A Food and Firework-Filled Seaside Wedding in Puglia, Italy


For Urte Simkeviciute and Danilo Carlucci, a destination wedding by the sea seemed only natural. The two had been traveling when Danilo, an entrepreneur and investor, surprised Urte, a consultant and masters student, with a proposal on the beach in Cancún, Mexico. It was, Urte says, “one of the most romantic days of our lives.” He popped the question as they returned from a helicopter ride toward the paradisiacal Isla Mujeres, inside a circle of candles glowing in the sand. For a couple who met in college in chilly Aberdeen, Scotland, six years earlier, it set a warm tone for the celebration to come.

The two already knew where they would host their wedding: an oceanfront locale in yet another part of the world that was dear to them. “We always wanted an outdoor summer wedding in Puglia, Italy,” says Urte. “Danilo’s father comes from the region, and we’re both extremely proud of it.” They wanted their friends and family to experience it and come to love it the way they do.

And so, they set off for a two-week vacation to explore the heel of Italy’s boot (aka the Southeastern tip) and find the perfect venue. After visiting more than 20 contenders, they actually found two: “one very traditional and authentic, and the other more chic and elegant,” says Urte. How to decide between them? Well, they didn’t. Instead, they started planning a two-day, two-part celebration that would show 60 of their nearest and dearest the best of both sides of Puglia.

Urte and Danilo’s wedding celebrated the old world traditions and modern glamour of the groom’s father’s home in Puglia, Italy. After a seaside ceremony, the couple arrived at their reception at Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza in style, via a Ferrari Testarossa with custom plates. Keep reading to get all the details of their authentic Italian welcome dinner, modern ceremony, and gala reception, as planned by Giusy D’Ambrosio and photographed by Roberta Facchini.

The invitations laid out the itinerary for the three-day weekend beginning on July 3, 2021, from the Friday night welcome dinner through the Saturday morning beach day and evening ceremony and gala to Sunday’s pool party finale. The design referenced the olive groves, bougainvillea, and unique decor of the seaside masseria (Italian for a type of fortified farmhouse found throughout Puglia) they chose for their wedding dinner and party.

The couple kicked off their wedding weekend with a welcome dinner in the city of Savelletri, in Puglia, Italy. The weekend’s caterer, Il Fagiano Catering, helped them find a “hidden gem” of a venue for it, Urte says: Masseria Mangiato, one of the region’s oldest farmhouses, dating back to the sixteenth century. It captured the authentic, original side of Puglia that Urte and Danilo wanted their guests to experience.

Their floral designer, Mantas Petruskevicius, created an earthy, airy display of local fruits, vegetables, and dried flowers with billowy white fabric that perfectly suited the rural atmosphere. After visiting Puglia and seeing its cacti and palm trees, he added cuttings of those as well—he actually collected them himself from trees in a garden belonging to a friend of the couple.

Urte found her Zimmerman dress in the brand’s Paris boutique when she wasn't exactly shopping the occasion. But she knew its bohemian feel would be ideal for the night. Danilo’s suit was more of a last-minute buy, but a perfect match. It’s by an Italian brand they found at Boutique Massa Uomo in Martina Franca, Italy.

A type of Puglese folk music, called pizzica, wouldn’t be complete without tambourines. For the welcome dinner, “We wanted to give each of our guests one so they could twirl with the tambourine along with the musicians of Terraross,” says Urte. Terraross is a famous band local to the region. They provided the custom-printed tambourines with the couple’s names and wedding date.

Chefs at the welcome dinner’s food stations showed Urte and Danilo’s guests how to make mozzarella knots and cook traditional panzerotti with different fillings. Also on offer? Fried zucchini blossoms, cheeses, focaccia and freshly baked breads, olive oils, charcuterie, and fried octopus, calamari, fish, and vegetables. At the end of the row, guests found a selection of traditional sweet biscuits. Overhead, fresh and dried vegetable and herb bundles by floral designer Mantas Petruskevicius added to the southern Italian ambiance.

Musicians from the band Piripicchio e la Bassa marched ahead of Urte and Danilo into Masseria Mangiato, announcing their arrival and kicking off the Friday night welcome party. The couple cruised in behind them in an Ape Calessino, the type of car Puglese farmers all across the region drive into their fields. “It’s a very special vehicle that symbolizes something rural,” says Urte. “We thought it would be nice to arrive with it since we were throwing a village party.” 

