Nestled in the Italian mountains is Abbazia San Pietro in Valle, an eleventh century abbey with panoramic views overlooking the Neva river. It was the magnificent venue that Makada and Ken travelled thousands of miles to get wed.
It was quite an international union. Makada was born in Trinidad before living in the UK and then growing up in Canada. She met Estonian Ken when traveling all around the world on various expeditions. Now Australia is where they temporarily call home before they make their permanent move back to Canada.
On their jaunts around the world, the couple have made friends with people in various different places and it was so lovely to see lots of their friends make the effort to join them for their wedding day.
So how did I end up traveling from Durham to Italy to film a wedding for a Canadian and Estonian? Back in March, Makada saw one of my films online and reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in joining them. I couldn’t turn down this opportunity to visit Italy for the first time and shoot another destination wedding.
I researched the venue which looks absolutely stunning however it is only when you get there you realise the photographs do not do it justice. Makada had just booked her photographer, Stu Tucker, when we started speaking. I always like to speak to the photographers before a wedding as essentially we are a team and need to work together in order for the couple to enjoy their day hassle free. Since we got put in touch Stu and I have probably chatted every day on WhatsApp and a friendship has formed that will extend past the wedding.
Often people think that destinations are all glamorous as you jet around the world to some amazing countries and locations however they are a lot of hard work as you spend more time working than a typical wedding at home. For this particular wedding it was one and a half days traveling to get there and a full day on the return as I travelled to Manchester and then took a flight to Frankfurt before the final one to Rome. It was then a two hour car ride to get to the venue and then the same journey back to the UK.
We arrived at the abbey just when it was getting dark which in Umbria is just before 5pm so we couldn’t really see the venue in the light. On arrival we were welcomed by Makada and Ken and their guests were arriving.
For destination weddings we like to immerse ourselves in the whole story of the wedding and the culture of the location. The location plays a huge role in a destination wedding film as I try to incorporate it in the films as much as possible as after all couples travel from around the world to get married in such grand places.
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The festivities were just starting so after unpacking we went along to the Hen Party which was taking place in the hotel where around 25 of Makada’s friends and family were enjoying games and karaoke. It was a rousing party which kickstarted the wedding.
The guys had decided to go into Terni, an Italian town about 30 miles from the abbey. It was a risk we took as we couldn’t find the party of lads and they weren’t answering their phones. By chance after driving around the town for 30 minutes we found them in a tiny back alley outside an Irish bar. We stayed with them for about half an hour before heading back to the hotel.
On the morning of the wedding Stu and I decided to set our alarms for 5.30am as we wanted to film a time lapse of the light appearing over the mountains for possible inclusion in the edit. After this we shot all the b-roll around the venue as well as capturing people at breakfast and walking around the abbey. It was nice to meet those people who we didn’t see the previous evening.
As the ceremony was not taking place until 4pm in the abbey, we arranged to meet Makeda in her room with her bridesmaids who were starting the bridal preparation. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere throughout with plenty of laughs and jokes. During this time we also skipped away to film the groomsmen too in Ken's room as well as doing some filming outside.
The abbey where the ceremony took place was stunning and was much bigger than we anticipated having seen the photographs online. It truly was something special with lots of paintings on the walls and ceilings which wee 100s of years old.
It was quite an epic shoot as normally we shoot using 3-4 cameras during a ceremony however I decided to go for 7. We had two fixed at the front focusing on the couple and a wider shot showing more of the congregation, two hidden at the back to capture the full church and one popping out from a pew so we could get shots of the bridal party walking down to the front. I had another camera on a monopod which picked up close ups of more of the action. Finally on top of my camera I had a 360 camera mounted so I could get some behind the scenes footage.
After the ceremony, the guests went straight into having some amazing food before some heart felt speeches from Ken's brother Aldo, who is also the Etonian arm wrestling champion, Makada's maid of honour Jamee and bridesmaid Sok Hom, Ken's best man and father, and also Makeda's father too. They were all passionate in telling how perfect the couple are.
It was then onto the evening celebrations with food, free bar and dancing downstairs. Makeda disappeared during the party which is an Estonia tradition where the groom has to find the bride otherwise there is a forfeit. In this instance Ken couldn't find his bride and the forfeit was to give his father a lap dance.
Overall, it was an amazing wedding to be part of and I'm sure we will keep in touch with Makeda and Ken for years to come.