Reminiscent of a black and white film, Abby and Paulo Rafael were married in a 600-year-old remote Tuscan village. The Italian wedding was a play on light and shade within layered walls, alleyways, and gardens. Drawing on the groom’s background as an Art Director, each setting was thoughtfully crafted as a moment for guests to journey through, like scenes in an old film.
The dreamlike ceremony was held on a balmy afternoon, amongst olive groves and pomegranate trees, sunlight trickling through the branches above. The softly dramatic dinner table was placed between two historic facades with tea lights, candles, and a delicate floral installation floating above.
Names / Abby & Paulo Rafael
Wedding Date / September 20, 2022
Guest Numbers / 50
How We Met
We met many years ago and unexpectedly found each other again. Our timing was serendipitous.
Our Engagement Story
In 2019 Paulo brought me back to Italy. 10 days carefully mapped. We landed in Rome, the eternal city and began a deep dive into the culture that brought me so much fulfillment. No warmer welcome than a scoop of gelato from Giolitti. A train ride later, I took him to see a favorite of mine by Pontormo ‘Deposition from the Cross’ in the humble Santa Felicita church in Florence. With only 24 hours in Venice to catch the Biennale ‘May you live in Interesting Times’ we ran through the exhibits, jumped on and off the vaporetto, got lost on the way to dinner, and took a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel. Paulo tempted me to end the day with a negroni from the local café just about to close. It had maybe 2 ice cubes in it, so it was stiff. We found ourselves in a dim lit palazzo and sat on the edge of a canal. Noisy diners and plates clinking in the background. He pulled out the ring, got down on one knee and I froze in disbelief trying to digest the moment and said yes.
Marriage To Us Means…
Marriage is a marker, a reminder to move forward together, look to the future with intention and to have grace. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary the year that we wed, a milestone of building a life and home together.
Our wedding venue Borgo Lucignanello stood out for multiple reasons but when it came down to it, it was a feeling. The historic village in the heart of Tuscany was going to be extra planning as it was remote. What drew us was the layers, layers of paint, worn stone, olive groves and interiors. We chose to have a late afternoon ceremony in the terrace garden with a view. The theme became more apparent – how do we execute a wedding day to transform with the space. The dinner was meant to highlight a narrow alley street directly in front of the chapel. An intimate engagement in between two buildings. Our reception was on the same property just down the road. Villa Sarageto became a symbolic oasis to replenish the energy and keep the night going.
We wanted the time spent abroad to feel grounding but dreamlike. Our aesthetic was a living mood board. The feeling of putting on a black and white film and it surprises you with punchy moody party scenes. Something like a Capricorn marries a Pisces. We loved the movement the space allowed us to take our guests through. We let the wedding venue guide us and trusted our planning team who collaborated to execute what we envisioned.
Paulo and I had a quiet morning. We had rehearsal early, relaxed with our respective families and spent some time alone getting ready. My sister, mom and mother-in-law rotated to get ready with Liza Samokhina, a wonderful make-up artist and hairstylist based out in Florence.
“We wanted the time spent abroad to feel grounding but dreamlike. Our aesthetic was a living mood board.”
My husband works as an Art Director, so photography is very close to him which made the selection process somewhat difficult. When we discovered Olivia and Dan, their photography style immediately piqued our interest. The way they use natural light to create a certain moodiness with a cinematic film like texture editorialized every photo. We also loved learning they are a married couple. They worked seamlessly as a team to find the intimate details and scenic views. Both Olivia and Dan are incredible people, and we are grateful for the memories they captured.
For our wedding style we wanted to create a sense of modern romance in a timeless setting. We did this by highlighting certain areas of the grounds with an “art moment” décor installation while maintaining the beauty of the architecture and landscape. Like staging a vintage black Fiat 850 sport Spider positioned in the main driveway, creating moments that felt like an interesting contrast. Another moment was deciding to run with a long communal table in an alley for our dinner with ambient lighting. Lighting played a big part in transforming the spaces. For table décor we opted for a simple table setting with tea lights and pillar candles. Added subtle drama with a hanging floral arrangement just above the centre of the table.
Our reception was just down the road. We hired a transfer service to shuttle the guests to Villa Sarageto. The villa was highlighted with mood lighting. We primarily committed to lighting and audio. Laid out carpets on the grass and set up the best layout to create an intimate fun party setting.
“The dinner was meant to highlight a narrow alley street directly in front of the chapel. An intimate engagement in between two buildings.”
Wedding Planner & Stylist
Olivia Sodi Weddings & Events is truly a professional. Olivia’s portfolio displayed a range of unique styling and planning which resonated, and we wanted to work with a planner who was local to Tuscany/ Florence. I cannot speak highly enough on her insight and experience. Her relationship to vendors was key on finding the right team to execute our vision. Olivia was accessible to us during our long-distance planning. She gave us great options for location scouting leading us to Borgo Lucignanello. Olivia helped guide the overall process. She had an intuitive passion for creating beautiful environments, attention to detail and an understanding for us as clients.
