When Robert Schiffer proposed to Jessica Dean on a trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia, in September 2014, he did so on the spur of the moment (on bended knee but without the ring). "We'd had an epic few days there, and the location just took us away," she says. They loved the city's undiscovered vibe, friendly locals, and early fall weather so much, they decided to get married there and set a date for exactly two years later. On September 3, 2016, the New York City-based couple returned to Villa Orsula in Dubrovnik, this time with 60 guests—including Jessica's Pomeranian, T-Rex, and Rob's two daughters, Remi and Lola—in tow. "Planning a wedding half way across the world was difficult," says Jessica, laughing. "Luckily, we decided what we wanted and all the venues the day we got engaged!
To create her vision, Jessica enlisted the help of planner Shannon Leahy of Shannon Leahy Events. "I chose to work with Shannon, despite her being located in San Francisco, because I loved her taste and she understood that I wanted our personalities to shine through," says the bride. Together, they created a look that was equal parts moody, chic, and authentic to the destination. Keep reading to see how the ladies at Belathée Photography captured this epic destination wedding celebration featuring the most beautiful décor and jaw droppingly beautiful views (as evidenced in the photo above!).
They say an invitation is your first chance to show off your design vision and color palette, which is exactly what this dark, floral-inspired suite by Aerialist Press accomplished.
The bride got dressed for the day overlooking the Adriatic Sea. She incorporated the wedding's deep color palette into her look with a dark red lip and Alexandre Birman heels.
Jessica selected a lace gown by Inbal Dror that was nearly as dramatic as the villa's view. "I knew I wanted something with a deep V neckline that also felt appropriate for the location," she says. "I fell in love with the dress the moment I tried it on!"
The bridal bouquet again coordinated with the rest of the event's floral design, incorporating blooms in deep reds and burgundy in an organic arrangement.
The bride walked down the aisle with her mother as she covered her face with a beautiful, dramatic veil.
The couple worked together to customize their ceremony, which took place in the exact spot where they decided to get married two years prior. "It was important that our ceremony reflected us as a couple," Jessica explains. "It was personal, humorous, and traditional." The resulting program was just that as the bride and groom exchanged handwritten vows and personalized rings. (Her band came from Rob’s grandmother; his was engraved with a quote from a favorite book.)
The groom's daughters (in flower crowns and dresses by Joanna August) walked Jessica’s Pomeranian, T-Rex, down the aisle before surprising guests with a synchronized twirl.
The newlyweds exited to a string rendition of “Perpetuum Mobile." "It was a song that we heard together when we were dating and we knew it would be our wedding song," Jessica says.
And with a wedding venue this beautiful, it's no surprise that the couple slipped off for photos following the ceremony. They took portraits around the property, as well as on the pier where they docked after their seaside engagement. (T-Rex made his way into a few portraits, too!)
Cocktail hour took place in a garden overlooking the Adriatic, where traditional Croatian dancers performed before leading everyone to dinner on the rooftop stone terrace.
The rich hues of the table linens and hanging floral installation were inspired by the city's Zinfandel grapes.
The dark tables were adorned with gold candlesticks and decorated with low floral arrangements surrounded by figs and grapes. Modern ghost chairs and black printed menus completed the romantic-meets-gothic look.
The multi-course dinner was accompanied by local wines, but the highlight of the villa's cuisine may have been the late-night lamb burgers!
Remi and Lola stole the show (again!) when they delivered an adorable toast at dinner. "Our daughters made the most beautiful and unexpected speech that left everyone in tears," Jessica says.
After hours of dancing and a dress change (into a crop top from Rime Arodaky and a skirt by J. Mendel) for the bride, the night ended, naturally, in the Adriatic Sea, when 15 of the 60 partygoers—including the bride and groom—took an impromptu plunge. It was just the first of two such jumps: “We wanted to have a whole other reception without all the wedding-day stress, so we did,” Jessica says of the brunch they hosted on Kolocep Island the next day. Says Jessica, “I tossed the bouquet, Robert had a cookie cake, and we all jumped on a boat at the end!"
Venue & Catering: Villa Orsula
Planner: Shannon Leahy
Croatian Liason: Yes I Du Weddings
Florist: Laeticia C. Fleurs
Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen
Paper Products: Aerialist Press
Bride's Dress: Inbal Dror
Bride's Shoes: Alexandre Birman
Flower Girl Attire: Joanna August
Groom's Suit: Ralph Lauren
Ceremony Music: Dubrovnik Music
DJ: Dubrovnik DJs
Photography: Belathée Photography