experience

THE MY SECRET ITALY LOVE

PHILIP & JAYNE’S STORY

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LITTLE TOUCHES THAT AMAZED US

Thank you to all of the My Secret Italy team for giving my wife and I our perfect day. As I said on our wedding night, we will be forever indebted to you all for giving us the best day ever. Julie, Emilie and Dario are the A-team of wedding planners. From our first conversation over skype 2 years ago to when we finally left Santa Maria after a wonderful week and a half, Julie was so dedicated to making sure we were looked after. Julie and her team were so thoughtful, honest and supportive from start to finish. We felt so comfortable with them throughout this time and looking back it all seems like a dream.

We always felt that Julie was 110% invested in ensuring we had an amazing time, from the big things that matter such as the venue to the little touches that amazed us and our guests throughout the weekend. I cannot count the number of times someone asked me if I was stressed about organising the wedding and my response was “no, Julie has it all sorted” and she did. The whole time our guests kept on telling us how it was the best wedding they had ever been to.

Julie is one of the most personable people you could ever meet, she is so easy to get along with and this is evident my how much the local people love her. My guests immediately warmed to her no fuss style and great attitude. Julie had every different request catered for and went above and beyond the call of duty for our wedding. I would gladly have paid multiple times over for her help and how much she and the my secret italy team de-stressed the whole process.

Santa Maria di Castellabate is such a special place, it really is a secret that no one knows about. The local people were so happy to host our wedding and I will always remember our drive through the town in the wedding car, waving to everyone as they shouted “Auguri!” (Best Wishes) to us. It was truly a magical experience and we will be back soon.

If you are looking for the perfect wedding in Italy, please stop looking further, book with Julie, Emilie and Dario – the amazing my secret italy team.

Thank you guys, and hope to see you soon.

EMMET + SARAH

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JULIE PUTS HER HEART & SOUL INTO EVERY WEDDING

We have just returned from our fantastic wedding in the lovely Santa Maria Di Castellabate organised by our wedding angel Julie McKenzie. It was my now husband (!) who googled ‘beach weddings in Italy’ and found My Secret Italy. He contacted Julie and they had a great chat and he explained we were looking for a casual beach wedding as we didn’t want the usual hotel wedding that always had the same formula, we wanted something a bit different and more of a party by the beach. Julie said she knew exactly what would work and to leave it with her. When he told me I must admit I was a little suspicious. You hear about wedding planners online that make promises, get paid and then don’t really do any work and you end up doing it all. Because we found her on the internet I was very cautious. Then I spoke to her. She was so full of great ideas, passion about her business, interest in us and was bubbling with romance that I couldn’t help but take to her…so we decided to go ahead. She sent us a detailed proposal with all the costs included. Again I was a little suspicious (clearly my nature!) as it seemed too good to be true. She had so many fantastic suggestions and they didn’t cost the world…could this really be the case I wondered? So we booked a weekend that Easter to check the pace out and make sure it was real! Up to then we had only seen photos and couldn’t imagine it was a beautiful and full of charm that Julie said and everyone on her facebook said. We also hadn’t met Julie…maybe she wasn’t real! But she said she would be there at Easter and we would get to meet her. Not only is Julie a real person, she is exactly the person we had spoken to on the phone, fully of bubbly enthusiasm…like a breath of fresh air!

The weather was not that great as it was the end of March and even still Santa Maria is way more beautiful than any pictures can capture. Julie had suggested we not come to keep the beauty and charm of the place a surprise and I understand that now as I feel now a bit like we had sneaked a peek at our Christmas present before the day itself. It truly is the most wonderful place, as all the brides before me will agree! We met many of the people who would be involved in putting the day together, Domenico our lovely taxi driver, the wonderful Rosanna and Franco from the Lido Azzuro and the brilliant Luigi & Pepe who would be our band.

Fast forward to our September wedding. Everything that Julie had proposed at the very beginning was all organised and cost exactly what she had quoted….no surprises… all the fantastic ideas and suggestions she had made. Julie had been in contact with all our guests…nearly 60 in total….there was a lot of organising and with Domenico making collections and drop offs and settling everyone in. Julie took it all in her stride, no stress.

We had a pizza night arranged in Castellabate which is up on the hill looking down on the town of Santa Maria with the sun going down with the hills near Salerno in the background, the sky all pinks and blues, really quite stunning. All our guest were totally amazed by the whole beauty of the place and the romantic atmosphere and surroundings … let the party start! We had a fantastic set menu arranged including the most amazing pizza anyone had tasted, then all happily headed back on the bus full and merry.

