper: Silk & Willow // Videography: Marco Abba // Ceremony, Cocktail & Dinner Music: The Tuscan Gents // Hair Stylist: Diana Monteleone of Meraki Room // Make-Up: Bride // Day of Paper Goods: Take A Seat Events // Dress Designer: Amy Kuschel // Dress Retailer: The Gown Shop // Custom Tux & Tailor: 1701 Bespoke //