A Flower-Filled Wedding at a 17th-Century Palace in Lisbon, Portugal
In December 2014, Emily Sena convinced her colleagues to head out for a drink at the bar where her younger sister worked, and, while buying a round of Jaegerbombs, she struck up a conversation with Scott Dyett. Though they hit it off, Emily hesitated to show too much interest in front of her coworkers—until Scott left without saying goodbye. She asked a friend of Scott's, who was still at the bar, to pass her phone number along, and when Scott called a week later, the two "started chatting," they say—"a lot." Chatting turned into dating, which culminated in an engagement in February 2017 on a beach in Hoi An, Vietnam. As the couple walked along the water, Emily stopped to admire the view; when she turned around, Scott had written "Will you marry me?" in the sand.
For their 157-guest wedding on October 28, 2019, Emily and Scott chose Palácio de Xabregas, a 17th-century palace in Lisbon, Portugal. "It has the largest in situ collection of traditional Portuguese tiles and oozed history," says the couple. "Each room had so much character, was different, and was like no other venue we had ever been to before in our lives." They also appreciated the venue's flexible hours, opting for a 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. timeslot. "My heritage is Zimbabwean, where the party never ends, and Scott loves a late night," says the bride. "We were very keen not to have a venue that kicked us out by midnight."
As for the décor? Navy, orange, and gold tones complemented the venue's striking tilework, while personal touches honored Emily's Zimbabwean background, the couple's love of music festivals, and their relationship with each guest. Their best advice to future brides and grooms? "Enjoy organizing it—we certainly did—and plan your day to be as personal as possible."
Welcome to Portugal
Emily and Scott immediately agreed on Lisbon as the ideal spot for their nuptials, choosing a venue in the heart of town. "We thought it was accessible (it's a small city), and it's our style—food, culture, and scenery," says the couple. "We both love Lisbon and were keen that our wedding gave our guests the opportunity to explore the city."
For their invitations, the couple worked with their friend Lee Dunford to design a music festival-inspired paper suite that included a flyer for the save-the-date and a ticket—complete with QR code—for the invitation. "We love music, festivals, and gigs, and decided to brand the wedding with a festival name," they say. They opted for "Shamisapalooza," combining Emily's given first name, Shamiso, with "palooza,"—"the art," says the couple, "of throwing an extravagant party with a plethora of friends."
Day-of paper goods from Loupaper took a more formal turn with a blue-and-white tiled design, which appeared on the welcome sign, ceremony programs (pictured here), napkin wraps, menus, and confetti bags.
Her Couture Gown
While wedding-dress shopping, Emily was immediately charmed by a bespoke ivory gown with a lace bodice and removable overskirt from Britta Kjerkegaard at The Couture Gallery. "The style was the first I tried on, and then I ended up choosing a slightly different lace for the bodice," she says. "I felt like a million dollars in my dress. The fabric felt beautiful against my skin, and it really flattered my shape." Rubies in her bracelet and earrings matched her engagement ring, while jeweled shoes from David's Bridal and a borrowed hairpiece kept her sparkling from head to toe.
Scott decided on a timeless and traditional outfit. "I wanted a classic black-and-white look," he says. "For the first time, I splashed out on a well-fitted, tailored black suit from Hugo Boss." In a nod to his Scottish background, he chose Black Watch tartan kilts for his ushers and groomsmen and Scottish Spirit tartan kilts—all from Slater Menswear—for his two best men.
Emily and her two bridesmaids spent weeks searching for a gown that fit their requirements, "There's a 12-year age gap between my bridesmaids, [but] they are both very stylish and love fashion, so my main concern was finding a dress they both felt comfortable in," says Emily. In the end, they chose an off-the-rack gown from Reiss. "I really liked the idea of buying a dress that could also be worn at another time, as it didn't look too much like a bridesmaids' dress," says Emily. "The only risk was that, because it was from a high street store, a guest could have turned up in the same one. Luckily, this did not happen."
Emily requested a bouquet that was "elegant and a little wild," and florist Green Pic'k delivered with protea, garden roses, lisianthus, wax flowers, privet berries, eucalyptus, and other blooms hand-tied with silk ribbon.