The next day was the wedding day and I will not give too much away except to say that when I thought I knew how the day would go as Julie had planned everything so well to every tiniest detail…WOW…all the lovely little surprises she had for us was quite incredible considering we had only know her such a short time. Our wedding day was so fantastic, just the outline…so I don’t give too much away for future brides! We had the ceremony in the Torre Perrottti thanks to the very beautiful and kind Baroness Julia, with lots of Italians sunning themselves on the beach below!….we laughed, we danced, we sang and I don’t think anyone will quite forget it (I think including Julie!) .. we moved from there to the square with our strumming mandolin players where everyone continued to sing along with the locals to hits like ‘Volare’. Truly everyone was having such a great time and kept saying they had never been to a wedding like it….and we hadn’t even started the party yet! Throughout this we also had the brilliant Laura Babb and her husband Pete photographing everything, not only am I delighted with her photos but you wouldn’t have even noticed they were there except to be a lovely addition to our celebration.

Off we headed to the Lido Azzuro which was done up beautifully by Rosanna her team..and no doubtedly Julie as I could see her sparkly prints all over the wonderful decorations catching the sunlight as the sun went down over the sea lapping up on the beach just in front of us. When we had hoped for a ‘beach wedding in Italy’ this surpassed all our expectations….wow, the beauty, the romance and it was a million miles from the standard hotel wedding that everyone was so bored of and that we had wanted to avoid. We had a delicious BBQ with all kinds of wonderful fish and meats & local dishes. We had veggies & ceoliacs in our group and everyone was very well catered for….and completely stuffed, they just kept serving until everyone was full and all the guests were highly impressed by the standard and quality of the food. We had the best musicians in Luigi & Pepe who allowed the more talented of our guests to get up and join them. They are such a talented pair, all the songs are the ones you know and love and we spent the evening dancing off all the lovely food we had eaten. Then the real surprise for our guests – fireworks! Some might find them a bit cheesy but these are really special, the show goes on for ages over the water just in front of everyone….everyone was stunned…it was just brilliant! The night went on until very late and was most definitely the best day of our lives.

All the brides who have come before me will completely agree, Julie puts her heart and soul into every single wedding. You are not just a number, you are one of her brides and she takes such pride in her work and does an AMAZING job. I really don’t know what we would have done without her but I am absolutely sure that we would not have had the wedding we had without her. Aunts, uncles, friends, parents and siblings have all said, and I believe very genuinely, that it was the best wedding that they have ever been to…it is because it was so totally different. To Julie, you are a wonderful, kind, beautiful person and you deserve all the happiness in the world as that is what you give to all of us. Without you these memories for all our guests, as well as us, would not be the amazing memories we have. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Cushla (& Gavin!!)

GAVIN + CUSHLA

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WE KNEW WE WERE IN SAFE HANDS

A chance meeting with a friend who got married in Italy 10 years ago led to us being introduced to Julie and My Secret Italy in late 2016. We had recently got engaged and really had no idea where or how we wanted to get married, so the idea of expert help came as welcome relief.

From that moment on it was plain sailing. Julie’s infectious personality put us both at ease whilst together we set about planning the perfect wedding for us. It was clear from the start that Julie knew what she was doing and there can be no higher praise than the tangible joy you can feel from reading about the experiences of other couples. We knew we were in safe hands and it made it easy to trust Julie as she helped us to imagine the magic of “Twinkle Town”.

We initially found it quite daunting to invite family and friends to travel overseas, but Julie became the central contact point for everyone. From flights and transfers, to hotels and restaurant bookings nothing was ever too much trouble and we can say without hesitation that we were short of nothing.

Santa Maria was known to us only through pictures and we didn’t have time for a visit before the wedding which maybe should have made us a little apprehensive, but the reality is we are so glad we hadn’t spoilt the surprise. It is the most amazingly beautiful town with an incredible vibe, the like of which we haven’t experienced anywhere else. The locals are beyond charming and there is an incredibly cool feeling about the place at any time of day or night.

The venue for our wedding was The Palazzo Belmonte. Julie had told us what a special place it was and of course it didn’t fail to deliver. When we arrived it simply blew us both away, it is like entering a different world from the bustling Santa Maria which makes it a real paradise.

The wedding day itself was amazing! We had truly settled into the Italian way of life by then and Julie had introduced us to many of the locals who were involved in preparations for the day.

We had a few gatherings beforehand with family and friends arriving for the weekend, with drinks and dinner on the Friday evening and a BBQ on the beach on the Saturday, all of which Julie organised seamlessly along with Emillie and Dario.

