Sarah and Ramez were accustomed to the large weddings of their culture—they even met at one! When it came to their own nuptials, however, they preferred an intimate affair where their guests felt like they were on vacation. And what better vacation than the breathtaking scenes and stunning views of Florence?! Planned by Exclusive Italy Weddings, vows were said in a traditional Coptic Orthodox ceremony at Chiesa di San Salvatore in Ognissanti followed by an incredibly romantic celebration at Villa di Maiano. Garden party vibes were accentuated by florals EVERYWHERE by Tuscany Flowers and guests enjoyed the outdoor dinner seated to view the sunset over the city. The couple enlisted the genius of Katie Mitchell Photography to capture all the details of Sarah and Ramez’s stunning destination affair and we’re thrilled to be sharing the photos with you today.Click to expand for more
How did you meet, how did you become engaged and for how long had you been engaged before your wedding day?:
Ironically enough, we met at a wedding! It was about 5 years before we got married, and we were actually both unsure if we were going to be able to make it (it was in Canada!). At the time, we both were focusing on catching up with old friends and family and weren’t in the “single and ready to mingle” mind set but another guest: “Mike from Toronto” introduced us and we will forever be indebted to him. We talked a while and Ramez tried to drag me out to the dance floor a few times but we missed each other at the end of the night and didn’t say goodbye. I came home to a Facebook message from him and while it was a little cheesy, much to my surprise I had no inhibitions talking to him. We would have long chats about our closest family and friends, our life aspirations, and eventually what we expected from the friendship. At the time, he lived in California and I in Virginia so long distance was difficult at times but we knew it was worth trying. One of my favorite things about him is he was bold enough to express his feelings for me yet allowed a natural progression of our relationship. A few months went by and he came to visit me in Virginia. My family fell in love with him just as much as I did and I knew it was right.
Ramez proposed about 1 year before the wedding, he had an elaborate plan for us to go skydiving and on the way down he had his friends hold up life- sized signs asking if I would marry him!! We were all set to go but before we got on the plane to jump, the winds changed and it was considered too dangerous. He was able to come up with an alternative, and took me to a winery where his friends emerged from the background with the signs! It was one of our favorite days but we’re still due for our skydiving date!
What was most important to you when planning your wedding?
In our culture, we tend to have extremely large weddings (think +300), but we wanted our wedding to be more intimate and make our guests feel like they were on vacation with us which is why we decided on having a destination wedding, so location was very important to us. We came up with Italy because it was the perfect location that gave us the romantic vibe we were looking for but also had ancient roots and and a rich culture.
We wanted our wedding venue to have amazing views and what’s a better backdrop than the city of Florence?! Villa di Maiano is perfectly positioned on a hillside that overlooks Florence so for dinner, we had everyone seated so they could view the sunset over the city.
Your outfits and accessories – what made you choose them and what did you love about them?
I always had a vision about my dress, I wanted something dramatic but romantic and tasteful. I imagined a lace dress with a low- cut back, I must have visited 10 different bridal stores before finding the perfect dress but when I tried it on, I knew it was the one! I love the dress because to me, it’s elegance is timeless yet it still had a “wow factor” to it that made it unique.
RAMEZ: We wanted a break from the norm of grooms in black tuxes so I wore an royal/electric blue, and thought it would make me stand out that much more from my groomsmen who did wear the traditional black tux. We also love how sharp the groomsmen looked wearing their ivory pocket squares which matched the bridesmaid dresses. The list goes on and on for accessories! I wore Pantherella merino wool socks, Calvin Klein loafers, a T.M. Lewin Marcella wing collar tuxedo shirt, a Tissot watch given to me by my father. Perhaps my favorite accessory though were the Italian flag cuff links I purchased for me and my groomsmen. They were elegant, but also very fitting for a wedding in the Tuscan Hills!
What made you choose your flowers/general decorative arrangements?
We wanted lots and lots of flowers at our reception, so the idea of a pergola with hanging flowers over the guests tables captured the garden feeling we were looking for, we hung lanterns from the pergola for warm lighting at night. We wanted to match that with floral table arrangements that were full and lower to the table to balance out the look. From there, with the help of our planner and florist we came up with the gazebo floral arrangement for the sweetheart table and around the chandelier on the dance floor. We were blown away by the results!
