Age: 36 | Location: Amersham, UK
Do you remember that scene in Snow White - the old Disney version - where singing birds help her clean the cottage, mopping floors and wringing out laundry?
After only five minutes in the company of The Wedding Planner, this is the image of her life that I have in my head. When she speaks, it’s as if she is singing. I feel sure she was dressed that morning by small sparrows.
I’m not surprised when she tells me that she’s always been obsessed with romance.
‘I was made for being a part of love stories. It's in stark contrast to what I experienced when I was younger but I've always just loved it. I would watch Disney movies and I grew up with that whimsical idolised version of love. Obviously Disney movies are fairy tales, but I think now what I've come to see is the beauty of real love. Like what it means to be there for one another every day through all the little things and all the big things and all the different adventures that one has as an adult. I'm not gonna let my experiences let me lose faith in that.’
Her parents separated when she was very young, and had both been divorced before.
‘I've been hugely affected by them separating. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood and I was completely destroyed by the divorce. It wasn't an amicable divorce. And I was actually the one to have to tell my mum that I had found out about my dad's affair.'
'It was the kind of thing that not just breaks your heart, but just kind of completely annihilates your trust in someone that you thought was there for you.’
I wonder if this is why it took her so long to settle into one place and one career. She’s a woman of all trades and all countries, having put her hand to everything you can possibly imagine.
‘I was a scientist for a little while, an astrophysicist. I started a PhD with the observational cosmology team and then following a bit of a personal earthquake, I decided I wanted to explore a different part of me. I needed to express myself more creatively. So I left my PhD and I became a circus performer. I was a trapeze artist for three years and then following that we moved to London and I was ready to kind of dust off that physics degree, get a job, start saving some money. I guess re-enter society in a slightly more traditional way. So I became an investment banker and I was that for three years.’
The personal earthquake? Her mum was dying.
‘I've always been the kind of person who prioritised my studies and my work over my family. I just don't think I really understood it until then. When they told us that she had a brain tumour and didn't have long, I just dropped my PhD from one day to the next. And I was her full time carer for six months until she passed away.’
But for the last six years, she’s been The Wedding Planner. Most people find themselves frustrated by planning just one wedding, their own, so I wonder how many she manages to schedule in before she reaches a point of wedding saturation. Surely there’s a limit.
‘You're absolutely right. I put loads of love and energy and joy into my work so I hate turning weddings down, but I have learned over the course of the last few years that there is a max capacity, probably somewhere between ten and fifteen. This year I actually only have eight, but to give you some context, last year because we were catching up with all the postponements from Covid I did eighteen and nearly died.’
To figure out which couples she’ll embrace and which she’ll reject, she meets with them all.
‘Most of the time it's video because a lot of my couples live abroad. So we don't have the chance to hug in person until a little bit closer to the time. It's a question of aligning personalities. It's a very intense relationship between a wedding planner and couples.’
Although she travels all the time for her destination weddings and is originally Italian, The Wedding Planner has settled in the UK.
‘I moved around a lot when I was young and so kind of making a home somewhere was a choice that I made when I came here for university, then met my then boyfriend, now husband. And it feels good. We bought a house a year ago and I never thought I would.'
'It's nice to nest.’
I ask her more about her husband. In a world which revolves around comparison, I imagine it’s difficult not to compare her own relationship to the all ones she witnesses, especially since she sees couples at their very happiest point: totally and overwhelmingly infatuated.
‘The truth is that over the course of a year of working with a couple, I see them in a lot of different mindsets. Actually, some of the parts of wedding planning are not, you know, sunshine and rainbows. There's a lot of difficult conversations. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's decision making. Sometimes things go wrong.'
'Although the wedding day is a moment which is just an explosion of happiness, the lead up has me being a bit of a therapist for them.’
‘I feel very lucky that my husband and I are really close and he's really supportive. Before becoming a couple, we were best friends for years and years so I always feel really proud of my relationship with him and of my role as his wife. I've actually never felt that there was anything missing as a result of comparing it to a wedding, which I guess is a great thing.’
Does The Wedding Planner fear that she’ll end up like her parents?
‘When my relationship started with my husband we were inseparable and there was no part of me at any point that thought, oh well my parents had a horrible divorce and had their divorces before that so I'm not going to make it. If anything, I almost relish the opportunity to show that you can be in love and happy and married.’
I tell her she’s convinced me - a fellow child of divorce - to get married. Her eyes gleam.
‘My work is done,’ she says.