When Gina DiCenzo and Luke Robinson went on a first date at a Creole restaurant in 2012, they had no idea that the meal would foreshadow their New Orleans wedding six years later. The couple met as first and second-year students at Ithaca College, however, according to Gina, "nothing sparked between us until his senior year and my junior year." Years later, on December 15, 2018, they said "I do" with an epic destination wedding in the Big Easy.
"We’ve visited the city a handful of times and it holds near and dear to our family’s hearts," Gina says of bringing their nuptials to Louisiana. But once they committed to a destination, they then needed to settle on a venue. Luckily for them, the decision was easy—Il Mercato was exactly what they were looking for. "We wanted a venue that was effortless, beautiful, and welcoming, and that’s exactly what we felt the second we walked into Il Mercato," she recalls.
Between the open courtyard, cozy outdoor fireplace (a perfect amenity for a winter wedding!), and European-style architecture, the couple created a romantic, warm and timeless atmosphere for their 260 guests. Of course, the destination wedding wasn't without local touches, either: After saying "I do," the newlyweds led their guests in a second line parade through the city's streets and served a Creole-inspired cuisine.
A timeless and sophisticated invitation suite set the tone for the nuptials, which centered around a neutral color scheme of white and ivory with greenery and gold accents.
To prepare for a second-line parade that would immediately follow the ceremony, the couple creatively printed their ceremony programs on handkerchiefs that doubled as wedding favors and props.
Gina and her bridesmaids got ready in matching silk robes and enjoyed glasses of bubbly before changing into their formal outfits for the day.
Gina fell in love with more than the lace and pearl details of her fitted Leah Da Gloria gown. It was the name of the dress, Florence, that reaffirmed it was the one. "Florence was my Nana’s name who passed unexpectedly the year before," recalls the bride. "Not only was the dress the most beautiful piece of artwork I’ve ever seen, but it was also a sign from my Nana, so I didn’t second guess it at all and bought it. This way, she could be with me every second on our wedding day."
She also worked with the designer to make a few custom alterations to the bridal gown, exchanging the original straight neckline for a rough sweetheart cut and adding loose off-the-shoulder sleeves.
The bride also paid homage to her late grandmother with an "F" charm attached to her white and ivory bouquet.
"I was obsessed with the idea of them wearing all white but wasn’t wild about any of the dresses I was finding," shares Gina of her bridal party's attire. She finally found sleek one-shoulder jumpsuits for her bridesmaids and a strapless dress for her maid of honor. "They were the epitome of sophisticated yet stylish and were honestly such a hit!"
Before heading off to see her groom, Gina shared an emotional first look with her father in the bridal suite.
Luke's custom dark blue suit was riddled with sentimental details including the couple's wedding date, "12.15.18," which stitched to the back of his collar. He also accessorized with blue and gold crystal cufflinks from his bar mitzvah.
Luke proposed two days before Gina's birthday in April 2018. "The actual proposal itself happened in our apartment on our couch," recalls Gina. "It was so us and I couldn’t imagine it any other way—very intimate and filled with so much love." Later, the couple celebrated their newly engaged status with dinner, drinks, and dancing with family and friends at a Manhattan lounge.
"We loved the idea of having a destination wedding and had a couple of cities in mind. However, nothing seemed to compare to the magic of New Orleans," shares Gina of their decision to say "I do" in the Big Easy. In fact, choosing the venue was one of the easiest decisions the couple made while wedding planning.
We loved the idea of having a destination wedding and had a couple of cities in mind. However, nothing seemed to compare to the magic of New Orleans.
Luke didn't ask his groomsmen to buy new suits for the occasion since each of them already owned dark blue suits of their own. He did, however, gift them with blue Hermés ties so they could all match on the big day.
The embroidery on Gina's dress looked more amazing in the sunlight—as did her cathedral-length veil!
"We wanted something different than bouquets for my bridesmaids," explains Gina. "My mother-in-law thought of the idea of having a corsage with lots of greenery and flowers that went up to their forearms. It was very romantic, unique, and a nice touch."
"Honestly, we would have been lost without our wedding planner," says the bride. "We were very much on the same page on making the vision of our wedding come to life."
Since it was a destination wedding, it was important for the venue to have a warm, welcoming feeling. It was magical and glamorous!
The courtyard of the Il Mercato set the stage for Gina and Luke's outdoor celebration. They installed a large, floral-covered chuppah in front of the venue's outdoor fireplace and adorned the entire space in candles. To add some European flair, festoon lights also hung overhead. "Since it was a destination wedding, it was important for the venue to have a warm, welcoming feeling," says Gina of the ceremony decor. "It was magical and glamorous!"
As a surprise to guests, Luke's father officiated the ceremony, which combined both Jewish and Italian wedding traditions, and Gina's father gave a speech. Since they'd already exchanged personal notes during their first look, the bride and groom recited traditional vows at the altar.
