A Wedding Weekend of Food, Wine, and La Dolce Vita at a Villa in Siena, Italy
High school sweethearts Clarissa Hayes and Daniel Smith met as freshmen in Salem, Oregon, in 2008, but stayed just friends until three years later when a physics class provided them with an excuse to study together. "A deep friendship turned into a romantic relationship, and we've been together ever since," they say.
A decade after they first met, Daniel and Clarissa were toasting to her recent promotion at sunset on a Santa Monica beach when he took a letter out of his pocket. "When he left for college his freshman year, he left me with a letter that promised one day he would marry me," says Clarissa. "Each year after that he would write me a going-away love note as a sort of reassurance that we could get through another year of long distance. Senior year, I never got a letter, which I complained about a time or two—it turned out he had written the letter, but wasn't quite ready to propose yet, so he saved it. We read the letter together with tears in our eyes, and then he pulled out the ring and proposed."
Since the couple had known for years they would one day tie the knot, they'd already began envisioning their wedding day. "We knew we wanted to be able to spend extended quality time with our guests and keep things intimate, which is when we turned to the idea of having a destination wedding where we could have several days with everyone together," says Clarissa. The duo had traveled throughout Italy while they were dating, and finding their venue—Villa Cetinale in Sovicille, Siena—sealed the deal. Charmed by the historical architecture, olive grove, and statues around the grounds, the couple booked all of the property's four villas to accommodate their 60 guests. "We enjoyed meals out on the terrace together and most nights stayed up late, accompanied by more than a few bottles of Brunello," says Clarissa. "The wait staff is absolutely five-stars. The food is exquisite, even compared to the already delicious cuisine found in the area. In our minds, it would be hard to beat the combination of intimacy and extravagance the venue provides."
Clarissa and Daniel worked with event planner Laura Bravi, who tied together all the on-site details. "Planning everything sight unseen made it especially important to hire a team of vendors we could trust wholeheartedly," says Clarissa. "We didn't do any taste testing, site visits, or hair and makeup trials, but I think having so much unknown forced us to relax a bit more and just enjoy the time, knowing we were unable to micromanage every last detail."
As for the celebration's overall vibe? "We wanted the wedding and days leading up to it to embrace la dolce vita," says Clarissa. "We were able to provide our guests with an unforgettable experience."
Clarissa and Daniel turned to Nicole Catherine of Every Little Letter for an invitation suite that included a custom crest with a floral border, a one-of-a-kind illustration of the venue and the church, and gold foil lettering on cotton paper. "We knew asking our guests to go all the way to Italy was a tall [order], so it was important to us to make the invitations special," says the bride.
Arrival in Italy
After finding the venue's website online, Clarissa and Daniel booked it sight unseen. "We planned the entire wedding without ever having seen the villa or church in person," says Clarissa. "The moment we first drove up to each building, we were taken aback by how much more beautiful the location was in person, and we knew right away that we had made the right decision."
The rehearsal dinner took place in the estate's main villa, a pink-washed historic building. The façade spoke to the event's barely-blush color palette.
Dinner—which was held at one long table—unfolded inside, in a room with windows that opened to an exterior garden.
Blush florals, arranged in the Ikebana style, ran the length of the tablescape, adding simple, streamlined color.
Overhead, collections of dried foliage and baby's breath contributed to the garden vibe.
In the Bag
The couple used the illustration of the villa as part of an oversized wax seal on their invitations, and repeated it on canvas bags that welcomed guests to the wedding festivities. "The closest we got to 'DIY' was the welcome bags," says the couple, who included an itinerary and welcome message along with local goodies. "We had clear stickers of our monogram made to add to cellophane bags. We filled them with various snacks from the markets in Siena for our guests to enjoy during their stay."
Yes to Her Dress
After years of watching Say Yes to the Dress, Clarissa knew exactly what her dream wedding dress would look like. "I knew from the beginning I wanted a simple, timeless silhouette without any embellishments, as that would be the best reflection of my personal style and make me feel the most like myself," she says. "This made me extremely particular about the fabric and details. There was nothing that would distract from the craftsmanship of the dress and the material."
She selected a strapless gown with a full skirt from Monique Lhuillier, made from a limited-run floral brocade. "The fabric made the dress," she says. "Mine was the very last one before the fabric ran out! I added 18 inches to the train and pockets to the dress to customize it."
Clarissa requested a bouquet that was "light, airy, and feminine" but still statement-making, says florist Liz Griffith of Siloh Floral Artistry. White-and-cream garden roses, sweet pea, Queen Anne's lace, ranunculus, and clematis kept to the neutral color scheme, while accents of "oatmeal and oyster-toned blooms" in the bridesmaids' bouquets created a subtle contrast.
