Everything about Christina Carmona and John Costanzo’s relationship exudes big romance. It goes back a dozen years, to when the couple met in Italy. “John and I met while studying abroad in Florence, Italy, in the fall of 2010,” says Christina, the founder of retail brand Island to East Side. Though they began as friends and didn’t officially start dating until 2013, there was something in the air that trip. “We were not the only couple to come out of that study abroad semester,” Christina says. “Many of our close friends married one another in the years following us all meeting in Italy!”
When John proposed in 2019, it was with the grandest of romantic gestures. He schemed with Christina’s two sisters to surprise her. “I had a day with them preparing and getting ready—my hair and makeup done, dresses picked out for me—and I had no idea where I was going for hours,” Christina remembers. “We left our apartment in Midtown East and our Uber dropped me off at the helipad on the FDR. My sisters and I took the helicopter to Southampton.” She goes on: “The chopper landed on a private beach and we got engaged. I turned around to see 25 of our closest friends and family walking on the beach to congratulate us. John had everyone come out east on a party bus and wait in the parking lot of the beach for the proposal to be over.” The party moved to Cowfish in Hampton Bays for an engagement celebration hosted by the groom-to-be.
The wedding, of course, would have to exude romance in the same timeless way their relationship had. Christina’s personal aesthetic fit the bill. “My favorite saying and description of my personal style is that it is ‘classic with a twist,’” she says. “I love to hop on a good trend, but at my core I am a classic girl. That is what I wanted the wedding to embody.”
She searched high and low for a planner that fit her vision—then struck upon an idea. Why not test out her new business idea on herself? She was just about to launch Studio ITES, a full-service luxury event studio in Midtown Manhattan that offers event planning, content creation, day-of wedding services, and production of experiential marketing events and activations. It was the perfect fit. “My team at Studio ITES handled all of the planning and day-of coordination,” she says. “With the opening launch of our studio, which will host tons of marketing and small events, I thought it was a great opportunity for us to plan a large scale event together. In essence, I was my own test subject for my new business.”
She put the most focus into finding the right vendors. “I spoke to a lot of people and really listened to other peoples experiences and advice,” she says. “As a business owner and entrepreneur, it is important to me to work with people who really care about their work and profession. I like to work with people who do everything with conviction and passion.”
In the end, she couldn’t have been happier with the team she built—but that doesn’t mean the process was easy. “Our original wedding was supposed to be in September 2020,” she shares. “This was our third wedding date, second venue, and—as my sisters liked to remind everyone in their toast—my fourth wedding dress. I think we should normalize brides talking about how stressful the process is. It is a lot of work, energy, time, money—and that is all very stressful!”
Of course, it was worth it in the end. Her big day on June 25, 2022, was a masterpiece of classic elements with modern twists. Keep scrolling to see all the beautiful details, planned by the bride and photographed by Rafal Ostrowski and Brooke Singer.
The couple hosted an Italian-themed rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. It set the tone and hinted at the theme of their big day to follow.
The morning of the wedding, Christina made sure that getting ready was an event in and of itself. “It’s the most overlooked portion of the day,” she says. “I hosted 17 beautiful ladies for hair, makeup, and photos.” Her new studio and event space, Studio ITES, set the perfect scene, and Bushwick Catering Co. laid out a beautiful spread.
“I really wanted to set the tone for the day, and for everyone to have an amazing time getting ready. I did not want anyone to be stressed and I wanted everyone to love their glam. I put a ton of effort into placing everyone with the correct artist, hiring the best team, and scheduling everything to perfection.” Ever the entrepreneur, Christina realized she might be on to something. “Somewhere in the process I decided that this is a huge missed opportunity—and now we are opening our doors to host brides and bridal parties that would love to get ready in our beautiful space!”
Christina gifted her bridesmaids with customized clutches from her label, Island to East Side, and used them in a unique way. “Having a business that so often services brides, it was very special to finally be able to be my own customer and treat my bridesmaids to the same experience,” she says. “I collaboratively designed, with florist Aramat Events, bags filled with bouquets for my girls to walk down the aisle with, which was the perfect personal touch to your typical bridesmaids’ bouquet.”
