My McQueens Wedding: Penelope Sacorafou and J Clague

Creating flowers for a wedding is always an incredible honour. Flowers make such a difference to the day and as florists we love playing a part in such a special occasion, it’s an honour we don’t take too lightly, particularly when asked to design and install flowers by a friend for a wedding held abroad. Penelope Sacarfou and her partner J Clague are friends of McQueens and in particular McQueens florist Alina Dheere Babaletsos.

“It was an amazing experience.” explains Alina, “Penelope is a dear friend so it was double the excitement and double the stress! Organising a wedding abroad is much more complicated than arranging one in the UK. Everything had to be perfect so the planning was meticulous. I was very keen to help to make the flower aspect of the organisation as stress-free as possible so we had lots of meetings to decided on the look and feel of the flowers and to work out the logistics. In the end, the biggest factor was the 36-degree heat, which had us building the arch, for example, only hours before the wedding so that the flowers would survive the sun.”

“Creating flowers for the wedding was amazing but the team and I were working non-stop preparing and arranging the flowers, attending social events and also clearing the flowers afterwards. The setting was dreamy, it was like a fairy tale. The wedding was a wonderful family affair with lots of social events spread over a few days, each had a different location. I loved the Castello Di Ama for a pre-wedding dinner, otherwise known as the castle of love, which is very well known for its contemporary artwork and installations. The actual wedding was held at the Castello Di Tornano, which was incredibly beautiful and the staff there were so hospitable and made it such a perfect experience. I had the amazing honour of creating Penelope’s bridal bouquet, which for me, was very a touching gesture for a very dear friend. The flowers were admired by all, we had such wonderful comments and Penelope loved everything that we created. It was amazing to spend time with my McQueens colleagues in such a beautiful country, and the after party was pretty memorable, too!”

A natural, floral arch created the focal area for the relaxed, outdoor ceremony
A natural, floral arch created the focal area for the relaxed, outdoor ceremony

“The theme was very natural, inspired by the surrounding landscape,” remembers McQueens florist Guiseppi Puddori “We used lots of fruits in the displays including figs, grapes and pears. Penelope and J wanted something garden-like and relaxed and the choice of materials, such as hanging vines and seasonal Hydrangea, reflected this. The ceremony was split over three days across different settings so preparation was key! Myself, Alina and Michi would set up for the following morning and regularly visit during the day to re-arrange or dismantle a display. Sometimes this meant leaving in the afternoon and returning at midnight to take something down again!”

“It was a wonderful experience and one of the highlights of my time working at McQueens” adds McQueens florist Michi Kanatschnig ” It was incredibly hard work but the end result was very spectacular and we all loved every minute of the experience.

Team McQueens, clearly relished the international adventure so we spoke to Penelope to find out more about her fabulous Italian wedding

Natural hand-ties adorned the chairs, marking the outdoor aisle
Natural hand-ties adorned the chairs, marking the outdoor aisle

How did you choose the flowers for your wedding?

I really wanted all my family involved in our wedding preparations. My mother in law absolutely adores flowers and she has fabulous taste so it made sense that flowers would be her responsibility. I’ve known Kally for a while now and admired the work done by McQueens at Claridge’s so I knew I always wanted McQ to be my florist. This news thrilled my mother in law! We were greeted at McQueen’s by Poppy and Kally and discussed the overall aesthetic of our wedding. Tuscany offers such gorgeous backdrops to any wedding we didn’t want our decor to compete with that but rather to supplement it. We took the colours of the Tuscan landscape and choose flowers based on that. We had purple Hydrangea and Veronica, ivory spray roses, olive leaves and flowering mint, among others. All purples, whites, green and silvers. We wanted low flowers because I had noticed at other weddings that high ones can be quite disruptive for conversations to occur across the table. We incorporated vine leaves and grapes which hung from the candelabras. As our wedding celebration was 4 days long we choose flowers that could last the duration and arrangements could be altered throughout the celebrations.

Penelope Sacorafou and J Clague marry in Tuscany beneath an arch of natural white and purple flowers and foliage.
A flower arch inspired by the surrounding landscape set the scene for this romantic ceremony in Italy

Why did you choose McQueens and what was the experience like?

I’ve always admired McQueens, and I look up to Kally so much as a businesswoman, for me it was a no-brainer. Aesthetically too it suited our style, British and luxurious but discreet. The team went above and beyond to accommodate us. I mean 3 florists flew to Italy for us and really breathed and lived our wedding. I loved speaking to Kally and Poppy in the run-up. I hate waste and I was glad to hear that so do they. We chose flowers that not only suited our aesthetic but also could last for the duration of our wedding in Italy, it was after all 4 days long. Of course, this made sure our budget was maintained.  We reused flowers and simply changed the arrangements. The florists worked so hard and it was lovely to see them party with us too. They are such a part of our wedding memories.

Newly weds Penelope and J are all smiles surrounded by friends and family for their outdoors ceremony in Tuscany
Penelope and J are all smiles surrounded by friends and family for their relaxed, humanistic ceremony

What were the challenges having a wedding abroad?

Ha, many! Italy is not renowned for its floristry. I can’t stand themed weddings. I don’t get that. The theme of the wedding is the love of the couple. Every presentation my wedding planner and I received was themed it edged me closer to asking a British florist to come out with us. I suppose trying to find the perfect condition to store these flowers was tricky. Luckily we had a cellar at our venue which of course was not affected by direct sunlight so we could keep the flowers fresh.

In terms of organisation, you simply have to go with the flow in the country, don’t try and take your own customs over with you as you will without a doubt clash. I felt constantly relieved as I know Italians can pull off weddings and throw a party. In terms of catering and entertainment, I knew it would be fabulous.

Flowers, foliage and fruits come together to create colourful centrepieces for Penelope and J's outdoor wedding
Flowers, foliage and fruits come together to create colourful table centrepieces

What were your thoughts on the day and what sort of comments did you have from guests?

I was actually quite relaxed on the day. I knew everyone was enjoying themselves as we had so many days with our friends beforehand celebrating the run up to our wedding day. I don’t think I expected to get as emotional as I did when I saw my father, who was waiting to walk me down the aisle. I really just about held it together! We had a humanist wedding and many of our friends contributed to the ceremony. I looked over to J and just thought no matter we’ll be just fine.

Our friends loved it and they all commented on the arch that Alina and Giuseppe had made. It looked divine. When we entered into the dining area, lit with candles and decorated with so many beautiful flowers I heard so many people gasp!

Candlelight transforms the outdoor dining area as the sun goes down
Candlelight transforms the outdoor dining area as the sun goes down
Opulent table decor complete with natural foliage, fruits and flowers
Opulent table decor complete with natural foliage, fruits and flowers