This Family-Focused Charleston Wedding Was Packed with Italian Traditions

giordana and geoffrey outdoor ceremony
Photo: Corbin Gurkin

The historic venue set the scene for this tradition-filled fête.

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Giordana and Geoffrey

giordana and geoffrey couple grayscale
Corbin Gurkin

When Giordana Andretta and Geoffrey Walker tied the knot, it was a true family affair, with relatives contributing many of the most meaningful details of the day—which was fitting, since family had had a hand in jump-starting the couple's relationship. In 2013, Geoffrey and his brother, who co-own a production company, interviewed Giordana for a video they were making. "I thought she was supercute and way out of my league," says Geoffrey. "Luckily my brother sneaked and got her number so he could try to set us up." The tactic worked, and a little over two years later, Geoffrey got down on one knee in the spot where they had shared their first kiss. After a resounding "Yes!" he took Giordana, who works for her family's cycling company, to her parents' house for a surprise celebration with their parents and siblings and Giordana's grandparents.

Not long into their five-month engagement, invitations sporting a crest drawn by Giordana's brother were sent, asking guests to attend the May 7, 2016, destination wedding at Middleton Place, in Charleston. The estate, a National Historic Landmark and home to America's oldest formal landscaped gardens, set the scene for a southern soirée infused with Italian traditions to honor Giordana's heritage, starting with the groom "gifting" the bride her bouquet. Both of their brothers and one sister-in-law had roles in the bridal party, Giordana's maternal grandparents made the wine and bread for the Christian ceremony, and the bride donned her grandmother's engagement ring as her "something old."

After exchanging vows beneath a giant live oak in the Octagonal Sunken Garden, the newlyweds joined 180 guests for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, then went for a sunset horse-drawn carriage ride around the grounds. At the reception, which took place beneath a tent on the estate's greensward, the couple had their first dance to Big Mountain's version of "Baby, I Love Your Way," which they both consider a highlight of the day. Another one? Being surrounded by their families, of course. "And," adds Geoffrey, "the epic dance party that ensued."

Watch Giordana and Geoff's wedding film by Olive & Oak Films

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The Stationery Suite

giordana and geoffrey stationery
Corbin Gurkin

The bride's brother drew the live oak in their crest, inspired by the tree under which the duo would wed. A floral print introduced the Italian garden theme in the stationery, by Atheneum Creative.

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The Location

giordana and geoffrey middleton place
Corbin Gurkin

The couple decided to wed at Middleton Place without Giordana ever seeing it. But she soon fell in love with the property's gardens and how they follow the design of those at the Palace of Versailles—one of her favorite places on earth.

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Welcome to Lowcountry

giordana and geoffrey welcome bag
Corbin Gurkin

Upon arrival to town, guests were greeted with welcome boxes filled with little somethings from near and far and an itinerary for the weekend, featuring the couple's logo pressed into a wax seal at the top. The goodies included Chad's Carolina Corn, a candle from local store Candlefish, Italian prosecco, and a Chocolove bar from Colorado.

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The Bridal Party

giordana and geoffrey wedding party
Corbin Gurkin

The bride, in Bliss by Monique Lhuillier, and the groom, wearing custom Abbeydale, had a wedding party that included siblings and friends from college and childhood. "They are truly like family, and our day wouldn't have been complete without them," says Giordana.

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Flower Power

giordana and geoffrey bouquets
Corbin Gurkin

White phalaenopsis orchids took center stage in the cascading bridal bouquet.

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Special Accessories

giordana and geoffrey jewelry
Corbin Gurkin

The bride's "somethings" were all pretty special. Her "something old" was her grandmother's engagement ring from 1952, her "something blue" was a pair of blue topaz and diamond earrings, and her "somethings borrowed" were crystal hairpins on loan from one bridesmaid and an heirloom silver six pence lent by another. She also wore her Alex Sepkus engagement ring.

The groom wore sentimental pieces too—his Tag Heuer watch was a gift he'd received from his parents on his 17th birthday, and he borrowed his father-in-law's brown leather shoes. As a special touch, Geoff's suitmaker stitched the wedding date in Roman numerals under his jacket's collage, and his and Giordana's new initials to his shirt.