The outdoor ceremony took place in a courtyard surrounding the main doors of the venue; Emily and Scott exchanged vows in front of a broken arch-style floral arrangement that gave the open area a central focal point.
A Precious Tradition
Emily and Scott saved their first look for the processional, which included a special moment: "There is a Zimbabwean tradition that when the bride walks down the aisle, it is considered that she is too precious to touch the dirty ground, so scarves and pashminas are laid down for her to walk on," says Emily. "My cousins and sister-in-law surprised me by performing this tradition when I entered the courtyard."
Husband and Wife
Emily and Scott worked with their officiant, Alex L. Neves, to create a custom script for their ceremony, and invited friends to prepare two readings. One was Khalil Gibran's "On Marriage," and the other was a surprise for the couple: A version of "The Professor and the Jar" personalized for Emily and Scott.
Bright and Beautiful
Though Emily and Scott set aside time after the ceremony for their portraits, they made sure to stay close to the cocktail hour, during which Portuguese wine, port, and a variety of canapes were served. "We were keen not to miss this," says the couple. "This is often our favorite part of a wedding!"
Emily and Scott took full advantage of the many different spaces within their venue, which allowed them to spread out their event. After the courtyard ceremony and indoor cocktail hour, guests moved into the terrace dining room for dinner, where candles lined a center staircase and elaborate chandeliers offset the glass roof.
An Elegant Escort Display
A gold stand held two custom banners that displayed each guests' seating assignment. Along the bottom of the banners, the couple printed the same tiled design they used on their paper goods.
Emily and Scott asked their bridal party to participate in a Zimbabwean tradition called steps, in which the attendants dance into the reception; they combined a song from each of their cultures into one track and spent months practicing their choreography. "We just about managed to pull it off on the day. We had a lot of fun doing it and really enjoyed the amazing reaction from the guests as we were dancing," says the couple. "The room felt electric. None of our guests were expecting us to do this—most had never seen steps before!"
The Golden Touch
Blue taper candles coordinated with the tile print on the table numbers, while golden accents—including the votive holders, centerpiece vessels, and chairs—added a lavish gleam. Green Pic'k mixed dark green foliage and dried florals into arrangements of peach and ivory blooms to add texture and visual interest.
In the months leading up to the wedding, Emily and Scott went through countless old photos to print custom place cards for each loved one. "We decided that we didn't want traditional wedding favors—we'd been to many weddings where they end up in a 'favor graveyard' on empty tables," says the couple. "Using Photobox, we printed Polaroid photos of guests—often with us—that meant something or reminded us of a fun memory. These doubled up as name cards and favors that the guests could take home."
The Happy Couple
During dinner, which included tuna tataki, asparagus salad, slow-cooked veal, bass with roasted potatoes, and vegetable spring rolls from Penha Longa Catering, the couple walked up the room's staircase to address their friends and family, and offered a few words of thanks.
White buttercream icing on Emily and Scott's cake created a bright backdrop for fresh flowers. Flavors included almond dacquoise, crispy feuillantine and praline, and chocolate mousse.
First Dance with Dad
Emily and her father shared the first dance of the night—a Zimbabwean tradition full of emotion for the bride and her dad. Then, the newlyweds took the floor for their first dance, until a minor mishap temporarily delayed them. "As the first song started, a guest put a wine glass on the floor that another guest accidentally kicked into a nearby power socket, which led to a power cut," says Emily. "My sister, Natalie, saved the day by starting to sing 'Lean on Me' by Bill Withers a cappella. After the first verse, the whole room joined in which created a magical, unexpected moment that we will never forget."
Photography, Jesús Caballero Photography
Venue, Palácio de Xabregas
Event Planning, Wonderlust Events
Catering and Cake, Penha Longa Catering
Officiant, Alex L. Neves
Stationery, Lee Dunford (invitation); Loupaper (day-of paper goods)
Music, Ana Margarida Teixeira; Rui Franjas
Bride's Gown, The Couture Gallery
Bride's Shoes, David's Bridal
Makeup, Vanessa Marinho
Bridesmaids' dresses, Reiss
Groom's suit, Hugo Boss
Menswear, Slater Menswear
Guest Book, Inspired by Alma
Rings, Alistir Wood Tait
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