The bride and her bridesmaids got ready that morning in Island to East Side robes—but the prep began long before that for Christina. “I religiously visited JTAV Clinical Skincare for Clear + Brilliant treatments and custom facials,” she says. “I have acne-prone skin and break out easily; stress does not help. A friend of mine recommended a Biologique Recherche routine a couple weeks before the wedding and I owe her my life because of it.”
She prepped her teeth, too, with a little help from a friend. “My best friend and bridesmaid Dr. Bridget Glazarov is a dentist and opened her new practice, Maison Be, just in time to give me a KöR Whitening treatment, so my teeth were sparkling!”
“I wanted to keep my makeup clean and simple, but beautiful,” Christina says. “I wanted to look back on my photos in 100 years and have no regrets about the look I chose.” For her hair, “I actually completely changed my mind the morning of, while I was in the chair. I did a slick, simple bun, and accented it with a lace appliqué from my dress that one of my best friends cut out the morning of!”
Christina fell in love with a Chantilly lace Ines Di Santo gown, featuring vine and floral appliques and large bell sleeves—but she almost didn’t get to wear it. “The dress came in incorrect two times with two-and-a-half weeks to spare until the wedding and was unfixable,” she remembers. “I ended up wearing the runway sample that has been traveling the world and been tried on by tons of brides everywhere. I guess you can call it my ‘something borrowed.’”
“I had a lot of help from the amazing powerhouse women that surround me,” Christina says. “My cousin and bridesmaid did my makeup, my best friend and bridesmaid whitened my my teeth, my best friend who just started a business sourced all the jewelry my mom, sisters, and I wore throughout the day.” The bride also put her own powerhouse talents to work. “All of my accessories—my bag, my veil, my hairpiece—were pieces I designed.”
Groom John looked classically handsome in a black Suitsupply tuxedo; he had his grandparents’ initials embroidered on the underside of the jacket’s collar. His accessories were on point, too: Salvatore Ferragamo cufflinks, Tom Ford bow tie, Christian Louboutin shoes, and a spritz of YSL cologne.
“I loved the idea of having an intimate moment with John alone, without anyone’s eyes on us,” Christina says of their first look. “John was so cute. He was standing in front of a glass door where my reflection was seen, so he had his head bent down. The photographer told me he was nervous before I started my walk up to him. I loved the moment and I will never forget it. It was truly exactly what I wanted.”
In fact, she adds, “absolutely nothing and no one matters except you and your fiancé. Period. All the beauty, all the decor, all the glitz, does not matter—what matters is that both of you have the largest smiles on your faces.”
“I really wanted my bridesmaids to feel like their best and most beautiful selves on my wedding day. I asked them all to select something gold or champagne and left the rest up to them,” Christina says. “When I look at the photo of us as a group, I see exactly what I wanted to: a group of the most boss ladies I know, who I am so proud to have stand by my side—each different and special in their own way!”
“I had the most amazing nails on my wedding day,” Christina says. She showed the nail art designers at Lexi Nails and Spa her dress and had them paint the lace and vines onto a French manicure, accented with pearls. John’s hands were equally showstopping, thanks to a brand-new Rolex gifted by his bride.
Their ceremony took place at St. Jean Baptiste on the Upper East Side, which required little decor. “The church is so stunning and beautiful as is,” Christina says. “We had two adorable ring bearers and one flower girl, all of whose parents were also in the wedding, which was extremely special.” She even designed custom ring bearer pillows through Island to East Side.
Christina and John recited traditional vows in a timeless, classic ceremony—then exited the church to cheers from their 200 guests.
The party headed to iconic restaurant and venue Cipriani for the reception. “I am a huge believer in going with the vibe of the venue instead of fighting it,” Christina says. “We chose Cipriani for a reason—the history, the architecture, the grandeur—and I felt like whatever decor elements we brought in should complement and accent the venue’s beauty. While I love a sleek modern event with a contemporary flare, I felt like going that route was not symbiotic with the natural beauty of the venue.” Her floral designer, Tamara Kogan at Aramat Events, nailed the aesthetic. “She came up with the idea of an Italian garden, and I couldn’t have loved it more. Not only did it mesh perfectly with Cipriani, but also was a nod to where John and I met in Florence, Italy, and our Italian heritage.”
