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A High Design Portuguese-Inspired Wedding in Austin

by Staff

Valerie Faleiro and Michael Strenk were coworkers, and then friends, before a relationship ever formed. “We bonded over our love for new places and good eats, our adventurous spirits, and common second language of Portuguese,” Valerie remembers. “I knew early on that Michael was something special beyond friendship, but Michael took a bit of convincing.” She goes on: “With an impending transfer abroad for work, Michael wasn’t looking for anything serious. But little did he know, I could be very persistent once I set my mind to something. Despite his attempts to keep things friendly, Michael was smitten, and my constant creative excuses to hang out together finally won him over.” 

They persisted through a period of very long distance when Michael relocated to Shanghai for work. “Distance was hard, but we knew that amor vence tudo,” Valerie says. The phrase—which is Portuguese for “love conquers all”— has become a sort of mantra for the couple in the last few years. It’s proved true time and again—first, when they were reunited in Austin, Texas. 

“Despite our extensive travels and longing to discover new places, Austin has become the center of our lives together,” the couple shares. “It only made sense, then, that Michael would use the backdrop of Austin’s famed Lady Bird Lake to propose in May of 2019, right in the heart of the city where we planted roots—and much to our surprise, where we’d become man and wife.”

They planned, then postponed—and ultimately canceled—their dream destination wedding in Portugal, were they were to be married in the same small town as Valerie’s parents, Moncarapacho. For their third wedding date, the couple decided on something closer to home: an intimate 60-person celebration at a chic estate just outside Austin. But there were some things they weren’t willing to compromise on. “We wanted to make sure that our Austin wedding brought together Valerie’s heritage, and Michael’s Brazilian and Italian background, to give guests the feeling that they were attending a romantic, European affair,” the couple says. 

Valerie had an ace up her sleeve: as a calligrapher, she’s an experienced vendor in the Austin wedding industry. “I was intentional with my vendor selections and sought out talent I knew I could trust to help execute my design vision,” she says. “The team of vendors were equally invested in the success of the day, and helped pull off the wedding of our dreams in less than six months.”

On June 26, 2021, they finally said “I do” in a wedding so flawlessly designed and branded, it was a destination all its own. Read on to see all the beautiful details, European touches, and homages to family on their big day, planned by the couple and Krystal Wigfield of KMW Weddings & Events and photographed by Paige Vaughn Photo.

The bride runs her own business, Lettered by Valerie, calligraphing wedding envelopes, day-of signage, and custom bridal accessories. So her own wedding paper suite was bound to be flawless. “My calligraphy and family crest were used in unexpected ways: embroidered, letterpressed, laser cut, and vinyled,” she shares. “You’ll see it present in the invitations, programs, escort card install, custom bar, napkins, and signage.” The invitations were a collaborative effort, designed by Brooke Humble Designs and letterpressed by Inviting Letterpress Boutique.

Once they decided on an Austin wedding, the couple fell in love with Woodbine Mansion, a historic home just north of the city that’s been repurposed into a wedding venue. “We loved the charming home and its lush outdoor space. It made us feel like we were traveling to a different place altogether—an experience we wanted to give our guests no matter where the wedding was to take place.” 

Valerie had a distinct vision in her head of what her wedding gown would look like—but ultimately fell in love with something completely different. Chosen by KYHA’s Agata gown has a structured strapless bodice with a dramatic tiered tulle skirt. “When I put the dress on, the group was unanimous that it was modern, romantic, and a perfect reflection of my fashion-forward approach to bridal. It was hands down the crowd favorite,” Valerie remembers. “I wanted a romantic and timeless look that had elements of modernism integrated into it—and that would be comfortable to wear for a majority of the wedding day. The dress was the perfect balance of that vision.”

Valerie’s mother, a retired florist, put a unique personal touch on countless elements for her daughter’s big day—including embroidering the couple’s monogram onto the veil. 

Luna Beauty & Bridal gave Valerie an elevated makeup look, and “tying back to my desire to balance romance with modernity, I opted for a structured yet messy low ponytail,” she says. Soft pink nails and a spritz of Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s L’Homme à la Rose Eau de Parfum finished the look. She added a pair of A.B. Ellie earrings and donned a ring that had belonged to Michael’s late Brazilian grandmother as a nod to family.

“Because we had a traditional Catholic wedding, we did not write our own vows,” Valerie shares. “Instead, we each wrote a special card to one another, which we read individually before the ceremony. Michael even wrote one on behalf of our dog, Spartacus.” 

The morning of the wedding, Valerie presented her parents with a custom watercolor of the Portuguese church where they were married decades earlier—and where Valerie and Michael had originally planned on saying “I do.” The sentimental gift was put on display at the entrance to the wedding.  

“While there was no formal wedding party, our best friends and family were encouraged to wear colors and textures that tied back to the design and details of our wedding day,” Valerie says. “Many guests wore colored suits and ties with floral accents, and my best friends wore tiered dresses that tied back to my wedding dress.”

