A Tuscan Villa and Custom Zac Posen Dress Set the Scene for This Idyllic Wedding
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"It was all meant to be," explains Ava Imperio as she reminisces about meeting her now husband, Dennis McCarthy. The couple met 11 years ago while studying at university, and the timing was just right. Imperio was just about to graduate when she and McCarthy, who was a freshman at the time, met. "Never would I have thought I would be meeting my soulmate during my last semester of school. I instantly felt connected to him, but he was three years younger than me, which at the time felt like a bigger deal in terms of school years," says Imperio. With her upcoming graduation and imminent move to New York City, they began a three-year long-distance relationship. "There was just something special about him and us. We both knew it would all be worth it in the end, and it was," shares Imperio.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2019 when the couple celebrated their eight-year anniversary in Southern Italy, where McCarthy proposed. "We were staying at Masseria Moroseta in Puglia. He asked me to take a walk with him before dinner through the magical olive groves that surrounded the property, where he proposed. It was the happiest moment and days ahead," says Imperio. Inspired by the Italian setting of their engagement, the couple held their intimate wedding at a private villa in Tuscany, Italy. Fifty-two of their closest friends and family members joined to celebrate the union against the backdrop of the estate's grandiose interiors and lush gardens.
Imperio works for Zac Posen, runs a perfectly curated vintage Instagram account with her triplet sisters, and has a mind for all things creative and design. The details from this wedding weekend alone could serve as her résumé for any position in the sartorial world. Scroll down as the bride walks us through every beautiful detail from the weekend, including her advice on everything from weather worries to doing what feels natural to you as a couple throughout your planning process.
"We had our wedding weekend at Villa Cetinale in the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. Many years ago, I came across the most beautiful image of the villa and property. It was amongst a stunning alley of cypress trees with the most beautiful gardens, architecture, and incredible history, so when the time came, it was front of mind. We always talked about getting married in Italy one day. My father was born in the small town of Potenza, Italy, so of course, it would be such a meaningful place to get married. He was the biggest inspiration behind our wedding. He passed away a year prior, but we know he was watching over and with us throughout it all. Dennis and I also shared some of our most precious memories together in Italy, including our engagement."
"The next morning, our family and friends that were staying with us arrived. We all had breakfast and lunch together and then got ready for the 'evening before' event, which was held at a farmhouse, La Cerbaia, on the Cetinale property. The theme was a spring cocktail picnic full of fresh fruit and vegetables, flower arrangement–making, live pizza-making, and gelato overlooking the beautiful Tuscan hills as the sunset."
"I wore a total Bevza look (a Ukrainian designer I've always admired)—a Bevza white silk shell-bra dress, Bevza strap-detailed sandals, and a Bevza fan clutch with a vintage pearl necklace. My wedding-night party dress was also another design by Bevza."
"Milan-based makeup artist Kassandra Frua De Angeli did my hair and makeup this evening. I wanted my hair down with loose waves and a side part. For my makeup, something fresh with brown tones for my eyes and coral-pink shades for my lips and cheeks."
WWW Weddings tip: "Do what feels natural to you as a couple, and don't feel obligated to follow all the traditional ways such as a first dance, separating the night before the wedding until the ceremony, bridal parties, additional family members walking down the aisle, etc."
"We wanted our wedding morning to feel like a normal, relaxed morning together, so we didn't separate the night before, and we spent the morning together until it was time for us to get ready. We woke up, had coffee together, had breakfast with our friends and family that stayed with us, then went outside when the sun came out for the most beautiful morning. We walked around the property, and then for an unplanned moment, we ended up, fully clothed, jumping into the swimming pool! It was such a fun, great start to our wedding day."
"The morning of our wedding, I had on a beautiful light-pink vintage silk nightgown with a matching peignoir. I didn't know we'd end up jumping in the pool a couple of hours later fully clothed, so I ended up in a classic white robe to have my hair and makeup done, as my nightgown was soaking wet."
WWW Weddings tip: "I recommend spending your wedding morning together and just parting when it is time to get ready. It made the time before our ceremony so much calmer, getting to be together like a usual morning, and we had so much fun starting our wedding day on the highest note."
"Since we were staying under the same roof (Villa Cetinale) with our family and some of our closest friends, everyone had their own space and rooms to get ready in, but of course, everyone was popping in and out of each other's rooms to check in. It felt very easy and fun with no pressure. [It was] like we were all just at home together."
"I wore a Zac Posen custom couture wedding gown. When it came to choosing my wedding dress, there was no one other than Zac that I wanted to create it. No one does it like him. We also have been working together for almost 10 years. It was a dress that also represents one of the most monumental times in my life. I first created a mood board with all the elements I wanted—Victorian elements, delicate lace, a high neck, puffy long sleeves past the wrist, covered yet something very soft and timeless with a lace-trimmed veil. After discussing the inspiration, Zac spent time draping up the most beautiful shape. It blew me away. We then worked closely together on sourcing the perfect fabrics and laces that brought the gown to life. It is a true piece of art. I am forever grateful and will cherish it always. Dennis wore a tuxedo by Giorgio Armani with a Charvet bow tie and Bontoni shoes.
"My wedding shoes were lace Manolo Blahnik heels that matched the dress perfectly. I decided to go jewelry-free, other than my engagement ring and later my wedding band. The dress spoke for itself."
"For my beauty look, done by Kassandra Frua De Angeli, I wanted it to feel natural, nothing too formal looking. I had my makeup done similarly to the night before—brown tones for the eyes with coral-pink lips and cheeks—but this time with a low messy bun with front slightly wavy pieces that felt very soft and relaxed with my dress. She did the most wonderful job both days and made me feel so beautiful and calm."
