The Ice Breaker

Seventeen blessed years ago, I organized my first destination wedding and it happened to be my own. My husband, Michel, is French and I’m American. An unlikely combination, I know, but somehow, it worked. I had the task of bringing his family and friends over from France, and as the journey was long, we decided to make our wedding celebration longer than the typical American 3 PM to 11 PM one day affair. Instead we rented a large house on the New Jersey shore, packed our family and friends into it, and then proceeded to hold informal get togethers on different days that allowed us all to come together and form a new, larger family.

The experience for me was touching and memorable. It was beautiful to see all of the people I loved, and who loved me, meet and begin to appreciate all of the fantastic people that made up my husband’s family and friends. To witness these two groups unite in their support of our new adventure as husband and wife was truly moving. Beyond this, what I really appreciated, was the ability to take our time, and have everyone get to know each other over a period of several days, in a relaxed and fun setting. When, I thought, would there be in my lifetime, another occasion of this scale, where all the people we both loved, were united and enjoying each other’s company. I felt truly blessed for those beautiful days and I look back on them with great affection.

Fast forward to today. I’m a destination wedding planner in Tuscany in a rather similar situation. Two families, two sets of friends, many of whom will be meeting each other for the first time. Many of these guests will be curious about the other family. Many would love the chance to spark a conversation. It’s my job to provide them with the right circumstances so that getting to know each other is not awkward and fraught with formality, but rather, easy, fun, and filled with good will and mutual appreciation.

Here is where the idea of a communal grape harvest and wine tasting really hit me. I have a small house in the Tuscan country side where I maintain a few grape vines and an olive grove. I’ve always loved getting out into the country with friends, getting my hands dirty, and then finishing with a big meal and lots of wine after a fun day outdoors in nature. Wouldn’t it be a blast, I thought, if this could be somehow recreated for an entire wedding party? So I rang up a few select organic wineries in the area and asked who was harvesting and when. Most have several varieties of grapes, so the harvest occurs over the span of several weeks in late August and throughout most of September. Much of this depends on the weather, phases of the moon, etc….but in the end, I found the right winery, the right time and the right group, and the results are these lovely photos you see here.

We started late in the day, when the sun was lower and less intense, took a tractor into the grape vines, strapped grape baskets to our backs and began picking. The squeals of laughter, big smiles and lovely chatter I heard that day were priceless. People really were breaking the ice in this shared experience.

When our baskets were full, the owner of the vineyard took us on a tour of his cellars and described in great detail the entire vinification process, making sure to point out how every stage was unique and required great care. He was charming and very knowledgeable. No question was too silly or too nerdy for him. His passion for the wine, the land and its history really came through and we found ourselves happy and lucky to be learning so much from this charming Italian gentleman farmer.

After harvesting and sorting the grapes, we kicked back under the shady grape arbor with long views of the vineyard, and enjoyed chilled white wines with farm fresh vegetables dipped in extra virgin olive oil made at the vineyard. Selfie moments abounded as people switched tables, mingling and drinking as the sun went down. Plates of steaming pasta were served with rich, full bodied reds. The owner described to us each bottle and what it paired well with. We finished off our meal with big dollops of pastry cream on aromatic Lucchese raisin and anise bread, all washed down with an amber colored aged dessert wine. It was perfection.

Since that day, I’ve done several wine harvests/ice breakers for families coming together from all over the world. The interesting thing is that no matter where you are from, everyone loves a day in the sun, good food, good wine, and a yummy Italian meal.

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posted by gina, 2017-03-09

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Ice Breaker] [Wine Tasting] [Lucca Day Excursion] [Grape Harvest] []


Hen Party Idea

Many of my brides have trouble organizing their hen parties back home as often their friends and family are spread all around the world. If this is your case, I have a suggestion. Why not organize the hen party just prior to your Tuscan wedding? In this way, you have all of your family and friends in the same place so no need to ask them to travel twice.