The Sunday arrived and all of our guests were so excited, as we had kept the actual venue as a surprise to make it special. Julie, Emillie and Dario were all there to organise and delivered everything to perfection, all we had to do was show up! It all flowed beautifully. The Courtyard for the ceremony was transformed with stunning flowers and we couldn’t have pictured a more amazing scene. Julie had arranged a vintage Italian car to drive us around the village and get a feel of how the locals celebrate the weddings, this was very memorable and special to us. The setting for dinner was outstanding, our guests described it as truly magical, a fairy tale wedding, finished in style with fireworks after cutting the cake!! The live band got everyone up on the floor from the word go and the we danced until the early hours!

Weddings are an emotional time and Julie manages to keep you calm throughout, it takes a very special person to do this and we would both highly recommend her and the My Secret Italy team.  As for Santa Maria, we will be back, it is a unique place and we are so happy we chose to get married here.

Thanks again Julie, Emillie, Dario and your amazing team in Italy!

LYNDSAY + MARK

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WE WOULD PICK MY SECRET ITALY A THOUSAND TIMES OVER

Writing a testimonial to describe a service like My Secret Italy’s is a bit tricky because words will never be enough to explain the many small ways Julie and her little team of helpers go above and beyond to make your day so very special without any of the stress of a traditional wedding at home. Craig and I are from Scotland and after speaking to Julie for the first time we knew she shared our vision (and Scottish blood) and understood exactly what we wanted for our big day. Having looked at the website and the beautiful photos you wonder if it can be possible for it to be that beautiful and easy…it is and it can be, there is no catch, no hidden anything.

Julie is very passionate about what she does and that shows in her personal and genuine approach from day 1. If I can offer any of Julie’s future brides advice, it would be to stop stressing about the small details and put your faith in her to do what she does best. She does everything you might expect of a traditional wedding planner and so much more. Thoughtful and beautiful touches along the way just add to the magic. Julie has such a beautiful heart and so much love for her couples and guests, and for the wonderful people of Santa Maria di Castellabate.

Where to begin describing a place so beautiful and charming…you are welcomed with open arms by the locals around town and the wedding day is an outpouring of well wishes from new friends and strangers as you walk through the square. Raffaella and Emy and all of the staff at the hotel Garden Riviera treated us like visiting family from the day we arrived. The hotel is beautiful in an effortless and comfortable way and the service is better than first class.

The team all work so hard and it shows, the girls are beautiful inside and out and are such great fun. We miss everyone so much already! It’s hard to believe we are back home now and resuming normal life, but we do so with happy hearts. We have come home full of life and I can’t wait for what the future holds in store. We would pick my secret Italy a thousand times over. Thank you thank you thank you to Julie and everyone who helped us enjoy the wedding if our dreams, we love you ❤ x

LAURA + CRAIG

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THE MOST AMAZING WEEK OF OUR LIVES THANKS TO MY SECRET ITALY

On our one year wedding anniversary we look back at what was the most amazing week of our lives, all thanks to Julie Mc Kenzie and My Secret Italy. 🌟 From start to finish Julie made the whole experience magical! Not only does she make sure your wedding day is full of the most amazing memories she also adds in little my secret Italy surprises – such as the balloon realise for our group picture and a magical dinner at sunset on the eve of our wedding, just to name two!

Our guests were put at ease for the week as Julie looked after every need so well and took all pressure off us. She also looked after them in the weeks and months leading up our wedding week by booking all accommodation and sorting transport, days outs, dinners and any and all needs they had. We could then happily sit back and enjoy every single experience from start to finish in what was the week of our dreams as Julie worked tirelessly to accommodate each and every one of our 90 guests.

With a baby due in just one week we cannot wait to return to the beautiful Santa Maria de Castellbate with our new family in the future. We cannot thank Julie mc Kenzie enough and would recommend My Secret Italy in a heart beat.

VICKY + PADDY

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SO INTIMATE, EMOTIONAL & ROMANTIC AND JULIE PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS

We wanted to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary by going back to the place we had got married in 10 years ago – beautiful Santa Maria di Castellabate, which held such happy memories for us (our friends still tell us it was the best wedding they had ever been to!) When Julie got in touch after 10 years, it seemed only natural to decide to renew our vows on the beach and she would organise everything for us – just like she did the first time around! We deliberated whether to ask friends and family to join us but felt it was more special to enjoy the moment as a family with our 7 year old twins and we could then relax and enjoy the experience without worrying about other people.

