Lauren and Justin wed at a modern villa wedding in the Portuguese countryside within the Alentejo region. Designed by renowned architect Manuel Aires Mateus, the concrete and steel structure stood in striking contrast to the rugged surroundings, occupying over 1,000 acres of breathtaking land.
The ceremony was meticulously crafted to harmonize with the natural beauty of the landscape. Set amidst the olive groves, a pathway adorned with white flowers led to rust-colored columns and an altar embellished with elegant white floral arrangements. As night fell, guests followed a candlelit path that led them to a reception dinner that exuded the essence of the Portuguese countryside.
The bride wore an avant-garde look with a high Victorian neckline and delicate collar. The Vera Wang gown’s sheer fabric with beautiful ornate, textural details floated gently against the sun-kissed clay earth of Southern Portugal.
Photographers Dos Más en la Mesa captured this Portugal destination wedding.
Names / Lauren Gonzalez & Justin Maes
Location / Alentejo, Portugal
Wedding Date / October 1st, 2022
Guest Numbers / 67
Our Engagement Story
We met in New York City, but now live in Miami. The weekend before we moved to Miami, Justin asked me to go on a hike to a waterfall 2 hours outside of the city. It was to a meaningful spot where I had taken Justin for one of his birthdays so I became suspicious. I mean on what planet do you ask your type-a, producer-girlfriend who is elbow deep in cardboard boxes, packing tape and spreadsheets to go on an unplanned hike your last weekend in New York City.
It was a autumn day in the city and warm enough for just a light jacket. Despite having a million things to do before we moved, we hopped in the car for the leisurely drive. About 20 minutes before we reached the trail, the sky darkened and it started to rain. Justin calmly asked me what I thought we should do. I was suspicious of what was going to happen until this point and started to second guess if what I thought was maybe going to happen was actually going to happen. I suggested we find a brewery or something nearby. Instead Justin insisted it might clear up and that we should just head to the trailhead. Upon arriving the rain had turned to a light drizzle. We got out of the car and started jogging up the trail.
In the rain is how Justin remembers it, but he actually sprinted ahead of me. Thankfully the waterfall was much closer than we remembered. Justin suggested we get a bit closer and told me to lead the way. When I turned around he was down on one knee holding the most stunning and perfect ring I have ever seen.
Despite being suspicious, I was in shock and I think Justin had to ask me two times to marry him. I screamed yes and cried a little as we hugged and shivered in the rain. Justin didn’t tell a single person that he was proposing because he wanted me to be the first to find out. He also wanted to be able to surprise our friends and family when we shared the news together. On the drive back we stopped in a cute little town and grabbed lunch while we FaceTimed everyone we could think of. It was understated and perfect. No frills, just love and very us.
What we love most about each other…
Justin is unapologetically himself and always speaks his mind. He can come across as super serious and sometimes terse, but he’s really just the most loving, caring and tender person I have ever met. He loves family and friends deeply (including mine). He’s super hot, can build anything, can laugh at himself, can sew a button, can cook a mean lemon pasta and cries at sad movies – he has that range! In addition to all the very valid aforementioned reasons, we have moved 5 times since we have been together and no matter where we live or go, none of it matters because anywhere Justin is, is home to me. He makes me feel safe and secure every single day of my life and for that I will love him for the rest of time.
Lauren is the perfect partner in life. She is patient, immensely kind, goofy, hilarious, smart and witty, self-aware, and the most thoughtful person anyone has ever met. She is organized beyond belief and can coordinate an elaborate plan/event in boundless detail. So not surprised in the least that our wedding in Alentejo, Portugal was so thoughtful, detailed, and matched us so well.
She is the friend that you call when you need a laugh, the friend that you call when you need to cry, and the friend you call when you need serious advice. She is there with words to help at any moment, even if it’s just to say she is there for you. I am beyond fortunate to have her as my best friend to share in the laughs and cries that are to come! Sorry, what was the question? What do I love most about her? Oh, probably her butt.
We got married in Aletenjo, Portugal at the Herdade da Malhadinha Nova with 70 of our closest friends and family. We wanted to get married somewhere that would let us do things our way in a setting unlike anything we had experienced before. Our goal was for our venue to feel like home away from home, to be outdoorsy, but comfortable, hospitality-focused, and of course beautiful. Overall, just a place our guests would be excited to visit outside of us getting married. It had to be a good reason to get on a plane! We had the rural estate (1000+ acres) to ourselves for the whole weekend where guests had the opportunity to explore the property and do various activities ranging from bee keeping to horseback riding to archery. It all resulted with the most idyllic villa wedding in the Portuguese countryside.