Centerpieces featured tall crystal candelabras and low florals, and the lighting was warm amber; everything seemed to glow. They wanted the florals to look like an “overgrown, untouched garden with fruitful blossoms,” florists Tamara and Eric Kogan say; they used varietals in whites, ivory, and champagne—plus tons of organic greenery to achieve the look. “The flowers mirrored the romance between you and John,” Eric told Christina.
“Our best friend, Andrew Reese, introduced us for the first time as husband and wife into the reception and the whole room went completely wild,” Christina remembers. “It was a really special and heartwarming detail.”
Christina then changed into her second dress, a custom piece from Brooklyn salon Monica’s Bridal. “I worked directly with Lila, the founder and designer; she knew exactly what would work to flatter my figure,” Christina recounts. “Within hours of meeting we were both sketching and designing a gown. The dress was extremely sexy, with a corset and low cutouts on the hips—I kept referring to it as a ‘lingerie’ dress. I can’t wait to see the next thing we design together.”
The bride’s father-daughter dance was an extra special moment. “My parents are big dancers and passed on the love of dancing to my sisters and I from a very young age,” she says. “‘Young Hearts Run Free’ by Candi Staton is a song that plays wherever the Carmona family is, and almost every one who knows us, knows this. I had the DJ mix the Blame Jones version into the original disco version, and my sisters and John ran out onto the dance floor to help me and my dad finish the dance. Every single person at the reception was clapping along; it was a really cute moment.”
“Food is so important to John and I; it’s the main reason we picked Cipriani as our venue,” Christina shares. “It is one of our absolute favorite restaurants and the food there never disappoints. We served mainly Italian food, but I threw in an epic sushi bar because it is my favorite food on the planet and the guests loved it.”
“About halfway through the party we opened a dedicated espresso martini bar by Dolce & Gelato Catering. The bar was hidden behind our seating chart so none of the guests saw it until the servers pulled away the chart in synchronicity to reveal the brand’s owner, Gino, shaking up the very first martini of the night.”
"My favorite thing about the entertainment was our electric violinist, Matt Shredder, who I had the honor of working with in the past for my Bridal ‘Storm.’ Matt is an incredible entertainer who literally energizes and motivates a room," notes the bride.
“Our wedding cake was outrageous,” Christina says. “My best friend Bridget designed it and ordered it for me through her uncle Gene from Master Sweet. When it rolled through the front doors of Cipriani, John and I looked at each other with mouths wide open. Not only did it match the theme perfectly, but it was the size of my body!” The statement was, once again, classic with a twist. “It was the perfect wow factor because of its size, but the design and details were clean and simple.”
Putting on the perfect wedding was all in a day’s work for Christina. “John and I are the type of people who aren’t talkers, we are just doers; we get things done and they are done well,” she says. “Guests showed up expecting a good time, and knew we would deliver one. It’s like they came knowing it was going to be an amazing night, and we just didn’t disappoint. We never do.”
Now, she’s channeling her planning energy into a romantic Greek honeymoon for later this year. The bride adds, “The best decision we made while planning was to delay the honeymoon because I have something to look forward to now that the wedding chaos is over!”
Venues Ceremony: St. Jean the Baptiste Church; Reception: Cipriani
Veil Island to East Side
Reception Dress Monica’s Bridal
Bride’s Shoes Christian Louboutin
Bride’s Hair Veronica Johnson, Ana’Hella Bridal
Bride’s Makeup Bianca Carmona
Bags, Robes, and Ring Bearer Pillows Island to East Side
Groom’s Attire Suitsupply
Floral Designer and Rentals Aramat Events
Invitations Bliss & Bone
Menus Plum Paperie
Guest Book After the Tone
Cake Master Sweet
Accommodations Loews Regency
Photo Booth C4 Event Group
Videographer Michael Justin Studios