One Couple Planned a Coastal Destination Wedding in Portovenere, Italy

Updated 10/27/15

Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Olivia Andrzejczak and Kyle Gazis first crossed paths as college freshmen at Princeton University in 2003 — Olivia remembers first seeing him across the cafeteria while Kyle remembers eyeing her at their dormitory mailboxes — but didn't officially meet until that spring when a friend introduced them at a dance. Although their relationship quickly took off, the two took a break that would last nine years after their sophomore year of college. In 2013, Olivia, a journalist for CBS news, was in Rome covering the historic election of Pope Francis when Kyle noticed photos she had shared on Facebook. "He sent me an email asking about it and then we arranged to meet for drinks in New York City on March 24, 2013," she remembers. After two dates, they were both certain the reconnection would last.

Just over a year later, Kyle asked Olivia's parents for permission to propose, but took his time choosing the perfect date to pop the question. Once he had the ring (which was designed by the bride's best friend!), he chose to get down on one knee on December 21, 2014. "He chose to do it on the winter solstice and said, 'Because all the days from now on will be brighter,'" Olivia says. The pair almost immediately started planning their August 5, 2015 wedding in Portovenere, Italy. After visiting the country's Liguria region for years with family, the bride-to-be had been dreaming of a ceremony at the seaside Chiesa di San Pietro church, so the couple planned a romantic and exotic celebration that they shared with 52 guests. Keep reading to see the incredible photos of Olivia and Kyle's Italian wedding, as captured by Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

"During the summer of 2013, Kyle and I visited my aunt in Italy and we took our usual trip to Portovenere," Olivia says. "At one point, as we were strolling the streets, my uncle and Kyle were walking slightly ahead of us and my aunt leaned over and whispered to me, 'Could you imagine actually getting married to that man in that church?' And so the idea was born." The incredible (and dramatic!) space set the tone for the couple's memorable celebration. Since Olivia and Kyle were planning from an ocean away, they turned to the team at Wedding Italy to bring their vision to life. "I booked virtually all of my vendors and locales sight unseen, taste untasted," the bride says. "I had faith in the beauty of Italy and its traditions and people to make the day beautiful."

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2013

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Olivia and Kyle worked with Lia Strasser and Village Invites to create their formal wedding invitation suite. In additional to the elegant letterpress design, the couple added a hand-drawn illustration of their church and a colorful patterned band to highlight the vibrancy of their Italian destination.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

The bride searched for a wedding dress that would complement her stunning ceremony venue. The winner was a floral lace gown from Martina Liana, complete with a dramatic train that Olivia admits she could instantly visualize draping over the church steps. While she loved the sleeveless style, complete with a plunging neckline and back, the bride took her aunt up on an offer to create a lace bolero she could wear just for the ceremony. "She did an absolutely breathtaking job sewing, by hand, a jacket with the same lace applique that covered my dress and adding 11 satin buttons down the back," Olivia says. "I consider it an invaluable heirloom piece that I hope my future daughter wants to wear!"

Her bouquet was an ode to Italy, complete with plenty of cascading olive branches and ivy, and pops of seasonal hues thanks to a mix of roses, lisiantus, lavender, dahlias, peonies, and calla lilies.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

"We wanted the bridesmaids' experience to be as hassle and pain-free as possible, because I know all of my friends are incredibly busy. Two even live outside the country," Olivia says of finding a dress all of her attendants would love. "Shopping together was out of the question, so I used Weddington Way to pick a color and asked my bridesmaids to choose a style they liked best." Although the easy-going bride didn't give her pals any restrictions on neckline or length, everyone chose a cocktail style gown with a strapless, one shoulder, or scooped neck.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Kyle chose a classic black tuxedo from Ermenegildo Zegna and kept things simple for his groomsmen, who are all spread out throughout the country and beyond. "We asked that they wear slate gray suits and Kyle gave them pale rose ties as a gift," Olivia says. A sharp bowtie and floral boutonniere finished his look.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

The striped interior of the church didn't require many additional décor elements, so the couple added just a few small floral touches. Wicker baskets were filled with greenery, peonies, and roses at the altar and aisles were lined with olive leaf garlands and clusters of flowers, including peonies, garden roses, and hydrangeas.

The bride's mother and aunt packaged lace sachets of lavender for guests to toss as the couple exited the church.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

A live musician performed as Olivia and her father walked down the aisle. Although the couple originally wanted to write their own vows, their priest advised that they stick to a traditional Catholic ceremony. "It ended up feeling wonderful to recite vows that were completely classic," the bride says. "It was almost cinematic."

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Their reception was held at the Doria Park Hotel in nearby Lerici, Italy. Their traditional Italian menu kicked off during cocktail hour, where guests enjoyed tasty selections like seafood gratin served in seashells, grilled octopus, and a prosciutto carving station. Although they didn't create signature cocktails, Olivia and Kyle had plenty of prosecco on hand.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015
© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Their open-air reception featured a distinctly Italian aesthetic, with just a touch of rustic appeal. Tables were dressed in pale yellow linens and mason jar centerpieces held a mix of flowers, including baby's breath, roses, lavender, and peonies. The decadent dining experience continued with two courses of pasta, including a seafood ravioli and traditional Ligurian pesto, followed by sea bass paired with local vegetables.

Personalized bottles of locally made limoncello served as the perfect sippable favor.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

For dessert, the couple served a two-tiered square lemon and vanilla wedding cake.

© Facibeni Fotografia, 2015

Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

After their wedding, Olivia and Kyle immediately flew to the Polish countryside for another friend's wedding. Then, the two set off on their honeymoon, which included a drive through the Tuscan countryside and a tour of Greece, with stops in Mykonos, Naxos, Santorini, and Athens. "You do not have to do everything that appears to be expected or traditional," Olivia reminds future brides. "If you don't want to do a bouquet toss, don't! If welcome gifts feel cheesy, skip them. Consult websites and Pinterest for inspiration, but don't let yourself get intimidated by what 'everyone else' seems to do."

Ceremony Venue: Chiesa di San Pietro || Reception Venue, Catering & Cake: Doria Park Hotel || Wedding Planner: Tina Gloazzo of Wedding Italy || Officiant: DonLuca Pescatori || Bride's Wedding Dress: Martina Liana || Veil: Wedding Atelier || Jewelry: Doyle & Doyle; Greenwich Jewelers || Shoes: Stuart Weitzman || Hair & Makeup: Antipodi Hair Salon || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Alfred Angelo, purchased through Weddington Way || Groom's Attire: Ermenegildo Zegna || Wedding Bands: Greenwich Jewelers || Flowers: Verdemania || Invitations: Village Invites; Lia Strasser || Guest Book: Smythson of Bond Street || Favors: Sangallo Distilleria Portovenere || Transportation: Cooperativa Barcaioli Portovenere || Videographer: Marco Abba Videography || Photographer: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia

Ready for more destination wedding inspiration? Then check out one couple's romantic celebration in Santorini, Greece, in the video below.

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