Dinner and dancing at the welcome dinner was casual and relaxed. The food stations invited guests to travel from one to the next, sampling different tastes of Puglia, and to linger and chat with friends and family. In addition to the personalized tambourines, Urte and Danilo welcomed their 60 guests with bottles of local olive oil.

Pizzica dancers provided traditional entertainment for the welcome party. Urte and Danilo had met one of them, Fabiana Attore, at a birthday dinner in Puglia for Danilo’s father a few years ago, and reached out to her for the occasion. They fell in love with pizzica dancing and the tradition it carries on. Fun fact: Pizzica dancers usually start off their performance by moving to sad, slow songs that symbolize the pain of being bitten by a tarantula spider. “Tarantulas and Puglese people have shared the same land for thousands of years,” explains Urte. “Tarantula, tarantella music—sounds similar.”

After the entertainment, the welcome party’s band, Terraross, kept Urte, Danilo, and their guests dancing under the masseria’s twinkle lights. Urte loved how her Zimmermann dress looked “so light and elegant—the fabric looked beautiful.”

Danilo’s brother and four of his best childhood friends acted as groomsmen. They got ready in a suite overlooking the courtyard at the Borgo Egnazia hotel. It was all laughs and Champagne until, 30 minutes before they needed to be ready to go, Danilo realized that three of them had forgotten to iron their shirts. “Imagine the chaos!” says Urte.

Danilo accessorized his Ermenegildo Zegna suit with a limited-edition IWC Da Vinci Jubilee Edition rose gold watch (number 37—his favorite number), rose-gold cufflinks with mother-of-pearl by an Italian jeweler, and Cartier Pasha de Cartier fragrance. The groomsmen’s classic black-tie tuxedos set off Danilo’s cream-colored jacket.

I wanted each bridesmaid to feel confident and beautiful on the day.

Acting as Urte’s bridesmaids were her friends Lena, Gaby, and Medeine (who also happened to be her future sister-in-law). They had just enough time to pour Champagne and take quick photos after the hairstylist finished her work: soft updos for the bridesmaids, to coordinate with Urte’s “simple and romantic” loose waves.

Their long, elegant custom-made dresses were in the blush tone of the day’s palette. Each had a different top to suit her body type and personal style. “I wanted each bridesmaid to feel confident and beautiful on the day. We chose the outfits together,” says Urte.

Oh my, it was love at first sight. I knew right away that I had found my wedding dress of dreams.

Urte found her Berta crystal-studded tulle gown in Tel Aviv, Israel. She had seen it online, but was told that the dress wasn’t available yet since it was so fresh off the runway. She and her sister booked the trip to Israel anyway, to visit the city’s many other bridal boutiques, and—lo and behold—when they arrived, the dress had too. She tried it on, and all was decided. “Oh my, it was love at first sight,” says Urte. “I knew right away that I had found my wedding dress of dreams.”

The gown’s journey to the actual wedding wasn’t as smooth, however. Due to the pandemic and unrest in Israel, she couldn’t get back to Berta in Tel Aviv for fittings—or even to pick it up. She had to find someone who could fly it to her in Dubai, and then she and Danilo brought it with them to Italy. She wasn’t able to have it tailored to fit her perfectly, but you’d never know it from the photos. She finished the look with a cathedral-length veil by Idea Sposa.

Urte let her dream dress define the day’s aesthetic. “The style of it and crystals are quite prominent, so everything else had to be simple,” she says. She chose a nude lip and makeup that would highlight her eyes, and updated her classic French manicure with glitter polish that coordinated with the dress’s sparkles. She also wore Profumum Roma Dambrosia fragrance. Her only other accessory was a horseshoe-shaped pin that accented her bouquet of white and ivory peonies. “It was my grandparents' gift to my parents for their wedding day,” says Urte.

