Real Wedding: Charlotte and Wayne’s Beautiful Castle wedding in Tuscany

Today, Welsh couple Charlotte & Wayne share their beautiful Tuscany Castle wedding with us.  All images by our very own Maria Farrelly Photography. 


What was your budget? 

We were very lucky and grateful to be given money towards our wedding by my parents and had a budget in mind of around £10k. We knew the average UK wedding cost around £23k so didn’t want to spend anywhere near this and was one of the reasons we opted for a wedding abroad. We kept a spreadsheet that proved very useful when calculating estimated costs and actual costs. It’s worth setting one up so that you can note down everything you think you are going to need for the wedding. There will be more than you think!!


How would you describe your wedding theme?

I would say our theme centred around the venue which was a beautiful castle set in the Tuscan countryside. I love lace and pearls so wanted to incorporate these into the theme also. My dress had an old vintage feel and we used hessian and lace to decorate the table and table plan. The tables were named after places we had been on our travels. I knew with the wedding being in Italy we couldn’t have too much detail but in fact the setting and venue made a perfect backdrop for the wedding. Wayne drove over with a few bits that added our personal touch to the day. We bought our guests funky sunglasses as favours and made fans for the ceremony which went down well as it was boiling!


What was your favourite part of your wedding?

It is really hard to choose one part of the day as the whole experience was amazing from getting ready with friends to walking down the isle and feeling all emotional at the thought of what was about to happen. I loved having all our family and friends in the same place for 3 days so I think that was my favorite thing. The day before the wedding we spent sunbathing and drinking by the pool and the following day we arranged a pizza and lazagne party for our guests over where we were staying.

Italy_wedding_Tuscany029Italy_wedding_Tuscany056Italy_wedding_Tuscany088Italy_wedding_Tuscany013Tell us about your Wedding Dress

As soon as we were engaged I was itching to go dress shopping but opted for a wedding fayre in the CIA to start things off. I ended up trying a dress on there and then and loved it but decided to go to a few shops and try on a few different styles. I knew I wanted lace in the dress and for it to be long. I found my dress in High Society in Cowbridge. It is a stunning shop full of beautiful dresses and the lady who was looking after me really knew her stuff when choosing a selection of dresses to try. Once it was on I just knew it was the one. People always said to me your will just know when you find THE ONE but I didn’t really believe them. Its true I felt like a princess and knew it was the dress for me. Italy_wedding_Tuscany019Italy_wedding_Tuscany021

I met Ashley from ‘With love from Bobbin’ at another wedding fayre and fell in love with her head pieces. After a few meetings we decided on colours and materials and she handmade me the most precious headpiece that formed a special part of my look for the day. I am going to pass it down through the generations as it is versatile and can be added to or changed to suit different looks.


How did you choose your photographer?

I always knew I wanted Maria Farrelly to photograph my wedding so the fact that I was getting married abroad didn’t change this! I love her style of shooting and her creativity and having our wedding in a castle in the middle of Tuscany meant we would have beautiful images to look back on in years to come. If you love a photographer don’t look at the price tag, look at what you will get at the end of it. You can always cut back on other things as I believe your images are one of the most important elements of a wedding as they are the lasting memories you will look at forever.


Italy_wedding_Tuscany080Maria is friendly and assertive so will defiantly get the images you want on the day. She will also capture those funky dance floor moments when you don’t think anyone is looking!!

Italy_wedding_Tuscany153Who did you pick as your bridesmaids &/or best man and why?

My bridesmaids were my three best friends, Catrin, Rhian and Beth, and my sister Liz and sister in law Lisa. I also had 4 flower girls my nieces Kelsie, Hollie and Amiee and my friends little girl Dela. They did an amazing job on the day and leading up to the wedding. I had complete faith in them and always knew I wanted them there as my bridesmaids on our big day. All our friends own Pandora bracelets so I decided to get personalized charms for the girls and little bracelets for the flower girls. Italy_wedding_Tuscany051Italy_wedding_Tuscany093

Wayne couldn’t choose which of his friends to be the best man so had his two closest friends Tim and Richard. They did a fab job of organizing wayne on the day and gave him a fun filled stag doo. The speeches are always a favorite of mine at weddings and they didn’t disappoint. Ushers were my brother-in-law Chris and nephew Kyle. Italy_wedding_Tuscany015Italy_wedding_Tuscany017

Why did you choose your venue?