"The wedding ceremony took place at a local 12th-century Catholic church in Sovicille called Pieve di San Giovanni Battista a Sovicille. We had live music played on the violin and piano as guests started arriving and gathering in the church, waiting for our arrival. They played the most beautiful instrumental music to some of our favorites, including many songs by Ludovico Einaudi."
Photo:Courtesy of Ava Imperio
"We had fresh lemonade and water with mint and chamomile flowers inside, wooden handheld fans, and programs with some of the illustrations from our invitations."
"My mother walked me down the aisle, as my father had passed away the year prior."
"Our priest was Father Don Udoji, who lives locally in Tuscany. He had such incredibly warm energy and truly made our ceremony feel special (and made many people laugh)."
The couple kneeling for prayer during the ceremony.
"For my bouquet, I wanted very long-stemmed fresh wildflowers that looked like I had just picked them. Our florist made me the most beautiful bouquet, and I brought leftover lace from my veil to wrap around the stems."
"Our wedding car was a green vintage Triumph convertible."
"We wanted the reception to freely flow with ease and feel like a beautiful dinner and party celebration of love with our closest loved ones, nothing forced or too scheduled. I wanted the whole wedding and reception to feel very personal to us—romantic, whimsical, natural, and fresh like a spring garden, feeding off of the already naturally gorgeous surroundings. The floral color palette for the wedding day was yellow, light pink, lush greens, and white."
"Our guests were greeted with prosecco and hors d'oeuvres as they arrived through the front gate and wandered through the stunning gardens for the cocktail hour."
Photo:@giocondaandaugust; Courtesy of Ava Imperio
"Everyone then found their place cards, which were set on fresh fruit. We all sat down for dinner, which was served on one long communal table in the back cypress tree alley on the property."
"I decided not to have an official bridal party. I do have three sisters, though (we are triplets), so I chose the colors green and brown for them to wear. I loved the idea of earthy tones that matched the Tuscany environment. Being a big basket lover, I had them carry mini baskets that were made by local artisans and filled with fresh flowers."
Photo:Courtesy of Ava Imperio
"We had our invitations made by Kathryn Green Illustration. She creates the most beautiful hand-painted watercolor illustrations. I had given her a mood board with location imagery, direction of the weekend's plan of events, and she painted a gorgeous map with all the details inside that represented the entire weekend and surrounding areas so well. Our guests absolutely loved them. We then incorporated her artwork throughout various elements of the wedding (on the schedule program and matches inside the welcome baskets, the wedding dinner menus, and the church program pamphlets).
"The table was full of happy yellow Richard Ginori plates, the dreamiest wildflower mix, fruit, baskets, crystal, terra-cotta pots and holders, and hand-painted menu illustrations from the artwork from the front of our invitations. We had an incredible Italian meal including, of course, fresh pasta."
"The most special group of people all together along the back of the villa."
The bride holding her nephew.
"After dinner, all of our dear loved ones circled around us for the live making of our traditional Italian wedding tart decorated with Chantilly cream and fresh berries to 'You've Got the Love' by Florence + The Machine. This was our version of a first dance, as we decided it felt more natural to us."
WWW Weddings tip: "If you're debating having a large wedding or a smaller intimate wedding, my opinion would be to go the intimate route. We were a group of 52, and it was the perfect amount and so special getting to actually see everyone across the dinner table and spend some quality time with everyone."
"For our party, I wore another design by Ukrainian designer Bevza. I first saw the dress when I attended their spring 2020 fashion show in New York and fell in love with it and its beautiful hand-textured padded-silk front. When it came to picking out my party dress, I knew that was what I wanted to wear."
"Changing into my party look after the making of the wedding tart."
"I later paired it with Monica Vinader x Doina baroque pearl earrings. The gold chain-link detailing reminded me of the weaving in the dress, and they matched perfectly."
Photo:Courtesy of Ava Imperio
"I wore my Manolo Blahnik wedding shoes for this look as well."
Photo:Courtesy of Ava Imperio
"And finally, to close out the night, everyone joined the DJ dance party held in the downstairs dining room inside the villa. The party could have lasted forever."
WWW Weddings tip: "Make playlists in advance for all of your wedding events, as you're going to want to hear the music you really love. [That] will make it all feel even more special and truly yours."
"The day after our wedding, we had a small brunch with those who were staying on the property, ran around in the rain, relaxed around the villa together, drank wine by the cozy fireplace inside, and then enjoyed our final dinner and night together, soaking in the most magical weekend. We never wanted it to end."
"I wore another Victorian-style dress—a white crochet dress handmade in Poland by Cette Femme Libre."
"It was the happiest, most special weekend of our entire lives. We are eternally grateful and will always cherish these precious memories that will live in our hearts forever. The overwhelming love we felt was the greatest feeling in the world. Those behind the scenes played a very special part too. It was all a dream come true."
WWW Weddings tip: "Embrace the change that comes with unpredictable weather. We had to make a couple of changes due to rain, but in the end, everything ended up even more special than we could have ever imagined. There was something magical about it and became some of our favorite moments."
Photographer: Gioconda & August
Videographer: Paramonova Movies
Hairstylist and Makeup Artist: Kassandra Frua De Angeli
Florist: Flowers Living
Invitation Designer and Illustrator: Kathryn Green
Caterer: Galateo Ricevimenti
Music and Lighting: Kaleydo Entertainment
Rentals: Preludio Divisione Noleggio
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