Michelle and Chris's Disney-Themed Wedding With a Sophisticated Spin

The Couple

Bride and Groom on Sailboat
Corbin Gurkin

If Sleeping Beauty were written today, it might go like this: Girl leaves home for Duke Law School. She holes up, not in a cottage in the woods, but at a Barnes & Noble in Durham, North Carolina, where, after eight hours of daily lectures, she studies for another four. Too busy to meet suitors IRL, she creates an online dating profile listing two hometowns: Durham, and Little Neck, New York, where she grew up.

Twenty-four miles from Little Neck, her profile catches Prince Charming's eye just as she notices his. Each composes an e-mail. "I hit send, then a message popped up that I had received a note," says Michelle Bernal, our modern-day heroine, of her first correspondence with Christopher Bodenmiller in fall 2010. Six weeks later, the pair met in D.C., and Christopher, a mechanical engineer, recalls, "it was magical."

About 18 months later, the day after Michelle's graduation, they drove back to New York together—and this is where the tale goes contemporary. "I knew I was going to propose," says Christopher. "But there was a mutual understanding that she would take the bar exam first." The prince waited for the princess, and in summer 2013, with Michelle's first week completed as a clerk for a federal judge in Manhattan, he dropped to one knee as they walked through Brooklyn Bridge Park.

At first they were unsure where to tie the knot. His family lives on the East Coast; much of hers is in Colombia. Then, Michelle says, "I woke up with an idea: the Amalfi Coast." She'd visited as a child and remembers her parents kissing under the Lovers' Arch in Capri. Plus, Christopher's ancestors hailed from Italy, and it fit their vision. "We wanted to whisk away our guests into a fairy tale," says Michelle. "Our wedding was heavily influenced by Disney movies"—only with a sophisticated spin.

Following a yearlong engagement, the couple and 24 loved ones settled into the Villa dei Fisici, an 18th-century palace on the cliffs of Positano. On July 11, 2014, Michelle and Christopher exchanged vows in a Catholic ceremony officiated by a Vatican priest. Afterward, the newlyweds rehearsed their first dance—to Sleeping Beauty's "Once Upon a Dream," naturally—in the piazza out front before climbing into a vintage Mercedes, which would return them to the villa for a dinner of gnocchi, risotto, and filet mignon. "Strangers were honking their horns and congratulating us," Michelle says. "In that moment, I felt like a princess."

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La Dolce Vita

Corbin Gurkin

Guests received welcome bags with chocolates, tea, and a booklet telling the couple's story.

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Happily Wed

Corbin Gurkin

A cliffside church set the scene for their vows.

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Ceremony Swag

Corbin Gurkin

For the ceremony, guests received sandalwood fans, embroidered handkerchiefs, and lavender for tossing as the couple exited the church.

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The Fashions

Corbin Gurkin

Michelle, in a Karen Sabag ball gown, and Christopher took an impromptu spin on the piazza right after their ceremony.

The bride's dress had a story of its own: It took seven appointments and fittings to make the made-to-order couture piece, and the help of her mom and aunt to transport it through airports to get to the Italian destination, which was 4,413 miles from the couple's Brooklyn home.

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Fantastic Flowers

Corbin Gurkin

Michelle carried a bouquet of David Austin English garden roses in buttermilk and pink, Vendela roses, sweet peas, and white hydrangeas.

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Quite the Topper

Corbin Gurkin

Designer Karen Sabag's mother, Lydia, crafted Michelle's veil by hand to go with the custom headpiece by Bridal Styles Boutique.

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Three of a Kind

Corbin Gurkin

Michelle joked that her 'maids were her own Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather.

Another trio? The fabled fairy tales that offered inspiration: Sleeping Beauty and its color palette of light blue, pale pink, and gold; Beauty and the Beast's "Be Our Guest" for the dinner table scene; and Cinderella for the crystal-encrusted bridal shoes (they were fittingly Bella Belle).

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A Moment With Mom

Corbin Gurkin

Michelle and her mom hugged postvows.

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Ciao Fun

Corbin Gurkin

Everyone gathered on the Villa dei Fisici's balcony to toast the couple (and take advantage of an amazing photo op).

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A Storybook View

Corbin Gurkin

The villa's terrace offered killer views of Positano and its namesake bay.

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Beauty and the Feast

Long Reception Table with Red Flower Arrangements
Corbin Gurkin

Groupings of David Austin roses, freesia, and hydrangeas dotted the dinner table.

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Wish Upon a Dream

Corbin Gurkin

At a "wishing station," guests wrote blessings and tucked them in envelopes calligraphed with their names.

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Food Fit for Kings

Corbin Gurkin

Dinner began with gnocchi topped with prosciutto.

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One Long Table

Corbin Gurkin

All 24 guests and eight vendors dined together at a single reception table. "Everyone was with us the entire week, the entire way," says Michelle. "So by the time the wedding came, everybody knew one another."

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A Sweet Ending

Corbin Gurkin

The dark chocolate cake was covered in pale blue fondant by Rose's Cakes.

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Customized Sparklers

Corbin Gurkin

Sparklers, displayed in a ceramic vase, bore custom labels that read "Let Love Shine!"

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A Sparkling Moment

couple watching fireworks
Corbin Gurkin

Guests waved sparklers as the newlyweds cut their four-tier dark-chocolate ganache cake.

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Sweet Treats

Corbin Gurkin

Inspired by a photo she saw in Martha Stewart Weddings, Michelle asked her planner to put together a bar of white and baby-blue candies. The calligraphed banner read "A touch of love, magic, and fairy dust!"

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Tokens of Appreciation

Corbin Gurkin

As favors, silk scarves were given to ladies and silk ties to men.

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Corbin Gurkin

Location and Catering: Villa dei Fisici

Event Planning: Italia Celebrations

Flowers: Noosheen's Floral Event Design

Photography: Corbin Gurkin

Stationery: Press Engaged

Calligraphy: Everly Calligraphy

Cake: Rose's Cakes

Music: Wedding Music

Hair and Makeup: Ashley Brook Perryman

Bride's Gown and Veil: Karen Sabag

Bride's Headpiece and Earrings: Bridal Style Boutique

Bridesmaid Dresses: JJ's House

Groom's Tuxedo: Tommy Hilfiger

Groom's Shoes: Hugo Boss

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