We knew we wanted to get married abroad as we wanted the warm weather and choose Italy as it’s not too far away from home and the food is delicious. We didnt have a particular area in mind but knew we wanted an old building were we would have exclusive use for the day. We also wanted a place big enough so that all our family and friends could stay in the same place.


It was quite challenging and we spent hours on the internet trying to find the perfect venue. We stumbled across Castello di Modanella and knew it was the perfect venue to hold our wedding. It was a castle set in the Tuscan hills around 1 hour from Florence and had acres of land with accommodation to host all our guests. Italy_wedding_Tuscany040Italy_wedding_Tuscany041A year before the wedding we took a trip to Italy to visit the venue and knew we had made the right decision after meeting the staff and experiencing it in person.


How did the proposal happen? 

Wayne proposed to me whilst we were on holiday in Turkey. We were singing our song on karaoke and he just got down on one knee half way through the song. I was so shocked I just kept telling him to get up and didn’t really realise what was happening!! I was in shock for ages after but so happy. We had been together for a while and he never really wanted to get married but knew I always did so was very sweet that he wanted to make me happy. I think he secretly enjoyed it all and has changed his perception of marriage.Italy_wedding_Tuscany130

Any DIY stories/tutorials you’d like to share?

We created most of our decor including table plan, jars as favours, flags for table names and one of my favourite items we made were the fans for the ceremony. 1552

I had seen the design online and wanted to personalise something for our wedding that included lyrics from songs we both liked. My friend created the design using text I provided and I sent to print on thick card. The finish wasn’t right so I bought a corner cutter which made a huge difference and would defiantly recommend using one for similar items. I then used spray mount and giant lollipop sticks to finish.


I also decorated jars for the female guests with hessian material, string and coloured fabric and used the same material to create table numbers and table plan that tied everything together.


What was your first dance & why?

Our first dance was to the song Soul Sister by Train as this is the song Wayne proposed to me and we both love it.

Our first dance was amazing!! We had bought sparklers for our guests as the reception and dance floor was outside and wanted them all to be lit once the song started and everyone standing around the dance floor. It was so nice to be able to see everyone’s faces and they looked like they were having so much fun with the sparklers they went down really well. I would defiantly advise getting them for a wedding abroad.


In hindsight, was there anything you would have done differently?

We took a glass bottle and paper for people to write messages down and put in the bottle and the plan was to smash it on our 1st wedding anniversary and read all the messages. We didn’t announce this so people didn’t know to do this so only received one or two messages.

Do you have any advice for future couples?

Remember to enjoy your day and take time to spend with your husband/wife on the day as it goes so fast.


There is a lot to do before and during your wedding so ask people around you to help don’t try and take it all on yourself. When you’re putting your guest list together, don’t feel obliged to invite people just because they are related to you or you’re worried about hurting their feelings. If you haven’t seen or spoken to them in 6 months then ask yourself if you really want them there.

What was your favourite thing about planning a wedding?

I think every girl has always dreamed of planning their wedding day and I loved every minute. I organise visits and events for my day job but its so different when your arranging something you feel passionate about.Italy_wedding_Tuscany151There were so many elements to think about and plan but when it all comes together on the day it is so worth all the hard work. It was very important for us to show our guests a good time and ensure everyone was smiling on the day. I think it fair to say we achieved that and people still talk about it now when we meet up.



Wedding Suppliers:

Photographer:                       Maria Farrelly Photography
Ceremony Venue:                 Castello Di Modanella
Reception Venue:                 Castello di Modanella
Bride’s Dress:                        Carmen So Sassi-Sassi Halford
Bride’s Shoes:                       Queen Bee, Penarth
Bride’s Headpiece:               With love from Bobbin 
Bride’s Jewellery:                 Family
Groom’s Outfit:                      Next
Bridesmaid’s Dresses:         Monsoon
Bridesmaid’s Accessories:  Accessorize
Flowers:                                  Nadia Stiatti Fiori
Hair:                                        Friends
Make Up:                                Katie Reid – Skin Deep beauty and laser clinic 
DJ:                                            Enzo – The Italian Wedding Band
Stationery:                              Design- Anna Bowler, friend and graphic designer

The Wedding Album
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If you would like us to consider featuring your wedding on Cwtch The Bride, send 20 low resolution images and a short description of your big day to 

Cwtch of the Week: Jemma & Stuart

Our Cwtch of the Week belongs to this lovely couple!

