Feature Location: Italy-That's Amore!Words by Jennifer Stein
When Sally Rayhill and Steve Dellanini first met, they worked as administrators in the same school district. Little did they know that 23 years later they would be exchanging wedding vows in Italy. As they describe their experience, their wedding day and all the events surrounding it, it exceeded even their highest expectations. Their ceremony, which was held in the Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure, was witnessed by 40 friends and family from the US and 6 of Steve's relatives from Italy. The ceremony was followed by an intimate reception at the Grand Hotel Miramare.
Steve proposed to Sally on the beach on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. After Sally accepted, he went on to say that he had a vision of getting married in Italy. He is of Italian descent and when a friend at work shared that his daughter had been married in Italy the year before, Steve's imagination began to work. It didn't take long for Sally to join in the excitement. and the planning began! Steve conducted extensive research on the Internet and identified several wedding planners in Italy. The couple selected Euroevents and Travel, LLC primarily because they responded quickly and seemed to have good communication. In spite of checking references, they did feel that they were taking a "leap of faith" when they began wiring funds and signing contracts.
The wedding planner offered a variety of services and Steve and Sally elected to have them assist with the details of the ceremony, filing the paperwork in Italy, the photographer, music at the ceremony, transportation to and from the ceremony and flowers for the ceremony. They felt comfortable making all of the arrangements for the reception at the Grand Hotel Miramare, partially because Steve speaks "some" Italian. The couple also traveled to Santa Margherita in November 2003 to visit the Villa Durazzo and to make arrangements for the reception and other details.
What was the biggest challenge in the planning process? The paperwork! Steve described it as "challenging, but doable." While the wedding planner walked them through the process in Italy the week before the wedding, it was up to Sally and Steve to navigate through the complicated process here in the US. Certified documents required very specific signatures and an internationally recognized seal ("Apostille") from the California Secretary of State's office. Then the documents had to be translated into Italian and presented to the Italian Consulate in San Francisco in the presence of two witnesses (not related to the couple), who also had to present birth certificates and passports! Steve and Sally sighed a sigh of relief when they had the required document, the "Atto Notorio" in hand!
When word got out about the wedding, Sally and Steve were astonished with the excitement that began to build. They thought that most people would feel that Italy was too far to travel, but that was clearly not the case! They prepared a packet of information (entitled "That's Amore") and began to distribute it to people who they intended to invite so that guests could begin making arrangements. Their reception site could only accommodate 50, so they began getting a little anxious when it appeared that they might exceed that number. In the end they had just shy of 50 and they shared their day with their closest family and friends. The biggest disappointment for Sally and Steve was that her father was unable to attend, but they followed up with another reception upon their return, which he was able to attend.
The wedding was the culmination of a weeklong event, with new guests arriving each day. Steve and Sally thoroughly enjoyed the day trips and evening parties that kept growing throughout the week.
The couple explained to us that each town or city in Italy has its own (often quite elaborate) wedding hall and all ceremonies are officiated over by the Mayor or Vice Mayor. It is also a requirement that the ceremony is translated by an interpreter.
On the wedding day, Sally's mother and brother accompanied her into Santa Margherita's wedding hall, Villa Durazzo. Steve had his two daughters by his side. Steve and Sally had written some vows that they hoped to share in addition to the standard Italian ceremony, but they were unsure whether they would be able to actually include them until right before the wedding began. They explained, "When we made the decision get married in Italy, we felt it was important to respect their customs and not expect them to adapt. After all, WE chose to have an Italian wedding!" In the end, they were permitted to share their vows and they described their ceremony as "very romantic." The official ceremony concluded with even more documents to sign in front of their two witnesses.
They then traveled to the Hotel Grand Miramare for their reception, which started outdoors for appetizers and cocktails. The weather and view overlooking the Mediterranean was perfect! Their guests then moved into a smaller dining room and were seated at tables named for different cities in Italy. Each of the 7 courses was served with fanfare as the servers entered the dining room with trays laden with exceptional Italian dishes. "Everything was so elegant," said Sally.
Sally and Steve spent their honeymoon in Venice and Positano (on the Amalfi Coast).
When asked how he felt about their wedding, Steve said, "The week of the wedding was a magical time. We had our closest family and friends celebrating with us every day. The wedding day was like a dream come true, actually 100 times better than what we dreamed. It couldn't have been better." Sally shared that many new friendships were made. She wasn't nervous because it was such a small, close-knit group. It was so romantic, like a fairy tale, with everyone supporting us. They also shared that "The event will live on with those who were part of this special event as they reminisce in years to come."
Advice to anyone contemplating a wedding in Italy? Don't let the red tape stop you, but read the fine print so that you know what is included in your contract and take into consideration the conversion from euros into dollars when planning your budget. The Italian people are wonderful and will assist and support you through the entire process. Italy is the place for true romantics!
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