The simple ceremony on the beach at the end of the afternoon was just amazing, so intimate, emotional and romantic and once again Julie pulled out all the stops and surprised us by laying on a traditional Italian car, an amazing professional photographer and the same Italian/English interpreter from 10 years ago to say some special words and who also remembered our original wedding ceremony. The fantastic organisation was down to Julie as we had no expectations and we all really just went along with the flow and enjoyed the moment! It was a wonderful experience which we cannot thank Julie enough for and the gorgeous photos will serve as a timeless reminder of a truly fabulous day.

DAVID + CAROLINE

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YOU HAVE GIVEN US A LIFETIME OF WONDERFUL MEMORIES

Magical, beautiful, perfect, romantic, flawless… All words our families and friends used when reminiscing about our wedding in the beautiful Santa Maria Di Castellabate… And it’s all down to the amazing Julie, Emillie and the rest of the team from my secret Italy. The location itself provided a stunning backdrop but it was the details and perfect execution from Julie and Emillie that made our wedding and the days either side a truly memorable experience not only for Rory and I but all of our guests!

As soon as we drove into Santa Maria last August, we got it! This may be a local favourite summer spot but for us brits, it was literally unknown. Before we arrived, we’d struggled to find a location and wedding planner that hadn’t hosted hundreds of weddings each year. We wanted somewhere unique and a planner who got us and our vision. After a recommendation (so glad I was moaning about our lack of success in work one day!!), I started to research My Secret Italy and very shortly after my first email, Julie and I were on the phone and starting to get to know each other. I remembered getting off the phone with a huge smile and sigh of relief… I knew without a doubt she was the one and that we’d work well together. Little did I know that in the 9 months to follow she would become a friend, a co-visionary and sometimes mammy!! Julie was so confident that she understood my long wish list and our vision that we only visited three venues, saving “the one” for last… Just before sunset on a beautiful August evening… I cried… It was perfect and even better, we’d be the first wedding in this location, which was what I wanted most. Exclusive, romantic, rustic, beautiful.. The Il Calesse courtyard, in the old palace in the old town of Castellabate was everything I could have dreamed of. And Julie knew it! So with that, we were on our journey.

Julie and I would touch base regularly but not too much… She understood my busy life and was flexible to work around out, reminding me well ahead of decision deadlines and keeping me on track. But my favourite part of working with Julie was the random messages I would get when she had another great idea of how we could enhance the wedding, venue, reception,etc.. Floating candles amongst the trees, the homemade limoncello tiramisu for dessert, even the perfect photographer for us and our style (thanks to the wonderful Chelsea Shoesmith – amazing photos, such a warm, hilarious woman who fast became part of our Jory Jenlin wedding party! )

Julie and Emillie, you both completely turned my dream wedding Pinterest board into our reality and have given us a lifetime of such wonderful memories. We have all left holding a piece of Santa Maria in our hearts and I know most of our guests will return. There was so much beauty and love around us and you are all a part of that! I’m going to miss feeling like a local celebrity… “oggi mi sposo!!!!”

It’s only been a week and I miss you both already!! Let’s do it all over again in a few years and we can renew our vows!!

Sending you both huge hugs and all our love!! I’m so honoured you chose us as well as us choosing you… We were a perfect match!

JO + RORY

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Our wedding day was absolutely incredible, like a scene from a movie!

Where do we begin, from our first chat on the phone in August 2015 when we set the date for 27th May 2017. The time absolutely flew and we arrived back home yesterday after the best week of our lives in Santa Maria. Julie and Emillie are two beautiful people both inside and out, their knowledge and experience is incredible! From arranging transfers back and forth the airport for our party of 61 to booking tables in the most delicious restaurants for the night before our big day and the last night of our holiday.

Our wedding day was absolutely incredible, like a scene from a movie!! Torre Perotti is out of this world, the views are stunning and the flowers and rose petals down the aisle arranged by Julie and Emillie were beautiful. We took a short walk with our guests to The Lido for the most relaxed reception. Delicious BBQ food, plenty of singing and dancing with the very talented live band and finished off with fantastic fireworks that wowed our guests!

Aaron and I would like to thank you both, Julie and Emillie from the bottoms of our hearts. Our wedding was the perfect day and our only wish is that we could do it again, we will definitely be back to twinkle town.

JESS + AARON

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FROM START TO FINISH, WE WERE ON CLOUD NINE!

