Wedding Bells in Italy
Wedding coordinators provide one-stop shopping, which is certainly convenient. The bride and groom make their preferences known and then leave it to the professional, who has the experience and relationships with proven vendors to make the arrangements.
The types of services requested are as individual as the couples themselves. Some want only a simple civil ceremony while others may choose a wedding at St Peter's basilica or a spectacular view in Tuscany. While basic documentation is required for all weddings, the paperwork can vary, depending on where the couple is from and where they wish to marry. For instance, the procedural requirements for the municipal hall in Rome are different from those for the municipal hall in Florence. Some of this information is readily available on embassy websites if you are game enough to tackle it yourself, but it can get confusing if you aren't familiar with the terms and how to proceed at the local level.
Italian Gabriella Lojacono started www.wedding-in-rome.com in 1997. She plans weddings not only in Rome, but in Venice, Florence, Capri, and on the Neapolitan coast as well, and handles all the paperwork herself because "it has to be accurate".
American Sandra Maffey, owner of Vista Weddings and Events (www.vistaweddings.com) planned an upcoming wedding for 150 people at a private castle just outside Rome. The festivities include a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel, walking tours, a wine tasting for the bride and her girl friends and a post-wedding brunch on a private terrace overlooking the Pantheon. Other treats are custom-designed wedding favors, packaged hotel room gifts and fruit baskets for out-of-town guests, a personalized wedding program and a newsletter outlining the events for the wedding weekend with customized maps and restaurant suggestions. A wedding of this caliber could cost as much as €150.000.
Some requests made of the wedding coordinator require not only resourcefulness but also creativity. For one wedding, which took place in Cortona, Tuscany, Maffey was asked by a friend of the groom to arrange some type of special entertainment for the couple as a wedding gift. To suit the mediaeval surroundings, Maffey decided to organize a performance of sbandieratori (mediaeval flag performers) in the town's main square. To the great surprise of the couple and their guests, 25 performers were waiting for them when they came out of the municipal hall, playing trumpets and drums and performing with their oversized flags.
What does service like this cost? Couples who approach Vista Weddings and Events complete a questionnaire and have an initial telephone conversation with Maffey (this may last as long as an hour) before an estimate is provided, which includes the wedding coordinator's flat fee. Based on what services the couple has requested, the coordination fee runs from €2,000 to €5,000, tax excluded. Lojacono will quote two fees, one for preparing the paperwork and the other for all other services. She declined to disclose her fees.
All of the clients of Vista Weddings and Events and www.wedding-in-rome.com are foreigners, with the majority from the U.S., but several come from England, Ireland, Australia and Canada. Italians have not yet begun to use wedding coordinators as they still rely heavily on family members to help with plans.