This Intimate Destination Wedding Was Held at a 15th Century Venetian Palace
Elle AyoubZadeh and Raymond Luk's paths crossed in Montreal, Canada. Their connection was instant, but their locations were a bit unfortunate—she was living in Toronto, where she is the creative director and designer for Zvelle, a luxury footwear brand, and he was in Montreal. For the next year, Raymond (the CEO of a financial software company) ventured to her city every single weekend to see her. "It was a very romantic courtship," Elle recalls of making the six-hour drive or taking the one-hour flight to get to one another. "On one of our first dates, Elle looked at me and smiled, and I knew I couldn't live without that look. That's when I knew she was the one," says Raymond of traveling between cities for the woman he loved.
One January evening Raymond told Elle he'd made a reservation at a dog-friendly restaurant at a hotel. But when they arrived, with their cocker spaniel, Chilby, they were whisked upstairs to a private suite. "I was so excited about our fine dining experience with Chilby I didn't know what was happening until I saw Raymond down on one knee," she recalls. "Of course I said 'yes.' It was the highlight of our lives—and room-service hot dogs were the highlight of Chilby's."
The week before their seventh anniversary, on October 15, 2017, they invited 30 of their nearest and dearest from all over the globe to join them for a destination wedding weekend in Venice, Italy. "Bringing our friends and family to a 15th century palace in Venice realized our dream of a wedding that was both stylish and intimate," Raymond says of their nuptials at Palazzo Pisani Moretta. The duo celebrated their love of art, history, and classic luxury in a remarkable setting, beginning with arrivals on the Grand Canal.
Elle and Raymond wanted to give their friends and family an experience they would never forget. "Venice is one of the most unique cities in the world and the Palazzo Pisani Moretta is the most beautiful palace there," says Elle.
The Stationery Suite
Venice's unique architecture influenced stationer Emily Rose Ink. A line drawing of the venue showcased what was to come, all printed in a soft pink ink.
For their black-tie wedding, Raymond wore a dark navy tuxedo, white shirt, and black bow tie by Giorgio Armani, along with black patent loafers by Ferragamo and a pair of cufflinks that Elle gave him. For her part, Elle knew she wanted to wear a wedding dress made by an independent female designer with a focus on craftsmanship and details. "I wanted something that was unique, form-fitting, and that I would want to stay in all night long," she says. "I felt that Israeli designer Lihi Hod, who is known for her timeless, chic, and elegant gowns would be the one." The delicate and intricate bead work, feminine shape of the sleeves, and low back sold her. She wore pearl earrings that were a gift from her husband-to-be.
Put a Ring on It
Raymond designed Elle's engagement ring with a marquise-cut diamond and rose gold band. Hidden inside the ring was a diamond from his late mother's engagement ring.
The Bridal Bouquet
Elle's bouquet was crafted by Christine Carter using Prince Jardinier garden roses, phaeleonopsis orchids, astilbe, rice flower, and Italian ruscus, tied together using gray silk ribbon.
In Her (Custom) Shoes
Elle put her fashion background to use and designed two pairs of custom Zvelle heels for her big day—a sling back and a pump. Both were stiletto heels with soft rose-gold leather and plexiglass accents that complemented the wedding design and the metal of her engagement ring. She started off the day in the pumps and slipped on the slingbacks for the reception.
The Love Boats
Each guest arrived to the wedding by boat. Raymond was joined by his best friend, and Elle came with her mother and sisters.
Pink and white floral arrangements lined the stairs Elle ascended to get to the ceremony. A harpist played the classic wedding procession as the bride entered solo. "I walked myself down the aisle being an independent woman," she explains. And for Raymond, the music was an important aspect of the day as he studied classical music and wanted the performances at the wedding to be special.
The ceremony took place in the Sala del Tiepolo room in the palace, with dozens of candles surrounding the couple. "Standing in that circle was a powerful and unforgettable experience," notes the bride. The Christian ceremony included the reading of 1 Corinthians 1: 1-13, the exchanging of personalized vows, and live harp music.
"The most special moment of the day was when we exchanged vows," says Raymond. "Even though I was surrounded by the most beautiful setting and music in that moment everything disappeared, and I only saw the most beautiful woman in the world."
The music continued during cocktail hour on another level of the building, where classic Venetian appetizers and cocktails were served.
Feeling the Love
Here, the bride takes a moment to embrace her younger brother, Amir. "He has an intellectual disability and we had to fly him in with a nurse," she says. "He is the single biggest inspiration of my life and we wanted him to be a big part of our wedding, which he was." Amir and his two younger sisters were the unofficial bridal party.
The Reception Table
In the main entrance hall of the palace, a 15-meter long mirrored table took centerstage and reflected the mural on the ceiling overhead. As it was an intimate affair, staff guided guests to their seats in lieu of escort cards.
Hand-blown Murano glass vases from Ex Chiesa di Santa Chiara held arrangements of flowers that matched Elle's bouquet while staying true to the venue's authentic, historical European aesthetic. An Italian silk runner was placed atop a layer of cellophane to enhance its elegant folds, and white taper candles added a classic touch.
The Place Settings
Gold-rimmed plates held round menus designed by Emily Rose Ink. The meal began with Venetian delicacies: scallops on a pumpkin sauce, baccalà mantecato (a cod mousse served on crispy bread), prawns in saor, and bites of tuna with pistachio. A risotto with prawns, ginger, and lemon followed, as did a veal filet with Passito wine, artichokes, and local vegetables. A lemon sorbet cleansed everyone's palette at the conclusion of dinner.
The First Dance
A saxophonist played Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" for the couple's first dance. Elle notes that the song captured how they felt about life at that moment. As the bride is Persian, many Persian songs were played throughout the celebration and lots of dancing ensued. With guests hailing from all over the world, the music played included a global mix.
Cutting the Cake
The newlyweds cut into their small, two-tier vanilla wedding cake by Racca Pasticceri, which was decorated with rose gold leaf and fresh blooms. "I have never tasted such amazing wedding cake before," says Elle. "It was so good Raymond and I had some cake with Champagne after our wedding brunch and relived the wedding again."
Photography, Lilly Red Creative
Location, Palazzo Pisani Moretta
Event planning, Ema Giangreco
Catering, La Dogaressa
Stationery and calligraphy, Emily Rose Ink
Cake, Racca Pasticceri
Bride's gown, Lihi Hod
Bride's shoes, Zvelle
Groom's tuxedo, shirt, and bow tie, Giorgio Armani
Groom's shoes, Ferragamo