After reading a few of the previous testimonials, it’s hard to write something up that doesn’t sound similar to what’s been said before. But the truth is, it’s hard to give My Secret Italy anything but a 5-star review! Each wedding is obviously tailored to the individual couple, and the subtle differences are what make it special to you, but the bottom line is each testimonial you read speaks volumes of the genuine warmth the couples have for Julie and Emillie.
I suppose all we can do is share our story and you can judge for yourself…

We wanted a wedding abroad but not somewhere too far that would put off a lot of family members attending. As we got engaged in Venice, we thought we would keep the Italian theme and started searching for suitable locations. It was here we encountered the first of our worries – the language barrier of some of the potential wedding planners. A lot of replies we received were from genuine Italian locals and written in (sometimes) broken English. We weren’t too confident in organising something so meaningful with someone we were struggling to understand (and vice versa.) With that in mind we decided we 100% wanted someone who lived (mainly) in the UK.

Worry number 2 was the sheer cost for some of the results. Italy is a beautiful country and full of romantic locations, yet the most common results you hear of for Italian weddings are in Lake Garda, Lake Como, Sorrento, etc. Again, we weren’t 100% on our search results – the quotes received were well out of our budget. Surely there was more to this country than this handful of popular venues we kept encountering? Not to be deterred we tried a few other avenues, and it was actually a Twitter search (of all places) that led us to Julie. Granted…the likes of Lake Garda and Sorrento are gorgeous locations, but a quick browse through Julie’s site revealed that Santa Maria was just as picturesque, and could be done at a fraction of the cost.

It also had the added bonus of being somewhere you don’t hear people speak of (hence the name – My Secret Italy ha ha) when people ask where we got married and we tell them Santa Maria we always have to follow that up with an explanation of where it is, and we love that, as we don’t like going somewhere that has already been done by people you know (for example when we holidayed in Mexico we deliberately avoided the big hotel that everyone we knew seemed to stay in, just to avoid people saying “Oh yeah we stayed there” or “Yep, we done that” or things to that effect.) It sounds strange, but we just feel like you are simply reliving their holiday/experience when that’s the case; swapping stories that are basically identical. That’s the last thing we wanted for our wedding. Once we researched Santa Maria we knew we’d found somewhere that would feel like ‘our own.’

So in finding Julie on Twitter, we avoided the other worry we had which was finding a UK-based wedding planner but one who was too far away, meaning we wouldn’t get to meet face-to-face, and the whole arrangement would feel a bit impersonal. It was to our delight when we discovered Julie only lived a few miles up the road, so we could get to meet her in person which would put to bed any doubts we might have. To be honest though, that obviously won’t be the case for most bride and grooms who use Julie, but the great thing is that she is prepared to travel to meet up before starting the ball rolling. Its things like this that make all the difference.

We met up with Julie at a local coffee shop and from that moment all our worries just melted away, we knew we could put our trust in her. You know when you meet someone and you just know that they are genuine and sincere and you just get a good feeling that everything’s going turn out ok? Well that’s what you should expect when you meet Julie and Emillie. We were lucky that we lived quite close, and over the months of planning when we’d need to meet for updates we visited Julie’s house and also had her over at ours for a cuppa. You wouldn’t get that with one of these ‘faceless’ companies that offer wedding packages, would you?!

Which brings me to the something else we were apprehensive about, and probably the most important, was that the whole thing would have a ‘package’ feel to it, and we’d feel like just another number. During the holiday in Mexico mentioned above, we witnessed a couple of weddings in and around our hotel that had a ‘conveyor-belt’ of brides. Not just Mexico though, even friends/relatives we’ve spoke to who got married abroad have said that they felt like they were quickly rushed through their wedding so the altar could be swept clean and have the next couple ready at their timeslot. This is supposed to be the most special day in your life and you’re just leaving it in the hands of a travel agent who’s got quotas to fill? No thanks!

The great thing about using Julie and My Secret Italy is that for your wedding planner you won’t just be getting an ‘organiser’…you’ll be getting a friend. You won’t just be getting someone who’s employed by a big company to oversee the 1 day…you’ll be getting someone who will ensure you get the best out of your whole holiday from start to finish. We loved that.

If Julie was only interested in taking our money then she would have been there to check us in on day 1, and then we wouldn’t have seen her again until the Church! But in reality nothing could be further from the truth, Julie and her daughter were an integral part of our whole trip, and much more than wedding planners. They were relied on not by just us but also by every single person in our 20-strong party and helped make it the best family holiday any of us had ever been on. Don’t get me wrong, Santa Maria is a fabulous place and the holiday would have been amazing regardless. But with Julie’s input we made sure we did everything we wanted to do; and more! Things like airport transfers for guests arriving at different times/days or from different airports, making bookings/reservations for us, advice and tips on places to go/see, arranging trips for days/nights out, being a translator for most of our stay, etc. – we just can’t thank her enough.

Sorry, this has become a bit of an essay here…so we’ll just skim over the highlights of our week (best not to go into too much detail anyway as not to spoil the experience for yourselves.)