Four adorable flower girls—all nieces of the bride—wore custom dresses sewn by Valerie’s mother, pink velvet bows, and nude slippers. “Their baskets were shipped from Portugal by my aunt and included a mix of miniature wild flowers and baby’s breath,” Valerie says. Also from Portugal: an embroidered pouch for the ring bearer to carry containing the wedding bands. 

“St. Austin Catholic Parish is located in the heart of University Campus, which felt like the perfect kickoff to a day of celebrations,” the couple shares. They kept decor minimal, emphasizing the areas guests would be paying most attention to. “This included custom greenery arrangements at the altar, unity candle station, and cantor station. An archway of flowers were also positioned at the entrance of the church, setting the tone as guests arrived.”

The organ piped Bach’s “Air on the G String” as Valerie’s father escorted her down the aisle. During the ceremony, the bride’s sister-in-law—a professional singer, music teacher, and cantor—performed all the songs, and the couple’s parents did readings. After “I do,” the newlyweds recessed out to “Hornpipe” from Handel’s Water Music.

For his attire, the groom wore a custom navy tuxedo, and a pocket square he’d selected on a previous trip to Portugal. He accessorized with custom cufflinks gifted by the bride—they were engraved with “M+V” and “6.26.21”—a bracelet from the Kendra Scott men’s collection, and a Junghans watch. 

Don’t think about your wedding day as just an event, but as an incredible opportunity to share your love story.

“Don’t think about your wedding day as just an event but as an incredible opportunity to share your love story through every detail,” the couple advises. “Take the time to think about what matters to you most on the wedding day, whatever that may be, and prioritize that over everything.”

Of course their beloved pup, Spartacus, had to be there for the big day! He wore a custom bandana made from the couple’s signature wedding fabric. 

Cocktail hour was a true party, with fun activities for guests to enjoy. A live guitarist strummed acoustic versions of pop hits, guests snapped pictures in a vintage van-turned-photo booth, and an alpaca interacted with the crowd. “The alpaca actually got into the photo booth van with guests for pictures,” the couple remembers with a laugh. “We have the photo strips saved as memories forever in our photo book.”

As guests headed inside for dinner, the couple shared a moment alone. “We enjoyed a private sunset in the courtyard of the venue while guests went inside and enjoyed their dinner,” Valerie says.

During the ups and downs of planning and replanning during the pandemic, the couple’s mantra of amor vence tudo became a theme for the big day. The phrase was emblazoned in Valerie’s own script on a massive escort card display fabricated by the couple. (The bride also wore a bracelet engraved with the phrase.) 

“Really the entire wedding was DIY,” Valerie shares. “The bars were built by my brother-in-law, painted by my father, and hand-lettered by me.” Two signature cocktails were on offer, hers a cucumber basil margarita and Michael’s an Old Fashioned with a fruit-infused ice cube.

Given her background as a florist, the mother of the bride created each of the table centerpieces by hand, and French bistro chairs added to the European vibe. 

The wedding was beautifully branded with a signature fabric—a floral print from Monique Lhuillier for Pottery Barn—that was incorporated into every major design element, from the escort card display to hand-sewn pillows in the lounge areas. As napkins, the fabric adorned each place setting. Other chic details in the pace settings? Hand-lettered name cards attached to Bartlett pears with ribbons that denoted dietary preferences; a curated selection of gold cutlery and vintage glassware; and a custom crest on letterpress menu cards. “Candles of varying height lit the room to add a romantic ambiance as the sun set over the mansion,” Valerie adds. 

The four-course meal included a summer pear salad, sweet corn and ricotta ravioli, Parmesan-crusted beef medallions, and eggplant lasagna. “Guests enjoyed table-side service of preselected Portuguese wines, and a table of desserts offered our favorites from Portugal, Brazil, and the U.S.,” the couple says. A DJ spun Brazilian love songs as guests noshed. 

“Post ceremony, I swapped my veil and earrings for a pair of statement butterfly hair pins from Jennifer Behr,” Valerie says. They shimmered in her ponytail as she and her groom swung to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” for their first dance. 

Why have one cake when you can have two? The couple opted for one two-tier and one three-tier vanilla cake with sweet cream icing and fresh floral adornments. 

Calligraphed labels thanking guests for celebrating were affixed to bottles of Portuguese wine as takeaway favors—and the couple found one final use for the signature Monique Lhuillier fabric, wrapping each bottle’s neck with a ribbon of it.

“The magic of the day was amplified by the amount of unique touches brought to life by all of the friends, family, and vendors involved in the planning process,” the couple shares. “It was simply the happiest day of our life.” Their advice to other brides- and grooms-to-be? “Stay true to what makes the day a reflection of you as a couple—and celebrate HARD.”

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