We LOVED sharing Jemma & Stuarts gorgeous Italian wedding last friday. If you missed it, you can see it here. We’re also thrilled to have Jemma join our team as ‘The Destination Bride’  With her professional knowledge of the travel industry she’ll be offering advice and inspiration for anyone planning a wedding, hen/stag or honeymoon abroad. How lucky are we?!


Real Wedding: Jemma & Stuart’s Glamourous Italian Wedding by Maria Farrelly Photography

Our newest member of the team Jemma (The Destination Bride) & her husband Stuart chose Sorrento, Italy for their glamourous destination wedding on the 23rd June 2013.  They tied the knot alongside close family and friends.  Professional photographer Maria Farrelly was commisioned to travel to Italy and capture what was a truly beautiful and intimate day. Here’s Jemma with all the details on her big day…


What was your budget? 

Between 15,000 – 20,000 however in the end we totally lost track of what we were spending, with lots of things being added in last minute


How would you describe your wedding theme?

Italian Glamour, we really wanted to fit into the surroundings of the beautiful town, so everything was very classic with the tailoring and styling and I had a traditional Mediterranean veil made.
Lots of cream and blush colours were used to complete the theme.
My first vision of a destination wedding was very Barefoot and Boho however when we seen the venue we knew we would have to up the stakes!


What was your favourite part of your wedding?

Turning up out our reception venue, we walked up a staircase where all our guests were waiting for us, the Italian version of “My Way” was playing and all of our guests were cheering and clapping. We then cut the red ribbon to the entrance to the reception and then a duo playing an Italian Guitar and Mandolin carried on to entertain our guests at the drinks reception.


Who did you pick as your bridesmaids &/or best man and why?

My three best friends who I have known for over 20 years, two of which flew in from Sydney to be at the wedding, also my younger sister, Our daughter Grace wanted a very special job so she was our maid of honour and wore a similar dress to mine!  Stuart’s Best Man was Tim who again he has known a very long time.


Why did you choose your venue?

My whole life is centred around travel it was inevitable that it would be abroad, Italy offers the amazing hospitality, scenery and beautiful weather with it still being accessible for people to come.
The original venue we had chosen the year before has been closed for refurbishment, so my planner showed my a new venue two days before the wedding . In true Italian style I was told that “It wasn’t a problem” and we went high up into The Sorrentine Hills, to a private venue in its own vineyard. From one side you could see Mt Vesuvius and the other Capri, we were completely blown away and even preferred it to our first venue. We kept it a surprise for our guests so they would have the same surprise on the day.


How did the proposal happen? 

After being together for 10 years already having a child and a house the wedding conversation came up a few times. He actually asked me whilst at a friends wedding, however we made it official whilst on a holiday in Dubai. Here we went to The Diamond Park and I got to choose from thousands of rings, was a very special moment


Any DIY stories/tutorials you’d like to share?

Getting married abroad I think it is still important to incorporate personal touches, we took all of our decorations out with us and we decided all the tables would be named after our favourite pubs in West Wales .
We didn’t have the time or energy to do anything DIY so I found some great people to help with all the little touches I wanted.


What was your first dance & why?

We had two, we are not into soppy songs so the first was The Beatles Let It Be a classic song we both like and the Second Plan B Stay Too Long, in order to get everyone on the dance floor and join in.


In hindsight, was there anything you would have done differently?

Everything went to plan and exceeded all of our expectations, the ambiance of the wedding was amazing and that is something you cannot plan for. Maybe I would have had a professional videographer however my Dads version of a wedding video is hilarious.


Do you have any advice for future couples?

If you are considering a destination wedding, be prepared that a lot of things are done last minute, I found my hairdresser two days before the day and she was amazing! There is only so much you can do via email and you will not be able to control everything. Its always worth going out to the destination beforehand to get some contacts and a feel for the place, but its amazing how everything comes together in the end.

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What’s the best piece of marriage advice you received?

We already felt married before we went, and knew it wouldn’t be much different afterwards, however it was lovely for our daughter to be in the centre of it all and all of our friends and family to celebrate with us.


What was your favourite thing about planning a wedding?

Flying out to Italy a year before, trying lots of dishes and Limoncello, a lot of the planning was done via email and as some stages quite unnerving when you send your birth certificates off to Italy via courier and not knowing when you will see them again. However having a wedding planner to help you through the process is priceless and gave a lot of reassurance.