As soon as the plane landed at the airport, Julie’s input was taking effect.
The transfer she’d arranged for us was bang on time, and a pleasant journey taking in the views of Italy. Naples can appear a bit run-down at first, but once you get out the city you’ll see the stunning coast. Upon checking in at the Hotel Garden Riviera we were met by the hotel’s beautiful staff, who were so polite throughout our whole stay and always went out their way for us. They had cocktails waiting for all our guests and upgraded us as the bride and groom to a brilliant suite with Prosecco and strawberries and chocolates waiting for us.

The hotel itself is lovely, it’s a little hilly but they offer a free shuttle bus service to get into the town square or the beach and back. Anyway, it’s because of these hills it means the views you get from your rooms are gorgeous! We had out Nana Winnie with us, who is well into her 80’s and struggled with the hills, so the shuttle bus is a godsend. And if it ever wasn’t available then the lovely Emy at the hotel took us in her own personal car. They really did make a fuss over Winnie at that hotel!

Throughout the holiday what we liked about Santa Maria was that you actually felt you were in Italy. It’s hard to explain but it had a rustic vibe to it. We’ve been to Venice and found it had a really tourist kind of feel to it, and I’ve heard Rome and Milan can be the same. And I’m not knocking them because I love it there but if you’ve ever been to places like Benidorm or Magaluf you will know what I mean – bars serving Full English breakfasts and PR’s outside advertising Eastenders is showing on the big screen, what’s the point in flying thousands of miles if you just want to feel like you’re at home? Here though, you know you’re in rural Italy everywhere you go. It’s great! Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of locals who speak perfect English (and you’ve always got Julie’s number for the times you need a translator) but simple things like ordering an item that’s not on the menu in a restaurant can result in a lot of arm gesturing to get your point across. It’s like a game of Pictionary. We loved it! One night we were all ordering pizzas, and due to the language barrier one of our guests was struggling asking for chips with his. 15 minutes later the food was brought out and he was served a pizza that had chips baked into the topping!

Julie has been visiting and staying in Santa Maria for years and has built up great relationships with locals and local businesses. At the start of your holiday she will give you all My Secret Italy cards that can be redeemed at a lot of restaurants and bars that give you 10% off. We tended to stick with these, as it made sense to take advantage of the great deals that Julie had sourced through her contacts, but there was no shortage of options on the nights we done our own thing. Santa Maria appears small at first but we felt that a week just wasn’t long enough and are already talking about going back.

The evening before the wedding Julie organised a trip up to the village at the top of the hills of Castellabate. At night, in Santa Maria’s town square or by the beach, if you looked up you could always see this little village all lit up beautifully in the sky – it looked quite enchanting! The trip itself didn’t disappoint! Once again thanks to Julie’s good connections she sorted a brilliant deal where we paid a set price all-in for the transport there and back, a plentiful 3 course meal, and all your drinks included – wine and beer (and maybe some spirits if you’re polite!) We started the trip just before sundown which was ideal to take in all the views from the top of the hill, before exploring the fascinating village and then on to the restaurant to finish. This was an absolute bargain, as it worked out less per-person than we had paid at some restaurants on previous nights. It was a perfect ‘Wedding-eve’ as we had all the guests together which brought a lovely atmosphere as we counted down to the ‘big day’!

As bride and groom we traditionally chose to be separated the night before. The groom staying in the suite at the Hotel Garden Riviera, whilst the bride stayed at a stunning boutique hotel on the beachfront overlooking the sea (we also kept this on for our Wedding Night the following day.)
This separate hotel was booked for us by Julie and it is perfect for bride and bridesmaids to get ready on the big day, making a fuss out of getting ready for the occasion, having hair and make-up done by professionals (also booked for us by Julie.)

The church was an event in itself. Guests arrived to be greeted to a guitar and mandolin duo outside who kept them entertained whilst waiting for the bride to arrive. Once in the church there was a string quartet to take over, followed by/combined with a singer who belted out Ave Maria for the bride’s entrance. Not a dry eye in the house! Italy is such a warm place, and we mean that both in terms of the climate and the people. The church doors remained open throughout the service to allow that lovely sea breeze to flow through. Then after the service we all filtered outside and the warmth of the people was now flowing as locals came up to congratulate us. It really was a stunning setting. Family and friends who were there remarked that it was something like an A-List celebrity wedding you’d see in Hello! magazine. One couple, who are engaged, said that they “Would never be able to top this” for their big day.