Clarissa encouraged each of her bridesmaids to choose their own custom gown from Fame and Partners. "All I asked was that they keep a long hem and champagne color for a cohesive look," says the bride. "I wanted them to be able to choose flattering designs that reflected their personal style."
Black and White
Each of the men wore a different flower on his lapel, with dry and fresh plants that included hellebores, pennycress, hydrangea, and autumn clematis—all native to late fall in Tuscany. "Perhaps our favorite part [of their look] was that Liz made each of them a very unique, masculine boutonnière," says Clarissa.
Their First Look
Clarissa and Daniel had planned to save their first look for her walk down the aisle, but spontaneously decided to meet before the ceremony. "It was the perfect moment to take in and calm our nerves," she says. "When I turned the corner and saw Daniel waiting there for me, I immediately began to tear up. It didn't take away any emotion from the ceremony, which is what I was concerned with, and allowed us more time to enjoy the reception."
The couple's church, Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, had its foundations laid in the year 1,000, so the couple chose low-key adornments that enhanced the historic architecture.
"The décor was purposefully kept light, and based on floral and greenery touches and big pillar candles that meant to highlight the most iconic features of the church—the portal and the altar—in a natural and masterly unkempt way," says their planner Laura Bravi of Laura Bravi Events.
Husband and Wife
After Clarissa's father walked her down the aisle, the bride and groom tied the knot in a Catholic ceremony that included traditional vows (they were required by the church). "I started crying the second the doors to the church opened," says Clarissa. "Being side by side in this beautiful, thousand-year-old church, participating in a traditional Catholic ceremony which felt both timeless and spiritual, was absolutely out of this world."
The couple offered two signature drinks: an old fashioned playfully named "Grow Old with Me," and a gin-and-thyme cocktail called "'Til the End of Thyme." "I surprised Daniel with 'C+D' branded orange peel garnishes for the cocktails," says Clarissa. Their selection of Italian small bites were a hit, too: "After the wedding, we had people tell us the passed appetizers were their favorite part of the wedding and perhaps the best they ever had," says Clarissa.
The New Mr. and Mrs.
During the cocktail hour, Clarissa and Daniel spent a few minutes alone as the bride's hairstylist Frank Giacone pulled her loose waves into a chic updo better suited to the warm evening—then they set off to take portraits. "Much of our day was spent in various locations around the villa taking photos as a couple," she recalls. "It was very special to be able to take in all the beauty surrounding us and spend time alone taking in the gravity of the day."
Traditional tented escort cards displayed each guest's name and table number in elegant calligraphy, while a gold wax seal with a custom floral sketch (taken from the invitation suite) added an opulent accent.
In the Garden
The couple sat their 60 guests at one long table between two rows of cypress trees behind the villa, where a clear tent allowed views of the landscape and filtered natural light. Chandeliers and draping turned the space into an intimate room as night fell.
Center of Attention
Liz gave the all-white palette texture and interest with lush blooms that spilled out of white urns. Varied foliage created a subtle backdrop for the flowers while coordinating with the property's rich, green landscaping.
Elegant monochrome place settings included white china, traditional flatware, and delicate crystal on white linens. The couple added tiny bottles of olive oil personalized with the illustration of the venue and each guest's name (they doubled as place cards), and placed custom-printed menus on each plate.
The newlyweds followed local custom by having a chef from caterer Galateo Ricevimenti assemble a traditional Italian wedding cake with layers of pastry, cream, powdered sugar, and berries in front of the guests.
"It was by far the best cake either of us have ever had, and such a cool, unique experience," they say. "We ended in a cake fight and began dancing. We still crave the cake and wish there was a way for us to have brought the leftovers home."
Photography, Molly Carr
Ceremony Venue, Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, Sovicille
Reception Venue, Villa Cetinale
Event Planning, Laura Bravi Events
Catering and Cake, Galateo Ricevimenti
Flowers, Siloh Floral Artistry
Stationery, Every Little Letter
Music and Lighting, Wedding Music and Lights
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Accessories, BHLDN earrings; Jimmy Choo shoes
Hair, Frank Giacone
Makeup, Makeup Florence by Ana Matanovic
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Fame and Partners
Groom's Jacket, J. Crew
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's Accessories, Ferragamo shoes; Movado watch
Guest Book, Grey Malin Italy
Ribbon, Frou Frou Chic
Rings, Peter Norman