Planning a feminist, bilingual wedding on a budget

Planning a feminist, bilingual wedding on a budget

My talisman of happiness is about what makes me happy and while most times it relates to food, 2018 was a special year for many things, not least our wedding – indeed one of the best and happiest days of my life so far.

The thing I remember the most about the day was how much people laughed. We were both nervous about having all the attention on us, so we decided to deflect it by making people laugh. From the ceremony readings to our vows, through to the speeches, we tried hard to deliver jokes. And judging from the smiles in the pictures, it worked!

The venue

We got married at South Farm, just outside Cambridge. We fell in love with the venue straight away and decided to revisit our budget to make it work. Although spending a little extra proved to be totally worth it – the support we got leading up to the day and all the help making the day run smoothly was invaluable. And the food was simply divine! We loved that they produce almost 80% of their own food and we found they were absolutely brilliant with special dietary requirements.

The dress

I had always dreamt of having a big dress with a long train. Out of curiosity, I asked Danny what he wished I wore and he described the exact opposite: a 1950s tea-length dress with minimal lace. Ah! He was in for a surprise!! I was initially opposed to spending lots of money on a dress I would only be wearing for a few hours, so I bought approximately 6-8 dresses from the high street and had a fashion show at home. I settled on one from ChiChi Clothing and returned the others. But just for fun, I still wanted the dress shop experience. Final last words… The third dress I tried on at The Tailor’s Cat was THE ONE. I checked the price tag and decided to think about it. After five months, finding myself still dreaming about that dress, I went back and bought it in a heartbeat. I’m now contemplating dying it a dark blue and using it as an evening dress for fancy occasions!

Although the dress was very feminine and really not what I thought I would pick (if you know me, you know I really don’t like pink and yet here I was with a dress in blush pink hue), I knew I wanted to give it a bit of an edge. I love the contrast of lace and leather, and I had eyed a number of enamel pins on Etsy. I did my own makeup and spent months watching Youtube videos and trying out different makeup brands. Although I was a bit (read: a lot!) stressed that morning, I managed to not mess my face up too much. It helped I had made a cheat sheet of step-by-step tasks. Going back, I would probably get a makeup artist, even though I had a lot of fun learning. My hair was done by the super sweet Stacie Goodwin, who managed to make me laugh and forget the complete chaos that was happening over in the barn as things were being set up.

The suit

I love that Danny went with his own style and didn’t pick a boring suit. He is a jeans and a jumper kinda guy and on the wedding day, he justed wanted to be a fancier version of himself. He opted for a more relaxed, but definitely more personal look.

Danny picked his jacket approximately a year before the wedding. Unfortunately, the jacket he wanted was no longer in stock and he ended up scouring eBay for months until someone finally put one up for sale in his (almost) size. In his usual style, he thought “Ah, I’ll loose the weight before the wedding! Easy!” Two months before the big day, when he tried the jacket on it was clear his diet until the wedding was going to consist of just raw vegetables 😀 He stuck to it, and did an amazing job!

The ceremony

We had the legal bit the day before, so we wanted this ceremony to be extra special and personal. We had a friend of ours celebrate the wedding. We spent weeks writing the script and looking for readings that reflected our personalities. Although it’s traditional to have two readings, we wanted something that reflected the past, present and future of our relationship. We also wanted something that would represent our three cultures: my Italian-American background, and his English heritage. So we picked a reading from all three countries.

We also wanted to find a way to include all our guests in this moment, without slipping into any hippy rituals (sorry, no offense if that’s your thing – we just didn’t feel comfortable with handfasting or sand ceremonies). We opted for a ring warming ceremony, where all our guests got to hold the rings before we exchanged them and make a happy wish. We worried they wouldn’t go around everyone in time, but people were efficiently amazing and returned the rings right on time.

The reception and dinner

My vows ended with “Now let’s get married, I’m starving!”. I did plan that joke ahead of time, but as I was saying it I realised it was so true. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and as the nerves disappeared, my stomach growled. Luckily, after the reception and some pictures, we were the first to be served at the buffet. We had two veggie options and one meat, with plenty of salads and side vegetables. South Farm were also kind enough to send an extra plate of food in our room that evening when we retired for the day.

A friend, a professional baker from Simply Delish, made our wedding cake. Along with a big dress, I always dreamt of having a tiered cake. I could happily do without the frosting, but it’s Danny’s (and apparently everyone’s) favourite part, so we compromised on a semi-naked version. To stay in tune with the autumn vibe, we opted for chocolate, coffee and walnut, and orange flavours, with corresponding frosting.


During the reception, we had games out on tables for people to pass the time as we got our pictures taken. These turned out to be fun also in the evening after dinner.

