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Intimate Symbolic Wedding in Cinque Terre - Need Planning Help From Locals!

Hello, my fiance and I will be getting married in the U.S.A. in a courtroom civil ceremony prior to flying to Italy for a two-week trip where we will be holding a symbolic ceremony by ourselves in Cinque Terra. Amongst all the other planning for the trip (traveling around the Tuscany region, visiting Venice, Rome, Milan, etc.), this particular piece has some very specific details that I need help with. Reading through this forum shows that it is a great resource and although I did use the "search" fuction already about weddings in Italy, I hope that some of you may be able to provide some local guidance on this. The details are as follows:

This is a symbolic ceremony only and there are no other persons involved beyond the two of us. Therefore, no concerns about proper licensing, fees, papers, etc. We will be spending a few days of our trip staying in Cinque Terra and so will designate one day for our "wedding". She would like to have someone dress her hair for the day and we will need a photographer for about an hour's worth of time to take a few photos before/during/after the very brief ceremony. As for that part, we simply need someone to preside over and say a minimal number of words while we exchange vows.

Finally, we obviously need a location to do this and I'm currently doing research to see what sort of hotels and restaurants may have a gorgeous balcony with view of the water and rocks available, perhaps we can obtain private access for an hour. Our ceremony will likely be on a weekday so this may help matters in that regard.

I have already found some links on this site to wedding planners available in Italy and have begun contacting them for more information and pricing. However, some of the responses I have seen thus far have not been what I am looking for. Specifically, most seem tailored to at least involve a small wedding party and many traditional concepts that go with a wedding. These things do not apply to us.

A couple of planners did seem to respond with more of an understanding of what we wanted, but the pricing seemed quite high to me. Make no mistake, I realize that Italy is not an inexpensive place to visit nor to have certain services done. The quotes for her hair came back at 300+ Euros! From what I have read, Cinque Terre doesn't have many professional services available in that area and so sometimes they need to be brought in from surrounding areas, thus increasing cost due to travel?

Is it possible to find someone with local knowledge of a hair dresser within that immediate area?

Also, the planners tend to have an officate priced around 600Euros or greater. Is that really necessary for a ten-minute symbolic ceremony?

As for the photographer, this is the area that I fully expect to spend the most money. My fiance and I would rather have 20 of the most amazing, candid-type photographs to cherish forever than 200 photos of conventional style wedding pictures. Therefore, I would love a local recommendation for an excellent candid photographer.

The location for the ceremony, surprisingly, seems like it may be easier to plan that all the above items. I'm working on that now but of course would welcome any advice or recommendations from this forum for it. If it happens to be at a restaurant then we could set up a dinner reservation for afterwards.

Thanks in advance for any help or advice you all may be able to provide!

Cheers,
SP

Posted by
16796 posts

I'll leave this to others with a more concrete opinion. You may also want to email the Tourist Information office in Monterosso for photographer or hairdresser suggestions: info@prolocomonterosso.it.

Posted by
47 posts

My husband and I ate at Ristorante Al Castello, right below the tower in Vernazza. While dining, the owner, Monica mentioned that she often holds wedding receptions for the locals on the terrace at her restaurant. She might be a good local to contact.

Posted by
3696 posts

I can only speak to the photographer question. I am a professional photographer so I can give you a few tips.... First of all you might have some luck if you post the date of your wedding and try to find someone from the US who might be traveling at the same time you are and would be willing to photograph the event. If you hire someone local there can be the language barrier (possibly) as well as differences in what is 'typical' wedding photography in Italy. I have a friend who is a pro wedding photographer in Naples and what they do tends to be a bit different from the norm in the US... however, there are many excellent photographers in Italy. You could try contacting the Professional Photographers of America and see if they have any members in the area, or also the WPPI, which is the international wedding and portrait group. I also know from years of experience that the term 'candid' photographs can mean different things.... do you really just mean 'candid snapshots' or do you mean beautiful photographs that perhaps look like they were not posed? Those amazing 'candid' images that are in bridal fashion magazines are anything but candids (professional photographers, professional models, lots of chances to retake) Also, if you have someone local be very clear about what you will be receiving and when... not just a disc with a bunch of images. I did photograph a wedding much the same as yours a few years ago in Tuscany (Certaldo Alto)...no guests, just the couple, etc., but in the end what they did want was beautiful images of them with the scenery in the backdrop, outdoor portraits, ceremony, etc. as well as a presentation that they could share with family and friends upon their return. Hope this helps a bit... I am happy to answer any other questions.

Posted by
12 posts

Terry, this was very thorough and amazing reply - thank you! I appreciate the insight of a pro photographer and did not even think about checking to see if any traveling pros would be around Northern Italy at that time.

