A Carnival-Inspired Wedding in Venice, Italy

Updated 07/07/14

Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

There's something incredibly romantic about Venice. The winding waterways, countless bridges, and incredible architecture transport visitors back to the 13th century. And in the spring, the city truly comes to life as natives and visitors alike don dramatic masks and costumes to celebrate Carnival.

So what could make a city rich with culture, tradition, and history even more romantic? A wedding, of course, celebrated in true Venetian fashion. On September 24th, 2011, Nelly and Ilya brought their guests to Venice's Island of San Clemente, where they embraced the city and had a wedding full of drama, color, and incredible entertainment. And they brought photographers Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow, for Allan Zepeda Photography, along for the ride—and to capture every incredible detail.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Before jetting to Italy, guests received elegant custom invitations by East Six.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Nelly's wedding-day look was all about the accessories. She kept her shoes bridal white, but chose a fashion-savvy pair of Fendi platforms topped with white satin bows.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

The bridesmaids wore bold red one-shoulder chiffon gowns with a belt at the waist.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Nelly's gown? Vera Wang's Eliza gown, with pleated organza and Chantilly lace appliques.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

The ceremony took place in front of the Church of San Clemente, beneath an altar dripping with white orchids that matched the bride's bouquet. The ceremony followed Venetian wedding traditions, with footmen in crimson silk and a traditionally-outfitted doge welcoming guests.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Ilya arrived at the ceremony in a luxe Riva yacht, accompanied by his groomsmen.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

The groom wore a bespoke Tom Ford tuxedo and a red rose boutonniere. Nelly was escorted down the aisle by her father, and carried a cascading bouquet of white orchids.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Nelly's sister Sofiya, in a tulle gown and rose crown, served as the ring girl.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

After their vows, the couple recessed and made their way back to the boat that had brought Ilya to San Clemente.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Before the reception, the bride and groom took a private boat ride around the lagoon and sipped Bellinis.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Can you imagine anything more amazing than celebrating your "I dos" with a sunset tour around Venice?

Masked men bearing torches led guests to the reception.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Dinner and dancing took place beneath a dramatic clear tent decked out in deep red and gold. Ornate chandeliers dripping with roses hung from above. Tables were topped with textured linens and towering centerpieces.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Each guest's place featured a gold charger and printed menu. Pomanders of red roses glowed in the light of hundreds of votive candles. Escort cards, written in gold calligraphy, were held with miniature chairs

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

The towering wedding cake featured layers of fresh roses between the cake.

Photo: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

Nelly swapped her gown for a Reem Acra design with a high-low hem, which she paired with Yves Saint Laurent sandals. Performers on stilts entertained guests during the reception with a Carnival-like display. The couple embraced the romance and drama of Venice, celebrating in a truly sensational fashion.

Ceremony Venue: San Clemente Church || Reception Venue: The St. Regis Venice San Clemente Palace || Wedding Planner: Antonia Sautter || Bride's Wedding Dress: Ceremony - Vera Wang, Reception - Reem Acra || Shoes: Ceremony - Fendi, Reception - Yves Saint Laurent || Groom's Suit: Tom Ford || Invitations: East Six || Photography: Allan Zepeda and Mel Barlow for Allan Zepeda Photography

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