UK natives Michelle Brown, 30, and Darren O'Rourke, 31, knew they wanted to get married abroad. And when your home base is in Europe, the nearby options are pretty incredible — and numerous. But the choice was easy for the duo, who met in secondary school and began dating in 1999, when they were both 16 years old. Darren popped the question in a park overlooking the Roman Colosseum, so Italian nuptials were the logical next step.
Darren is to thank for the choice of venue. "The idea of getting married in a castle overlooking an Italian lake was just something else," says Michelle. The couple kept the guest list small— only 40 guests — for the September 11th, 2013, celebration, giving the day a relaxed and informal atmosphere with a fairy tale twist.
Beneath her tulle princess cut gown, embellished with floral lace and a brooch at the waist, Michelle wore shimmering Jimmy Choo pumps. "Sadly, they're no longer with us," she says. "They didn't survive the party!"
The bride's delicate gold-and-pearl earrings belong to her grandmother, and were loaned to her for the occasion. Michelle carried a compact bouquet of white, peach, and pink roses, accented with grass and greenery.
Michelle's father escorted her down the aisle at the outdoor ceremony overlooking Lake Garda.
Guests received fans upon arrival at the ceremony to keep them cool in the warm Italian sun.
The bride's aunt read Pam Ayres' "Yes I'll Marry You My Dear" before the couple walked back up the aisle to Vitamin String Quartet's interpretation of "Wonderful Tonight."
A getaway scooter, dressed up with an arrangement of ferns, mums, and daisies, awaited the couple on one of Malcesine's cobblestone streets.
After the ceremony, the group took a walk through the winding streets. The groom stopped for a quick celebratory gelato on the way to the reception!
"I visited ten boutiques and tried on almost 50 dresses," says Michelle of her Pronovias gown. "I was thrilled to finally find one that fit our wedding so perfectly!"
The reception took place by Malcesine's old harbor, with sweeping views of Lake Garda.
Guests sat at tables, set with peach, white, and pink roses, for the six-course feast, including antipasti, cannelloni, sword fish, steak, and lots of red wine. The couple didn't have a signature cocktail, but were thrilled that their wedding planner introduced them to The Hugo, a combination of prosecco and elderflower liqueur.
Guests left their thumbprints on a tree for Michelle and Darren to frame and hang in their home as a symbol of everyone who joined them to celebrate their marriage.
A local patisserie created a traditional wedding cake for Darren and Michelle to slice. It featured layers of puff pastry, cream, fresh strawberries, and meringue.
One of the bride's nieces, who served as junior bridesmaids, caught the bouquet, to the amusement of the other guests. "The two of them put together a song and dance to perform during the reception," remembers Michelle.
After the evening reception, guests moved to a nearby converted wine cellar, now a pizzeria and bar, where guests dined on pizza and danced the night away. The couple's first dance was to John Legend's "Stay With You." "While we were on the dance floor, Darren surprised me and told me we were honeymooning in Mexico," says Michelle. They spent a week in Italy, then headed to Cancun for ten days of rest and relaxation.
"The adjustment back to everyday life after the wedding was hard," laughs Michelle. "But being married is so lovely!" Her advice to brides is to not worry about cramming too much in to the day or trying to keep up with the Joneses. "And enjoy every moment!"
Venues: Ristorante La Pace, Numero Otto || Wedding Planner: Romantic Weddings on Lake Garda || Bride's Wedding Dress: Pronovias || Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Jewelry: Thomas Sabo || Hair: The Bride's Mother-in-Law || Makeup: The Bride || Wedding Bands: Diamond Geezer || Invitations: Think Random || Catering: Ristorante La Pace, || Guest Book Print: Not On The High Street || Photography: Paola Colleoni Photography