This Couple's Lavish Wedding in Italy Began with a Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony
Good food and great company brought Rachel and Jimmy together for the first time almost seven years ago. After noshing on some of his signature dishes—like bourbon BBQ ribs and sea urchin risotto—at a friend's get-together, Rachel caught Jimmy's attention and the two quickly hit it off. After a few weeks of dating, though, Rachel told Jimmy about her plans to move to continue her education. Once they agreed that they were up for the challenge, the couple then embarked on two years of a long distance relationship that spanned from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
Distance proved to be no issue—their cross-continental romance remained strong, and they decided to take the next step in July of 2018, during a summer vacation in Europe. However, the journey to their engagement did have a few bumps along the way. "Jimmy cunningly planned his proposal and rented a yacht for the day to take us from Capri to Positano where he would propose during sunset with Positano's mystic cliffside architecture as a backdrop," Rachel says. But after their luggage, which held their sea sickness medicine, didn't make it to their first stop in Naples, the future bride felt so sick on the boat that she almost didn't want to get back on. Luckily their suitcase arrived in Capri and she decided to try again. "We boarded our private yacht, headed towards Positano, and paused about 500 yards from the beach for a photo session at the bow," Rachel recalls. "With John Mayer's 'Gravity' playing in the background, Jimmy dropped to one knee."
From there, it was was smooth sailing—so smooth, that they ultimately decided to host their nuptials in Italy as well, and chose Villa Cimbrone in Ravello as their venue. "We wanted to bring all of our family and friends to the place that we felt was most special—the Amalfi Coast," the bride notes. The duo's big-day plans came to life with the help of Events by Paulina as they celebrated with 85 guests on October 7, 2019.
A Gold Touch
Letters by Ann—the couple's calligrapher—hand-wrote each guests name in gold script when addressing their invitation suites. As for the hand-torn notes' finishing touch? The duo also designed their own crest, with a "J" and "R" enclosed with the outline of a lemon and vines.
Lady in Red
Rachel donned a symbolic red dress by Chauntel Bridal for the couple's traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
Tea Ceremony Time
Villa Cimbrone's pavilion garden served as the perfect spot for Jimmy and Rachel's tea ceremony. "The medieval pavilion architecture was decorated with traditional Chinese red banners, seat cushions, and floor mats for us to kneel on," Rachel notes. The couple gave personal speeches to each other's parents—thanking them for raising them and promising to commit to their marriage and families.
Cheers to Forever
Rachel's advice for brides- and grooms-to-be? "Plan ahead and have some fun in the process. But most importantly, tell each other—before you arrive at the venue, even if it is a day before the wedding and you have a list of rehearsal activities to attend to—that the planning is over and you must enjoy the moment. Nothing else matters," she shares.
Chantilly lace-embroidered florals and pearls defined Rachel's Marchesa wedding dress. The frock brought tears to her eyes when she first tried it on during a shopping trip with her sisters. The bride completed her big-day look with Christian Louboutin shoes, a Chauntel Bridal veil, a Diamond Foundry necklace, and a matching set of Tiffany & Co. pearl earrings and necklace, which was an engagement gift from Jimmy’s parents.
Party of Five
"The bridesmaids wore simple, yet elegant gold midi-dresses that were fitted to their silhouettes," Rachel shares of the Petal & Pup ensembles. "The color of the dresses really blended in well with the color theme, and more importantly, the midi-length allowed the bridesmaids to be comfortable enough to walk around and dance through the night."
The bride held a white bouquet with matte, rustic greens. Her bridesmaids all carried similar posies.
Jimmy sported a custom-made dark blue velvet jacket with black satin lapels and tuxedo slippers embroidered with the couple's crest. His groomsmen donned matching ensembles and wore gold horseshoe cuff links for a bit of luck.
A Reveal to Remember
After some convincing from their event planner, Paulina Corvi of Events by Paulina, the pair decided to have a private first look. "It was just the two of us in a very private, intimate moment away from the crowds and all of the day's tasks," the bride reflects.
The ceremony took place against the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, in the venue's Garden of Two Fountains.
Whimsical and White
Rachel and Jimmy kept the ceremony décor simple, opting for white chairs and simple potted arrangements—which were composed by Malafronte Fiori and filled with delphinium that reached the tips of the seats—that ran along both sides of the aisle.
A towering arch filled with white hydrangeas, orchids, and roses defined the altar.
Walking down the aisle arm-in-arm with her father—to the gentle sounds of a quintet—is one of Rachel's fondest big-day memories.
Sealed with a Kiss
After exchanging vows that honored their journey and love over the better part of the last decade, the two marked the beginning of their new chapter as husband and wife with a romantic kiss.
Following the ceremony, the couple posed for a few private portraits then met back up with their guests at the Infinity Terrace, which highlights the "surreal backdrop of the Amalfi cliffs and Mediterranean Sea," Rachel shares.
Custom Seating Cups
Ahead of dinner, the couple's attendees found their seating arrangements—and their first drink of the night (limoncello shots doubled as their escort cards!).
Come the reception, dangling white wisteria vines hung over the long imperial tables, filling the space with sweet fragrance; small, pink-centric centerpieces, placed in gold vessels, defined the tabletops.
The Gold Standard
At each setting, guests' names were written on agate stones, and placed on top of custom menus—which Letters by Ann designed to mimic the invitation suite.
Villa Cimbrone created the duo's chocolate wedding cake, complete with vanilla icing. A few flower buds completed the confection.
For their first dance, Rachel—who changed into a star-covered GALA by Galia Lahav number—and Jimmy's swayed to "The Way You Look Tonight" by Tony Bennett. The duo marked the moment with sparklers, which went off in front of the band.
"Based on historic weather trends, we knew that it would get chilly in the evenings, so we procured 85 gray cashmere scarves and ironed them with our embroidered logo," the bride shares of their favors. "The scarves were also placed in customized burlap bags for guests to use throughout their vacation."
Photography, Bottega 53
Venue, Catering, and Cake, Villa Cimbrone
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Events by Paulina
Videography, Dolcevita Wedding Cinema
Flowers, Malafronte Fiori
Invitations, Day-Of Paper Goods, and Calligraphy, Letters by Ann
Bride's Gowns, Chauntel Bridal (red dress and veil), Marchesa (ceremony), GALA by Galia Lahav (reception)
Bride's Jewelry, Amelia (engagement ring and wedding bands), Diamond Foundry, Tiffany & Co.
Bride's Shoes, Christian Louboutin
Hair, Alessandro Mancino
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Petal & Pup
Guest Book, Be Golden
Music, Wedding Music
Rentals, FG Eventi