Spring has sprung and we’re delighted to share our first real Jewish wedding of April – and what a way to kick off the month! Today’s cultured couple, Tara and Ben, decided to get married in one of the great art history capitals of the world, Florence, Italy.
Not only that, but their ceremony was held at the stunning and world-renowned Great Synagogue in the heart of the city and their reception at the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel. For Tara, who has a degree in History of Art, this was the definition of a dream destination wedding.
The couple’s music-filled Jewish ceremony included sensational Smashing Supplier, chazan Simon Cohen, who the couple flew in especially so that they could enjoy his beautiful voice.
Bride Tara looked every bit the classically beautiful bride in not one but TWO incredible dresses. First in her elegant Monique Lhullier gown, which she wore for the ceremony and then in her Jenny Packham party dress.
The laid-back, loving atmosphere of the day, including the epic fireworks display the couple arranged to surprise their guests, was captured by the brilliant David Bastianoni, whose wonderful work has been featured many times before on the pages of STG.
We’ll pass you on to beautiful bride Tara for the lowdown on her and Ben’s beautiful day!
An art history lover’s dream venue
Tara, the bride: It’s hard to describe the magic of walking down a little side street, turning a corner, to be suddenly faced with the Duomo faà§ade and one the grandest synagogues in the world. So much beauty in one city and, for us, it was the perfect place to get married.
The Four Seasons had it all — The hotel is made up of a 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and an ex 16th-century convent called Il Conventino, set within acres of beautiful gardens in the heart of the city.
I have a degree in History of Art and we are both lovers of classical music. Having visited Florence a number of times, it was always on our wish list. So where else to marry but at a music-filled ceremony at the Great Synagogue in the heart of the City of Florence?
Afterwards, just five minutes away, we were strolling among our 170 guests in 12 acres of stunning gardens at the Four Seasons Hotel, the former Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca dating from the time of Lorenzo il Magnifico.
The green avenues, lined with Renaissance sculptures with fabulous views of the Duomo and the Chianti hills, were the perfect backdrop for what we wanted – an elegant outdoor reception followed by a casual dinner under the stars and fun night of partying.
A relaxed, fun atmosphere
We wanted a traditional wedding done in a more casual and carefree way. Elegant but fun was the message of the weekend. All our guests were in holiday mode, so were relaxed. We didn’t use a wedding planner, but the staff at the Four Seasons were fantastic with helping us plan the day.
Music was a constant theme throughout the wedding, and we felt strongly about creating an informal and casual atmosphere during the dinner in the gardens. To do this, we created a Spotify playlist of our favourite songs to be played during the dinner.
A fleur-de-lis emblem
We used the fleur-de-lis emblem of Florence consistently throughout the stationery. I wanted to write my own name cards and envelopes so that it was a personal touch. We used green and gold on the stationery, which carried through to the flowers under the Chuppah and table settings in the gardens of the Four Seasons.
Elegant and simple hair and makeup
I started with hair up in a low bun, as my dress had an open back I wanted that to been seen and to keep the look with my veil simple. After the ceremony, I took my hair down and clipped it together with a £2.50 diamante clip from Primark!
Two divine designer dresses
My wedding dress was Monique Lhullier purchased at Wilton Brides in Geneva and my party dress was from Jenny Packham. I didn’t have any idea about style when I went wedding dress shopping, but I never felt right in the more traditional bright white and lace styles. I knew the wedding dress was ‘the one’ when I tried it on as I just felt comfortable and that I looked like me.
I was extremely lucky to have been lent a beautiful diamond and pearl Edwardian hair slide from a family friend to wear in my hair as my ‘something borrowed’. It was subtle, but added some sparkle underneath my veil.
Stunning Emmy London shoes
I wore Emmy London shoes with my wedding dress, which were not high or what I would typically chose but were so comfortable I didn’t once think about my feet. For the dancing, as my dress was short, I wore a very high pair of Stuart Weitzemann heels.
