Wednesday, July 6, 2011

San Vito's real life 'Commedia Romantica'!

On Monday the 20th June, Jay and Mary became the unlikely starring couple in what was described by the Abruzzo press as the 'real life romantic comedy film'. On a month long tour of Italy, with wedding dress and Tuxedo in tow, Jay and Mary had planned to use the trip to marry in one of Italy’s iconic locations. They landed in Rome with all their paperwork completed and set to task. However, the price of over 1000 Euros to complete the 15 minute ceremony in Rome's town hall put the couple off and the wedding plans went on hold. Florence and Venice were to follow on the trip. That was until they arrived at their next stop in the beautiful little town of San Vito on the Abruzzo coast. Undettered, Jay and Mary approached what looked like the most likely civic building in town and tried to explain their request. Their words, albeit not well understood, fell on kind ears and local English speaker, Ernesto, was summoned.

Ernesto, who could've given an experienced wedding planner a run for their money, set to work and that evening the three of them met the local town officials after church. Jay and Mary had arrived at the beginning of the towns Festa. By 10am the next morning all had been set; the ceremony was planned for three days time at 6.30pm. I had been drafted in as a short notice photographer and was instructed to meet the couple on their doorstep at 6pm on the day of their wedding.

As jobs go, it was a little daunting, I hadn't met, or even spoken to the couple and they nor I had any idea what to expect. All I knew was it was going to be a 'thinking on your feet' job!
So at 6pm I met a very well dressed, if a little bemused, American couple stood on their doorstep. After a brief introduction it became clear that they, and I, were no clearer as to what was happening! The local hairdresser had appeared that afternoon and done Mary's hair and there we were, three of us on a door step waiting.

Now given that this had been organised at three days notice, over a weekend and the local festa, what happened next was all quite amazing, humbling, and heart warming. If Jamie Oliver had pitched up in town with a entourage of helpers I could imagine how this would've been 'created' but for a tiny little town to have put this all together, for no other reason than to show strangers kindness and hospitality, was like nothing I'd seen before.

So the three of us waited, then a car arrived, out came the first gift of a wedding bouquet and a button hole for Jay, now they really looked the part. A couple of minutes later a wedding car arrived to collect the couple and they were whisked into the local piazza. Now I was expecting maybe a dozen or so locals to be around to make it a little bit of an occasion but I think I was almost as surprised as them to see the main street decorated with ribbons, balloons and red carpet, full of people - what must have been virtually the whole town! The couple were split up as Jay was taken to the commune hall with his new 'best man,' and Mary was kept at the end of the street where she was led in a procession along the red carpet arm in arm with her witness Olivieri. The procession was led by two local girls who acted as ring bearers and behind Mary followed the rest of the town as she made her way to reunite with Jay!

As the couple met again in front of the building, the rest of the town streamed in behind. That was one of those moments that I love as a photographer; something amazing was happening and I had the privilege of capturing it. I could see the delight and appreciation on the couples face as, rather than strolling up to the office on their own, they were now being swept along on a wave of generosity and people. It was also the moment that I realised, from a photography point of view, this was not turning into a few shots outside a registry office but into a full on wedding. Now my mind was racing as to where or what would happen next; where do I need to be? Have I got a hand on every lens I might need? And being thankful for always being over prepared!

The couple, and as much of the town that could fit in, squeezed into the office and the amongst the crowd the ceremony was completed.

So a wonderful moment and more than they could've expected for the couple, but San Vito had been busy and weren't finished yet. After the ceremony Mary was presented with a huge bouquet, a gift from the town administration and we all went outside for some photos and air; it was still pushing 35 degrees outside, and in that office, it was very, very hot!

From there Jay and Mary reappeared to rejoin the towns people who would escort them to another little celebration. As they came down the stairs they were showered with rice and were led back up the street. As they stopped, fireworks and fire crackers lit up the street and they were then taken upstairs to a surprise reception. A buffet had been laid on for the couple, and the entire town, complete with wedding cake, bubbly for the toast, confetti and more food than we could all eat. From this point on they were showered with gifts of Abruzzo and congratulations from all. Speeches, a toast and the cutting of the cake all followed; the wedding was complete. I had rattled off a 1000 images in less than two hours and we all had a little down time.

As you can see San Vito is a beautiful little town and to finish off the evening the wedding party took the traditional Italian evening stroll and ended up watching the sun set. We took a few more pictures, how could you not with views of the sea one way and the mountains the other, and the day was done.

It was a very genuine heart warming few hours; a testament to the Abruzzi people and their generosity. Just as the photographer, its a day I'll never forget and as we met up with Jay and Mary a week later it was clear that the Abruzzi people had created a memory of a lifetime for them.

I'm sure the people who put in all that work and effort at such short notice have no idea how much happiness they have spread, especially since the story has grown and grown further afield in the media.

And if you are looking for a wedding planner specialising in Abruzzo why not try Emma at

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