This Couple Went to Italy to Marry in a 12th Century Church

Real Weddings

Though public hearings about the BP oil spill aren't the most romantic of settings, it's what brought Tara (a court reporter) and Chris (an environmental attorney) together. "On the last night, his colleagues dared him to ask me out," remembers Tara. "Even that first conversation was effortless."

On May 25th, 2013, during a trip to New Orleans, Chris surprised Tara by getting down on one knee in the middle of the French Quarter. "We hadn't even discussed marriage yet, and I was shocked. I'm told he spent an uncomfortable amount of one time kneeling on the cobblestone waiting for an answer!" she laughs. After the bride soaked it all in, the couple headed to a nearby restaurant to meet friends for brunch, but Chris had another surprise: both of their sets of parents and Tara's two best friends waiting at the table! "It was the first time I'd ever cried tears of joy," Tara remembers.

Because Chris and his family have lived in Italy multiple times throughout his life, Tara suggested that maybe they head to Portovenere, Italy to wed. "Chris loved the idea, and his family friends helped us make it happen," she says. With 65 guests in tow, the couple said "I do" at the striking Chiesa di San Pietro, then celebrated at the Royal Sporting Hotel, bringing friend and photographer Dennis Kwan with them to capture the adventure.

Tara describes her embroidered silk charmeuse Claire Pettibone gown as "the most comfortable article of clothing I own." With a sheer back embroidered with roses and a flattering, easy silhouette, her dress search ended in an instant. As a bonus, the designer herself was in the salon that day, and helped the bride pick out her headpiece and veil. A bouquet of pink-and-white carnations, white lilies, lavender, and baby's breath complemented the gown perfectly.

Tara's bridesmaids wore silk J.Crew gowns in three different colors and each carried baby's breath, while Chris and his groomsmen's custom three-piece navy suits were accented with boutonnieres of sage and rosemary.

"My dad escorted me from the hotel to the church," says Tara. "It didn't occur to me that walking through Portovenere's Sunday crowd would become part of my walk down the aisle, but I had locals and tourists applauding, hugging me, and kissing my cheek."

Sitting out on the end of a rocky point, the striped 12th century church is usually booked more than a year in advance. Tara and Chris were lucky to have friends who lived locally, who were able to convince the priest to let them wed on a Sunday in the historic building.

"We wouldn't have been able to plan our wedding without help from locals and 6 a.m. Skype calls with our planner," says Tara.

She had her bridesmaids each wear a different colored dress to create a palette that the couple could use throughout the reception.

The couple chose to get legally married in Italy instead of marrying in the U.S. before traveling abroad. "It resulted in trips to the Italian consulate in Washington, the U.S. Consulate in Milan, and lots of paperwork, but we were so happy that the moment we said "I do" in Portovenere was truly the beginning," says the bride.

Candles surrounded by olive wreaths accented the tables. Guests toasted with Prosecco as they ate local fried seafood and fresh pasta, then enjoyed a wedding cake that layered creamy meringue with fresh strawberries.

An Italian trio played throughout dinner and, when they found out that Tara was a big fan of The Godfather, they played "The Godfather Love Theme" during the cake-cutting. "Guests made 'on this, the day of my daughter's wedding' references all night!" Tara laughs.

After a whirlwind celebration, the couple stayed in Italy to explore Portofino, Milan, Florence, and Venice. Tara's advice is especially poignant for brides planning weddings from afar. "Don't sweat the small stuff! No one will notice but you."

Ceremony Venue: La Chiesa di San Pietro || Reception Venue: Royal Sporting Hotel || Wedding Planner: Wedding Italy || Bride's Wedding Dress: Claire Pettibone || Shoes: Nine West || Jewelry: BHLDN || Hair & Makeup: Evolution Unisex Hair || Bridesmaids' Dresses: J.Crew || Groom & Groomsmen's Attire: Evolution of Style || Wedding Bands: Pav & Broome Diamond Jewelers || Florist: Dillo Coi Fiori || Invitations: Scriptura || Catering & Cake: Royal Sporting Hotel || Photography: Dennis Kwan Wedding Photography

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Ready for more Italian destination weddings? Then check out another couple's beautiful Tuscan ceremony and reception in the video below!

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