This Couple Invited Just 15 Guests to Their Portofino Wedding at a 15th-Century Castle
When Jaclyn and Antonio, who met on a weekend trip to New York City on September 21, 2014, began wedding planning, they already had a venue in mind: Castello Brown, a 15th-century castle in Portofino, Italy, that they had visited on a previous trip. "Before we were engaged, I brought Antonio to Italy to meet my family, and we stayed in Portofino for a couple of days," says Jaclyn. "While there, we took a walk up to Castello Brown. When we got engaged, we thought it would be a great place to get married."
They focused on planning a super-intimate event for just 15 guests, and relied on local craftspeople to create a uniquely Italian atmosphere. Since the couple lives in the United States, they worked closely with the planners at Cento Rose e un Tulipano, who handled the on-site details and "made this the most relaxing experience ever," says the couple.
Despite a few obstacles—like a stationery designer who cancelled at the last minute and the threat of rain on the day of the wedding—the couple kept a positive attitude. "Antonio watercolored our stationery—though it was unplanned, it made our invitations and stationery so much more special!" says Jaclyn. "Let your happiness overtake the worry of any silly hiccups that arise." (As for the weather: They had umbrellas at the ready, but the sun held out.)
Exactly four years after they met—on September 21, 2018—Jaclyn and Antonio exchanged their vows on a stunning terrace overlooking Portofino and later celebrated with a dinner with their closest friends and family. "We wanted it simple, small, and sentimental," says the couple. "We loved the fact that we got to spend the last day of summer being outside, near the sea, with our families."
Portofino was in rare form on Jaclyn and Antonio's wedding day; despite reports of imminent rain, the sky remained a cloudless blue, while the sun sparkled on the harbor.
Lovely in Lace
Jaclyn invited her mother and mother-in-law to join her while she tried on wedding dresses—a search that ended promptly when she found this off-the-shoulder lace and tulle Reem Acra number, complete with a delicate floral design. "I felt at ease when I put it on," she says. "Something just felt right." She added a chapel-length veil, vintage pearl earrings, Bella Belle lace heels, and an heirloom finishing touch: a gold bracelet that was gifted to her by Antonio's parents.
Jaclyn's bouquet previewed the rest of the event's floral design from Cento Rose e un Tulipano, with garden flowers, local foliage, and a muted color palette. "My bouquet was very organic and wilder in its form," she says. "Everything in our wedding was just based on what was local."
Antonio chose a black suit from A.P.C., a bow tie, and shoes for a timeless look that complemented Jaclyn's gown. The couple opted not to have a bridal party, so Antonio spent the hours before the wedding relaxing with his father and brother.
On the Road
Jaclyn and her father traveled to the service—through the streets of Portofino—in a small cart, a trip that became one of Jaclyn's favorite parts of the day. "On my way to our wedding ceremony with my father, many people in the town came out of their stores to give their well wishes," she says. "It was so sweet."
An olive leaf and kumquat garland and festive sign ("oggi sposi" means "just married" in Italian) dressed up the back of the cart.
A Simple Space
A small courtyard at Castello Brown was set up for the ceremony, where the duo's 15 guests sat in four rows. Wooden beams overhead held hanging garlands of olive leaves, kumquats, and white flowers.
At the Altar
Jaclyn's father escorted her down the aisle to a selection of pre-recorded instrumental string music; he lifted her veil before passing her on to Antonio.
Saying "I Do"
Officiant Marco Rodio presided over the ceremony, which included a Pablo Neruda poem read by Antonio's brother and the couple's traditional vow exchange.
Signed and Sealed
During the service, the couple's parents stepped up to a small table near the altar to sign the marriage certificate, which included a watercolor image hand-painted by the groom.
So Happy Together
Afterward, Jaclyn and Antonio took advantage of the location's sweeping views—and golden hour—for their formal portraits.
Guests moved to the reception space for appetizers with a local influence—including seafood, focaccia di recco, and fritters. "We spent most of the cocktail hour taking photos," says the couple, "but we did get fresh focaccia, straight from the oven, to make up for it!"
The castle's outdoor terrace offered enough room for a dining table near a low stone wall; a more casual seating area, with small folding tables draped in short lace cloths, was set up nearby. The couple joined their guests under strings of white lights for small bites and drinks before dinner and used the open area for dancing later in the evening.
A single table fit the entire wedding party, who enjoyed the sunset over the water. Low centerpieces, which were placed between tall candles, allowed for the conversation and laughter that lasted long into the night. The floral arrangements were comprised of white garden flowers and backed by olive leaves; brass candleholders, dripping tapers, and small brass bowls filled with kumquats added sophisticated metallic accents and a dose of formality—without sacrificing the cozy atmosphere of the day.
Their Custom Crest
Hand-painted blue-and-white charger plates coordinated with the printed menus, which featured the small watercolor crest that Antonio designed for the invitation (and contrasted with the vibrant fruits at each setting).
On the Menu
Vernissage Catering provided the meal, which included "white fish, risotto, squid ink pasta, veal, and a dessert table," says the couple.
Hand-painted ceramic boat favors from Ceramiche Guarino—a nod to the wedding's waterfront location—included the bride and groom's initials. "They were made by a local Ligurian ceramicist in a traditional style," says the duo. "These boats were filled with lace and confetti—Italian sugar almonds."
Above the Town
The castle's position at the top of a cliff, overlooking Portofino, offered the celebrants unmatched views of the town's harbor, which twinkled under warm lights as the sky darkened.
The couple popped open a bottle of Champagne to serve with their wedding cake: A millefoglie—a combination of custard and puff pastry—topped with fresh blueberries and blackberries.
A Family Affair
Jaclyn and Antonio agree that sharing a meal with their family and friends provided them with one of their favorite parts of the day: "Being at a single table, all together and all night long, just talking and laughing and spending time as a new family."
The couple chose not to have a first dance (or any family dances, for that matter) but did join their guests for some time on the dance floor as the Pepe Ragonese Duo played a continuous selection of live jazz tunes throughout the evening.
Photography and videography, Lenny Pellico
Location, Castello Brown
Event planning and flowers, Cento Rose e un Tulipano
Catering and cake, Vernissage Catering
Officiant, Marco Rodio
Music, Pepe Ragonese Duo
Bride's gown, Reem Acra
Bride's shoes, Bella Belle
Hair and makeup, Giulia Cresci
Groom's suit, A.P.C
Favors, Ceramiche Guarino