An Elegant, Colorful Wedding at a 17th-Century Palace in Lisbon
When two travel buffs planned a wedding in Portugal, they made a point of coloring outside the lines: A Buddhist tradition replaced conventional vows; cake came before dinner; and their elegant décor made a 17th-century setting feel utterly spectacular.
Fire drills don't exactly scream "romance." But when Lauren Salerno, an art director at a fashion branding company, waited one out in her office parking lot in 2010, she felt a spark when she first saw Chris Petrick, who was coming in for an interview. She only laid eyes on him from a distance, but then they serendipitously met a few weeks later, at a mutual friend's party. The two soon fell in love while traveling the world together, and eight years later, on a vacation in the summer of 2018, Chris planned a special stop in a lavender field in the South of France, where he wowed her with a ring.
Not surprisingly, an intimate destination wedding topped the pair's wish list. Their families and many of their friends live on the East Coast, so Europe made sense (it's just a few hours farther by plane than California). And Portugal was their peerless choice. "We had been to Lisbon in 2013 and had the best time," recalls Chris. "It's very laid-back, and it's easy to get from the airport to the city center." Their planner suggested a number of venues, but when they watched her video of Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira, a 17th-century royal hunting pavilion, they were sold on virtual sight. Their next grand vision was to fill the place with unexpected colors, so it would feel more spirited than formal. "We went with floral designs that were slightly untamed but elegant," says Lauren of the punchy orange-, pink-, and cream-colored arrangements that popped against the site's cerulean walls, patterned tiles, and towering palms.
On September 14, 2019, 60 guests streamed into the grounds, gathering 76 around a fountain in the courtyard for a Buddhist-inspired ceremony. Afterward, the newlyweds kicked off cocktail hour with a sweet twist: They did their cake cutting and a Champagne toast while a three-piece band played American and classic Portuguese songs. Then guests found their seats for a family-style supper, and later filled the dance floor. With the help of midnight ginja shots (cherry liqueur in chocolate cups), a DJ kept the crowd grooving under a full moon till half past two in the morning. A week later, the newlyweds flew to Greece for their honeymoon—another dreamy escapade for two adventurers.
The invitations set the tone of the day: exuberant and gorgeously detailed.
When Lauren (shown here with her mom) saw the oversize blooms on this Monique Lhuillier silk-organza ball gown, her wedding dress search was over. "I just loved that it felt like me. It didn't take itself too seriously but was still elegant and timeless," she says. "The flowers were hand-painted onto the fabric—you can even see where some of the color bled. It truly felt like a work of art." The bride also loved how lightweight it was—perfect for dancing.
Lauren's bouquet was composed of tulips, peonies, roses, coral ferns, and eucalyptus. "I work in production, so I do an incredible amount of research before I make a decision," says Lauren. But she also knows when to delegate. "Once I chose our vendors, I was confident they could pull off what we envisioned." Case in point: Her planner chose all the in-season blooms on the bride's behalf.
The couple's guests represented every aspect and phase of their lives—from childhood to college to work. "Because we only had 60, everyone was forced to meet, in a way," says Lauren. Chris adds that being away together in a small city made it feel like vacation, so people were keen on exploring together. By the end of the weekend, attendees who hadn't known each other had become fast friends.
A cascade of hydrangeas, peonies, roses, dianthus, clematis, and peach‐blossom branches at the entrance to the pavilion. "I really just wanted a big party, but the ceremony ended up being one of my favorite life moments. Our officiant knocked it out of the park, and her words will forever be in my heart," says Lauren of her favorite wedding day memory.
In place of vows, Lauren and Chris's officiant (the bride's close friend Melissa) led them through a Buddhist tradition called the six paramitas, or perfections, which the couple committed to practicing in their marriage: wisdom, joyous effort, discipline, patience, contemplation, and generosity. To mark each one, a close family member or friend presented them with a symbolic object, including a Japanese knife, a candle, and a two-thousand-year-old apothecary bottle. Now they display them around their home as reminders of their intentions. "When we have friends over, they want to find the objects, and they won't leave till they've spotted all six," says Lauren.
The Long View
For Lauren and Chris, a family-style dinner was a must. A single table was set up on their venue's back terrace.
A gauzy peach runner, cream and mustard candles, and low centerpieces of dianthus, roses, tulips, ficus leaves, and dried wild ferns set an other-worldly mood for supper.
A Little Wisdom
"Chris wanted a large wedding, but I always knew I preferred a tight guest list," says Lauren. "I'm big on quality over quantity. So we decided to include the people who will always be there for us. I advise everyone to go smaller—we got to dance and talk with every attendee."
Before sitting to eat, Lauren and Chris sliced into a lemon-chiffon and chocolate-kirsch cake. Why the early-bird dessert? They didn't want anyone to be too full to enjoy it after the meal.
"We made playlists for every beat of the wedding," says Chris, starting with the moment guests arrived. "We loved Seu Jorge's David Bowie covers from the movie The Life Aquatic. They felt like the perfect vibe for our ceremony." A solo guitarist strummed the songs, since "a violinist would have felt too formal," says Lauren. After dinner, a DJ took over.
Photography, Love Is My Favorite Color
Venue, Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira
Event planning, design, flowers, and stationery, Sofia Nascimento Studios
Cake, T Bakes
Bride's dress, Monique Lhuillier
Hair, Carla D'Oliveira
Makeup, Joana Moreira
Groom's ensemble, Ted Baker (suit); Theory (shirt)
Groom's accessories, Paul Smith
Music, Raphael Racor (guitar); Groovebox (DJ)
Rentals, The Rental Factory (chairs, tables, lounges, tableware, napkins, candleholders); Seidenband (table runner)
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