Rich in cinematic charm and historic facades, Sophie and Stuart’s wedding was held at Villa Cetinale – a 17th-century baroque villa renowned for the most beautifully enchanting gardens in Italy.
Starting with an intimate ceremony in a quintessential Italian chapel, guests were enveloped in wild blooms and foliage set under detailed, vaulted ceilings surrounded by emotive renaissance art.
Despite earlier thunderstorms and summer showers, the reception went ahead in the villa’s infamous gardens – rows of trees acting as a shield from the darkness on either side of them. A long table adorned with wild, whimsical florals in white perfectly complemented the villa’s eroded façade, adding a softness to the minimal styling. Romantic candles thoughtfully placed on the table and the strings of fairy lights above them contrasted the dark, moody sky, creating an ethereal ambiance to the evening.
This otherworldly celebration was beautifully captured by Cinzia Bruschini.
Names / Sophie & Stuart
Wedding Date / 31st August 2019
Guest Numbers / 50
How We Met
Stu and I met when we were nineteen years old. We were in our second year of university in Wellington, New Zealand, and were flatmates for nearly a year before we ended up getting together. In 2013, after four years together, we moved to the UK so that I could complete my Masters in Curating at the Royal College of Art. We have been living abroad ever since, and have spent time in London, Los Angeles and Amsterdam.
Our Engagement Story
We got engaged while on holiday in Puglia in the South of Italy. Following a long lunch at Masseria Moroseta, Stu proposed amongst a circle of 100 year old olive trees, with a Jessica McCormack ring.
Although we initially toyed with the idea of eloping, in the end, we decided on holding a very intimate event with only our immediate family and close friends in attendance. We decided to spread the event over several days and were determined to find a venue that could house everybody on site. Having lived in so many different places, we knew we wouldn’t be able to find a destination that suited everybody, so we sought out a location that would be enticing enough for our guests that it would be worth the added effort of traveling. Having decided on Tuscany, we looked at lots of different venues in the area before finding Villa Cetinale, a 17th-century Baroque villa just outside of Siena.
Event Aesthetic and Inspiration
I didn’t end up sourcing much inspiration from Pinterest or bridal blogs. Instead, I found inspiration in black and white films from the 60s, as well as the venue itself with its rich textures, baroque interiors, and mystical gardens. I wanted the wedding to feel like an intimate and surreal dinner party, so I kept the styling quite minimal and monochromatic to allow the mood of the venue and emotion of the day to reign supreme.
Photography & Videography
Villa Cetinale is an incredibly cinematic venue, so it was crucial to hire a photographer and videographer who could capture this sensibility. I also wanted a team that could shoot in both film and digital. I have always been captivated by Cinzia Bruschini’s images, which radiate light and raw emotion, and in particular, her couples portraits, which never feel stiff or forced yet always have incredible structure and composition to them.
I also wanted to hire a videographer but I struggled to find a conventional wedding videographer that would represent the kind of event we had planned. In the end, I reached out to Greta Van Der Star, a New Zealand based photographer and filmmaker who normally produces films for brands and publications, to see if she would consider producing a super8 film for us. In contrast to a traditional wedding video, the film that Greta made for us evocatively captures the ‘in-between’ moments as well as the overall mood and feeling of the weekend. In addition, it is set to an ethereal soundtrack that we commissioned by New Zealand sound artist Claire Duncan which sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it.
Finally, I also brought some black and white disposable cameras. With many of my guests being artists or working in the art world, they had loads of fun with the cameras, and the quality of the disposals are surprisingly good.
I didn’t shop around for dresses because I knew straight away that I wanted an Emilia Wickstead wedding dress. I loved Emilia’s modern take on traditional bridal styles and her elegant and architectural silhouettes. I paired my gown with a bespoke Emilia Wickstead four-meter patterned veil. For the wedding reception and the rehearsal dinner, I wore two dresses by Simone Rocha, which I loved for their baroque romance and whimsy, which suited the venue so well.
I wore two pairs of shoes by The Row.
The bridesmaids wore ivory hammered silk dresses by New Zealand designer Miss Crabb.
Stu and I got our wedding bands from the same designer who made my engagement ring, Jessica McCormack. Like Emilia Wickstead, Jessica McCormack is a New Zealander designer now based in London. The wedding bands are both yellow gold.
Jewelry & Accessories
I wanted my overall look to be classic so I didn’t want to overdo it with the accessories. For that reason, the only accessories I added were a pair of button-back diamond earrings that matched my engagement ring, also by Jessica McCormack.
We got Stu’s whole outfit from Dover Street Market in London. He wore a black Comme des Garçons Homme Deux suit, with a Dries van Noten shirt and Dries van Noten shoes. The groomsmen wore black suits from Arket.
