Chelsea Lois met prison officer Ashley Stonier in 2006, when they were in college and only 17 years old. “It was a case of right person, wrong time,” Chelsea says. But as fate would have it, almost 10 years and several relationships later, they found their way back to each other, and on July 1, 2017, in front of 50 family and friends, they married in Tuscany.
They became engaged on their third anniversary (on Christmas Eve!), when Ashley said he forgot to get Chelsea a present. But, of course, he was kidding and he pulled a black diamond and rose-gold ring out of his pocket. After their Christmastime proposal, the couple decided on a destination wedding in Italy, visiting eight venues a year out to find the perfect place. “We went with Borgo Petrognano, a private estate in the Chianti hills for its exclusivity, views, and ceremony location—a dreamy foliage-covered archway in the gardens,” she explains.
Because Chelsea works in events and admits that she’s super organized, she says she knew what needed to be done and when. “Pinterest and Instagram—and Brides, of course—have been my best friends for the past 12 months,” she says, laughing. That said, the bride did enlist the help of a local wedding planner, Fede at Wedding Italy, who was extremely helpful, as she admits the language barrier and destination were a bit difficult at times: “I desperately wanted to source things for myself, see things in person, and walk around the venue (weekly), but it wasn’t feasible.” Still, the resulting destination-wedding weekend was her dream—intimate, informal, and stylish. Keep reading to see more, as photographed by Katie Grant Photography.
Of her wedding, Chelsea says, “I knew I wanted it to be outdoors and have a relaxed vibe.” She took a fairly anti-wedding approach to details and only cared that it felt “chic, sophisticated, and not stuffy.” The private estate Petrognano embodied that vision.
While Ash had a vision of the wedding as a holiday for the guests, his bride took care of little and big details, like color-coordinating the extended bridal party and making sure everything was cohesive and visually stunning.
“As the Italian countryside is so overwhelmingly beautiful, we wanted to stay respectful of that but in a less rustic, more modern, and stylish way,” says Chelsea, who devised a neutral ivory and black color palette with touches of gold and an abundance of foliage, which was reflected in invitations.
To go with Chelsea’s engagement ring, Ash’s wedding band was a second-hand black and gold signet ring they found at a local jeweler. The groom also wore gold skull cuff links his bride has given him for Christmas. “Ash loves anything dark or gothic, and I knew the skulls would be a little touch of his own personality and style,” she says.
The bride wore a bias-cut matte crepe-silk slip dress with a high neck and low back, by Charlie Brear, chosen because it was understated but made a statement in its own way—“less bridal, more red carpet and fashion forward.” After Chelsea tried more than 100 dresses, this was the one that felt effortless.
Chelsea wore strappy rose-gold stilettos—which coordinated with her engagement ring—for the ceremony and changed into super-comfy sparkly mules from Topshop for the reception.
For the ceremony, the bride donned a cathedral-length silk-tulle veil, to “add some drama, as my dress only had a puddle train.” She also had her seamstress make her a choker from fabric leftover from her dress, and she wore multiple delicate gold rings and midi rings—as she does most days—with tiny gold hoops for jewelry. The statement was her wild, untamed, huge bouquet, a mix of foliage with ivory flowers, berries, and trailing ivory silks.
Because she feels bridesmaids’ attire is generally not cool and stylish, Chelsea had her maid of honor make wide-legged ivory jumpsuits for them. “They had a beautiful asymmetrical top that went into a scarf that wrapped around the neck and trailed down their backs,” says the bride, who liked the nod to her own choker.
“The foliage-covered archway at Petrognano is so stunning that it doesn’t need anything else,” says Chelsea, whose florist and stylist, Janna Brown, added touches of greenery with ivory Silk & Willow ribbons to the aisle chairs to complement the surroundings.
Chelsea’s four-year-old godson and his two-year-old sister were the ring bearer and flower girl. “They had been practicing for months and knew exactly what to do, but I think the day was really overwhelming and Thea started to cry as she got to the end,” recalls Chelsea. “We have a hilarious photo of Thea crying and Ronnie looking panic-stricken at his mum. It’s one of my favorite pictures.”
The avid readers had a subtle theme throughout the day of books, using quotes on all their stationery and for a ceremony reading. “Reading is how we got back in contact after so many years,” says Ashley.
Chelsea wrote the entire ceremony, which began with her dad walking her down the aisle. A family friend was the officiant and helped fine-tune the script throughout the year. They said traditional vows and also did a ring warming, “so that every guest felt included in the ceremony.” When they recessed, it was to an instrumental version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” a fun, upbeat song that would be the start of the celebration.
Ash wore a two-piece black tuxedo by French Connection, paired with a knitted black bow tie, black button covers, and braces, and his groomsmen matched his dapper look.
The pair envisioned a classic Italian family-style meal with everyone sitting together at one long table. Never before having used a sewing machine, Chelsea cut and sewed 50 black napkins from crepe fabric and made tags with their names and wedding date on one side and their favorite love-related quotes from novels on the other side. The tags were attached to balloons, which they gave their guests for a balloon release after the ceremony. “It was a special moment to stand with all our loved ones and see the white balloons all disappear into the sky.”
“We kept the wooden table bare but added ivory silk runners, and beautiful wild and untamed floral decorations lined the center with black taper candles and touches of brass and gold,” says the bride.
After the classic Italian dinner of ravioli, risotto, and melt-in-your-mouth beef, Chelsea and Ash moved their friends and family to the patio overlooking the countryside surroundings to cut the cake and dance. A veranda was turned into a dance floor, its chandelier covered with olive branches.
The newlyweds loved their traditional millefoglie Italian wedding cake, and so did their guests, who polished it off for breakfast the next morning.
Venue: Borgo Petrognano || Catering & Cake: Class Ricevimenti || Planner: Fede at Wedding Italy || Bride’s Dress: Charlie Brear || Bride’s Veil: Britten Weddings || Bride’s Shoes: Office; Topshop || Groom’s Attire: French Connection || Floral Design: Janna Brown Design || Music: Jazz musicians and DJ from Florence Arts Ensemble || Invitations & Paper Products: Donut Press || Engagement Ring & Wedding Band: Anna Sheffield || Photography: Katie Grant ||Videography: Clizia Corti