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A Lush Florida Wedding That Transported Guests to Italy

by Staff

When Valencia Johnson (née Holder) went to work in 2017, she’d often bump into a cute guy in the elevator; they’d exchange a brief hello and go their separate ways. But, one day, she took the conversation with that cute guy to the next level. That’s when she really met Daniel Johnson. “He looked lost that day, and I couldn’t help but ask him if he needed any assistance,” Valencia recalls. “I guess that was the icebreaker that we both needed, because we’ve been inseparable [since]. Imagine that, I was riding in the elevator with my soulmate for years.”

Daniel knew that Valencia wanted their engagement to be private—just the two of them and perhaps a photographer to capture the surprise—so he planned a (literally) cinematic engagement in April 2019. “I convinced her that the videographer had selected us as part of his upcoming project that showcased young couples,” he shares. “I knew this would pique her interest as at that time she loved a TV series called Black Love, which mirrored the same concept.” After their “interview”—where they answered questions about their relationship—the couple took some photos overlooking the ocean in Bermuda, where the couple currently lives. That’s when Daniel got down on one knee and asked Valencia to be his wife. 

“It was a beautiful moment,” he gushes. “The videographer put together an amazing engagement video that opens with a composition of our blended interview responses and ends with her dream proposal.”

From the moment she said “yes,” Valencia and Daniel knew they wanted to have a destination wedding. Fortunately, they didn’t have to look far for the perfect venue; it was love at first sight when they saw pictures of Bella Collina in Montverde, Florida. (So much so that they booked the venue without touring it in person!)

“We loved the Tuscany look and feel of Bella Collina,” the couple shares. “As soon as you arrive, you feel as though you’ve been teleported to Italy. The venue is absolutely stunning and a great contrast to the island backdrop of Bermuda.” 

On July 12, 2021, Valencia and Daniel tied the knot in style—with 50 of their closest friends and family members around. “Originally we planned for a larger number, but a lot of guests were not able to make it due to COVID-19 travel restrictions,” the bride explains. “We were disappointed at first, but it ended up being the perfect number of guests.” 

Keep reading for a look at this intimate-yet-extravagant wedding, as planned by Oniki Hardtman of Oh Niki Occasions and photographed by Stanley Babb of Stanlo Photography.

Valencia kicked off her wedding day by primping with her bridesmaids, who sported matching pink robes as they got their glam on.

Since Valencia lives in Bermuda, she booked back-to-back appointments during a brief trip to New York City. After leaving the first few appointments empty-handed, she was understandably disappointed by the search. Fortunately, Valencia’s sister recommended that she try the sleeveless lace dress that was on a mannequin at Pronovias—and the bride looked radiant. “It was the only dress that made me smile when I put it on,” Valencia says. “As soon as I put it on, I knew it was the one; I envisioned myself walking down the aisle in that dress.” 

Rounding out the look was a veil from Pronovias and diamond studs, which Daniel gave her shortly after their engagement.

“With the Florida heat, I wanted a look that would withstand the high risk of becoming hot and sweaty, so I decided to go with minimal makeup and a simple pulled-back hairstyle,” the bride shares. “I was so happy with the way it turned out because I walked down the aisle still looking and feeling like myself.”

Daniel gave himself a fresh trim before slipping into his burgundy jacket and black pants from Vitali International. “Everyone [who] knows me knows that I like my hair a certain way and I surely wasn’t going to have a barber potentially mess that up on my wedding day,” the groom shares. Daniel finished his look with a Movado watch, which Valencia gifted him as a wedding present.

Valencia and Daniel were set to exchange vows on the venue’s lawn; however, Mother Nature had other plans. Instead, the ceremony was moved to Bella Collina’s atrium, which created an intimate atmosphere. “​​It’s a moment that sticks with me because it’s a reminder that beautiful moments often come from unexpected moments,” the bride shares. “Not everything goes according to plan—and that’s okay.” 

Florist Leah T. Williams Events packed on the romance with an assortment of cascading pink and white blooms. Meanwhile, signage by Chalk Shop Studio gave the space a modern flair.

Guests could grab a glass of bubbly before taking their seats at the ceremony.

The bride and her father glided down the aisle to a cellist’s rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. Valencia carried a lush bouquet filled with peonies, roses, anemones, and ranunculuses. 

“​​Daniel was adamant that he wanted the first time we saw each other to be when I walked down the aisle,” Valencia shares. “It was a beautiful moment and filled with raw emotion. I was so nervous before walking down the aisle, but when I turned the corner and saw him at the end of the aisle, I felt a sense of relief. His smile instantly made me feel at home.”

Since their wedding marked the fourth anniversary of their first date, they wrote personalized vows that acknowledged the day’s significance. “​​Our first date holds a special place in our hearts because it’s like a blueprint for our lives,” the couple shares. “We told each other what our future dreams were, and since then we’ve been working together to make those dreams a reality.”

After they exchanged Alexandra Mosher wedding bands and sealed their vows with he kiss, the couple recessed down the aisle as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.

The newlyweds snuck away to capture some sweet Kodak moments with photographer Stanley Babb of Stanlo Photography.

With the bridesmaids dolled up in pink gowns from Morilee and the groomsmen in matching burgundy suits, the wedding party was in perfect unison with the happy couple.

The reception area was swathed in candles, gilded accents, blush and white flowers, as well as neutral linens from Nuage Designs. A sweetheart table completed the room, ensuring the newlyweds had plenty of alone time to soak up the surreal day.

Bella Collina delivered with a mouth-watering menu. After the traditional caesar salad, which was topped with aged parmesan crisps, the caterer served a dual plated cedar-plank salmon and filet mignon entrée. Guests sipped on signature cocktails like Cranberry Kiss, which was a mix of vodka and cranberry, as well as a Shirley Temple called Walking on Sunshine. 

“​​Daniel doesn’t drink alcohol and everyone [who] knows him knows that this is the main drink that he orders when he goes out,” the bride notes. “Having a Shirley Temple as his signature drink was very fitting.”

Valencia and Daniel were able to snag a sneak peak of their reception before guests entered. “We worked with Oniki to narrow down the color scheme, décor, and florals,”  the bride shares. “She used our broad ideas and created a beautiful design plan. I fully trusted her vision and was ecstatic when we saw the final product on the wedding day.”

Once Valencia and Daniel made their grand entrance into the ballroom, they shared a sweet first dance to John Legend’s “U Move, I Move.”

DJ Rusty G kept the party going by playing Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” for Valencia’s dance with her father.

Meanwhile, Daniel and his mother swayed to Christopher Martin’s “Mama.”

As for dessert, the couple tapped Baker’s Cottage Cakes to make a sweet confection of raspberry jelly, buttercream, and Kahlua French cream. “Vanilla cake is our favorite, so we used that central flavor for the entire cake,” the couple shares.

Of course, the party did not stop then. “During the reception, we were called to the dance floor,” Valencia recalls. “While we were there amongst our friends and family, there was [a] blast of confetti! We weren’t expecting this at all and it filled the room with so much excitement. It felt like it kicked the party into another gear.”

The couple ended their magical evening with a sparkler send-off. “We loved having this as our final send-off because as soon as we left the reception, we were able to get straight into our car and leave,” the bride shares. “All of our bags were already in the car waiting for us and we avoided the awkward goodbyes at the end of the night.”

When looking back on their wedding, Valencia and Daniel say that it’s important to make the most of their milestone day. The couple says, “It’s so easy to get caught up in the planning and stress about the wedding that you forget that this process should actually be fun.”

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