Lara Navarrini did my make up. She was amazing at implementing my no-makeup wedding makeup.
We worked with Michaela McBride Calligraphy on our save the dates and invitations, as well as menus for on the day details.
Flowers & Bouquets
I worked closely with La Rosa Canina to create floral designs that were wild, rustic, and romantic. I wanted these to bring a sense of softness and ethereality to the day, while also drawing out the mystical and otherworldly qualities of Villa Cetinale. In terms of the palette, I kept these to white only, to maintain the restrained approach to styling that I had conceived for the rest of the day, however, I also incorporated some dried floral elements into the bouquets and centerpieces to create a sense of texture and a subtle connection to the villa’s eroded facade.
The morning of the wedding my bridesmaids and I had a long lunch with some of my favorite antipasti, salumi, cakes and sparkling wine, that I had brought down from my favorite bakeries and delicatessens in Florence.
As I had planned the design and styling myself, I hired an Italian speaking wedding planner, Cristina Ditta from The Wedding Care, to handle logistics as well as the running of the day itself. Cristina was very knowledgeable about the local industry and we could not have done it without her.
We had a Millefoglie – a traditional Italian wedding cake – which consists of layers of fresh pastry, cream, lemon curd and fresh berries. We brought it out really late during the party as a second dessert and then ate the leftovers by the pool the next day.
Making sure we had delicious food was the most important decision in planning the wedding. We wanted food that reminded us of our best moments travelling Italy, however that was difficult to find in a conventional Italian catering service. In the end, I reached out to Emiko Davies, a renowned cookbook author who lives in Florence, and I still can’t believe she agreed to cook for us. Sourcing her ingredients from agriturismos and local markets, Emiko created the most beautiful menu including Buffalo Mozzarella and Heirloom Tomato Caprese; Pappardelle with Pork Ragu and Summer Truffles; Arista with Cannellini beans and Sautéed greens, and Roasted Stone Fruit with Mascarpone and Fig Honey. Not only did everything taste amazing, but it was also presented so minimally and beautifully. Emiko totally understood how the food intertwined with the mood, emotion and intimacy of the entire event. Many of our guests said that the food at our wedding was the best food they ate while they were in Italy – one of my bridesmaids actually cried while eating her roast peach! In addition, Emiko’s husband Marco Lami is a fantastic sommelier and he helped us source beautiful local wines that matched each of Emiko’s courses.
For the aperitivo we had a guitarist playing. For the evening entertainment, we brought over an incredible DJ from New Zealand, Soraya La Pread. Like our videographer, Soraya doesn’t normally do weddings, but I’d listened to her playlists online and I loved the way she was able to mix really diverse music together. Soraya recognised how important music was to set the scene that I was trying to create. Beyond her evening set, Soraya carefully chose the right song for my bouquet toss from one of the upper balconies of the villa and even helped me curate playlists for the wedding dinner, the rehearsal dinner and the brunch pool party. Like Emiko, Soraya completely understood the mood I was trying to evoke and was able to intertwine all the chaotic references I threw at her into something beautiful and dreamlike: from Leonard Cohen and Barbara Mason to Patti Smith.
We asked our good friend – one of Stu’s groomsmen – to act as the celebrant. It was very special and it definitely heightened the emotion in the chapel having him up there with us.
We had an incredible honeymoon in Sri Lanka, staying at Amangalla and Amanwella.
A Memorable Moment
On the afternoon of the wedding, a late summer thunderstorm rolled in. We decided to move the outdoor ceremony into the private chapel at the last minute, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened. With everyone gathered tightly in such a small space, together with the wildness of the flowers and foliage, there was such a powerful sense of emotion in the chapel that as soon as I walked in everybody started crying. We decided to brave the idea of having dinner outside and were prepared to run inside and have dinner standing up over our plates at any moment. Although there were occasional spurts of lighting, this only added to a magical sense of drama and atmosphere, and it didn’t rain all evening. We found out the next day that it rained in all the towns and villages surrounding the villa, but somehow skipped us.
If I could give other Brides-To-Be one Piece of Advice…
Don’t be afraid to break the wedding mold. Throughout the planning process, we worked with both conventional suppliers as well as people who don’t work in the wedding industry. We found this to be really rewarding in terms of both adding something different to the day as well forging new creative relationships that have extended far beyond our wedding.
Photography / Cinzia Bruschini
Videography / Greta Van Der Star
Bride’s Dress / Emilia Wickstead
Bride’s Shoes / The Row
Jewelry / Jessica McCormack
Makeup / Lara Navarrini
Florist / La Rosa Canina
Groomsmen / Arket
Stationery & Invitations / Michaela McBride Calligraphy
Catering / Emiko Davies
Wedding Venue / Villa Cetinale
Wedding Planner / The Wedding Care
Entertainment / DJ Soraya La Pread
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