To conclude the ceremony, the newlyweds broke the glass and sealed their marriage with a kiss. This prompted a brass band to start "Can’t Stop the Feeling" as they recessed down the aisle.
With festive umbrellas in hand, Gina and Luke led their guests through the streets of New Orleans for a second line parade. As the bride explains, "In New Orleans, there’s a tradition that you have a second line parade after the ceremony as it signifies the start of a new beginning for the bride and groom."
Since it is legal to drink alcohol in the streets of New Orleans, the couple served a cucumber fizz cocktail to their guests during the parade. The ceremony program also doubled as a handkerchief, making it the perfect prop for guests to wave in the streets.
"Bystanders waved from their porches and sidewalks and some people even joined in," exclaims Gina of the second line. "It was such an exhilarating experience and really set the tone of the evening."
While the wedding party paraded through the streets of the Louisiana city, the ceremony space was quickly converted to a welcoming lounge area for cocktail hour. "It was like walking back into a completely different venue," shares Gina of the white upholstered furniture and lantern décor.
As is the case for most couples, Gina and Luke had a difficult time narrowing down their guest list, which included Gwyneth Paltrow. But, she also claims their wedding planner made every tough decision "as easy as possible," adding, "the process was so seamless because of them and we had a lot of fun planning it."
Before escorting guests to the reception room, the newlyweds took a peek at the space themselves. (It's safe to say it exceeded their expectations!)
The couple also opted for a cocktail-style dinner, which nixed a traditional seating chart and allowed guests to sit at any long wooden table of their choosing. Six-foot-tall candles towered on each tabletop to add drama, along with voluminous floral and greenery runners.
With no formal time for dinner, guests were able to indulge on a diverse menu of oven-roasted beef tenderloin, savory crepes, pecan-crusted Gulf fish, and southern cheese grits whenever they pleased. "[This] allowed the guest to visit different food stations and choose as little or as much as they’d like, and encouraged people to eat when they wanted and be on the dance floor as much as possible."
And according to Gina, the dancefloor was packed the whole night. The couple kicked it off with the first dance to an acoustic version of "Latch" by Sam Smith. However, with neither Luke nor Gina's father wanting to be on the dancefloor for long, the couple combined their first dance with the traditional father-daughter and mother-daughter spins. "It was a really special and fun moment for everybody," says the bride.
The couple hired I Love This Band to provide live entertainment throughout the night. "I understand why they are named that now because people still to this day tell me, 'I loved the band at your wedding,'" she adds.
The couple's baker, Chasing Wang Baking Studio, used Gina's lace wedding dress as inspiration for the four-tiered confection. The white wedding cake was covered in a delicately piped lace pattern and accented with pearls. Inside lie three unique flavors: red velvet, chocolate, and banana.
After cutting the cake, the bride and groom spent the rest of the night on the dancefloor—and even ended up crowd surfing! "At one point of the night our friends and family lifted us into the air and had us crowd surf," remembers Gina. "One of the most surreal moments of my life."
A sparkler exit led the couple through the streets of New Orleans yet again and their honeymoon brought them to Italy six months later.
It was Gina and Luke's wedding team that helped execute the destination event of their dreams, with the bride saying, "They thought of absolutely every detail, which was especially essential as I was a destination bride." But destination couple or not, according to Gina, all couples should remember this: "The night is about celebrating you both—focus on the things that matter to you most!"
Venue il Mercato
Planner Elyse Jennings Weddings
Officiant Nick Robinson
Veil Galia Lahav
Jewelry Bijou of Katonah
Shoes Jimmy Choo
Bride's Makeup Brittney Evans
Bridesmaids' Makeup Katie Malone Makeup
Bridesmaids’ Jumpsuits Lauren by Ralph Lauren
Maid of Honor's Dress Jay Godfrey
Groom’s Attire Trunk Club
Groomsmen’s Attire Hermès
Engagement Ring Samantha Doppelt of SLD Jewels
Wedding Bands Samantha Doppelt of SLD Jewels
Floral Design Bella Blooms Floral
Invitations Fine Lines of Katonah
Ceremony Program and Handkerchiefs The Polka Dotted Bee
Napkins and To-Go Cups For Your Party
Ceremony Music New Orleans Classical and Jazz
Second Line Kinfolk Brass Band
Parade Permits and Police Escort Coordination Frenchmen Street Productions
Reception Music I Love This Band
Catering Joel Catering
Bar Fronts and Lounge Rentals Distressed Rentals & Revival
Wood Tables and String Lighting Luminous Events
Essential Rentals Perrier Party Rentals
Accommodations Ace Hotel - New Orleans
Videography Studio Vieux Carre
Photography Love is Rad