It was the last day of October, a bright and warm Sunday, although Autumn was approaching. I had been checking weather forecasts for weeks, and I knew that that sunny day was going to be the last one of so many beautiful summer days.
Yes, October had been gorgeous and very warm. But starting from Monday, the beautiful weather would change into rainy days, so it was the last chance for me, and I had to hurry up.
I needed some evocative and inspiring images for my proposal website, something like a luxury, one-of-a-kind picnic in a unique place. I had every detail in my mind, and I had been working on it for weeks.
The location I had chosen was a peaceful olive grove in my friend Alberto’s property. Alberto is the owner of Delser Manor, an outstanding country hotel on the hills skirting the northern side of Verona, enclosed by vineyards and olive trees.
“For years I study. I look long at olive trees, all grey and silver, and watch the sunlight. Ah, yes, I am ver’ lazy, but I see after I look long that it is perspective that gives it this quality. Perspective, and absolute faith to the subject.”
I have always been fascinated by that olive grove. The olive tree is such an ancient tree; it is also one of the plants most frequently mentioned in the Bible. I think there’s some magic in there. In-between the olive trees, some large white stones remind me of Stonehenge, and from up there the view of the valley and the river Adige is breathtaking. It was a perfect spot for a romantic marriage proposal!
The theme was “country-chic picnic”, and I’d been selecting for weeks the most evocative objects, making the coolest kitchen-chic cushions, preparing the traditional Italian picnic food, looking for country flowers. Everything had to match each other, and I considered every detail carefully because the final result had to indulge my creative vision as well as that one of the engaged-to-be couple. I wanted them to get the feeling to be on a shooting set of a decorator magazine.
“ I was working quickly. The almost unreal silence was interrupted from time to time only by the rustle of the wind among the olive trees.”
It took me a few minutes to choose the exact spot, right between two massive olive trees which could help very well for the setup, and in front of the valley and the river Adige. I started unfolding the protective, water-repelling picnic sheet, and on it I placed the cute blanket I had made for this set. As a second step, I hung two old, precious curtains between the two olive trees. After setting the picnic area up, I could start with the decoration.
The primary colours of this rustic picnic are red, white, off-white and beige, and the most decorative pieces are certainly cushions. The only way to get that distinctive country-rustic-chic look, exactly matching all the other elements, is to make them yourself. And this is what I had done. I had purchased some cute, red and white kitchen towels with different patterns and had used them to sew custom cushions in various sizes. I think the result is fantastic!
“ Crostata is a typical Italian tart made of a base of pastry dough filled with jam, cream or fresh fruit, and covered with thin strips of pastry dough to create a lattice finish.”
W hile I was moving on assembling the set, I remembered that it was the first day of solar time and the clocks had fallen back in the past night, so I had one hour less of light and needed to get faster.
The surprise factor is a significant element of my proposal setups. Location, decoration, colours and details are aligned with the personality of the future fiancee or their love story, that I get to know from the questionnaire I submit once my services are booked. Moreover, a second surprise awaits her when it’s time for him to pop the question!
The imaginary couple of this set first met six years ago, so I prepared six cute, country-chic little envelopes, each one labelled with a number from one to six for each year they’ve been together. Every envelope contained a card with a few words referring to a remarkable moment occurred to them in that specific year. I positioned the envelopes in different places in the picnic area so that the fiancée-to be would open them one by one, up to number six, where she would finally find the question “Will you marry me?”
“In photography, the golden hour is the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky.”
As a last step, I placed the food on the blanket. For this set, I chose traditional, Italian picnic food, because food is part of the whole experience. Seasoned and fresh cheese, mozzarella, Parma ham, stuffed tomatoes, savoury cake, as well as puff pastry, strawberry cake and a delicious cherry pie, are some of the food displayed on the picnic blanket. As for the drinks, I opted for some fruit juices and two varieties of wine: Valpolicella and Bardolino red wine. It’s a lot of food for two people, but I would provide some food containers to carry it away.
By the time it was all set up, the sun was approaching the sunset over the horizon. I was in time for the golden hour, that would embrace everything with that gentle, yet intense warm light that only the sunset can create. I was so happy I could get it, the golden hour made my pictures beautiful!
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