Friday night we welcomed guests with outdoor show cooking where they were able to select their cuts of meats and vegetables from straight off the wood-burning fire pit. We tried to keep it low-key despite my dad trying to keep the party going by tipping the DJ to play all the songs on our “Do Not Play List”. On Saturday, after some liquid courage, Justin, who is from Montana, channelled his inner Rocky Mountain cowboy and rode into our ceremony on a horse, a la Bianca Jagger.
The ceremony took place between olive trees on the property, followed by a sunset cocktail hour and dinner outside. During dinner, under the stars, we enjoyed music played by a locally-based musician we stumbled upon busking in Porto on a previous visit to Portugal. We then danced all night to a curated playlist and had burgers and “McMaes” branded French fries as a late-night snack.
From a decor and visual standpoint, we wanted our wedding to be simple, elegant and effortless. We didn’t want anything fussy or overproduced. We wanted it to feel very “us” and wanted to respect the natural landscape of the region and property. Our goal was to blend in with what was already there vs. make it look like something else or entirely transform the venue. It was important to us that it felt like you were stumbling upon an undisturbed pocket of Portugal.
I made about 100 moodboards for every element of the wedding, but the above one really encapsulates the overall vibe/inspo. Jacquemus’ SS 2021 show was a major point of reference. We purposely kept it super small so that we could really relish in time spent with our family and friends. We only cared about being able to celebrate against an idyllic backdrop in a very intimate setting with amazing food, surrounded by our favorite people.
We opted out of some wedding traditions that didn’t align with how we wanted to celebrate our wedding. One of those being not spending the night before the wedding together. We stayed up late chatting with friends after our welcome dinner Friday and spent that night together. Justin and I wrote letters to one another that we read the morning of our wedding. After a few happy tears we had breakfast together and drove around the property in a golf cart saying “hi” to friends and family.
Justin went on a walk with his dad and I (Lauren) got ready with my mom, dad, brother and 3 best friends. My good friend who is a London-based makeup artist, Andriani Vasilou, did my makeup and the vibes were just 10/10. One of my best friends, Meagan, made a getting-ready playlist. I ate a huge bowl of pasta and enjoyed being surrounded by some of my favorite people on one of the happiest days of my life.
Not every minute was perfect however… while taking some photos, I got a little too close to a candle and my hair caught on fire, but none of it mattered. My hair stylist extinguished the fire and we all laughed and kept it moving. Very off brand for me because I usually like everything to be perfect, but I think it was just a testament to how lucky and amazing the day was and how excited I was to marry Justin. After getting dressed, my best friends and I took a shot of tequila before they left to go ahead to the ceremony. My mom, dad and I rode in a vintage/rustic Land Rover Defender 110 to the ceremony that the staff decorated with olive branches.
After going on a walk around the property with his dad, Justin took a golf cart to pick up my mom and dropped her off at the room that I was getting ready in. Justin then lounged in the plunge pool outside our room and had lunch with friends while sipping tequila. Afterwards Justin invited his closest friends and family to his room to get ready. Justin rode to the ceremony on the most beautiful chocolate brown horse – it was bred and raised on the Malhadinha property and was a retired National Dressage Champion. Justin then met his mom at the top of the aisle to begin his walk. Both my parents walked me down the aisle and my brother, Jonathan was our “ring bearer” and Justin’s dad married us.
“Rather than facing the altar, we had the chairs face in, towards the aisle. It gave everyone a good view of the ceremony and made our walk down the aisle feel all the more intimate.”
Justin and I are both a bit awkward in front of the camera so we wanted someone who would be good at capturing those “in between” unexpected moments. We liked the idea of reportage photography and didn’t want anything too posed or formal. We thought Dos Más en La Mesa did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the wedding and our aesthetic in a way that we couldn’t have imagined. They captured us, our family, friends and just how happy we were, but they also provided beautiful moments of the property and landscape that we will forever treasure.
We wanted everything to feel like nature and this modern villa wedding in the Portuguese countryside were merging together as one. The ceremony took place between olive trees while the aisle was lined with fresh florals that were designed to feel like they were sprouting from the ground. Everything was intentionally designed to feel natural and organic. So much so that I even picked up a few twigs and branches in my train when walking down the aisle.
Rather than facing the altar, we had the chairs face in, towards the aisle. It gave everyone a good view of the ceremony and made our walk down the aisle feel all the more intimate.
We kept dinner and dancing separate and really wanted to create an intimate dinner setting that felt more like catching up with old friends, rather than a wedding. A candlelit path led the way from cocktail hour to dinner where everyone sat at one long table under the stars and string lights. The florals were fresh and bountiful and lined the entire table in small explosions of flowers.
Rather than a traditional seating chart, we wrote handwritten notes to every guest thanking them for joining us. The card then had the seat assignment included with our personal note. Paige Tuzée did our stationery and menus were personalized to each person. The point of it all was to make everyone understand how grateful and lucky we felt that they could travel all that way to celebrate with us. At dinner my mom and Justin’s brother gave speeches, but other than that most of it was spent enjoying everyone’s company and thanking our guests for being there. After dinner Justin and I had our first dance and danced with our parents. The party started from there and didn’t stop until after 4am.
