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If Sleeping Beauty were written today, it might go like this: Girl leaves home for Duke Law School. She holes up, not in a cottage in the woods, but at a Barnes & Noble in Durham, North Carolina, where, after eight hours of daily lectures, she studies for another four. Too busy to meet suitors IRL, she creates an online dating profile listing two hometowns: Durham, and Little Neck, New York, where she grew up.
Twenty-four miles from Little Neck, her profile catches Prince Charming’s eye just as she notices his. Each composes an e-mail. “I hit send, then a message popped up that I had received a note,” says Michelle Bernal, our modern-day heroine, of her first correspondence with Christopher Bodenmiller in fall 2010. Six weeks later, the pair met in D.C., and Christopher, a mechanical engineer, recalls, “it was magical.”
About 18 months later, the day after Michelle’s graduation, they drove back to New York together—and this is where the tale goes contemporary. “I knew I was going to propose,” says Christopher. “But there was a mutual understanding that she would take the bar exam first.” The prince waited for the princess, and in summer 2013, with Michelle’s first week completed as a clerk for a federal judge in Manhattan, he dropped to one knee as they walked through Brooklyn Bridge Park.
At first they were unsure where to tie the knot. His family lives on the East Coast; much of hers is in Colombia. Then, Michelle says, “I woke up with an idea: the Amalfi Coast.” She’d visited as a child and remembers her parents kissing under the Lovers’ Arch in Capri. Plus, Christopher’s ancestors hailed from Italy, and it fit their vision. “We wanted to whisk away our guests into a fairy tale,” says Michelle. “Our wedding was heavily influenced by Disney movies”—only with a sophisticated spin.
Following a yearlong engagement, the couple and 24 loved ones settled into the Villa dei Fisici, an 18th-century palace on the cliffs of Positano. On July 11, 2014, Michelle and Christopher exchanged vows in a Catholic ceremony officiated by a Vatican priest. Afterward, the newlyweds rehearsed their first dance—to Sleeping Beauty’s “Once Upon a Dream,” naturally—in the piazza out front before climbing into a vintage Mercedes, which would return them to the villa for a dinner of gnocchi, risotto, and filet mignon. “Strangers were honking their horns and congratulating us,” Michelle says. “In that moment, I felt like a princess.”
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La Dolce Vita
Guests received welcome bags with chocolates, tea, and a booklet telling the couple’s story.
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A cliffside church set the scene for their vows.
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For the ceremony, guests received sandalwood fans, embroidered handkerchiefs, and lavender for tossing as the couple exited the church.
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Michelle, in a Karen Sabag ball gown, and Christopher took an impromptu spin on the piazza right after their ceremony.
The bride’s dress had a story of its own: It took seven appointments and fittings to make the made-to-order couture piece, and the help of her mom and aunt to transport it through airports to get to the Italian destination, which was 4,413 miles from the couple’s Brooklyn home.
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Michelle carried a bouquet of David Austin English garden roses in buttermilk and pink, Vendela roses, sweet peas, and white hydrangeas.
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Quite the Topper
Designer Karen Sabag’s mother, Lydia, crafted Michelle’s veil by hand to go with the custom headpiece by Bridal Styles Boutique.
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Three of a Kind
Michelle joked that her ’maids were her own Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather.
Another trio? The fabled fairy tales that offered inspiration: Sleeping Beauty and its color palette of light blue, pale pink, and gold; Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest” for the dinner table scene; and Cinderella for the crystal-encrusted bridal shoes (they were fittingly Bella Belle).
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A Moment With Mom
Michelle and her mom hugged postvows.
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Everyone gathered on the Villa dei Fisici’s balcony to toast the couple (and take advantage of an amazing photo op).
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A Storybook View
The villa’s terrace offered killer views of Positano and its namesake bay.
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Beauty and the Feast
Groupings of David Austin roses, freesia, and hydrangeas dotted the dinner table.
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Wish Upon a Dream
At a “wishing station,” guests wrote blessings and tucked them in envelopes calligraphed with their names.
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Food Fit for Kings
Dinner began with gnocchi topped with prosciutto.
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One Long Table
All 24 guests and eight vendors dined together at a single reception table. “Everyone was with us the entire week, the entire way,” says Michelle. “So by the time the wedding came, everybody knew one another.”
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A Sweet Ending
The dark chocolate cake was covered in pale blue fondant by Rose's Cakes.
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Sparklers, displayed in a ceramic vase, bore custom labels that read “Let Love Shine!”
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A Sparkling Moment
Guests waved sparklers as the newlyweds cut their four-tier dark-chocolate ganache cake.
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Inspired by a photo she saw in Martha Stewart Weddings, Michelle asked her planner to put together a bar of white and baby-blue candies. The calligraphed banner read “A touch of love, magic, and fairy dust!”
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Tokens of Appreciation
As favors, silk scarves were given to ladies and silk ties to men.
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Location and Catering: Villa dei Fisici
Event Planning: Italia Celebrations
Flowers: Noosheen’s Floral Event Design
Photography: Corbin Gurkin
Stationery: Press Engaged
Calligraphy: Everly Calligraphy
Cake: Rose's Cakes
Music: Wedding Music
Hair and Makeup: Ashley Brook Perryman
Bride’s Gown and Veil: Karen Sabag
Bride’s Headpiece and Earrings: Bridal Style Boutique
Bridesmaid Dresses: JJ’s House
Groom’s Tuxedo: Tommy Hilfiger
Groom’s Shoes: Hugo Boss