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A Classically Chic Summer Wedding in Connecticut

by Staff

Olivia Santoro and Eric Schweppe met at Columbia University in August 2019. Olivia was in business school there, and Eric was in medical school—he had previously graduated from West Point and done three tours in Afghanistan. Both driven and successful, their pursuit of career goals led them to each other and, just like with their careers, they knew exactly what they wanted in a relationship.

“There was a strong connection at first sight,” Olivia shares of their initial meeting. “Our relationship moved fast from there, rapidly evolving.” Lockdown even further propelled things. “Eric proposed in April 2020, while we were both isolating in Vermont during the early onset of COVID-19,” she says. 

They spent 15 months planning their wedding—almost twice as long as they’d dated—and in the meantime, hit career goals. Olivia now works as a private equity investor, and Eric is a resident in orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. So, with their schedules full, they pegged planner Jennifer Zabinski of JZ Events to drive wedding planning. “Jennifer and her amazing team took charge from the very beginning and brought in the very best vendors in the country to help with every aspect of designing and planning,” Olivia says. “They made an otherwise very daunting process comfortable, natural, and fun.”

While the duo left a lot up to the planning team, one thing was certain. “We made the decision to hold our wedding ceremony and reception at my childhood home in Greenwich, Connecticut,” Olivia says. “This home has played a particularly important role in my life, as I have lived here since the age of 2, and many of my best memories and experiences in some way connect back to it. Eric and I felt it would be appropriate that this should be the setting for our marriage, the location that marks the start of our new life together.” She continues: “Our shared vision for our wedding day was to unconditionally welcome our friends and family into our home. A lot of thought and planning went into connecting the house and property to the ceremony in a way that felt fresh, contemporary, inviting, and elegant.”

The vibe was sophisticated, modern, and “summer chic,” Olivia says. “There were beautiful bursts of pinks, blues, and lilac.” Read on to see all the gorgeous details from their August 14, 2021 wedding, planned by JZ Events and photographed by Ryan Ray Photography.

“It was important for me to keep my makeup looking natural and classic, while emphasizing my best features,” Olivia says. “I wanted to feel and look like myself. I decided to wear my hair in a high bun to highlight and not compete with the low back and beautiful bow on the back of my dress.”

Olivia wore Carolina Herrera’s Lyla dress, a silk mikado V-neck trumpet gown with fitted seams and a dramatic back bow. “My mom and I immediately knew when I put the dress on that this was the one,” she recalls. “It was beautiful, simple but elegant, and timeless.”

In addition to her vibrant bouquet of deep and soft pink florals, the bride donned some special accessories: emerald earrings, a delicate bracelet gifted from the groom that morning, and her grandmother’s emerald wedding ring. “She and I had a very close bond and unfortunately, she is no longer with us,” Olivia shares. “The ring made me feel like she was there with me throughout the day.” For a fitting final touch, she spritzed on Rose Cruise, a flowery scent by the same designer as her wedding gown and veil, Carolina Herrera.

We wanted a moment to really soak in the magnitude of the day.

“We chose to do a first look to capture our last moments before we became husband and wife,” Olivia shares. “We wanted a moment alone before we became swept up with a very busy day and evening. We also wanted a moment to exchange words and really soak in the magnitude of the day.”

With 10 attendants each—including siblings and friends—the couple had a large wedding party. So, it was important everyone felt comfortable. “Each bridesmaid was free to choose their own dress with a soft pink tone,” Olivia says. “I wanted to them to feel beautiful and comfortable.” The bouquets contrasted the gowns: Olivia carried pink florals, while her bridesmaids carried all-white baby’s breath. 

For his look, Eric opted for a white tuxedo jacket and black pants by Zegna. The fathers of the bride and groom had matching looks to his, while groomsmen wore formal black tuxes for a sophisticated contrast. 

The couple’s 275 guests were met with stunning decor before even arriving at the ceremony space. “The front entrance to the home was covered in baby’s breath; inside the home, pink, lavender, and blue flowers adorned the main staircase,” Olivia says. Guests also could take chic fans with their programs to beat the summer heat.

