Here's How to Plan an Old-World, European Wedding in Your Hometown
No place has quite the same allure as Europe—which explains why it's a popular wedding destination for couples planning an ultra-romantic fête. While each across-the-pond country comes with its own rich legacy and historic architecture, that Old-World feeling distinct to Europe surrounds you no matter where you are on the continent. Whether you're standing in front of a château in the South of France or basking in the sun on a Spanish villa's veranda, there's one thing that's certain: That vibe, strong enough to make you dream of a life as an ex-pat, doesn't come along very often when you're stateside—and you sense it even less (if at all) in your hometown.
At least, that's what Lynzie Hazan of Bonphotage believed until she stumbled upon the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in—believe it or not—Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hazan took one look at the mansion, designed in the style of a 16th-century Italian Renaissance mansion, and knew that it "needed to be captured in an elegant way." Suddenly, the idea came to her. "While we all dream of a European wedding, it isn't always an option," she explains. "So, why not bring Europe to the couple?"
She then assembled a dream team—which included Régine Danielle Events and Frontier Flowers of Fontana—to bring her vision of a European-inspired styled shoot, complete with a color palette informed by the Tuscan-inspired venue, vintage rentals, and an antique-filled tablescape, to life. With the villa's sprawling gardens, terracotta tiled roof, and waterfront location (it overlooks Lake Michigan!) as a backdrop, it's almost impossible to believe that this concept came together in the continental U.S.
Of course, not every couple has access to a venue designed with the Italianate architecture of the past as a model, especially if they're getting hitched in the place where they grew up. But that absolutely doesn't mean that you can't plan a European-themed celebration. Here, Hazan and her team give their tips on planning and executing a hometown wedding that feels like a little sliver of Tuscany.
Choose a Historic Venue
If you're lucky, a gem of a venue already exists right at home. Keep an eye out for an old mansion with "historic charm, natural beauty, and a hint of romance," says shoot planner Regina Brooks of Régine Danielle Events. "A villa is a perfect venue because it's an all-encompassing experience since all of your surroundings evoke European charm, bringing a part of Europe to your hometown." When scouting locations, also be sure to take note of any columns, crown molding, and vintage rugs, advises Hazan, since all of these contribute to that coveted Old-World vibe.
Or Recreate Your Own
If that perfect spot doesn't already exist nearby, don't be discouraged—there are ways to invigorate any space with the charm of 16th-century Italy. "A European wedding is all about appreciating your natural surroundings, so find a venue with lots of natural light and decorate with free flowing and organic flowers," says Brooks. Natural light is absolutely key, confirmed Hazan, who recommended a lush field in the place of a historic villa. "Look for a location for bridal portraits which could transport a couple to Tuscany. Golden hour in a field of lavender or rolling meadows would be perfect!"
Wear a Lace Wedding Dress
According to shoot stylist Rachel Dickerson, owner of Golden Style Consulting, some fabrics work better than others when trying to curate a Euro-infused bridal look. "I am love with lace for this desired aesthetic," she says, noting the beaded lace used throughout the bride's Berta wedding dress. "Lace gives a timeless, romantic air that is a perfect choice for a European-inspired celebration." Not a fan of this antique textile? Opt for lightweight fabrics like chiffon and crepe, instead, she advises.
Add Pen Calligraphy to Your Invites
Love Offering's Josefina Sanders turned to the continent's laid-back mode of living when designing and calligraphing this dreamy invitation suite. "Each piece of stationery was purposefully curated to fit the European aesthetic," she explains, citing "the culture and amazing views" as the jumping off point for both the color scheme and materials. "All pieces were created through pointed pen calligraphy on handmade paper with customized ink." Honestly, is there anything more past-perfect than a paper suite that looks like it's been written using a quill? We think not.
Fill Photographs with Old-World Props
Staged flat-lays with plenty of antique details are a quick and easy way to transform that classic accessory shot into something of a different time, says Hazan. "We carefully designed flat-lays to complement the vibe we were trying to create," she says of the vintage-inspired ornate trays, rich velvet fabrics, and loose florals she used when capturing the details.
Choose a Rich Floral Color Palette
If you're lucky enough to find an on-theme venue, make like Renée Cerny of Frontier Flowers of Fontana and let the building's natural color palette inform that of your flowers. "The exterior at Villa Terrace is paved with terracotta brick walkways and intricate river stone mosaics; also present are hand-wrought ironwork and weathered white-washed walls. The interior is home to rich wood plank flooring and hand-hewn beamed ceilings with detailed hand painting," she explains. "I selected a flower palette that would complement the colors throughout the space and that had a fair balance of texture and a mature color gradient."
Carry a Cascading Bridal Bouquet with Native Blooms
Cerny designed this overflowing clutch with variety in mind, so she used fields of lush English gardens and conservatories as inspiration. Her blooms of choice? Narcissus, anemone, ranunculus, French tulips, carnations, and English garden roses, with grape leaf ivy and banyan vines as trailing greenery accents. Fun fact: Cerny actually sourced most blooms used in the shoot from a Dutch market, which helped her choose blooms that naturally flourish abroad—feel free to talk to your florist about doing the same.
The Same Goes for the Boutonnières
Since you're approaching your groom's florals the same way you'd think about your own, simply ask your floral designer to make a mini version of your bouquet—just in boutonnière form. Here, a dusty blush rose, sprig of berries, and grapevine arrangement does the trick.
Set a Romantic Tablescape
The secret to getting elegant, Old-World reception tables is all in the brass vessels, candlelight, and lots of fruit (like blueberries and pears!), says Brooks. "The candles add a hint of romance while the berries and fruit continue to incorporate the elements that are found in nature," she explains, adding that when it's time to choose your centerpieces, opt for arrangements that are "loosely structured to mimic the natural flowers you'd find in a European garden."
Serve Up an Elegant Confection
Talk to your cake baker about creating a wedding confection with a romantic texture, like the elegant ruffles—they tie the dessert back to the flouncy, puffed sleeves and pleats worn during the Italian Renaissance—used on this Julie Michelle Cakes treat.
Film lab, Richard Photo Lab
Location, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum
Event planning, Régine Danielle Events
Flowers, Frontier Flowers of Fontana
Stationery, Love Offering
Cake, Julie Michelle Cakes
Stylist, Golden Style Consulting
Rentals, Relics Vintage Rentals
Linens, La Tavola
Rings, Mia Donna
Ring box, The Mrs. Box
Bride model, Sidney Stutzman Hatchet
Bride's Shoes, Christian Louboutin
Hair and Makeup, Kate Johnson Artistry
Groom model, Josh Sopa
Groom's suit, Hugo Boss