This Classic Wedding in Italy Began With An Unforgettable Entrance

getaway car
Photo: Abby Jiu Photography

... and ended with one enormous cake!

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getaway car
Abby Jiu Photography

The Sicilian driver of the rented Fiat Cinquecento would not budge. In no uncertain terms, he declared that no one but he could drive the car—not even the father of the bride, as the wedding party had planned. So the bride did what any enterprising American gal would have done: She popped herself up out of the sunroof so that her dad, walking alongside, could hold her hand as they slowly made their way to the 17th-century church of Santa Caterina. Townspeople, dazzled by the spectacle, joined the procession of 60 wedding guests, cameras flashing, as if in a scene from a Fellini film.

Though the bride and groom had known each other since preschool, their formative memories began at junior prom, which they attended together as friends. "He was cute and shy, and I was shy too," the bride remembers. "I thought she was smart, beautiful, and fun," says the groom.

By graduation, the pair had become inseparable. Both attended Indiana University and then moved to New York City, where he went into finance and she into real estate finance and investment. When they decided to marry in 2013, it was an easy decision to host a destination wedding in Italy, where the bride had spent summers visiting family since she was a kid.

They planned several events for their guests, beginning with a day trip on four boats, each of which had its own soundtrack. "Everyone would dive off to explore the grottoes, then climb back onto whichever boat was playing music they wanted to dance to," says the bride. By the rehearsal dinner, the group already felt as intimate as a pack of old friends.

After the Catholic ceremony, on June 12, 2015, the party paraded back through Taormina's streets to Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo for cocktails on the balcony. An alfresco dinner followed, plus a surprise when it was time for the wedding cake. "It was enormous!" says the bride of the unexpectedly giant vanilla and strawberry creation. "And delicious." La dolce vita indeed.

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The Invitation

wedding invitations
Abby Jiu Photography

The bride envisioned a "classic, romantic" font for the letterpressed invitations. The bronze hue was replicated in the escort cards and napkin embroidery.

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The Ceremony

Bride groom church altar
Abby Jiu Photography

The couple exchanged vows at the church of Santa Caterina, which was built in the 17th century.

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Love, Italy

wedding car kiss
Abby Jiu Photography

The red Fiat Cinquecento was a theme of the wedding from the start, with guests getting a first hint at the wedding to come on the red Fiat save-the-date cards.

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The Bridesmaids

Bridal Party
Abby Jiu Photography

The wedding party included the bride's best friends and two brothers, as well as the groom's best friend, brother, and two sisters. The bride's goddaughter served as flower girl.

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The Newlyweds

bride and groom
Abby Jiu Photography

The couple took a walk together before the ceremony in the gardens of the Grand Hotel Timeo, to take some formal photos. "We just wanted to take these moments before the ceremony, so that afterwards we could relax and enjoy," says the groom.

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Festive Cocktails

Abby Jiu Photography

Guests sipped Bellinis and mimosas made with fresh-pressed fruit juices.

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A Stunning Reception Table

reception table
Abby Jiu Photography

The June weather in Taormina was spectacular, so the 60 guests dined outdoors on the terrace at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo.

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The Place Settings

place setting
Abby Jiu Photography

Embroidered napkins doubled as place cards on a banquet table decorated with arrangements of orchids, lilies, peonies, and roses.

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Take Your Seat

reception chairs
Abby Jiu Photography

The bride opted for simple, all-white, classic romantic flowers. "I wanted orchids, roses, lilies, and peonies," she says. Olive leaves woven into the arrangements were a nod to their Italian location.

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Dinner Under the Stars

reception dinner
Abby Jiu Photography

Guests were served an elaborate dinner at the Grand Hotel Timeo, from cured meats to seafood salad, lobster risotto to swordfish and fillet of beef.

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Cutting the Cake

couple cutting cake
Abby Jiu Photography

One of the wedding surprises—even to the bride, who had planned it all—was the enormous wedding cake. "We have no idea why it was that big, or what happened to the rest of it," says the bride. "But it was delicious—vanilla with fresh strawberries."

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bride and groom
Abby Jiu Photography

Photography, Abby Jiu

Location, Chiesa di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria d'Egitto, Taormina (ceremony); Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina (reception)

Event planning, Bouquets and Bows

Catering, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina

Flowers, Petali e Capricci

Stationery, Pistachio Press

Calligraphy, Peter Maushart (invitations and envelopes); Laura Hooper Calligraphy (escort cards)

Cake, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina

Music, Musica e Sposi; Sweet Ladies String Quartet; DJ Merlino

Bride's gown, Sarah Janks

Bride's accessories, Christian Louboutin shoes; Chanel shoes; Swarovski bracelet; Erica Koesler Wedding Accessories blusher; Veils by Brenda veil

Hair and makeup, The Wellness Centre at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

Bridesmaids' dresses, Twobirds Bridesmaid from Bella Bridesmaids

Groom's suit, Hugo Boss

Menswear, Calvin Klein; Hugo Boss

Vintage car, Cinquecento Vintage Tour

Olive-oil favors, Olio Leonardi

Save-the-dates, Mimosa Digital

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