The couple also had a stunning backdrop to say their vows—an exquisite arch bloomed with pink flowers at the altar.

Olivia’s father walked her down the extra-long aisle while live musicians performed the classic Canon in D.

The couple had exchanged private letters and gifts earlier in the day, so they opted for traditional vows during the ceremony, “with a special understanding and connection around the meaning of those words to us,” Olivia says. “We also selected special readings for our close friends and family, including religious and literary readings that had special significance to us.”

After our first kiss, as we were serenaded by spectacular vocalists singing ‘Do You Believe in Magic,’ we both remember thinking to ourselves, ‘yes we do!’

“Once Eric and I were pronounced husband and wife, gospel singers started singing,” Olivia recounts. “The whirlwind of feelings after being announced as husband and wife for the first time” was a favorite moment of the day. “After our first kiss, as we were serenaded by spectacular vocalists singing ‘Do You Believe in Magic,’ we both remember thinking to ourselves, ‘yes we do!” 

The vocalists drew guests through the center foyer of the house into a lush rear garden for cocktail hour. There, the newlyweds greeted each person in turn with a traditional receiving line; then guests began imbibing.

“We had two signature cocktails, each named after our pets,” Olivia says. “The first was the Prince Fabio—bright orange in color and made with tequila, fresh lime juice, blood orange, agave, and thyme. The second was called the Queen Penelope and was lilac in color, and consisted of vodka, elderflower, fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice, and bluebellvine.”

“As the sun began to set, we were escorted into a beautiful special purpose-built enclosed glass pavilion, where we were once again serenaded by vocalists as guests entered,” Olivia describes. “The venue provided visibility in all directions, and a prominent feature of the pavilion was a 100-foot-tall tree rising through the structure to provide a true outdoor feel. The venue was contemporary and light, and the embodiment of an elegant formal summer evening venue.” 

Event designer Lewis Miller filled the space with blue and white flowers, lush boxwoods, and elegant tall trees on each table, accompanied by flowing pink and peach flowers in all directions. “It was a very cool, contemporary, and crisp vibe,” Olivia says.

Just like with the ceremony, live music set the mood for the reception. “We used an incredibly talented band called Ground Control,” Olivia says. “We had approximately 20 musicians including the band, a gospel choir, and strings. They all rehearsed together so they could perform some songs in unison. The music was a combination of our favorite songs, Motown, and classic rock.”

Kicking off the reception was one of the bride’s most memorable moments. “The feeling when Eric and I first entered the pavilion holding hands and presenting ourselves for the first time as husband and wife was a favorite,” she say. The next few moments solidified the feeling. “When my mother, Vanessa, and father, Charles, made their comments together as the evening began, I really felt for the first time that I had moved from being their daughter to being Eric’s wife.”

Olivia and her dad danced to “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, then Eric took the floor with his mom for a dramatic dance to Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock.”

Halfway through the reception, Olivia swapped her classic Carolina Herrera gown for a long silk sheath by Brandon Maxwell, and let her hair down. 

Formally dressed waiters served an exquisite meal of specialty meats and seafood, including chilled lobster with prosciutto and truffle vinaigrette; American wagyu with asparagus; Chilean sea bass; and zucchini cannelloni with smoked eggplant puree. Dom Perignon flowed.

The duo cut into a towering six-tier cake adorned with pink and lilac sugar flowers and greenery. Inside was apricot cake and lemon cake with strawberry filling. 

“The entire event took place at my childhood home and therefore embodied me on a very personal level,” Olivia says, looking back. “Very special people came from all over the world, ranging from dear family to childhood mentors, friends, and colleagues. Eric was joined by many of his former military colleagues as well. There was a strong sense of family, sisterhood, and brotherhood throughout the evening.”

“While planning a wedding can be stressful, it’s important not to lose perspective,” she continues. “The wedding day does not define you as a couple, but instead represents a physical and spiritual transition to a whole new stage of life. Above all else, embrace this unique gathering of friends and family who are there not because of your flowers, band, or food—but only because they care and love you.”

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