This was one of the main reasons we chose to get married here in Italy. We have been to weddings/christenings/etc in numerous gorgeous churches back home, but once you step outside you’re met with tatty pavements, grey skies, double decker buses whizzing past, etc. It doesn’t make for very good photo opportunities! On the subject of photos…we had the talented Jakub and Zoscia of Aparat photography to document our day. These are a brother and sister duo from Australia who are two of the nicest people you could meet. We were really lucky that we ended up with them, as the first handful of photographers all seemed to be busy on our chosen date. Thanks again to Julie’s great connections we were put in touch with Aparat, who were fortunately out in Europe anyway and could accommodate us into their schedule. This turned out to be a huge slice of luck, as they were cheaper than all other quotes and we also got “2 for 1” in effect – many of our moments were captured perfectly as certain photos were shot from different angles.

After the church was another ‘A-List Celebrity’ moment as we walked through the town being ‘papped’ by our two photographers. Again…the warmth of the Italian locals shone through as we were constantly being told “Auguri” (best wishes) and replying “Grazie” (thank you.) By this point our jaws were aching with the constant (genuine) smiling.

The A-List treatment continued when we rounded things off at the Lido. It was decorated impeccably. Rosanna, Dario, and all the other staff were very helpful and very generous. The food was superb and there was certainly plenty of it! The band were awesome! We seriously couldn’t believe how good they were. They were like local rock stars, and so enthusiastic to ensure we had a brilliant time. The fireworks – wow! Again…we couldn’t believe how good they were. The display was better than any official council display I’ve ever been to back home. It was as good as anything you see on TV. Halfway through our first dance the display began. Whilst this was happening the band continued on ‘jamming’ to the same song before coming back in instantly/effortlessly for the last verse/chorus once the display ended. Couldn’t have timed it better!

All in all it was just the best wedding and the best holiday we could ever have hoped for. Like we said earlier, you can’t beat a wedding abroad, and you’ll struggle to find a nicer place than Santa Maria. Since we’ve been back we’ve attended several Friends’ weddings (both small and lavish, in the UK and abroad) and they just can’t compare. We’re not snobby, so would never usually say this, and you’d expect us to be slightly biased like, but seriously they haven’t come close to ours. I know it’s a cliché but it really was the best day of our lives, and it’s all thanks to Julie and Emillie.

From start to finish we were on cloud 9. From meeting Julie and Emillie after our transfers on day one, right through to saying farewell to Emy and all the generous staff at the Hotel Garden Riviera (they even put an ‘out of hours’ breakfast on for us due to our early flights.) Put it this way…there were tears when we said goodbye! I can’t imagine many couples have that feeling when they leave their wedding planner. I know it’s a cliché but it was the happiest day of our lives, to round off a 10 out of 10 holiday, with the best group of people who mean the most to us. Our closest family and friends who attended all agreed with this.

We recently threw a party back home for all the people who couldn’t make it out to Italy for the actual wedding, the only thing missing was Julie and Emillie, but we knew they were back out in Santa Maria with some other lucky bride ‘n groom.

Julie told us that we were My Secret Italy’s first ever Twitter wedding! I’ve got a feeling we won’t be the last. We guarantee you’ll have a wedding unlike any other.

With us living not too far then of course we will keep in touch with Julie, but that’d be the case anyway even if we lived hundreds of miles apart, we can’t wait to see her again for a catch up.

ANTONIA + JAY

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IT WAS MORE PERFECT THAN WE COULD EVER IMAGINE

The 5th September, 2015 was a day we will never forget. We had the most wonderful, relaxed and fun wedding day, it was more perfect than we could ever imagine. Finding Julie and ‘My Secret Italy’ definitely made this all possible.

Planning a wedding in Italy from Australia was never going to be an easy task, but from the very first skype chat we had with Julie we knew she could make it all possible and it was meant to be. Julie is more than a wedding planner, she invests not just her time but her passion into your whole wedding trip, from making sure you and all your guests get to and from Italy, finding the perfect venues and accommodation, keeping everyone entertained with boat trips, day trips and pizza parties. No task is too big or too small for Julie and she even thinks of all the little things so you don’t need to worry. She really does go above and beyond her job to make sure your wedding day is perfect and all your guests have a great time

Santa Maria de Castellabate (Twinkle town) really is a beautiful place and we are so happy to have found this little gem. It has the ‘wow factor’ of the Amalfi Coast, but without the hordes of tourists. The people are so friendly and we, along with many of our guests will definitely be back.

To all future brides who are thinking of getting married in Italy we would highly recommend Julie and her ‘My secret Italy’ team. If only we could do it all over again. Thank you so much Julie and everyone else in Santa Maria who made our wedding day so special!