Wedding Planner & Stylist
Ivnna and Andreia from The Wedding Wonderland were extremely patient with me. I had a lot of opinions and a lot of moodboards. There was no way we could have planned our wedding without them. Between the language barrier, time zone, and the location, we really needed someone on the ground in Portugal who understood our vision and did everything in their power to execute. I think having a visual explanation of everything I liked and also being able to communicate why I didn’t like certain things really helped us be on the same page. They had trusted vendors that she worked with, but also brought on new ones to meet our creative needs. They found our venue, and their taste level and quality exceeded my expectations. It was a true collaboration to create this modern villa wedding in the Portuguese countryside!
I didn’t have specific flowers in mind, I just knew I wanted everything to feel super fresh, bountiful and timeless. I think we talked about tamed, wild flowers or something similar, that being the vibe that we wanted to play into. Green and white flowers felt like the right choice – they allowed our vision to remain really clean and elegant, but also a bit wild and natural. Plus they really popped against the golden colors of the Malhadinha landscape.
We hit a bit of a snag with our save the dates. We really didn’t like the work our initial vendor put forth and we didn’t feel like they were interested in understanding our vision. However, because we were short on time, I (Lauren) ended up piecemealing them myself. I combined some of what our initial stationery vendor made with some graphics and templates on Bliss and Bone and it all worked out. We sent digital save the dates and decided to part way with our first stationery vendor.
Our wedding planner found an incredible Australia-based designer, Paige Tuzèe that was so great and collaborative to work with. She also created our seating chart, menus, coasters, etc. We pieced together our favorite references from Paige’s site and Instagram and worked together to perfect the invitation suite.
Neither of us understood the wedding cake tradition and the cutting of the cake, it felt too forced and unauthentic for us. So we opted out of the traditional wedding cake and instead served mini individual olive oil cakes with lemon buttercream frosting.
Fashion & Beauty Notes
Bride’s Dress & Shoes
My dress was Vera Wang, a long sleeve, fitted beaded lace gown, with a Zuhair Murad slip underneath. My shoes were Manolo Blahnik. Everything was actually incredibly comfortable – I want to wear it again!
Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories
Justin designed my engagement ring with Nadia Shelbaya. We had her create our wedding bands as well using family stones from my grandma and Justin’s grandma and great grandma. This involved shipping diamonds/family jewelry from the US to Copenhagen which was a bit terrifying, but so very worth it. Our rings are so unique and the way we were able to incorporate both our families makes them all the more special.
Hair & Makeup
I wanted to keep my hair and makeup as close to natural as possible. The inspiration for my look was an enhanced version of my everyday self. I wore a middle part (like I do every day of my life) and kept makeup glowy and fresh. My makeup trial with Andriani was when I was visiting London (where she is based) for work and we didn’t really have to trial much. I had sent her a moodboard before, but she also knows me well and is so good at fresh, glowy skin so it was a pretty seamless process.
For the ceremony, my hair stylist pinned my hair back for the veil and let it out when it was time to party. I did a wardrobe change after our first dance and added some sparkly eyeshadow for a fun touch up. A very tame version of Euphoria makeup was the inspo for my late-night party look.
I (Lauren) arrived at our ceremony in a vintage Land Rover Defender and Justin arrived on the most stunning, chocolate brown horse.
We did a mini-moon (I really hate that word) right after the wedding because we figured we would be so sad if we had to go straight home. We went to Valencia, Menorca and Barcelona, which were lovely, but honestly wish we would have just stayed in Portugal the whole time. I think we’ll make a trip back just to go to the Azores or something similar. Moving around so much after such a busy and sleepless weekend probably wasn’t the best idea and we wish we would have stayed put and relaxed.
Justin walked down the aisle to an acoustic cover of “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis performed live by Andre Marinho. I walked down the aisle to an acoustic cover of “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers performed live by Andre Marinho.
Andre Marinho is a Brazilian musician based in Porto, Portugal who we discovered during our wedding planning trip earlier in the spring prior to the wedding. We connected with his voice and music on the streets of Porto and Lauren’s mom said, “you should ask him if he does weddings!” So Justin walked over and introduced us and in that short interaction we knew he would set the perfect mood for our wedding. We exchanged our info and are so grateful he was able to be part of our wedding.
Our first dance was to Lianne La Havas’ cover of “Say a Little Prayer.” She’s an artist Justin introduced me to and we “attended” a remote concert of hers during Covid lockdown. The lyrics encapsulate how we feel about one another. I danced with my dad to “Mi Viejo” by Piero. It was his dad’s favorite song and the lyrics make me tear up every time. I then danced with my mom to Barry White’s “My Everything” which reminded me so much of my childhood – she always used to blast it around the house growing up. Justin danced with his mom to “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys and then I danced with his dad a bit during the end of this song. Finally we played “Volare” by The Gypsy Kings to get everyone out on the dance floor and get the party started!
