This Couple's Dreamy Italian Destination Wedding Could Have Been from a Fairy Tale
Being a bride couldn't have been further from Lisa Karvellas's mind in 2011, the year she lived in Italy, working as a chef and training in restaurant kitchens. But on a rare day off, she took a day trip to Ravello, and found herself enchanted by the beauty of the medieval mountain town on the Amalfi Coast. At one point, she passed an open church door; inside was a wedding, the couple right out of a fairy tale. When the guests streamed out, she walked with them. "I was crying, thinking, This is the most beautiful thing," she says. "I called my parents and said, 'Someday I'm getting married here.'"
Later that year, Lisa had another chance encounter. She was planning a weekend trip to Ibiza, and discovered that her college sweetheart, Greg Marino, would be there on the same dates—via a flight from New York City that he'd been given by a friend. They found each other there, and began to reignite their relationship.
Upon her return to the States, Lisa and her sister Stephanie started work on reviving their family business, Cedar Lakes Estate, a summer camp turned resort in the Hudson Valley. Greg, meanwhile, had moved to Washington, D.C., for law school, so for a few years the couple commuted to see each other. "I knew I was going to marry Greg," says Lisa. For his part, Greg turned out to be even more certain. "I think she expected that I would finish law school, take the bar, get a job, and then we'd get engaged," says Greg. "I'm that kind of person. But suddenly I thought, What are we waiting for?"
The couple quickly dismissed the idea of getting married at Cedar Lakes. "My sister had just gotten married there the year before—and I also thought it would feel too much like work," says Lisa. Greg suggested the place she loved in Italy. "She said, 'Oh, it would be too ridiculous—it's a remote mountain town,'" he recalls. "There were a million reasons not to do it. But once we thought about it—knowing she's a logistical master—we knew we had to figure it out."
And so, in May 2017, 137 guests joined them for a long weekend of parties, sightseeing, and romance in Ravello, with the reception at the picturesque Villa Cimbrone. On that Monday, if you'd peeked in the doors at that same church, you would have seen Greg and Lisa exchanging vows, looking very much out of a fairy tale. "When she walked down the aisle, the whole town was out watching," says Greg. "It felt very significant to be there. It was a beautiful moment."
"I had no idea what I was doing," says Greg of the process of finding an engagement ring. Luckily, years earlier Lisa had emailed a picture of a ring she loved to a friend, who said she'd hold onto it for when the time came. Greg then had the white-knuckle experience of flying to Italy with the ring—unbeknownst to Lisa, who was traveling with him—so that he could propose. "I wrapped it in a note for security, in case they came across it, that said, 'Please, no matter what, don't open this' [in front of Lisa]. Then I had to play it cool for three hours while I was driving us to Florence, and we randomly started talking about rings because our friend had just gotten engaged. I thought, this could only happen to me."
Invitations took the form of personalized letters, hand-calligraphed and letterpressed on tea-stained paper by Written Word Calligraphy and Design. A watercolor of the villa lined the envelopes.
Welcome to Ravello
"For our rehearsal dinner, my mother-in-law had little tiles made—this is another thing Ravello is known for—with everyone's names on them, to use as placecards," says Lisa. The bags were for taking goodies home.
Ready for Italy
In place of a save-the-date card, Lisa and Greg sent their full invitation packet six months in advance, which gave their guests time to plan their trips. Included was a booklet that included an itinerary of events, hotel options, and wedding and travel information. "They looked like government documents from Italy in the 1800s," says Greg.
"It was important to not do a first look, so we'd see each other for the first time at the church," says Lisa of her wedding to Greg. The groom, in a tux from Knot Standard, and bride, in Alon Livné from Mark Ingram Atelier, posed postceremony at their reception site—Villa Cimbrone, a public garden with spectacular views of the mountains and sea.
Greg had his favorite love poem written by Petrarch, a 14th-century Italian poet; stitched into the lining of his jacket.