The handsome groom
Ben wore bespoke tailored Cad and the Dandy black tie suit in midnight blue. His tallis was a wedding gift from my parents.
Bridesmaids in Needle & Thread
My sister and cousin were my maid of honours and wore Needle & Thread dresses. I wanted my oldest friends to feel special and part of the day, so I had five of them as bridesmaids and they wore coordinating dresses. I also had two little bridesmaids and a pageboy who were all very excited about the job!
A fabulously floral Chuppah
Vincenzo Dascanio was the fabulous florist that did the flowers for the whole wedding. They were so professional. I told them I wanted something beautiful, classical but also in some way casual rather than formal. The result was better than we could have expected.
A music-filled ceremony
We wanted a symbolic ceremony. I am a classically trained musician, so wanted operatic singing, which is why we chose to bring Simon Cohen with us. The classical opera mixed with traditional Hebrew within the grand, yet moorish, setting of the Great Synagogue made the ceremony truly unique and special for us.
As Ben and I stood at the arc to be blessed before smashing the glass, Simon Cohen sang Caruso Boi Veshalom. It was the most magical moment, looking out onto our friends and family, and on the final note Ben smashed the glass. We had also a string quartet for the synagogue.
Our fabulous photographer
David Bastianoni was our photographer and we couldn’t have chosen better. He was an absolute delight to work with, very professional and brought so much energy. It was important for us to really enjoy the day, so we didn’t have a long photography sessions with family. Instead, we told them to enjoy the reception and we would come and find them, photographer in hand, to have a few snaps that were more informal.
An Italian feast
We had Le Bon Ton, an Italian kosher caterer from Rome, combined with chefs from the Four Seasons. We had an Italian menu with lots of fresh fish, pasta and a room full of desserts!
Our cake was a multi-tiered mille feuille cake decorated with fresh berries and mint.
A magnificent fireworks display
We had balloons that we cut loose during the reception, which was lovely as it was a surprise from the hotel to us.
We wanted our guests to be constantly surprised and amazed throughout the evening. After the dinner and speeches, we led our guests through the candlelit gardens in the Four Seasons. The guests were led into another part of the gardens where they were greeted by rows of waiters serving champagne, surrounding a multi-tiered mille feuille cake decorated with fresh berries and mint.
When all of the guests were in position, the sky was then lit up with a magnificent fireworks display as we cut our lavish wedding cake, and the string quartet and Simon Cohen started to perform Nessun Dorma, — lasting 10 minutes and ending with our initials B&T flashing across the night sky.
The guests were then led by a clarinetist playing Klezmer music through another secret garden maze into the former Renaissance conventino, transformed for the night into a nightclub to dance until dawn with music from Paloma Faith’s band, The Faithettes (they learnt the Jewish music especially for us).
We also created a DJ set to be played after The Faithettes had finished to allow our guests to continue partying well into the early hours.
Seasonal party favours
We gave all the women flipflops for dancing and heel stoppers for the grass reception.
With the truly Italian/Florentine setting, we wanted to keep this theme going throughout the day and so had rose-scented ice towels (it was a beautiful hot summer day) awaiting our guests and Bellini on offer at the reception, as well as an array of wedding cocktails at the bar, including Negroni/Aperol and Campari – which went down a treat with all the men!
Tara & Ben’s little white book
Photographer – David Bastianoni
Videographer – Elena Foresto
Venue – Four Seasons Florence
Bride’s dress – Monique Lhullier purchased at Wilton Brides
Bride’s party dress – Jenny Packham
Bride’s shoes – Emmy London and Stuart Weitzemann
Groom’s attire – Cad and the Dandy
Bridesmaids’ dresses – Needle & Thread
Diamante clip – Primark
Flowers – Vincenzo Dascanio
Catering – Le Bon Ton and Four Seasons Florence
Band – The Faithettes
Chazan – Simon Cohen