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Beautiful Bouts

giordana and geoffrey boutonnieres
Corbin Gurkin

The groom and his attendants sported boutonnières made of petite white and green blooms, like hellebores, stephanotis, and spray roses.

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Motherly Love

giordana and geoffrey bride and mother
Corbin Gurkin

The mother of the bride dressed in palette, wearing a coral dress (and a smile).

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Made in the Shade

giordana and geoffrey outdoor ceremony
Corbin Gurkin

Eight custom-made scalloped umbrellas offered shade for the sunny late-afternoon ceremony, which incorporated communion and the story of when the couple first met.

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An Italian Tradition

giordana and geoffrey guest gifts
Corbin Gurkin

Italian wedding tradition calls for bomboniere—gifts from the hosts to their guests. These included five candy-coated almonds to symbolize five virtues of life; they also doubled as escort cards.

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The Centerpieces

giordana and geoffrey centerpiece
Corbin Gurkin

"The tablescape, which Ivy Robinson and John Lupton created for our reception, truly blew my mind and completely exceeded my vision and expectations," Giordana says. "During dinner, I seriously could not stop staring at a single bud vase that housed the most beautiful peony." Here, a compote holds and arrangement of peonies, parrot tulips, ranunculus, succulents, coxcomb, and gloriosa lilies.

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The Place Settings

Corbin Gurkin

At the tented reception, gold-hued, vine-rimmed chargers sat at each place, amid coral blooms and assorted votive candleholders.

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The Cuisine

giordana and geoffrey amusebouche
Corbin Gurkin

The meal kicked off with an amuse bouche of seared scallop and chilled English pea puree, with lobster roe and orange zest, in a scallop shell, prepared by Cru Catering.

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The Reception

giordana and geoffrey reception tent
Corbin Gurkin

After the multi-course meal and plenty of dancing, guests were led by the horn section of the band to the lake house for more eating, drinking, and laughing.

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Personalized Pillows

giordana and geoffrey sofa and pillows
Corbin Gurkin

Pillows printed with the couple's logo personalized the lounge areas.

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The Wedding Cake

giordana and geoffrey wedding cake
Corbin Gurkin

Giordana worked for cake maker Kathy Allen as a nanny and cake decorator during her high school days. "I dreamed of the day she would make my wedding cake," the bride recalls. "She and her family were so special to me growing up and her cakes are so romantic and so perfect for a Southern wedding." Kathy baked this confection using alternating tiers of almond and lemon pound cake, and then decorated it with her signature draping, gold detailing, and handmade coral peonies.

Guests also nibbled on strawberry macarons, hazelnut chocolate truffles, and lavender-and-sea-salt caramels.

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giordana and geoffrey bride and groom
Corbin Gurkin

Location, Middleton Place

Event planning and design, Ivy Robinson Events

Catering, Cru Catering

Flowers, John Lupton Events

Photography, Corbin Gurkin

Videography, Olive & Oak Films

Officiant, Todd Phelps of Mosaic Church, Charlotte

Stationery, Atheneum Creative invitations; Bohemian Ink menus, programs, and escort-card calligraphy

Cake, Kathy Allen Cakes

Music, Classical Charleston; The Maxx

Rentals, The Ark; Crush Event Rentals; Party Tables; Snyder Events; Skyline Tent Company

Bride's gown, Bliss by Monique Lhuillier from Hayden Olivia Bridal

Bride's accessories, Modern Trousseau veil; Kiki McDonough earrings; Alex Šepkus engagement ring; Rupert Sanderson shoes

Bride's hair, Shelby Bloomquist of Jolie Cheveux, 704-737-0279

Bride's makeup and bridesmaids' hair and makeup, Be Pretty by Lindsey Regan Thorne

Flower-girl dresses, Tadashi Shoji; Us Angels

Flower-girl and page-boy shoes, Vans

Groom's custom suit, Abbeydale

Ceremony umbrellas, Boutique Tents

Transportation, Absolutely Charleston

Restroom trailers, Royal Restrooms

Italian wines, Vino Vino Selected Italian Estates

Pata Negra Jamón Ibérico and Parmigiano-Reggiano, Aqua e Vino

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