Florence Highs: -- Staying at JK Place, Florence's ultimate boutique…
The beautiful hotels, all those lovely flowers, the chance to acceptably don a frilly fascinator… we do love a good wedding at Smith. So allow us to introduce our favourite new partner, The Big Event (and its director, Rosie) – a stylish service dedicated to wedding and event planning in central Italy where Smith members can now get a very special discount…
Hi Rosie. Can you tell us a bit about The Big Event?
The Big Event is a special event and wedding planning company based in the town of Cortona in Tuscany – the second most popular wedding destination in Italy. We’re about an hour away from Siena and Florence and cover the areas from Florence down to Rome. The company specialises in organising very elegant destination weddings, exclusive gala dinners and fine dining.
How did you get into wedding planning?
I have been an event planner all my working life. I worked in the music industry organising international concerts then started my own events company. Wedding planning came about once I had moved to Cortona. My original plan was to promote corporate events here in Italy but then every Saturday I would see beautiful couples getting married on the steps of the town hall and I wanted to be involved.
Why did you choose to move to Italy?
When my father died in 1998, I planned to take a year off, go to Italy and then come back to carry on with my company in the UK. But fate had something else in mind for me – I met my husband, Alessandro Panchini, who is a pianist and choir director. I tried to commute between Italy and the UK for a while, but it didn’t work. So when decision time arrived, I realised I had always been able to support myself and somehow would be able to do so in Italy.
What are your favourite things about the region you live in?
There are lots of them. Early every morning I go for a walk – there is the most stunning scenery and it ‘nourishes’ me for the day. Just above Cortona, there is a Franciscan sanctuary called Le Celle. We are quite close to many of the spas, so we go off and spend an afternoon at Fonteverde when we get the chance. Also nearby are the wineries in Montepulciano, Val d’Orcia, Montalcino and Chianti. And I love fashion, so being quite near to Florence and Rome is shopping heaven for me. Also, there are Prada and Gucci outlets within an hour from us – sometimes you can pick up a real bargain.
What kind of weddings and events can you arrange?
Simple, elegant, beautifully designed weddings that have a very relaxed feel. The ceremony can be either civil, religious or symbolic, followed by a stunning reception in either a castle, a villa owned by the Italian nobility or a hotel with wonderful views over the city or countryside. It can be a wedding for two or 200. Every couple has their own style so it’s lovely to design from scratch each time.
And the most memorable wedding you’ve ever been involved with?
It’s difficult to choose which one to tell you about. We had one Australian wedding in a castle just outside Florence – the ceremony was held in a courtyard that was decorated so beautifully. At the drinks reception it wasn’t simply great food and views: we’d lit 350 torches around the castle and it just looked amazing at dusk. This wedding brought out the best in everybody, suppliers and guests alike. My husband played the piano and there was also a saxophonist – they played a wonderful swing repertoire, followed by a DJ and ‘dance off’ that only the Aussies can do! It was the last wedding for the 2008 season and we finished on such a high.
What was your own wedding like?
It was during one of the coldest winters in 25 years – temperatures reached minus 10°. We had booked a tiny hilltop church, which had no heating at all. After putting in patio heaters for several days and realising that it was still freezing, we had to change the location the night before the wedding. My husband is Italian, so we followed all of the traditions. The bride’s bouquet is delivered to the groom and he hands it her when she arrives at the ceremony. On the day of our wedding, as I was getting ready I heard this great roar (I lived very near to the church) and applause as my husband arrived holding my bouquet.
The Big Event’s top five tips for hassle-free nuptials…
1) Choose a very experienced wedding planner – meet them first or get a recommendation from one of the hotels or a friend. Try to speak to previous clients that have worked with the company to get a true reference. Make sure there’s a really good feeling between you as you’ll be sharing this journey for quite a time and it should be as fun as possible.
2) Create a wedding website to post all your information. You’ll have too much to organise to become a travel agent for all your guests, but you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to get to your wedding calmly.
3) Start planning around nine months in advance. Collect photos or create a vision board of how you’d like the wedding to look – this will make things easier when meeting with various suppliers.
4) Well prepared weddings run smoothly and look effortless. Make your decisions and try not to change your mind too often.
5) Arrive a few days before and really relax. Go to the spas, enjoy these special days together before the wedding and then really love the whole experience.