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This is the story of how tragedy, moving across the country, and a leap of faith led to the most beautiful Florence wedding we’ve ever filmed.

Ashley and I visited together before she moved to Italy. I was grieving the soon-to-be absence of one of my best friends as she traveled across the world, leaving behind her home town, family and friends to start a new life for herself. I remember telling her how proud I was that she was choosing to start over, and in the bravest boldest way possible.

Ashley had only ever lived in our little coastal Florida town and had suffered a number of hardships leading up the her decision—most of all, she had just lost her mom, her best friend, in a tragic accident. Her death left us all reeling, but for Ashley it was the final straw. I was shocked when she told me of her plans, but I couldn’t have been happier she was actually going through with it.

So she moved to Italy to learn to teach English as a second language and go where the wind blew her. She left with zero expectations—least of all to meet the man of her dreams.

That’s how it happened. One night, at a pizza shop in Florence, Ashley sat at a table by herself with a bottle of wine. That’s when she heard a familiar sound—English. Neil and his best friend Gerald, simply passing through the city, had landed in that same little pizza shop. Before she knew it, she was giving them a private tour of the city sights and quickly falling in love with this stranger from South Africa.

Neil wasn’t meant to stay in Florence after that night.

He convinced Gerald to go on without him and stayed a couple more days to get to know Ashley, the quirky American girl learning English in Italy.

They never lost touch after Neil’s eventual departure . Their relationship only grew into that you see in the film before you. That story is a tale fit for a book of course. When it came time for them to finally get married, they knew right where to go… back to the place where it all started.

And so we, Ashley and Neil’s friends and family, followed them there to relive some of that love story with them. It wasn’t all happiness—there was much remembering of the circumstances that brought them together. And so we laughed together, we did much crying together, and we would do it all over again given the chance.

Theirs is a story of love in the unlikeliest of times. It’s a story of love without boundaries. It’s about life persevering in the face of inconceivable sadness, and it reminds us how leaps of faith can lead to the best era of your life.

So when you feel scared at the jump… afraid of the fall… just remember life finds a way, and love will be there to catch you.

Film | Pear & Thorn

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