You are correct, by 'candid' I mostly was referring to photos that just don't look so posed and typical. Not necessarily model shots that take all kinds of staging and effort, just beautiful photos that look rather effortless. There is a photographer on Instagram that goes under "whitefashionphotographer", I believe at least some of those photos are supposed to be wedding candids and they look incredible.

thx again!
SP

Posted by
31073 posts

rooster,

I suspect that the wedding photographer than you linked is going to be priced at the very "posh" end of the scale, and possibly more than you want to spend. However, it certainly doesn't hurt to ask.

I'd suggest that you contact THIS firm as they specialize in more "informal" functions and custom itineraries, and as they live there they will be VERY familiar with things like local photographers and hair stylists.

Auguri e Buon Viaggio!

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks Ken - I have sent them an inquiry message!

Also, to post the date(s) as Terry mentioned above - our Italy trip takes place from August 31st to September 13th. We will be in the Cinque Terre area most likely around September 7th, 8th and 9th as currently planned. So the actual wedding day is a little flexible right now and we will try to pin it down exactly once we line up a venue and other services.

Posted by
3696 posts

I took a look at the site that had the wedding images and yes I do agree they are quite lovely. Just a few other tips.... I would definitely send them a note and see what the cost would be for them to photograph your wedding. They might well enjoy the fact that it is just the two of you in a beautiful location... no crazy guests! You do get what you pay for, and possibly your ceremony would be during the week and not take away a possible weekend wedding. I expect they are in the higher price range... only you can decide if it's worth it. With the advanced digital cameras there are now hordes of people who think they are professional photographers simply because they can get an image correctly exposed and in focus... so be sure the final work is the quality you are looking for. Look at a complete wedding, not just an image or two that might have been a happy accident from each wedding. There are many wonderful photographers who can produce consistent beautiful work... you just have to find them among all the mediocre and usually relatively cheap photographers. It's one of those things you can't do over again. Good luck...
It would be helpful if you have a budget in mind.

You might want to look at leather albums if you go to Florence. I did a wedding in Lake Tahoe for a friend last fall and when I went to Florence in Oct. I purchased an album for her images. Lots of nice quality beautiful Italian Leather to choose from. They loved that I had personally brought it back for them.

Posted by
12 posts

Ciao all, I wanted to post an update on what I have found out and gotten done so far. Perhaps this will help anyone else going forward if they are planning something similar and end up finding this thread!

First, I got ahold of about five or six different wedding planners that I emailed and went back and forth with. Some of them were able to give me estimates on what prices I should expect from vendors for things such as: musicians, flowers, hairdresser, officiant, photographers and venues.

Even though I emailed all of them basically the same wording that detailed how it was a symbolic ceremony only and it was an elopement, a few of the planners still replied with canned responses or, in a couple cases, lengthy emails about how a symbolic ceremony was not very meaningful and we should hold a full civil ceremony and that they were just the ones to set it up. These immediately went in the discard pile - if you don't want to pay attention to what I told you, or try to upsell something I already said wasn't for me, then out you go!

We found a couple of very good planners and ultimately decided to go with Tuscania Events so we are working with them now, they seem to really care about what we want and already held a Skype call with us and such.

Through them, we decided to book Doria Castle in Portovenere. Not quite in Cinque Terre but after exploring some options, this castle looks amazing and is right on the water, just the type of thing we were looking for!

Viviana, our planner, is helping to arrange the music, hair, etc. so that really takes more things off my plate, which is awesome. Their planner fee included an officiant for our symbolic ceremony.

Next, thanks to Terry's suggestions above, I started using Google to find out more about photographers that specialize in weddings. I found the website ISPWP.com, which is an International group that attracts the best wedding photographers as members. It lets you search by country and so within minutes I was surfing through a great collection of wedding photographers in Italy, many of whom listed "photojournalism" and "candid" type photography as their specialties! This was absolutely perfect for us. That White photographer that I mentioned above was listed, as well.

Certainly, some were not going to be cheap. I ended up emailed directly about 7 of our top pics, after we had looked at their website galleries and social media. They all responded within reasonable timeframes and we narrowed it down to just a couple that were within budget and would work for our date, location and needs.

We booked Francesco from Framelines and are super excited about it!

So far, so good. Now on to booking hotels/b&bs, etc for the rest of the trip. Not sure if I should put up our itinerary here and let some of you experienced folk comment on it, or make a new thread just about the itinerary?

cheers,
SP

Posted by
11 posts

Sounds like things are moving along. Congrats on your upcoming wedding in the US and in Italy!

Before I read your final post, I too was going to recommend Distinctive Italy Weddings. We are currently working with them for a wedding in Bellagio this fall. So far, so good with all the arrangements. I guess we'll know in the fall how well it actually worked!

