Romantic Destination Wedding in the Italian Riviera

Erin and Alberto
Photographed by: Nicole Caldwell PhotographyLocation: La Spezia, Liguria, Italy

When asked what was so memorable about the first time she met Alberto Pirozzini, Erin Quinn replies with a laugh, “I got the job!” They met when Alberto interviewed her for a position at The Ritz- Carlton hotel in Laguna Niguel, CA. After a year of working together as friends, Erin moved to a different department, but her heart stayed behind. The two began dating; a little over a year later, Alberto proposed…twice. First, he asked for Erin’s hand on February 11, 2004 after a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. She immediately said yes, but when she found out he hadn’t been able to reach her father for his permission, Alberto asked her again the following evening, this time with dad’s heartfelt blessing.

While studying in Florence years ago, Erin witnessed a wedding take place in a quaint church in Vernazza, one of five small coastal towns that make up the Italian region of Cinque Terre. She dreamed of getting married there, unaware that one day she would be engaged to a man from northern Italy. Five years later, she was waiting for her father to escort her through the doors of that very same church, only she was on one side of the town’s main piazza while her father was on the other. The church bells rang and rang until they were finally reunited, and they walked across the piazza to the cheers of the townspeople. “It was very emotional; the longest aisle ever,” recalls Erin. “And I don’t think anyone will ever forget the sound of those bells!”

The Catholic ceremony was conducted in both Italian and English, with the couple’s favorite priest from Boston assisting in the service. Once they became husband and wife, Alberto and Erin participated in Vernazza’s custom of bestowing a blessing on the townspeople. They threw candies down to the locals, tourists and wedding guests from a tiny, floral-strewn balcony that overlooked the piazza. They kissed, and Erin threw her bouquet of calla lilies to the joyous crowd below. Then, they walked with their party up 105 steps to the reception venue, an old castle perched atop a cliff that offered a spectacular view of the coastline.

A small tin of Italian candies greeted each guest at tables decorated with simple arrangements of white calla lilies and red roses. Each place setting was also set with a red menu and a matching card of quick phrases translated into both English and Italian. In addition to useful ones like “how are you,” the couple also included some funnier ones like “where are you staying tonight?” and “isn’t the bride beautiful?” These helped break the ice between the two families who, despite their language barrier, got on wonderfully. Erin’s father and sister gave toasts in Italian, and Alberto translated his family’s warm words into English. It was during this time that Erin realized just how precious the scene before her was. “The restaurant was filled with so many people that we loved,” she remembers fondly. “There would never be a time when both our families will be together like that again.”

In true Italian form, a six-course meal of pasta and local seafood was served for dinner and regional wine flowed merrily throughout the evening. The cake, which was designed to have three tiers, turned out “a little flat,” but the taste—a filling made of Marsala wine covered in marzipan frosting—made up for any apparent design flaws. Capturing every moment was photographer Nicole Caldwell, whom the couple imported from Southern California because of how much they admired her work and attitude. Even though it required a greater financial investment than hiring someone local (and unfamiliar), they feel it was the best decision they could have made. As Erin warns, “You don’t realize just how much of your wedding day is spent with your photographer.”

The warmth of both families mixed with the absolute splendor of the location made the wedding as unforgettable for their guests as it did for Erin and Alberto. And while most would consider the couple’s current home in Grand Cayman its own vacation destination, Erin and Alberto chose to remain in Europe for their honeymoon. They toured the Mediterranean, making stops in Greece, Turkey, Croatia and the cities of southern Italy.

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