This couple jetted off to Italy to marry under an olive tree amongst their closest family and friends.
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Christine and Dagan
In 2009, Christine, a wedding photographer, and Dagan, a cinematographer, met in Los Angeles in a rather unconventional way—while attending a birthday party at a bowling alley. They became serious after a year of dating, and then the time came for Dagan to pop the question. He was inspired by the scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's where Paul gifts Holly a Cracker Jack prize ring after having her initials engraved into it, and although he didn't go the snack box token route, Dagan did have Christine's initials engraved on the inside of a sterling silver ring from the 1960s for the proposal. After she said yes, Christine designed a more traditional engagement ring with her mother and sisters.
With an avant-garde proposal under their belts, the couple got to work planning a week-long adventure in the Tuscany region of Italy for 27 of their family members and friends. Christine wore a colorful floral gown instead of the traditional white, and married Dagan beneath a giant olive tree on the property of La Foce on September 16th, 2015. For two and a half weeks following their big day, the couple drove 2,500 miles around Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro to complete their wedding adventure with a European road trip.
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The Stationery Suite
With watercolor calligraphy, deckle-edged paper, and an organic envelope liner paper pressed with leaves and seeds, Chelsea Petaja created a delicate, natural stationery suite that hinted at the simplistic beauty of the wedding's Tuscan landscape.
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The California-based couple decided that instead of having their big day somewhere in the Golden State or one of the states they grew up in (Connecticut or Texas), they would turn their wedding into a week-long adventure abroad. "We both love to travel, and we wanted to inspire other people to travel with us, both for the wedding and also hopefully for the rest of their lives," explains Dagan. "When people ask us, 'Why Italy?' our response is 'Why not!'"
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Located midway between Florence and Rome in Chianciano Terme, the La Foce estate includes villas, an extravagant garden designed by famous English landscape gardener Cecil Pinsent, and views of the rolling hills.
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"As someone who goes weak in the knees for anything ivy-covered, I was obviously head-over-heels in love," says Christine of the villa she and Dagan stayed in during their week in Tuscany. "We couldn't help but roam the grounds and pop open a bottle of Prosecco when we first arrived! This little oasis was beyond lovely and will forever hold a special place in our hearts."
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"Originally, I had planned on wearing a white, pleated silk dress, but a couple of days before we left for Italy—yes, days—I found this Carolina Herrera beauty and had a complete change of heart," Christine says of her deep blue, lily-patterned chiffon gown. "Now I can't imagine having worn anything else!"
Dagan wore a Shipley & Halmos ensemble that he describes as, "a bit of a hybrid between a tux and suit with a more laid-back, unfinished look to it," topped off with a classic black bow tie.
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Christine's grandmother, who was not able to make the journey to Italy, gave this cameo pin as a wedding gift a few months prior. Having been in the family for over 100 years, the pin was not only Christine's "something old," but also a way for the bride to have her grandmother there that day. She pinned the memento to the inside of her dress during the ceremony.
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The Bridal Party
With only 27 guests at their wedding, the couple decided to keep the bridal party small. Dagan's brother and best friend served as his groomsmen while Christine's two sisters, Ashley and Rylee, were her bridesmaids. Ashley wore a beige Chloé gown while Rylee wore a Jenny Yoo dress in the same hue. As for the guys, they wore ensembles similar to the groom's tailored suit.
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With leftover linen sachets from the welcome bags, the couple collected olive leaves the morning of the wedding to give guests something simple and organic to toss at the ceremony.
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The Bride's Entrance
Christine and her father entered the ceremony to "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy. "The cello solo wafting through the open air as my dad walked me over to the large olive tree will forever be a moment frozen in time. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!" recalls the bride.
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The couple stood beside a giant olive tree during the late afternoon service and exchanged classic vows.
"Just after the ceremony, my parents came over and hugged me. There was something about the way they were looking at me—they were so proud. It was a wonderful moment," says Dagan.
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"We actually have no idea what song the cellist played for the recessional," Christine explains. "We were both so caught up in the moment that we can only remember the olive leaves being tossed and the emotional embraces from our family and friends immediately following. Both of us held it together during the ceremony and even laughed a few times, but the few minutes that followed the recessional were by far the most emotional for everyone."
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Immediately following the ceremony, the couple ran off to the main gardens of La Foce to take formal portraits. "It was about an hour before sunset, and we spent the most romantic thirty minutes running around like it was our own Italian Versailles," says Christine. "We had been looking at photos of these gardens and this huge estate with its many villas and farmhouses for the past six months, but nothing compared to actually standing on the stone staircase and gazing out across the hillside."
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The Cocktail Hour
Cocktail hour took place on a patio next to the villa, where Prosecco was served alongside a selection of homemade breads, pecorino cheeses from Pienza, and charcuterie with torta al testo.
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The sun set over rolling hills covered with Cypress trees kicked off the reception. A family-style dinner by Dopolavoro La Foce included a traditional Tuscan onion soup, tortellini with ricotta, chicken alla cacciatore, a suckling pig, and braised wild boar—paired, of course, with plenty of wine.
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Floral arrangements of garden roses, sweet peas, sweetheart roses, snowberries, and olive leaves were placed on a soft-gray silk table runner beside candles of different sizes and bunches of grapes foraged from the property. It was too windy for the candles to stay lit, but the grapes held the tablecloth in place, and doubled as a snack for guests, too.
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The Place Settings
The colorful, floral china was a change that was made after Christine switched her dress just days before leaving for Italy. "I wanted a design that would playfully tie into the vibrant colors of the gown. Needless to say it was a little last minute, but so worth it!" says the bride. Christine calligraphed the leaf-shaped name cards on natural paper and pinned each one to the white, cotton napkins tied with a blush silk ribbon.
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The newlyweds took to a cobblestone dance floor to Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" for their first dance.
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The couple's friend Michael, who also officiated the ceremony, baked a traditional Italian cake with a cream filling, topped with powdered sugar and local figs.
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Photography, Love, The Nelsons
Location, La Foce
Day-of Coordination and Flowers, Hey Gorgeous Events
Catering, Dopolavoro La Foce
Stationery and Calligraphy, Oh My Deer
Music, Sombras Live Music
Rentals, Preludio Noleggio
Bride's gown, Carolina Herrera
Bride's shoes, Valentino
Hair and Makeup, My Wedding Mirror
Bridesmaids' dresses, Chloé; Jenny Yoo
Groom's suit, Shipley & Halmos
Guestbook, Velvet Raptor
Slik ribbons, FrouFrou Chic