What happens when a wedding planner of the elite (Chrissy Teigen and John Legend ring a bell?) plans a dreamy Italian wedding? Besides the obvious beauty of the day, you get a hand-crafted experience of a lifetime. And how does she do it? Lisa Vorce, internationally acclaimed event designer and producer, is no stranger to spending many months planning and executing fairytale weddings. Beyond her impressive roster of clients, we wanted to know how she finds these exotic venues filled with local touches and inspirations to create truly bespoke events, every single time.
We caught up with Lisa to learn more about her methods and found out her secret weapon, the so-called "reconnaissance mission," along with what went into pulling off Isabel and Jake's gorgeous Puglia wedding. Read on to hear how she designs meaningful weddings with serious curb appeal.
Photography by Sergio Sandona
Could you share about your approach to destination event production and cultural immersion?
We have had the distinct honor of working with a diverse clientele, meaning we spend a great deal of time jetting from one exciting corner of the globe to another. The prospect of cultural immersion is one that excites me most when planning and producing luxury events in new parts of the world. While I have my core team of vendors from home whom always accompany me, the undiscovered beauty that can come from working with local creatives and embracing their specialty is a welcome challenge, and one I’ve yet to regret in over 20 years of planning. When we are able to create an event that is inimitable -- in other words when it can’t be replicated anywhere else -- I know we have succeeded!
What was the ‘reconnaissance mission’ like for Isabel and Jake’s wedding?
My husband James and I went there for a short 4 day vacation and to get a first look at the area. As soon as I arrived, I was struck by the arid beauty of the grounds. There were thick blooming pomegranate bushes and all sorts of wild succulents and cacti that adorned each corner of the grounds.
Marcella Cecere, our contact at Borgo Egnazia, gave us a tour of the property and I was “sold.” One of the greatest aspects of the property is there central piazza -- a little “town square” lined with enchanting stone buildings, designed after a typical Apulian village with 24 luxurious villas that transported guests to another world with bountiful old-world charm. It was an incredible backdrop for an event, even before any decor was added!
What goes into finding each venue?
Planning and producing a flawless destination celebration starts with the location - and it’s more than just a reliance that the stars will align and the venue will reveal itself to us. Many times, our events happen in undiscovered places (which is a thrill).
We take into consideration environmental factors and weather, variety of suitable accommodations, transportation availability and access to unique and exciting guest activities we can coordinate for our clients’ loved ones. For us, this process goes far beyond the aesthetic of a venue - we assess the true functionality of the space to ensure it suits our clients’ overall vision (i.e. if amplified sound isn’t aloud after midnight, there’s no way to have an after-party…) For Isabel and Jake, being able to dance until the sun came up was something they were really looking forward to - so it quickly rose to the top of our ‘must-have’ list.
I always want to have a “reveal” so that the guests aren’t seeing us produce and create each event. So, I always look for plentiful real estate for set up that is away from the venue’s common area. That way, we can achieve that wow-factor through a pronounced and grand unveiling of our creation.
How do you connect with local vendors you ultimately end up working with?
Finding the vendors ahead of time is one of my favorite things to do! This is where the reconnaissance mission truly comes in to play. Before producing any destination event, myself and my team do one or two “reconnaissance missions,” where we scour the area for unique finds, talented artists, chefs, hoteliers and makers. We source textiles and custom pottery, indulge in traditional dishes and forage markets for native florals and products like honey, oil and sweets. Michelangelo Greenhouse is one example. I met them through another venue in Italy. The greenhouses they construct, in lieu of tents, are simply extraordinary -- for Isabel and Jake, Michelangelo Greenhouse strung lights from the greenhouse which made for wonderful evening ambience (and sensational photos).
We worked with as many local artisans and purveyors as possible - including traditional folk singers and dancers, an Italian cigar roller, chefs who prepared hand-rolled pasta befor our guests eyes and the sweetest elder women who made jewelry and dolls using parts of olive trees - everyone contributed in such a special way that left our couple and their loved ones completely mesmerized.
Every location (just like every individual) has something special to offer - a signature flavor, scent, product or style. The trick and the joy is finding “the best of” for each location -- there is always something that makes one place unlike any other. These elements influence the design of each wedding we produce, complemented by the couple’s style, gives guests a deeply personal experience that will remain a lasting memory.
Event Design & Production: Lisa Vorce CO | Accommodations, Venue, Catering: Borgo Egnazia | Photo: Sergio Sandona | Florals: TeaRose | Tenting: Michelangelo Greenhouse | Lighting: LightTracks | Invitation Design & Calligraphy: Happy Menocal | DJ: Sam French | Bridal Styling: Cynthia Cook Smith | Bridal Handler: Maradee Wahl | Hair: Phillipe Tholimet | Wedding Gown: Reem Acra
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