Lisa gifted her two sisters (and herself!) lemon robes and floral rompers. "Also tassel earrings," she says, "although not to be worn on the wedding day. Just for them." In their hotel rooms, guests found a welcome present of local beer, a vintage postcard that said Benvenuti, and a paperback "hand gesture dictionary."
A Beautiful Bouquet
Pretty in Pinks
Lisa's bridesmaids were her sisters (and sisters-in-law, not shown here), cousins, and longtime friends.
It's in the Bag
Tying the Knot
The couple had a traditional Catholic ceremony with an English-speaking priest, but wrote their own vows, which each kept secret from the other.
"I had written a line in my vows about Lisa's grandmother, who wasn't able to make it to Italy for the wedding," says Greg. "We ended up having to cut our honeymoon short because she died unexpectedly. I’m glad we memorialized her in that way. She was a huge influence on our lives, and I had been around Lisa's family for so long, she was my grandmother, too."
Showered with Love
"I wanted everyone to throw pastina as we were coming out of the church," says Lisa. "The wedding planner said we were going to get starch all over the men's suits, but it worked out great."
Walking Through Town
The Neapolitan Claudio Band accompanied the walk from church to reception, wearing matching red suede loafers for the occasion.
Time to Celebrate
Afterward, guests explored the grounds of Villa Cimbrone, prosecco in hand, then moved to the main lawn for cocktail hour, with hors d'oeuvres such as little pizzas, eggshells stuffed with bites of carbonara, and tiny saltimbocca sandwiches.
Guests enjoyed small bites, like this salmon mousse crostino topped with caviar. "When I went to choose the menu, they had samples of 20 hors d'oeuvres and 3 stations," says Lisa. "I said, 'How many do I choose?' They said, 'We will prepare all of them.' I couldn't believe it. This place has a Michelin star! It was incredible."
A Sip and a Seat
"The first thing guests did was pick up their seating assignment—which left them with a glass for prosecco," Lisa says. The couple's wedding planner from the Italian firm SposiamoVi, connected Lisa with a local calligrapher, Laura Mazzetti from The Wedding Letters, to write out the seating assignment flags, along with the church programs and the personalized menu cards.
Dinner was held beneath the villa's Gothic stone archways. The wedding party sat at a single long table (with round tables for the other guests). Brass candlesticks and greenery decorated the space.
"The thing I loved about the dinner," says Lisa, "was that it wasn't shoehorned between toasts and dancing. We went to a separate location—the crypt—and it was a calm, classy part of the evening, like a dinner party. Everyone sat together and had a beautiful four-course meal. Then, afterwards, we went to another spot for the dancing, and that was pure fun—no flowers, just disco balls everywhere. I couldn't have ever known how magical it would all be."
Made with Love
Ravello is known for handmade custom sandals, so the couple had artisans at the reception make them for guests.
Villa Cimbrone is a provincial park, open to the public every day, showing off its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. "It's wonder after wonder," says Greg. "The gardens are so beautifully maintained, there are all these sculptures, the view—everyone's mouth was agape the entire time. I was floored. I could not believe what I was looking at."
College friends joined the revelry.
The Wedding Cake
The traditional Italian wedding cake was one huge tier with wild strawberries and whipped cream.
With This Kiss
The couple shared a quiet moment while enjoying the breathtaking vista. "I was able to really experience it as it was happening and cherish it," says Greg, remembering the details of his wedding day. "It was too wild not to. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve been part of."
Lisa's wedding bouquet marked the getaway car for the bride and groom on their way out of the city.
Ceremony location, Duomo di Ravello
Post-ceremony drinks, Bar Klingsor, 39-089-857407
Reception location, catering, and cake, Villa Cimbrone
Event planning, SposiamoVi
Photography, Heather Waraksa
Videography, Marco Caputo Films
Rentals, Wedding Solution
Bride's hair and makeup, House of Lava
Bridesmaids' hair and makeup, Beyouty
Groom's tuxedo, Knot Standard
Transportation, Maggiolino Wedding
Local floral assistance, Armando Malafronte
Custom sandals, La Bottega Caruso
Groomsmen's gifts, Brooks Brothers bow tie and suspenders