Our Tuscan Wedding
TJ and I had only met in passing through our acting studio, until the unlikely evening that changed the trajectory of my life forever. He was hosting a fundraiser that I was booked to sing and practice stand up comedy for the first time at. I was okay at best but his stand up was brilliant. Smart and funny, with an abundance of truth. As the evening went on he transformed from TJ Riley to a character named “The Barracuda.”
When he got on stage I laughed until my stomach hurt, Then turned to my dad with great certainty and said, “that’s the man I’m going to marry.”
A few weeks later I cooked him a homemade chicken parmigiana that said I love you, and I’ll take care of you forever. It worked.
For the next eight years we
Because Luna traveled to BC at two weeks old and had been on multiple planes, trains, and automobiles before her five month birthday, she was already a seasoned traveler. Our trip was long, exhausting, and exciting. When we arrived in Florence we filled a tiny stick shift Fiat with baby and wedding gear, and TJ unhesitantly drove us around as if he’d traveled through Italy a thousand times before. We started our trip near Barberino di Mugello, deep in the green Tuscan hills where the three of us nestled up in a rustic barn house. We were welcomed by friendly dogs, chickens, kittens, and a horse named Gina, who casually spent there days basking in European sunshine and strolling through rows of hanging laundry. The property was owned by a handsome 60 something-year-old named Angelo. He made ravioli and bread that made me feel more at home than I do at home. We wrote our vows by the fire and walked under the olive trees together. It. Was. Magic.
After leaving Angelo’s home we spent three nights in Florence with Tj’s family before traveling through the Tuscan countryside. I had discovered the Villa di Ulignano online and we impulsively rented the property for five days and four nights. We drove up what seemed like a never-ending winding road, anxious and curious of what we would find. When we arrived at the bougainvillea covered steps of the most glorious villa I’d ever seen, we were speechless. It was beyond my wildest dreams beautiful. We soon learned of a rich history of artists and writers who had worked within the very walls of the magical place we chose to declare our love for each other. It felt truly serendipitous.
I never imagined having the privilege of getting married in a castle in my families’ native country surrounded by my favorite people – but there we were.
Our family and friends know that when you’re invited to an event planned by me, there’s a good chance you’ll be put to work. My mom was head of the flower department with the help of TJ’s cousin Randi from Norway who also is a florist. Tattiawna had learned to macrame and made the most beautiful wraps for each bouquet. TJ and I took an exciting (for me only) trip to IKEA in Florence where we bought string lights, vases, and candles. We miraculously spent under $2000 (which was almost half the quote I received JUST for lighting!) on all our decor by being innovative and making everything ourselves. Everyone let me boss them around as we drank, ate, and created together.
The owner of the Villa, Paola, was blue-eyed European beauty straight out of a film. She called me her “most crazy bride,” as I spent the morning of the wedding setting tables and stealing lamps from the bedrooms to light our garden dinner. She laughed as my father in law built our ceremony arch out of firewood, as the women snipped flowers and
We brought little empty bottles I found on Amazon and filled them with local oil infused with rosemary. Nat painted the cutest thank you tags with calligraphy by the talented Jess Milne Designs.
After a day full of building, crafting, playing with flowers, and many glasses of wine, everyone was ready for a rehearsal and dinner. What was supposed to be a casual pizza party was
accidentally turned into a beautiful ballroom dinner extravaganza by my bridesmaids, led by my longtime
The hotel down the road made some of the greatest pasta and pizza I’ve ever experienced, and my parents’ and grandma ordered enough to fill everyone’s bellies. As the groomsmen served drinks, my bridesmaids’ and I filled the tables with homemade dough covered in perfect sauce and toppings, and woodfire baked to perfection.
We passed and devoured giant bowls of fresh penne and spaghettini in an assortment of pestos and sauces so clearly made with love we could feel it filling our souls with goodness.
TJ’s sister Shannon flawlessly took on all the day of planner duties, allowing me to finally relax and enjoy the day.
The ladies got ready in my parents’ room, because hello wallpaper. Luckily Natalie has all the best makeup, and between the
I couldn’t wear the original dress I bought because I was a few months postpartum and my body was nowhere near it fitting. Luckily I found Zey who made this gorgeous gown in only four weeks! She also sourced my vintage headpiece and customized it for me. The first time I tried on the completed version of it was the day of my wedding.
On the way to our first
The First Look
Our wonderful photographer Alice suggested taking some traditional italian wedding portraits. Um, yes please.
Under the homemade arch in what felt like an oil painting of layered gray mountains, we promised ourselves to each other. Because I so happen to have the most gracious and talented friends in the universe, Kate sang along with our violinist, as Tattiawna warmly welcomed guests and conducted the perfect ceremony. We wrote our vows in a small leather-bound book given to TJ from his other sister Brandi. Our words were personal and true, and I am sure I’d have hesitated to find a dry eye on site.
TJ walked our moms down the aisle, and my niece Bella pushed a sleeping Luna in her stroller. Natalie said she had never – in all my years of performing for large audiences – seen me so nervous. She wasn’t wrong.
We decided on a traditional hand tying ceremony using a thick rope, to signify the strength of our connection and endless devotion to one another.
After many hugs, tears, and snacking on an incredible charcuterie board made by my brother in Lucas, his dad Bill, and our friend Jason, we walked up the gravel road to the next chapter.
Before we sat down to eat, Nat was so excited by the surrounding beauty that she grabbed her camera and took some
Dinner and Dancing
We ate by candlelight while listening to the most beautiful words from our family and friends. Instead of a
conventional insanely expensive meal, we booked an incredible food truck. They served a variety of deliciously fresh and homemade plates, along with a buffet filled with perfection. We laughed and ate as the sun went down, then climbed the stairs to the ballroom.
my dad spent the entire duration of our stay quietly pushing Luna around and caring for her, allowing me to not worry about her for the first time since she was born. Thank you Dad.
I sang Etta James’ classic “At Last,” and danced with my incredible father. We celebrated
in a little room beside the ballroom, we filled a bookshelf with Cannoli, chocolate, and everything delicious. TJ’s Norwegian family brought a traditional krensekake which has become one of my favorite sweet treats. Michele and Daniel went on a mission for some chocolate and my mouth is watering just thinking of how delicious it was. My mom and grandma found a little cannoli shop in Volterra, and together all of these treats made the perfect little sugary dance break station.
I am eternally grateful for everyone who traveled all the way to Italy to celebrate with us, especially all four of our parents/grandma who always go above and beyond in support of us. To everyone who wasn’t able to come – thank you for your love and support from afar.
To our brilliant photographers, Alice, and my sister Natalie.
TO RANDALL ROSS. Our incredible friend who captured our day and edited it into a video that brings me to tears every damn time.
And since this officially reads like an Oscar acceptance speech, I’d like to thank
the academy YOU for reading this far. You. Are. Awesome. But most of all TJ Riley thank you for going above and beyond your vows every single day and for allowing me the honor of being your wife.
With love and gratitude,
Venue: Villa Di Ulignano
Custom gown + headpiece: Zey Bridal
TJ’s Suit: Zara
Catering: Dansi Rinascimento Culinario