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Denise & Mike: 
Love in the time of storm and fire at Tonnara di Scopello

This is one of those stories that show that despite all sorts of adversities, mishaps, and personal struggles, love always triumphs. 


Denise and Mike’s celebrations ended up being far from “as planned”, but the end result was one of my biggest personal achievements – not just for the wedding per se, but also given the circumstances that the bride, the groom and myself were facing before, during, and after the big celebration. 


Before telling this story of beauty, endurance, and deep connections, and giving you all the details of what happened behind the scenes (expect the unexpected!) I'd like to thank Denise and Mike for trusting me and for the mutual support throughout, my family, and especially my mom, who’s now watching over me from above, giving me more strength than I could ever imagine.

Tonnara di Scopello: The dreamiest of wedding venues

When I first spoke with Denise and Mike, one thing was clear from the get go: their venue couldn't be other than Tonnara di Scopello, in Trapani. Tonnara di Scopello needs no introduction: it has been on the list of the world’s best wedding venues for years and is one of the most sought-after destinations for wedding celebrations in Sicily. Why? I think images will do a better job than words:

Photos by Martina Botti

Denise and Mike’s love bliss

Denise, Maltese, and Mike, British, are a sweet, caring, and loving couple. I immediately felt a deep connection with them. As I put down the phone after our first conversation, I couldn’t wait to start planning their special day in Sicily and make their dreams come true.


Denise and Mike’s wedding took place on August 29, 2023 at Tonnara di Scopello in front of 80 guests. Amuri took care of the decorations and design: a thoughtful combination of tropical flowers, including nutan orange, eremurus orange, krokos peach melba, kniphofia alcazar and eucalyptus – in perfect harmony with the surroundings.


Speaking in the aftermath, I’m sure of one thing: connections among people, nature and events can be powerful.

Coming together to celebrate love radiates a strong energy that prevails: despite a few natural adversities (more on that later), Denise and Mike’s wedding turned out to be truly wonderful.

Photos by Martina Botti

Behind the scenes of Denise and Mike’s wedding day venues

Full disclosure: the run up to these wonderful and unforgettable moments was very intense.  I want to tell you everything that has happened because I do believe that this has been an incredible journey from start to finish. The reasons why it has been so special lie exactly in its circumstances. I will give you all the details below.

BTS: When personal stories intertwine

When you see these beautiful, joyful photos, it’s difficult to imagine what actually goes on in a person’s life.

Here is where Denise, Mike and myself were confronted with some personal struggles that have inevitably been part of this story. 


My mother had been staying at the hospital throughout the wedding preparations and celebration. I was travelling back and forth to the hospital every day, leaving her with a heavy heart every time. She had been sick for some time, and I knew I had to cherish every moment with her. I was spending entire nights at the hospital and then going to work the next day. 


I mentioned interconnection before: Denise’s dad had a stroke one month before the wedding. It came as a shock to everyone. This was probably the moment where Denise and I felt most united: two of our parents were ill. As much as we were planning a moment of joy, our personal lives were casting a shadow in the background.


But Denise wanted her dad to be at her wedding. It was very important for her to have him by her side. When he was ready to travel (he recovered pretty well but was not able to walk anymore), she booked him on a private flight from Malta to Palermo so that he could attend – and so he did.

However, another beloved guest could not join: Mike’s dad suddenly passed away two weeks before the wedding. A sad, unexpected mourning for Mike, his family, and the rest of us. 


As for me, I gave my best to make Denise and Mike’s wedding the one they dreamed of despite these circumstances – all the while thinking about my mom and being by her side as much as I could. When the wedding was over, Denise immediately encouraged me to go and be with my mom. I thank her for that. And I admire my mom for waiting for me on that day. She passed away two days later, surrounded by the people she loved and who very much loved her in return.

BTS: Tonnara is burning

On August 27, as wedding guests were settling in the Tonnara for the next five days, the hills around Scopello went on fire. A sad scenario of smoke and ash. It’s heartbreaking seeing a piece of paradise like Tonnara di Scopello and its wonderful surroundings burn. In the past few years, extreme heat, warm wind, and unjustifiable human intervention have caused several fires around Sicily, posing a serious risk to local plants, animals, and of course inhabitants. 


On this day, fires were picking up quickly so the Tonnara had to be evacuated. Unfortunately, it was not possible to leave the premises by car. 

As a consequence, everyone was taken to Castellammare del Golfo by boat. We even made it to the news, you can read more here


As the local fire brigades were trying to put the fire out, I had to completely rethink the first two reception days. All that was planned at Tonnara had to be cancelled and around 50 guests had to be relocated to Castellammare del Golfo. 


Eventually the aperitivo at Tonnara di Scopello was replaced with pizza in Castellammare del Golfo, but all the guests enjoyed this cosy and, dare I say, very Italian welcome just the same. All in all, being together was all that mattered and the initial chaos and confusion were replaced with joy, music, and laughter!


We were able to go back to Scopello on August 28, the day before the wedding celebration, where guests were finally accommodated at the Tonnara.

BTS: Stormy weather, uncontrollable chaos

A last behind-the-scenes story because, as incredible as it may sound, something else happened in the time leading up to the ceremony. Just 30 minutes before the start, a heavy storm swept through Scopello. Suddenly, a strong wind started to blow, sweeping away tables, chairs, and flowers while glasses were crushing everywhere. It was pure havoc. How could we keep going when almost everything seemed ruined and beyond repair?


The answer was easier than I thought: once again, we were all there, together, and nothing else mattered. As the last raindrop fell on the ground, everybody started to help us fix the place: Tonnara’s staff, suppliers, even wedding guests! What a wonderful shared effort – I’m always amazed by the power of togetherness, love, and mutual support. 


Thanks to everyone, the place was ready to welcome the bride and groom, as well as the wedding reception. The ceremony could start. As Denise walked down the aisle, my heart was full: it’s all for this moment here. The sweat, the tears, the hard work – it’s always worth it. Love is always worth it.