I initially wanted a bouquet of peonies but our florist told us they were out of season in July but then I saw this amazing round bouquet of garden roses on Pinterest that my florist was able to replicate. I fell in love with it and wish I could have brought it home to the states with me. The bouquet was simple, pale peach garden roses with no greenery, but since my dress was intricate, I thought it was the perfect balance.
Tell us more about your ceremony including any readings, any special moments and your vows:
We are Coptic Orthodox which is one of the most ancient denominations of Christianity so our wedding ceremonies are very traditional. We are robed and crowned as a symbol of becoming king and queen of our new home together as we take the responsibility of making our home in a sense, a Church, where God will be the center of our marriage. We embrace our traditions and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
Where there any DIY elements?
Though it was difficult to transport items from the US to Italy, we wanted to give our guests a favor that would be memorable to our location so we asked Villa di Maiano for bottles of olive oil that they make and we tied “Grazie” notes to each one for our guests. Since the wedding, many of our guests have told us they use the olive oil when they cook. We love that our favors were a little taste of Italy and something our guests could use when they came home.
My sister, Marina Salama, was pivotal in our wedding planning. We were both first years in residency and dental school so our hours were long and we were exhausted by the time we came home. She was so helpful in keeping us encouraged and worked to make our vision into a reality. A lot of the time, she was the point person that would be speaking to our planner and vendors and did a lot of research with our vision in mind, this wedding truly couldn’t have happened without her help! She understood what we were looking and worked tirelessly to make sure we were happy and we are forever thankful for her. By the way, she did this when she was 7 months pregnant! Talk about superwoman.
What was the vibe of your day? What colors/styles/themes did you use?
We wanted the vibe of the day to be whimsical and romantic which is why we wanted our reception to be outdoors with an emphasis on the flowers to make it an elegant but airy garden party. We kept the color scheme simple, mostly shades of ivory, white, and peach with gold accents seen in the flowers, the tableware, and the decorative pieces on the tables. Our tables were full of vases and delicate candle holders and votives. While it was a formal event, we still wanted everyone to feel relaxed so we decided to have long tables to make it feel more family style.
What was the most memorable part of the day?
This is an almost impossible question to answer, but if we had to pick we would say we loved the moments we had alone after the ceremony. Driving through Florence in an old school Bentley and taking pictures at some of the cities most famous landmarks had to be the highlight for us. It was the first time in the day when the nerves seemed to settle and we were able to just catch our breath, and process the fact that we just got married. Those private moments we spent together, and the undying smiles on both of our faces in the car on the way to the reception were moments we will never forget for the rest of our lives!
If you could impart any words of wisdom to a couple planning their marriage and their wedding day, what would they be and is there anything you would do differently?
We would tell anyone planning their wedding to try not to stress too much. That’s certainly easier said than done because ultimately everyone has different opinions and there are just so many options out there it’s hard to pin it down! Pick the most important 3 elements for the wedding day to your (ex: the food, the entertainment, the decor) and focus on those initially then tackle the rest. Be prepared for a few set backs and always be open to other options. Ultimately, your wedding will always be the most memorable to you, no matter what!
Photography: Katie Mitchell Photography // Wedding Planner: Laura Frappa of Exclusive Italy Weddings // Second Photographer: Fontaine // Floral Design: Tuscany Flowers // Stationery: Minted // Preparation Venue: Florence with a View // Ceremony Venue: Chiesa di San Salvatore in Ognissanti // Reception Venue: Villa di Maiano // Videography: Marco Abba // Dress: Pnina Tornai, Dress 4372 from Kleinfeld Bridal // Veil: Kleinfeld // Jewelry: Swarovski // Bride’s Shoes: Kate Spade // Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Jenny Yoo // Groom’s Shoes: Calvin Klein // Groom’s Watch: Tissot // Groom’s Attire: 3 Day Suit Broker // Hair and Make Up: Laura Navarinni // Décor, Styling & DJ: The Alma Project // Transport: Alterini // Caterer: Galaeto // Cake: Sugar & Spice