Best of all, there is a place so special, so magical, I can promise you that your girlfriends will be talking about it for days to come. Located on a secluded beach on the Tuscan coast about a 40 minute drive from Lucca, Da Nicola's a cocktail bar slash restaurant, feels like Ibiza brought to Tuscany. The entire beach is lit with torches and low citronella filled candle pots. There is a charming section in the center with bamboo mats and soft cushions for picnic style relaxing as well as more secluded areas with white linen covered arbors and cozy couches for private parties. The cocktail and wine list is superb, the music fun, and the fish fry is to die for. If you'd like to have a memorable hen night in Tuscany, write to me about this location for more information.

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posted by gina, 2014-11-13

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Hen Party] []


The Mille Miglia in Lucca

The Mille Miglia was a race, held from 1927 to 1957, from Brescia, near Milano, to Rome and back to Brescia. It is now a parade of over 400 classic cars (pre-1957), some of which participated in the original race.
This year, on May 17th, The Mille Miglia passed through Lucca.
And when I say "trough Lucca", I really mean it. The cars drove all through teh city, including through places where cars are never allowed: on the Walls, Piazza Anfiteatro, Piazza San Michele, via Filungo... everywhere. It was really a imp[ressive sight to see all those beautifully kept vintage cars driving on the old cobblestone streets of this (even older!) city.

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posted by michel, 2014-06-01

[It Happened In Lucca] [Sports] []


Montecarlo

The town of Montecarlo, a wine growing region just 15 minutes drive from Lucca, has just added 4 new venues to it's quickly growing list of places where a legally valid civil ceremony can be performed. To promote the new venues as well as the old ones Montecarlo holds periodic open houses at the venues, dressing them up as if there were a real wedding taking place so that brides and grooms can visit, ask the owners questions, and see how the venues could potentially be decorated. I attended one of these open houses this past April and was pleasantly surprised to see many local wedding service providers participate in the event as well. Local florists, cake shops, caterers, hair stylists, and make-up artists as well as vintage car rental companies were all present and each had their own stand that displayed their work.

If you would like to visit Montecarlo to view one of their many picture post-card venues, please write to me for more information about future open house days.

Happy Venue Hunting!

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posted by gina, 2014-05-11

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


The Lucca marathon

The annual Lucca Marathon will be tomorrow, October 27th, starting at 9:00 am. It starts in the city, goes through the historical center, on the walls, then towards capannori, in the countryside, before coming back towards the city. the finish line is on Piazza Grande (Piazza Napoleone). Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, with just a little bit of rain. This will be much better than last year, which was a miserable day, cold and windy.

More information, in English on the official website.

You can't register anymore this year, so if you're not running this year, start training for next year.

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posted by michel, 2013-10-26

[It Happened In Lucca] [Sports] []


Large Civil Ceremonies

I just finished my first year collaborating with the city of Pisa and I have to say, I'm impressed. The people of Pisa City Hall have been incredibly welcoming in opening up their city to foreigners wishing to hold a civil ceremony. For the past few years, I've always had a hard time finding the right venue for people who have large groups of 60 or more and yet want a civil ceremony with a solid plan B. Then I was lucky enough to meet the Registrar at Pisa City Hall. She introduced me to a fabulous 12th century Romanesque church just inside the city walls. This church was de-consacrated and taken over by the city of Pisa. They now use it to hold art exhibits and occasionally, they also hold civil ceremonies there. The church is all stone, spacious and bright with clean, simple lines. It has 14 pews seating 70-80 people, depending on how close you seat them. Better still, if you have say 100- 120 people, the city will rent you extra chairs at a reasonable fee and bring them in for you on the day, to accommodate your guests. At the moment, they only do weddings the second Saturday and Sunday of every month, but I'm hoping that they start to increase the frequency.

If you are a bride with a large wedding party, searching for the perfect rain-proof ceremony space to hold your wedding, write to me about this special venue.

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posted by gina, 2013-01-18

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


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