The Wedding Album

Click on the images to view larger:

Introducing: Jemma, The Destination Bride

We have a lovely treat for you all today. We have a new member of the team joining us. The Destination Bride! Yes, Jemma loves to travel, in fact, its part her job. She loves it so much she even got married abroad…and we’re featuring her wedding tomorrow! So without further a do, let me hand you over to the lovely Lady herself…

Hi there Cwtchers, my name is Jemma and I am a Destination Bride, I recently got married in Italy and I’m obsessed with all things Travel.

Sorrento_Italy_wedding474Sorrento_Italy_wedding579Sorrento_Italy_wedding322Wedding images by Maria Farrelly Photography

 Originally from West Wales, I live in Cardiff with my now husband and our 9 year old daughter Grace.  After graduating with a degree in Travel & Tourism I have been in the Travel industry for almost 12 years now.  I currently work as a Personal Travel Expert for Kuoni in John Lewis Cardiff and have the awesome job of helping plan people’s travel adventures.

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 I have been very fortunate to travel to some amazing places and when I am not selling travel I am teaching it to degree students, so you can pretty much say travel is my life!

SAMSUNG CSCSydney Opera House

 I truly believe that the more you travel the more you want to see.  My “Bucket List” keeps on growing and if I’m not on a plane I’m planning my next adventure.

When we decided to get married, it was inevitable that it was going to be abroad.  So in June 2013 along with 40 of our closest friends and family, we said I do in the beautiful town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.

Many people asked me why fly to another country when you can do it at home and my answer was “Why not?”.

Me in the Maldives

 For me the reasons behind a destination wedding were; Firstly, we are not very traditional and already had a house and a daughter and we wanted a very relaxed wedding that represented us as a couple. Secondly I HAD to have the weather.  I love the sun and wanted to guarantee having the sun shining on my big day. Finally I just wanted to be different, I have helped so many couples with planning a dream wedding abroad that I wanted something completely different from anything else I’ve ever been to.

My love of travel didn’t just apply to my wedding, I also had my hen in LA & Las Vegas, a Mini moon in Monte Carlo and my (Family) Honeymoon in Australia and I’m currently planning somewhere for my 1st year anniversary,

hen doo vegas 1My hen do in Vegas

So hopefully I will be able to give you some inspiration whether it’s somewhere to get engaged, an unusual honeymoon or a really cool hen doo!

 Love Jemma xxx




From Groom-to-Be and Beyond…The Honeymoon Edition!

Our Groom-to-be is now a fully fledged married man (if you missed his gorgeous wedding then you can check it out here!). Today he he’s tell give us the low down on his beautiful Italian honeymoon :) Take it away, Al! 

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I have to admit, there is something flagrantly ironic about a newlywed gay couple spending their first few nights of honeymoon in the Roman Catholic Capital of the world. But after seeing ‘Roman Holiday’, it seemed a pretty romantic place to begin our life of wedded bliss. Plus, I gather the new Pope is pretty liberal.

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Being the clichéd homosexual men that we are, our main concern on arrival at the Star Metropole Hotel was locating an iron. We had brand spanking new chinos to don and who wants to walk around Rome with crumpled pleats? No one in their right mind, obviously.

Upon discovering a trouser press we could relax and get on with enjoying our trip.

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The first night was surreal to say the least. In a good way. It was hard to believe that a mere 48 hours previous we had been sat on a marquee dance floor gyrating to “oops upside your head”. Not wanting to venture far due to post-wedding fatigue we had dinner in a nearby Japanese/Italian fusion restaurant- very trendy, darling- and were accosted by a middle aged Belgian couple who were sat at an inappropriate proximity to us (Italian seating has no sympathy for personal space).

Amongst the chit chat about Italian food, culture and architecture Mr Belgian Man came up with a nugget of advice so awesome in its simplicity that I was slightly taken aback: “Buildings and food and art are all great, but it’s relationships that truly matter.” Not to sound like a soppy fool but that has really stuck with me and was a perfect launch pad for our honeymoon… Maybe you just had to be there?!

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I won’t bore you with the details of our extensive sight seeing- that’s akin to a barrage of holiday snaps- but I will say that neither of us burst into flames on entering the Vatican, so that’s a plus. Also, Rome is beautiful. Crazy, loud and commercial, but beautiful all the same.

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My fondest memory is of our last evening spent at a roof-top restaurant, the name of which escapes me. The waiter greeted us with a booming “Buona sera, Meester and Meester” and seated us next to what can only be described as the campest collage in human history; comprising of Madonna and Marilyn Monroe images, torn from magazines. Loved it.