Our friends also organised a couple of games – this is a tradition in Italian weddings, where lots of pranks of done to the couple during the evening. One of them was the shoe game – bride and groom exchange shoes, so they each have one of their own and one of the other, the sit back to back and someone then reads a series of questions like “Who’s the best cook?” (me, of course) or “Who takes the most room up in bed?” (Danny of course). The couple has to raise the shoe of whoever they think is the answer. We had no idea this was going to happen and it was really funny!

To get guests involved, we had an Instax camera and loads of film laying around. We also gave kids disposable cameras and a list of pictures to take during the day. Going back, we’d probably add more cameras because it was super nice to go through all the extra pictures. We have also framed all the Instax photos and their messages, making it an open guest book we look at every day.

Before the evening dances, we also had the throwing of the bouquet. I hadn’t planned doing it because I don’t really see the point of women fighting against a bunch of flowers to claim the next wedding, but my friends requested it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when the pictures came back I noticed the giddy reactions of my friends, diving for the flowers. Worth it for the pictures!

The decorations

Having spent more money than we planned on the venue and the dress, we were adamant we could keep the costs down by making our own decorations. The venue was beautiful in itself, but we still wanted to add our personal touches. So we dotted the venue with our favourite things: gin, candles, pictures, bikes and coffee.

We had a strict budget on the flowers and limited it to the centrepieces, my bouquet, the top table arrangement, a buttonhole, and the corsages, which were made using kids slap-on bracelets! Julie did a stunning job and used Silk and Purl ribbons! Adding lots of candles also helped to create atmosphere – IKEA do a great deal of 5 block candles for less than £5.

We made our own wedding favours. Although every single blog online will recommend avoiding them because people inevitably leave them behind, we enjoyed spending time together as a couple as we picked sloes for the sloe gin, and prepared the mixtures, stamped the tags and waxed each bottle. Some did get left behind, but much to the joy of other guests who took their share too! Kids instead got a hot chocolate in a mason jar 🙂

I spent every weekend over the summer making some sort of craft for the wedding. Besides the ceremony booklets, I carved out pages of an old Harry Potter book and stuffed it with moss as our ring cushion; I hand wrote all the placename tags and added a ribbon so it could double as a bookmark; I shaped iron wire to sculpt the cake topper figures, and I painted the gin bottles from our centrepieces and printed them on a tea towel for our seating chart. I was keen to be able to reuse as much as possible from our wedding!

My lovely in-laws hand sewed eleventibillion triangles cut out of coffee sacks to make the bunting. They even surprised us with a personalised banner reading “Marta & Danny’s wedding”. We have now framed that part of the bunting and it’s hanging in our living room.

The photographers

Danny is passionate about photography and wanted to find someone who had a similar style to him (it took a lot of convincing to agree he wouldn’t be the photographer at our own wedding!). We met Alex and Danie a year before the wedding for our engagement photo shoot and we instantly clicked. We are over the moon with the pictures and they were incredibly sweet on the day.

What made it bilingual

When I was looking online for wedding advice, I struggled to find tips on how to make the day more inclusive for people who spoke different languages. While most guests spoke both English and Italian, some only spoke Italian, and some only spoke English (including the groom). Besides sending invited in both languages, and making our website in both English and Italian, we had a few small touches on the day.

The ceremony in itself was delivered both in Italian and in English. Every bit was translated by our celebrant, with the exceptions of readings, but those translations were included in the booklet. The menus on the tables were both in English and in Italian and on every table with Italian speakers, we made sure to have guests that could speak both languages just in case.

We did not translate everything – the speech was not translated – but we figured that people could ask. We wanted to avoid it becoming too long for those who could understand both languages.

What made it feminist

When planning the wedding, we read a lot about traditions, where they came from and why they existed. Most of them see the bride being a passive and silent actor on the day, being passed from one man to another. I found the Feminist Bride to be a good resource for thinking about how to do things differently. Keeping with traditions did not make sense for us. For starter, I had proposed to Danny so it seemed only fit to continue with a feminist wedding.

Danny kept going back and forth about spending the night before the wedding together – he wanted the anticipation and the build up. We settled on not seeing each other from 9am until an hour before the ceremony, when we would have a first look. Going back, we’d probably just both help out in the morning because we ended up being so stressed and lost without each other. During the first look, we both started crying as the tension left our bodies and we finally relaxed. We then walked together towards the ceremony, and walked down the aisle holding hands.

Danny also decided to have a best woman. His best friend is a woman and we didn’t see the point in having a man for the role just to stick with traditions. She also delivered a kickass speech!

Talking of speeches, did you know it’s only men who traditionally give speeches at wedding? I was never going to stand for that. We instead decided to have a joint speech and I asked my maid of honour to also give a speech.

All in all, it was really the best day of our lives so far and we would do it all over in heartbeat. When people say “it’s your day”, it truly is – make it reflect who you are!


Bride’s outfit:

Groom’s outfit:


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