HAYLEY + ANDY

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THE WORDS ‘THANK YOU’ WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH

Where do I even start? I have tears in my eyes as I write this as we leave for our honeymoon!
I remember the day I first spoke to you and where it all began… you mentioned magic, fairy lights, sparkle, surprises and a beautiful location, my God did you do that and everything else on top!

Before we arrived in Italy Julie had all the time in the world for me, she would put up with all my messages and phone calls, numerous baby related questions and she arranged all my wedding party on top of planning all her other weddings. She really makes you feel like your the only bride in her world! When I arrived I instantly felt at home, we were greeted with a glass of prosecco at the gorgeous Mareluna hotel in San Marco, who looked after our whole wedding party to perfection throughout our stay, the staff were incredible and were more than happy to join in on our late night prosecco drinking and singing! Before the wedding Julie took us to the breathtaking venues, arranged my hair and make up trial, we tasted our gorgeous menu and even had a chance to see the Maieutike band play live!

When speaking to Julie I couldn’t decide between 2 reception venues, so being the bride that wanted it all, I asked Julie to plan a BBQ on the beach the night before the wedding, the BBQ food was unbelievable and one of the best meals we had, the beach was gorgeous and it was a perfect way to bring our family and friends together the night before! I then went off to the Europa suite in Villa Sirio with my sister, Julie said to me ‘this suite was made for you’ and my god was it! The suite was stunning, all in blue and white with the most perfect views and the best part was a roof terrace with a view of my wedding venue. The perfect place for bridal prep.

The morning of the wedding I was full of excitement, nerves and happiness! My bridesmaids joined me and our hair was done to perfection by the gorgeous Anna, our make up by Costabile who we all loved watching as he perfected our faces with the girls not recognising themselves after! Julie arrived with the flowers which were better than I could have ever imagined and smelt amazing! Then it was time to put my dress on and leave!
As I left Villa Sirio I could see Torre Perotti from the hotel, the guitar and mandolin had sung my guests from Cliff bar to the venue and got them ready for the ceremony. I arrived in the Fiat with my dad to the harpist walking me down the aisle on the rose petal carpet- after the readings, our vows, the rings and kiss, me and my husband were greeted with music, dancing, confetti & ice cream from the fabulous Baffo!

Upon leaving the ceremony, we pulled up at Bar Emma, a local bar we had coffee at earlier in the week, they wanted to surprise us and had a bottle of champagne on ice, the locals gathered congratulating us and taking photos as they threw rice over us! The magic of this place came alive when the next morning at breakfast one of my waiters showed me that a local professional photographer had taken photos of us and they were on Facebook with all the locals sharing pictures saying what an amazing wedding!

We chose ill Calesse for our reception and wow did we make the right choice, the stunning Palace to have photos in was like something out of a OK magazine, the food was out of this world (the best I have ever tasted!) the views were incredible, there a sunset we could have only wished for and we danced to the Maieutike band who gave us the best welcome as husband and wife!

The whole day was captured by the lovely Natasha (Petal and Blush Artistry) and Neil (Authentic Wedding Films) who Julie put us in touch with, they were patient, understanding and put us at ease for the whole day. We can not wait to see what they have created!
After the wedding Julie continued to amaze us, my husband planned a surprise with Julie’s help and took me on the Pinelli luxury yacht. We took some of our guests to the Pinelli Estate luxury villa with an infinity pool, views of Cilento National Park and another gorgeous BBQ. We then finished our time in Santa Maria with a cooking lesson where we learnt how to make pasta, visited Paestrum and a mozzarella farm, a great day hosted by Nicola of Masaniello Tourist Excursions.

If this is not the best wedding and time on the Cilento coast then I don’t know what is because we have had the absolute time of our lives and it’s all thanks to My Secret Italy, their experience,knowledge and relationships with the locals made it just perfect!

You are not just a wedding planner, you are a fairy Godmother, superhero and friend all rolled in to one. You defied all my expectations (which I know were very high), you have made our time with you the best of our whole lives and we leave a huge part of our heart with you in Santa Maria
Our friends and family have had the most amazing time of their lives and some are still speechless! You have not just planned our wedding but our whole wedding party too including our transfers, meals out and surprises. The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough and the amount of gratitude we have for you will never be able to be shown through actions or words.

The my secret Italy team have done everything to perfection, we have fallen in love with the venues, the food, the music, the picturesque views, the locals but most of all you guys! Julie, Emillie, Dario and Aurora you will always be special to us!
We are forever in your debt, we love you so so much and we will come and see you all the time!

SARAH + DAN

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