Posted by
11733 posts

Now on to booking hotels/b&bs, etc for the rest of the trip. Not sure if I should put up our itinerary here and let some of you experienced folk comment on it, or make a new thread just about the itinerary?

Yes, itinerary, time of year, per-night budget and preferred amenities will be helpful for suggestions.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks, r.hudgens! Yes, DIW was one of the planners that we were considering, they seemed very competent. Their quotes came in a bit higher than I was looking for and also once we picked out the castle in Portovenere as our location, TuscaniaEvents had much more familiarity with the location than DIW. Best of luck on your son's wedding in Bellagio!

Kathy, our itinerary is as follows:

September 1, 2014 - arrive Rome (FCO) 7am from overnight flight from USA. Stay in hotel in Rome, see sights in Rome.
September 2 - more Rome stuff until about 4:30pm, take train to Venice. Stay in B&B or apt for 2 nights.
September 3 - Venice stuff
September 4 - little more Venice stuff, take train to Florence. Arrive Florence in afternoon, check into hotel.
September 5 - check out of Florence hotel, get rental car, explore Tuscany region. Stay in B&B in Tuscan countryside?
September 6 - more Tuscany region, vineyards, etc. Stay at different place?
September 7 - more Tuscany region, then drive to Cinque Terre. Stay in hotel/B&B.
September 8 - more Cinque Terre
September 9 - check out of Cinque Terre, drive to Portovenere for wedding day! Stay in Portovenere - hotel?
September 10 - leave Portovenere and drive to Milan. Stay in B&B or apt for 3 nights until departure on Saturday morning.
September 11 - Attend Milano Unica textile expo.
September 12 - Potentially visit textile factories around Milan area.
Septeber 13 - checkout and depart LIN at 11:30am, stop over in Paris for plane change then direct back home.

Any comments or advice on the itinerary are welcome!
thx
SP

Posted by
12 posts

Oh, forgot to add that average per-night accomodation budget is around $200. Would prefer that some are under that some that other ones in more expensive areas can be over the 200 mark. ;) In terms of amenities, when searching AirBNB, HomeAway or VRBO, pretty much our biggest starting point is private bathroom. From there, we sort by pricing, location, creature comforts, etc. We do like modern-style lofts and flats.

Posted by
1994 posts

First of all, congratulations on your wedding!

Looking at your itinerary, you're changing lodging really frequently. Seven or 8 changes of lodging in 12 days on the ground will eat up a huge amount of your touring time, and it also gets exhausting. Assuming you don't want to give up any of the places you're visiting… If you're not particularly interested in Florence, I would pick one place to stay in Tuscany and visit Florence and other places as day trips. If Florence is important, stay there each night and do the day trips in Tuscany from Florence. Similarly, I would suggest picking one lodging for the CT and your wedding day and touring from that place.

And if there's any place that's not absolutely essential, I would suggest deferring one or two stops for a later trip. However, if you want to do it all, you certainly can in 12 days. It's just going to be really fast paced. Unless you are fluent in Italian and very experienced in traveling in Italy, assume it's going to take you a lot longer to cover the miles that it would at home.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks Sherry! Your advice is greatly appreciated and now that you point it out, there are at least a couple spots where we can combine accommodations in order to reduce the number of check ins/outs and wasted time.

I'm not sure there is really anything that can easily be removed from this list but your point about maybe staying 3 nights in Florence and just venturing out from there to the Tuscany region is a very good one. We should do the same for the Cinque Terre and Portovenere area.

I think we are okay with just the single first night in the hotel in Rome, since the number of things on our list to see/do in Rome is pretty small. The stuff on the end of the trip near Milan is business related and is therefore necessary.

Seems like I will need to find a place to stay in Florence that will allow us to park our rental car for those 3 days.

Posted by
86 posts

The advice on changing cities less frequently is sound. The train system in Italy seems more in line with the personality of the country where time is best imagined in 30 minutes (or more) increments. This is not Switzerland or Germany where the trains run like clockwork. Missed connections, strikes and cancellations can really upset your itinerary when you are trying to squeeze in that many routes.

We loved both the Cinqueterre and Siena and enjoyed our time there immensely. They are great places for quiet walks and lots of gelato stops. Make sure you plan in plenty of time for just enjoying your new spouse and soaking it in. There will likely be plenty of other trips to Italy (after all, you got married there, surely you will want to return!), but there will only be one trip as newlyweds. You want honeymoon pace, not the Amazing Race!

Posted by
12 posts

So for three nights, we will stay at the same place in the Cinque Terre / Portovenere area. This will include our wedding day/night. Does anyone have any recommendations for amazing and romantic hotels that we can look at in that area? We will have our car at that time so a little travel around that region is fine. For instance, staying in or near Cinque Terre but then driving to Portovenere for our wedding day seems like it should not be an issue.

