Portugal’s resort town of Sintra, just outside of Lisbon, is an absolutely beautiful destination to say “I do,” as Ashley Mistele and Dennis Nelson both know—the New York City-based couple jetted across the pond to wed in the picturesque town.
“It is a magical place and a little slice of history,” Ashley says of the reception venue, which the couple actually kept a secret from their guests. After the ceremony and cocktails at the Penha Longa Resort, the luxury hotel where everyone was staying, they shuttled the party 15 minutes away to Palácio Fronteira for a candlelit dinner paired with Portuguese wine.
They picked Portugal as Dennis, who is half-Brazilian, grew up visiting the country, and thought that it would be a way to have a personal touch with a destination affair. (The couple met when they were both working at a bank in London.) They sought to show off the best aspects of the European country, including hosting a World Cup finals viewing party on the last day of the celebration. “One of the best parts of a destination wedding is that friends and family turn the trip into a holiday and spend valuable time together relaxing, exploring, and meeting new people,” the bride says.”
To pull it all off, they worked with local planner Jasmine Lazarri of The Wedding Company, whom Ashley calls “one of the chicest women in the business,” and, of course, help from Ashley’s mother, who picked the wines and collaborated on the cake design. Needless to say, it all came together, and even after the festivities ended, the couple wasn’t ready to part with Portugal—they stayed for a honeymoon. “We spent a few days at the Six Senses in the Douro Valley and a few days at a quirky eco-hotel on a beautiful beach called Areias do Seixo,” Ashley says. “We spent a large portion of our honeymoon fantasizing and plotting to move to Portugal.”
“We had an incredible time working with Sarah Drake, who created our invitation suite and paper goods for the wedding,” Ashley says. “It was so much fun going through the creative process with her and working with Jasmine to tie in elements of the venue to our décor.” The paper goods were inspired by the azulejos, the famed, hand-painted Portugues tiles.
Ashley and Dennis met when they both worked at the same bank, but different offices. Ashley, who was based in New York City, moved to London for a short time for a project, where she met Dennis in the U.K. office. “I ended up convincing our company to let me stay an extra month because I was not at all ready to leave Dennis or London behind,” Ashley says. The pair dated long-distance for a few years before settling in New York City full-time.
The couple kicked off the festivities with a tennis tournament and a welcome party in Sintra. “We decided on Penha Longa Resort as the home base for our guests because of its gorgeous location in the hills of Sintra just outside of Lisbon, the family-friendly activities it offered, and the number of beautiful wedding venue options on that property alone,” the bride adds.
“It was incredibly important to us that our wedding felt like more than just a party,” Ashley says of their weekend of activities, which included a full itinerary of events.
Dennis proposed with a vintage emerald ring, so Ashley worked with New York-based jeweler Stephanie Gottlieb to create a custom diamond ring “jacket” that would wrap around (and protect!) the vintage ring.
Ashley and her bridesmaids did hair and makeup together on the wedding day, which included the bride’s classic updo.
Ashley’s Naeem Khan wedding gown just “felt like the right aesthetic for Portugal” when she put it on at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. “I came out of the dressing room and all of my friends went ‘That’s it! That’s the one!’” Ashley recalls. The long-sleeve gown features hand-sewn floral organza appliqués and a flowy skirt.
Ashley’s bridesmaids wore burgundy silk Zimmerman gowns with Stuart Weitzman block heeled shoes, while her flower girl—a good friend’s daughter—coordinated with a lace dress and flower crown accented with burgundy silk ribbon.
Ashley and her bridesmaids carried similar bouquets of burgundy and white peonies, green foliage, and a silk ribbon wrap by Frou Frou Chic.
“I loved having a family heirloom to wear on the day,” Ashley says of donning her mother’s vintage lace veil for the ceremony. She also wore her mother’s diamond drop earrings, which were a gift from her father.
“According to Dennis’s mother, he had his mind set on a Hugo Boss tux from the start,” Ashley says of the groom’s classic look: a slim-fit navy tuxedo with silk lapel. His groomsmen wore the same navy tuxedo, a decision that the couple did debate only to decide that “everyone knows who the groom is!”