Olivia coordinated all the logistics, which helped make our time with our family and friends spent in Italy even more wonderful. The energy she brought to the day was felt. The day flowed effortlessly, and the nuances were well timed and executed.
We worked with Flower Art Creation based in Florence to brainstorm our floral inspiration. Rather than a ceremony arch we liked the simple effect of two podiums which mimicked a stone or cement textured patina with custom vases that highlighted sculptural arrangements. I wanted the floral design to feel elegant and understated – suggested the flowers should inform the shape of the arrangement. My bouquet was made up of warm white hydrangeas with a simple cream ribbon. For the dinner we liked the idea of a minimal table setting with no flowers but rather we went for a full runner made up of pillar candles at layering heights. Running over head the center of the table our florist mocked a ‘cloud effect’ floral hanging installation. The outcome felt romantic and airy. We repurposed the flowers from the ceremony to the cake cutting area and reception.
Paulo designed our wedding invitations which set the tone of our wedding day stationery including our seating chart and menu design.
For wedding favors we used custom matchbooks also designed by Paulo. We were inspired by Santa Maria Novella graphics.
We chose a millefoglie cake, an Italian wedding cake of puff pastry, cream and berries built on site. It was a huge hit!
Food & Beverages
Being a hospitality professional, it was incredibly important to me that our food be composed, well balanced and visually impactful. It’s so common that catering is overlooked at weddings, but it was a priority to us. During cocktail hour bartenders served Aperol spritzes and a selection of wine alongside a buffet of Tuscan appetizers and vegetarian fry cones. Dinner was a sit-down meal with multiple courses accompanied by wine. I personally requested spaghetti alla’Amatriciana guanciale because why not! It’s not an Italian dinner without a red sauce pasta. After dinner we had cake and a mignon patisserie buffet ending the night with an open bar at reception.
Fashion & Beauty Notes
Bride’s Dress & Shoes
I wore Cora Cocotte in heavy satin by Vivienne Westwood paired with a shoulder length custom veil.
Bottega Veneta sandals in sea salt.
For an engagement ring Paulo chose an oval cut diamond with a custom white gold band. My band is a 1987 tennis ring by Delfina Delettrez, an Italian designer and jeweler based in Rome. Paulo chose a classic Tiffany & Co platinum wedding band.
Jewelry / Accessories
I kept it simple with Sophie Buhai silver hinged hoops. Paulo wore an intricate Jil Sander silver bead chain bracelet.
All black Jil Sander shirt and suit.
Hair & Makeup
I wanted a skin glow natural palette and decided on a warm matte shadow and blushed mauve to compliment my olive skin tone.
To highlight my neckline, I went for a shorter shoulder length hair cut and decided to wear my hair down with a center part to keep it modern. 60’s inspired volume at crown and smooth soft tousled texture & body. Liza Samokhina and I did a test run a few days before the wedding to dial in the look. She was such a calming energy to have around on my wedding day and executed the look perfectly.
We chose to honeymoon in Italy. Stayed a couple nights in Pienza. Moved north and had an incredible dinner at Antica Osteria Del Mirasole just outside of Bologna. Met some friends in Venice to catch an Isamu Noguchi at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia. Took a train to Cernobbio in Lake Como and ended our trip in Milan.
Entrance song: “April 14th” by Aphex Twin
After ceremony song: “ Anonimo Veneziano” by Artist
First dance: “Kiss Of Life” by Artist
Tuscan Pledges was suggested by Olivia, our planner and we couldn’t have chosen better! Camilla was our wedding celebrant. She was thoughtful, poised and warm. Tuscan Pledges customized the ceremony to tailor to our needs and expectations, so it felt unique to us.
A memorable moment…
The dinner was our favourite part of the evening especially hearing speeches from the people we love and sharing a delicious meal together.
One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…
When you’re in the thick of planning it can be quite overwhelming but like any commitment you learn to give and take.
If I could give other brides to be one piece of advice…
You always envision what your wedding day will be like but with the collaboration of other creative individuals it was even better. Be present, trust the process and be open to adjustments.
Wedding Planner / Olivia Sodi Weddings & Events
Photography / Olivia & Dan Photography
Wedding Venue / Borgo Lucignanello
Bride’s Dress / Vivienne Westwood
Bride’s Shoes / Bottega Veneta
Groom’s Formal Wear / Jil Sander
Jewelry & Accessories / Sophie Buhai
Hair & Makeup / Liza Samokhina
Florist / Flower Art Creation
Cake & Catering / Cavalieri Ricevimenti
Celebrant / Tuscan Pledges
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