Marcaria, Italy | Sophie & Stefano's Wedding at the Villa Negri
This is Part I of Sophie & Stefano's dual international weddings. Part II in a vineyard outside Jerusalem is here!
Tucked down a quiet side street in a small town in the Italian countryside, hidden behind a high stone wall, down a driveway shaded under massive trees, and surrounded on all sides by gardens in bloom, sits the Villa Negri. Built in the 16th century for the Lord of Guastalla, it still stands in splendor to this day, and it was the perfect location for Sophie and Stefano's elegant Italian countryside wedding.
When we arrived on the wedding day, the estate was quiet. Rabbits fed in the gardens behind the kitchen, and there was a low hum of worship music coming from a room off the main hall of the villa. Sophie's friends and mother were all taking care of last-minute details to help her get ready, as Sophie sat and nervously twisted threads between her fingers.
Across the hall, Stefano put on his suit and tie. Sinatra never looked better in a suit, and Stefano's love for Sophie was beyond anything Frank sang of. Stefano would only stop a minute for portraits; always a selfless and generous host, he was anxious to go outside to greet his guests.
As the crowd gathered around the bell tower for the ceremony, storm clouds likewise gathered overhead. Inside, Sophie slipped into her gorgeous lace-accented gown, with yellow heels to match Stefano's yellow tie. Italian tradition says that the groom will wait outside for the bride to arrive, no matter how long it takes - and it's customary to make him wait. Lucky for Stefano, she only made him wait 20 minutes!
Sophie's father met her at the door of the villa and walked her down the aisle through the gardens. The guests all stood and gathered around the bell tower to catch first glimpse of Sophie, but all their excitement combined couldn't compare to the joy on Stefano's face as he saw his bride for the first time.
Not much has changed in Marcaria in 5 centuries - the town mayor and his wife still officiate every wedding in his jurisdiction! Stefano's mother, friends, and mentors all spoke blessings over them. As they listened to the requirements of the marriage contract and signed the books of the covenant, it started to sprinkle rain.
While the caterers and guests rushed to move the outdoor reception inside the villa, we ran off with Sophie and Stefano for portraits. Some couples, maybe most couples, would be upset if it started raining on their wedding day. Not these two. Nothing would dampen their joy or slow their adventurous hearts. And if it hadn't rained, if the timeline hadn't been delayed to move everything inside, we would have never been able to capture images after nightfall like this.
Afterward they went inside to rest for a few minutes, soaked to the skin but ecstatic to be together. The rain soon stopped and all the doors and windows in the villa were flung open to let the cool Italian mountain air in. This was a social wedding, which means that all the guests brought dishes to share at the reception. And, in case you didn't know, Italians can most definitely cook. [To whoever brought the homemade tiramisu, we love you forever and always.]
After dinner came toasts and dancing. Sophie and Stefano made their way through the villa, stopping at every table to greet their guests and take photos. Stefano's sister Silvia sang a beautiful rendition of Over the Rainbow to the bride and groom; Sophie's father shocked Italy with his spectacular dance moves! As the night ran on and the elder guests went home, the after-party started at the pool and went well into the night. When we left the reception at 2am, Stefano and Sophie were standing on the diving board kissing, surrounded by dozens of cheering friends. This is truly them - a source of joy and a testimony of true love for everyone around them.