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.

posted by gina, 2017-03-09

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


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