Talk about a perfect pair: Urte’s six-year-old niece, Ugne, and Danilo's six-year-old niece, Adele, were the day’s flower girls. Their dresses, in the palette’s blush tone, were by a local Italian brand. The girls accessorized with matching shoes and crowns of fresh white flowers. “I thought they were super adorable because they took their role so seriously,” says Urte. “They were concentrating throughout the whole ceremony and asked their parents to not disturb them because they were ‘working.’”

Urte’s father walked her down a white carpet aisle lined by asymmetrical groupings of white and ivory roses, hydrangeas, and other fresh and dried flowers at the seaside ceremony venue, Pettolecchia Il Lido. The processional was Kina Grannis’ version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Seeing each other for the first time as Urte came down the aisle was the most special and emotional moment of the day for both the bride and groom. They met in front of a “messy” flower arch composed of white and ivory roses, hydrangeas, and other fresh and dried flowers, set atop a white platform.

“We thought that a ceremony by the seaside would be very romantic—the sea provides an idyllic backdrop,” says Urte. They found their celebrant, Francesca Stunell Bianco, while they were searching for someone to help plan the wedding. “When we thought of who could marry us, I right away texted her and was so glad that she was still available. I couldn't have imagined anyone else who could have conducted the ceremony in such a beautiful and elegant way as Francesca.”

The couple didn’t write their own vows, but they did have Francesca read personal notes that they had written to each other as part of the ceremony. They also had members of both their families perform readings: Danilo’s brother read a beautiful poem in Italian, and Urte’s dad and sister read an excerpt from a book her parents read to her when she was little in Lithuanian. Live musicians played piano and harp throughout.

After sharing a kiss at the alter, the new husband and wife recessed back down the aisle to a live piano version of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”

A Ferrari Testarossa with personalized plates arrived to whisk Danilo and Urte away to their wedding dinner and gala party at Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza. This was Danilo’s second favorite memory from their wedding day—after seeing his bride in her dress for the first time at the ceremony, of course.

A local street band called Vagaband marched into Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza ahead of the couple’s car, then entertained their guests during cocktail hour.

“Everything was perfect” about their wedding dinner and party venue, Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza, says Urte. The former farmhouse near the sea was surrounded by thousand-year-old, UNESCO-protected olive groves and lush lawns. Seeing all their friends and family all gathered together in the place they love was Urte and Danilo’s absolute favorite part of the day.

While the ceremony stuck to tones of white and ivory, the reception’s colors added a mix of blush, sand, and white with a touch of gold. The long wooden tables were topped by statement-making oversize arrangements of dried pampas grass and roses. The white roses and hydrangeas echoed the bride’s bouquet, while the peach and pink roses in the pampas grass centerpieces introduced the new colors of the reception. 

The highlight of the four-course dinner menu was the peach and champagne taglierini pasta with prawns and peppermint. “That’s the most memorable dish that guests talked about,” says Urte.

The softly glowing dinner scene at Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza, where long farm tables allowed for easy conversation among guests. Planning the seating chart for dinner was, surprisingly, the easiest part of the planning process, says Urte.

In addition to a plated dessert and the wedding cake, a sweets table offered guests mini bites by Il Fagiano Catering.

The three-tier wedding cake, also by Il Fagiano Catering, featured sponge cake layers alternating with pistachio cream and was decorated with blush flowers and a bit of gold leaves. 

Urte and Danilo kicked off the party with a first dance to Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love."
The French band Echoes Of, who kept the party going with covers of ’70s disco, soul, and funk classics. “’70s disco was our main music theme of the evening,” says Urte. 3-D video mapping by Hermes Mangialardo on the facade of the masseria added a visual accompaniment to the disco-era music.

Enjoy every single moment of both the wedding planning process and the event itself. It goes really fast!

Fireworks over the masseria capped off the party and were “a highlight of the evening,” says Urte. Planning a destination wedding during Covid wasn’t easy, but “everything worked out perfectly in the end.” The most challenging part? “Quite a few of our vendors were based outside of Italy,” says Urte. “The band, the flower stylists, a photographer, and the beauticians all flew in for our event. Given the uncertain travel these days, we were anxious until the last minute if they would be able to make it.” But, it all turned out beautifully.

Her advice to couples planning now? “Quite cliche but very true: Enjoy every single moment of both the wedding planning process and the event itself," shares the bride. "It goes really fast! Do everything your way and don’t stress too much over details.”

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