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The meal was pretty rubbish but we got plastered on limoncello and gorged on ‘Fagola’ breadsticks, so what more could you want? Before leaving, and this is my favourite part, our vociferous waiter bounded over to tell Jonny that he looked like Andrew McCarthy: “You know, the guy from ‘Mannequin'”. My first thought was ‘how random’, closely followed by ‘does that make me Kim Cattrall in this scenario?’

Our next stop was the homoerotic hub that is Florence. Never have I seen so many statues of naked men with gloriously chiselled biceps, buns and pubic hair (oddly). I was surprised to learn, therefore, that Florence is actually quite conservative and has one of the smallest gay scenes in Italy. It seemed strange to me that a city famous for nurturing Renaissance art and culture could be quite so repressed. Not that you’d know it- the shopping alone was a gay man’s Mecca (Versace, Gucci, Dior. Oh my!) Correction, THIS gay man’s Mecca *no stereotyping*

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The hotel was a complete contrast to that of Rome’s. When arriving at the Alba Palace we instantly felt at ease. Granted, there were one too many replica busts in reception and our room was where yellow went to die, but there were sweet personal touches everywhere. For example, atop our mini bar were ‘his and hers’ teddy bears propped against a bottle of prosecco with a sign that read: “Happy Anniversary”… Awww, close but no cigar.

Florence was my favourite city of the tour. I’d like to say there were mostly cultural reasons behind this (of which there were a few) but mainly it was down to one thing: gelato.

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Somehow the stars aligned on our first evening stroll and we discovered what can only be described as the home of ice cream porn, in gelateria form. The Gelato Gods had smiled upon us and we did gorge. Sufficed to say this gelateria was frequented over the next few days and on each occasion the little plastic spoon had to be wrestled from my quivering hands. Unfortunately, I was so dazzled by the confections that I’ve forgotten the name of the place, but if we ever go back I know exactly where I’ll be heading.

Of course Florence houses several other impressive attractions. We were blown away by The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery, and the Ponte Vecchio has immense quirky charm (although best appreciated from the next bridge along), and if you’re not hampered by claustrophobia or vertigo the view from Giotto’s Campanile is pretty nifty. Okay, it’s stunning!

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But, oh! The gelato!

The next stop was Venice, and I am going to be stating the obvious here when I say it is an incredible place. For starters there are no deranged Italian drivers trying to run you over at every turn (always a plus). Of course we weren’t expecting any cars but it was bizarre nonetheless.

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Again, I won’t relate all details of our exploits but know this, dear readers: Venice is a labyrinth, and there’s no better place to get lost. For instance, it’s hard to stay angry with your husband during a row over directions when you really just want him to take a picture of you next to another beautiful bridge.

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I do have one anecdote that Cwtch readers will appreciate. While queuing for an evening concerto – as one does- a Japanese couple emerged from nowhere with an over zealous photographer in tow. That in itself was not weird, but the girl was dressed in a floor length red couture ball gown, diamanté tiara and crystal encrusted Louboutins (yes, I clocked those red soles immediately), while her beau was trussed up in a tux. They plunged into the queue for a series of awkward group shots with complete strangers, one of whom asked “Have you just got married?” The young lady replied “No, we just got engaged”, and off they scampered into the next gathering of unwitting tourists.

What the hell?! Firstly, had the photographer been present for the proposal? And secondly, if that was their engagement shoot what was the wedding going to be like?!

Our last three days in Italy were uber romantic. In fact with all the operatic gondolas, concertos and candlelit ‘meals for two’ it felt like a Rom Com on steroids. In retrospect this amorous haze had a slight opiate effect, resulting in temporary loss of reason and delusions of grandeur. Case in point; hiring a water-taxi to convey us 4 1/2 miles to the airport at an extortionate rate. At the time there seemed like no better way to end our adventure than waving arrivederci to Venice from the back of a speedboat at sunset, and thank goodness for such delusions, otherwise we’d have spent two hours on a water bus with 100 strangers.

Gay Honeymoon in Italy - Slightly Wobbly Designs_008I believe there is an expression which goes something like: “You will get lost in Rome, find yourself in Florence and fall in love in Venice”. For us it felt more like you will get lost in Rome, you will get lost in Florence and you will get lost in Venice. But that’s no big deal; we were pretty much in love at the start.

Thanks for reading Cwtchers! This is Mr Watkins-Stuart Esquire signing off