For the ceremony and dinner we had local musician, André Marinho perform. We met him when he was performing on the street in Porto, Portugal (see note above under music). He was the loveliest to coordinate with and he learned many songs just for us. And his voice and talent are amazing. He dedicated a song to us during our sinner that his grandfather used to sing and it was all very special.
For the cocktail hour and the party we had a DJ, saxophonist and drummer.We made a very specific playlist that included everything from merengue to country to early 2000s throwbacks. We asked our DJ not to stray from this.
We asked Justin’s dad to marry us. We wanted our officiant to be someone who knew us and could speak to our relationship. Actually, we were the 5th couple he married and I happened to be the 2nd Lauren Maes he married as well.
No readings, only speeches. Family and friends are our only religions.
A memorable moment…
Going to Portugal with my mom and Justin during wedding planning was so incredibly special to me. Despite having a long to-do list of things we needed to see and approve in a very short amount of time, we had the best time exploring Portugal. In between hair trials and food tastings we got to walk around, shop and eat at some pretty incredible places.
The absolute best part of the trip was probably when we arrived at the Malhadinha to see it in person for the first time. We had booked the venue without seeing it because they only had one date available so we were eager and anxious to see how it compared to the photos on their website. We drove to Alentejo on barely any sleep, immediately upon flying into Portugal. The last 10 minutes of the drive were a little suspect because all we could see was the highway and dirt roads. We were all quiet and nervous in the car and thinking the same thing – what if this didn’t meet our expectations?
Suddenly we turned up a long driveway surrounded by rows and rows of vineyards on either side. It was like a sensory overload, time literally stood still. The birds were chirping, butterflies were fluttering – we drove by gardens and chickens and horses and the most beautiful modern and old buildings. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It felt like a fever dream, as if we stepped out of reality in our plain clothes and jet lag and right into a story book. It was like this place was built for us. My mom says Justin and I had the same look of awe and amazement on our faces. Everything we saw, touched and ate was absolutely perfect. We couldn’t wait to come back with friends and family in October and we knew that, if they felt even a fraction of our excitement, they were going to have the best time.
The Malhadina staff, especially Luisa and Bruno, hold a special place in our heart and we hope to be able to go back to celebrate many anniversaries and special occasions with them. Their attention to care and detail were unmatched and their entire staff showed us such genuine excitement and happiness the entire week, it was very touching. We are very thankful that we found Malhadinha.
One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…
I (Lauren) honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll be honest that at first I didn’t really know if I wanted a wedding or cared about making a big deal about it. All I cared about was marrying Justin and I thought it was silly to spend so much time and money on a “party.” I am so grateful that my mom and Justin convinced me otherwise. The moments and memories I created with everyone, from my mom, to my best friends, to Justin are priceless and ones that I will cherish forever.
There are few occasions in life where you have a good enough excuse to convince all your favorite people in the world to travel and celebrate together in your way. Nothing is more special than getting to marry your person, surrounded by the people you love most in the universe. Shared joy is the best kind of joy and I’m so happy we did it.
Sources of inspiration…
A lot of my inspiration came from fashion, nature, travel, etc. I have a massive saved folder on Instagram of references that aren’t specific to one project or style, just things I like. When starting to define our wedding aesthetic, I took note of the things that I kept coming back to like colors, tones, textures, shapes, and tried to find a common denominator.
For each element of the wedding I was trying to nail down, I challenged myself to make all my inspiration fit on a single moodboard slide to really narrow my focus and what it was that I was trying to convey. Justin and I bounced ideas back and forth with my mom and best friend to make sure we were on the right track.
I also scoured Pinterest to help fill in more specific blanks when it came to stationery and tablescape references. I looked at fashion show invites, experiential activations, and focused on trying to set a tone and create a vibe. Immaculate vibes only! With every decision we made I asked myself if what we were doing and choosing aligned with that. Despite leaning into a few traditional wedding elements like a ceremony and first dance, neither of us wanted our wedding to feel super…wedding-y.
Wedding Venue / Herdade da Malhadinha Nova
Wedding Stylist & Planner / Wedding Wonderland
Photography / Dos Más en La Mesa
Bride’s Dress / Vera Wang
Bride’s Shoes / Manolo Blahnik
Wedding Rings / Nadia Shelbaya
Hair / João Gaspar
Makeup / Andriani Vasilou
Stationery / Paige Tuzée
Florist / Deco Floralia
Cake / Parque da Penha
Catering / Parque da Penha
Celebrant / Joel Maes
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