Thanks!
SP

Posted by
12 posts

I think we have pinned down the Portovenere area now. I've been looking on Airbnb for Florence for 3 nites and wow there are lots listed but I'm starting to see that many are unavailable for my dates, which leads me to believe I need to step this planning up a bit!

After some advice above about not changing accommodations too often, I figured we would stay in Florence for 3 nites instead of just one, and use about a day and a half to venture out in our car to the Tuscany region. But, I have seen a couple threads on here about driving in Florence and am a little alarmed. It seems like driving can be very tricky and there are restricted areas that we have to worry about?

Should we not be staying somewhere within about a 20 minute walk circumference of the historical downtown of Florence (Duomo, etc) if we have a car? Will this be an issue to avoid?
thanks
SP

Posted by
1121 posts

I was in Florence earlier in July....we stayed about half a mile from the duomo and walked everywhere......we did not have a car so I cant speak to parking, etc, but my experience is that many streets were only about one and a half cars wide but the locals zip past each other at terrifying speed.......in fact "Bat out of Hell" seems to be the normal driving pace. I'd say park the car some where and do NOT attempt to drive in the heart of Florence.

Posted by
31073 posts

SP,

It is not a good idea to drive in Florence, as the city is just about locked down with Zona Traffico Limitato (limited traffic) areas, which are enforced by automatic cameras. You may end up driving through several of these and won't know that you've been ticketed until several months after you return home, when you'll likely see a new "administrative charge" on your credit card from the rental agency (that's their fee for providing your information to the law enforcement agencies). Notification for the actual tickets will arrive after that.

You may find it interesting to read http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/traffic_cameras_speeding.htm

Hopefully Roberto will spot this Thread as he knows the best routes for avoiding the cameras, and can also provide information on parking options.

Which Cinque Terre town are you planning to stay in? Having a car in the C.T. is not really useful, although it will probably make driving to Porto Venere easier.

Posted by
12 posts

Doric, thanks for the warning! We actually do intend on walking everywhere around Florence and only intended to use the car to head out of the city and into the surrounding Tuscany area each day.

Ken, thanks for the link, I checked it out and there is a lot of great car travel material in there! I will be reading it thoroughly.

This issue is sort of a catch-22: we don't want a car for when we are walking around Florence, but only when we go exploring in the countryside. Our initial thought was to stay only one night in Florence, then get the rental car the next day and head out of town and stay the next two nights in the Tuscany region somewhere. However, in an attempt to consolidate some nightly accommodations based on the advice we received on our itinerary (posted above), we thought to stay all three nights at the same place in Florence. If we do that, we have 2 nights to park the car somewhere and twice we have to drive out of the city and back in while avoiding the many pitfalls.

So at this point I have no idea how to handle that.

Then, we intended to keep the rental car and drive over to Portovenere. We are staying 3 nights at the Grand Hotel Portovenere and will use that as our home base for exploring the Cinque Terre area. Our wedding planner also let us know that a car wasn't really necessary and that there are ferries and such to get from Portovenere to CT, but we will have the car anyways. We will need the car after the wedding when we travel to Milan and will need it around the Milan area to conducte a little business visiting textile manufacturer(s).

One week rental of the car seemed like a very reasonable rate, at first glance.

Otherwise, given the itinerary, I don't know how else to plan this but any ideas you have are welcome!

thanks
SP

Posted by
7743 posts

Instead of staying in Florence, why not stay in a nice agritursmo outside of Florence. You could do a day trip to Florence and have the car for hilltowns. It would be more 'car friendly' to do this.

Posted by
3696 posts

Definitely agree with Andrea about staying out of Florence with you car and do a day trip by bus into Florence. Any number of wonderful hill towns will make life easier with the car. You also do not really need a car in CT. , but if you hotel has easy parking then it might not be an issue. I almost always drive, but do not really like maneuvering around the parts of CT that you can drive to. Not sure how else to change up your itinerary as it will probably be cheaper to get the car on a weekly rate, but you really might only need it for Tuscany....

Posted by
3696 posts

Definitely agree with Andrea about staying out of Florence with your car and do a day trip by bus into Florence. Any number of wonderful hill towns will make life easier with the car. You also do not really need a car in CT. , but if your hotel has easy parking then it might not be an issue. I almost always drive, but do not really like maneuvering around the parts of CT that you can drive to. Not sure how else to change up your itinerary as it will probably be cheaper to get the car on a weekly rate, but you really might only need it for Tuscany....

Posted by
12 posts

Do either of you have a recommendation for a great place to stay outside of Florence?

FYI, we are staying at the newly redone Grand Hotel Portovenere and it says they have free self-parking. So even if we don't necessarily take the car to CT, there is a place for it and it's not costing any extra.

thx
SP