It took a year for Kelley Bowen and Oliver Atcheson to go from acquaintances to significant others. "Oliver's cousin introduced us at Oliver's brother's art opening in September of 2011, but we were both new to New York City and not interested in a relationship," recalls Kelley. "His cousin re-introduced a year later, and we never looked back."
After five years of dating, the pair had begun to discuss getting married, but Kelley thought it was all still in the abstract. "We planned a trip to Italy in April of 2017, and I even jokingly told Oliver not to propose while we were there," she admits with a laugh. Oliver ignored Kelley's instructions, and proposed at a beautiful lookout point in Cortona, Italy, where Kelley had studied abroad in college. "We tried to remember exactly what Oliver said, but the moment was such a blur," she says. "No matter what, the answer was yes!"
Tuscany now held an even more important place in Kelley and Oliver's hearts—not to mention, Oliver's family is Italian!—so heading back for a destination wedding was an easy decision. "We chose Borgo Bastia Creti in Umbria because it had everything we wanted: a convenient location so guests could stay right in town, a charming olive grove for the ceremony, incredible views, and a central courtyard surrounded by ivy-covered buildings for the reception," Kelley describes.
On September 22, 2018, they brought 60 guests to the swoon-worthy villa for their Tuscan destination wedding, turning to Laura Bravi to execute all the details. "Our vision and aesthetic are really her specialty, so she was able to bring together a team of world-class vendors to make it happen, even though we were planning from afar," says the bride. Inspired by the Tuscan countryside, they chose a neutral palette of taupe, greens, and ivory, accented with lavender, blush, and mauve. "We combined materials like terra cotta, marble, and brass for texture and glamour," adds the bride.
"We wanted every detail to feel personal, including our wedding invitations," says Kelley. "We embossed the paper goods with a modern K&O monogram. Our 'couple name' is either 'KO' or 'knockout'!"
Kelley and Oliver chose modern, stylish attire that added a contemporary flare to their destination wedding celebration. The bride wore a Romona Keveza column dress with a mesh overskirt and geometric gold belt. "My mom, step mom, and Oliver's mom came to New York to go dress shopping with me," she says. "It was the first time all three of them had spent so much time together! I was nervous, but we wound up having a blast and forming a bond that set such a positive tone for our wedding weekend."
The groom turned to Billy Reid to create a custom sage green suit, which he paired with a dark floral pocket square and pale gray loafers.
The wedding ceremony took place in an olive grove, where Oliver and Kelley they kept the flowers minimal to let the landscape shine. The scene was further set with romantic bistro chairs and a deconstructed altar of ranunculus, peonies, roses, anemones, olive leaves, and eucalyptus in ivory, dusty rose, and light blush. "The arrangements were incredible, with an organic and romantic aesthetic," says the bride.
Kelley and Oliver worked closely with their officiant to personalize the ceremony, then wrote their own vows in hand-bound booklets made by the bride. "Our vows were a surprise to one another, making exchanging them extra emotional," she says.
While the newlyweds enjoyed the Italian sunset, guests gathered on the garden terrace for apertivo. "We had a cheese and fruit display, pizzas, and—of course!—Aperol spritzes and Negronis," Kelley says.
Escort cards were tucked into boxes filled with fragrant lavender and surrounded by taper candles and clusters of fresh fruit and nuts. Favors included monogrammed matchboxes and bottles of local olive oil.
Guests were seated at two long tables in the ivy-covered courtyard for dinner.
Sage-colored runners softened each wooden table, which was then topped with loose and romantic centerpieces of ivory and blush roses, hellebores, and anemones. "We dressed the tables up with ivory plates, gold flatware, and gold-rimmed glassware," says the bride. Brass candlesticks held colored taper candles, while votives flickered from within gold mercury glass holders.
Strings of café lights cast a warm glow over the al fresco reception, lighting the night as the sun slowly set over the rolling hills.
An indulgent dinner showcased local, seasonal favorites: "We served two pasta 'primis,' burrata tortelli and an Umbrian specialty, ciriole with porcini mushrooms, and a 'secondo' of Barolo-braised beef," says Kelley. "My dad is an avid wine collector, so he chose a wine to pair with each course."
During dinner, just as Kelley's father was about to make his toast, a hush fell over the crowd. "Oliver and I looked at one another and then out at our guests, and we both got a little teary-eyed seeing everyone we love in one place," she recalls.
The couple's three-tiered wedding cake was decorated with flowers and fresh fruit. Inside, it paired layers of vanilla sponge cake with zabaglione whipped cream and dark chocolate flakes.
A jazz band played wedding classics before the newlyweds exited beneath a shower of olive leaves, a fitting touch for their Italian destination wedding.
Looking back on their big day, the creative pro had this advice to share: "Things didn't all go exactly to plan, but we realized that the only people who would notice would be the two of us," she says. "It took a lot of the pressure off! In fact, some of those 'mishaps' became our most cherished memories."
Wedding Planner: Laura Bravi
Venue: Borgo Bastia Creti
Officiant: Diane Rossi of Blessings from Italy
Bride's Veil: Mark Ingram Atelier
Bride's Shoes: Sergio Rossi
Bride's Jewelry: Lizzie Fortunato
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: 77 Diamonds
Floral Design: Il Profumo dei Fiori
Paper Products: Kelley Bowen Creative
Catering & Cake: Lincei Catering Umbria
Entertainment: Wedding Music and Lights
Photography: Chris and Ruth Photography