The ceremony took place in the courtyard of the cloisters at the Penha Longa monastery, a 16th-century church on the grounds of the hotel. Ashley wanted a romantic vibe, so her planning team accented the cloisters with wildflowers and hydrangeas in bold hues to give it more of a garden feel. They also installed a platform to serve as an altar for the couple’s vow exchange.
Ashley’s uncle, a pastor in Puerto Rico, officiated the ceremony, which included readings focused on love but also enjoying life. The couple exchanged their own vows, which Ashley says was Dennis’s idea. “He thinks it’s so much more personal to hear from the couple, and he was definitely right,” Ashley says. “I was nervous to read my own words aloud but now I’m really glad we did it.”
The couple included popular traditions into the ceremony too. Ashley entered with her father to Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and the playlist also featured wedding music like Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” all performed by a string quartet from Lisbon. For the exit, the newlyweds processed up the aisle to The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” amid a shower of flower petals.
“Seeing each other at the wedding ceremony was a very special moment,” Ashley says. “Walking down on my father’s arm and seeing him embrace Dennis and the genuine love and respect between was very sweet.”
“We had a little ‘pinch me’ moment that we were in Portugal with 120 of our favorite people that had flown in from all over the world to celebrate us,” Ashley says of stealing a moment away with her new husband.
“After a year and a half of planning and anticipation it felt amazing to finally be next to each other in front of all our friends and family, declaring our love and commitment,” Ashley says of the ceremony.
As a surprise to their guests, the entire was transported from Penha Longa to Palácio Fronteira, a 17th-century palace outside of Lisbon, for the reception. “The natural beauty of the Palacio is what drew us to the venue,” Ashley says.
Guests sipped Port Tonics—a popular Portuguese mixed drink that blends dry white Port with tonic water and a citrus garnish—as they wandered the grounds for cocktail hour. “It’s the perfect summer wedding drink,” Ashley says.
“We left time for people to explore the palace grounds before candlelit dinner in the gardens at a series of long banquet tables,” Ashley says of the alfresco reception setup.
“Even though our wedding was in the dead of summer I just prefer the look of rich bold tones,” Ashley says. “We wanted to play off of the Portuguese azulejos so we stuck with rich blues, white, and deep burgundy.” The tables included neutral linens to complement the bold hues and navy taper candles.
The place settings really called to mind azulejos with blue and white charger plates from a local brand, Vista Alegre. They were paired with gold flatware and crystal goblets.
“It was elegant but didn’t take itself too seriously,” Ashley says of the day.
Dinner included a Portuguese-inspired menu like scallop carpaccio, beef filet with spinach and pesto, and custard tarts paired with wines from the Douro Valley. “My parents selected all the Portuguese wines that we served throughout the weekend after a ‘research’ trip they made to the Douro Valley earlier in the year,” Ashley says.
Her mom also collaborated on the cake design, a three-tier fondant cake filled with a white cake with raspberry coulis and Madagascar Vanilla Cream. The middle tier tied in the azulejos with its intricate design.
“So many of our friends told us: make sure you take a moment for yourselves at the wedding because it goes by in a blur and that was great advice,” Ashley says. “We had a little ‘pinch me’ moment that we were in Portugal, at a palace, with 120 of our favorite people that had flown in from all over the world to celebrate us.”
Ceremony Venue Penha Longa Resort
Reception Venue Palacio Fronteira
Wedding Planner The Wedding Company
Officiant Pastor Robert Zoba
Bridal Gown Naeem Khan
Bride's Shoes Lanvin
Hair Vasco Freitas
Makeup Be Miranda
Bridesmaid Dresses Zimmerman
Mother of the Bride Dress Ralph Lauren
Groom’s Attire Hugo Boss
Groomsmen Attire Hugo Boss
Flower Girl Dress Tea Princess
Engagement Ring Erstwhile Jewelry
Wedding Bands Stephanie Gottlieb
Stationery & Paper Goods Sarah Drake Design
Calligraphy Telmo Nunes
Music Quarteto Lacerda
Poet Jacqueline Suskin
Catering Penha Longa Resort
Cake T Bakes
Transportation The Wedding Company
Accommodations Penha Longa Resort
Videography Short & Cut Films
Photography Erich McVey