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A Magical Modern Wedding at an Ancient Cathedral in Montenegro

by Staff

Doyinsola Kuku and Michael Gill don’t exactly agree on how they met. “Both of us have very different memories of it, shaped over the eight years we have been together,” Doyinsola admits. “The version on which we both agree is that we met at a party.” It was a friend’s birthday party—possibly—at the University of Warwick in the U.K., where they were both in their first year. “Doyinsola got invited as a plus one,” according to Michael. “I naturally gravitated toward her to get to know the bubbly character standing in the middle of the room. A few drinks and laughs later, I knew I could not let her get away.” 

He didn’t—and five years later, he proposed on a weekend trip to Budapest with friends. “Doyinsola was excited to explore Fisherman’s Bastion, a medieval-inspired monument with a picturesque terrace overlooking the Danube,” Michael remembers. “As we walked up the steep hills toward the Bastion and Doyinsola was cluelessly strutting along, I was increasingly nervous. The walk felt like an eternity, but when we finally reached the fountain in the center, I took her hand, got down on one knee, and asked her to be my wife. A few moments later, a roaring applause from our friends and all the tourists surrounding us meant we were officially engaged!”

For their destination wedding, the couple hoped to recreate the feeling they’d had on their first visit to Montenegro. “We wanted our wedding to feel like a journey, not only to celebrate our marriage but also to experience the magic we felt when cruising along the sea, surrounded by the black mountains and crystal-clear water,” they share. A must-have for their ceremony and reception venues was that they be accessible by sea, as there would definitely be a boat involved. 

To communicate their specific vision with wedding vendors—a diverse group that could understand and speak to both the bride’s Nigerian background and the groom’s Swiss one—the couple went beyond your typical mood board. “We created a wedding-planning guide detailing everything we wanted, from décor to lighting,” they share. “This made it easier to communicate our vision; and every discussion we had and any new ideas were always reflected in the document.” (It also helped keep everything in order when they were forced to postpone the wedding date a year due to COVID.)

Their strategy paid off and the duo’s June 18, 2022 wedding went beyond their wildest dreams. Read on to see all the incredible details of the big day, planned by DSA Weddings and photographed by Alexandra & Vladimir Nadtochiy.

Neutral beige and gold tones served as the base palette of the wedding, but pops of pastel and burnt oranges burst forth in big ways throughout the décor.

“My darker skin and afro hair texture meant I had to specifically select a hairstylist and makeup artist who specialized in this,” the bride says. She found that in Symmetry Bridal and Deji’ Rachel, who together created a “whimsically elegant” look. “To give my hair an edge I went for a pearl-embellished sleek center part with an interlocked bun.”

From their respective Venetian balconies at the Regent Porto Montenegro hotel, the bridesmaids and groomsmen shouted out, challenging each challenging each other to show who was the better wedding party. Back inside the room, Michael slipped into his cream-colored tuxedo jacket with a black satin lapel, cummerbund, silk bow tie, and patent leather tuxedo shoes. The final touch: an antique skeleton Omega watch he received for his 21st birthday.

Our Lady’s Temple in Prcanj, Montenegro was the most monumental edifice in the local area, built by Bernardino Maccarucci over 120 years, between 1789 and 1909,” Doyinsola recounts. “It is located at the waterfront with a 120-step grand staircase that offers a breathtaking view over Risan Bay. We immediately fell in love with its grandeur.”

I could not imagine that moment without my dad.

“My dad walked me down the aisle—I could not imagine that moment without him,” the bride says. A white aisle runner stretched across the terrace leading up to the church doors, with scattered flower petals on each side. As Doyinsola and her dad entered the grand cathedral, a live pianist played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

My vows highlighted how I could feel Michael’s unconditional love for me, and how much I looked forward to spending the rest of my life with him.

Along with rings, the couple exchanged ultra-personalized vows. “My vows highlighted how I could feel Michael’s unconditional love for me, and how much I looked forward to spending the rest of my life with him,” Doyinsola shares. “My husband’s vows highlighted how far we have come together, and how at first glance we seem like opposites. But on closer inspection, we are much more like-minded.”

Doyinsola knew her Atelier Pronovias gown was the one when she came out of the dressing room and got emotional. “For the first time, I had tried on a dress that transported me mentally to the church where my ceremony was going to be held, and I could imagine myself walking down the aisle,” she says. For dramatic effect, she added a custom 11-foot detachable tulle train. In addition to her beaded veil and Cinderella-inspired Mach & Mach heels, she carried a special accessory. “My bag was made by my sister, Banke Kuku, who has made it to the pinnacle of the African fashion industry as a designer. She custom made an ivory and gold feathered asoke pouch that I absolutely loved.”

The couple’s 150 guests then boarded a boat for a cruise to the reception. “We organized a mini cocktail reception on the boat with music for the guests to enjoy the breathtaking views of Boka Bay, as we had when we first came to Montenegro,” Doyinsola says. “Michael and I had a separate speedboat taking us from the ceremony to the reception, and it was the first time it was just the two of us, which gave us the chance to take everything in.”

For the reception venue, “Buddha-Bar Beach Porto Montenegro ticked all our boxes with a world-renowned 209-foot infinity pool and a stunning, palm-lined view of the sea.”

“The vision was a whimsical yet timeless outdoor event surrounded by the sun and the sea, brought to life with pampas grass, neutral orange tones with hints of burnt orange,” Doyinsola shares. A round central stage was edged with reflective material to give it a mirrored effect. “Hanging from the 13-foot-high truss above the stage were long silver and crystal chains, which acted as a chandelier.” Pampas grass, roses, baby’s breath, rice flower, and dried palm leaves adorned arrangements, topped tables, and floated in an entrance fountain.

The mirrored runway glistened in the Montenegrin sun and made it look as if we were in a fairy tale.

“My absolute favorite piece of décor was the mirrored pool runway interspaced with florals,” the bride says. “It glistened in the Montenegrin sun and made it look as if we were in a fairy tale.”

“We wanted to include some Montenegrin folklore: When guests arrived at the reception, there was a Montenegrin band that welcomed them and served shots of Rakija, the national drink of Montenegro,” shares the bride.

After a moment of silence for Doyinsola’s late mother during the groom’s speech, and a meal of tuna and beef tartars, sea bass, and duck confit, the party was underway. 

The newlyweds sliced into a six-tier lemon- and rose-flavored cake draped with orange flowers. 

For their dramatic first dance, the couple selected “Hrs & Hrs” by Muni Long. “Music is the heart of any Nigerian wedding, so it was important to have a DJ who was well versed in playing afro beats,” Doyinsola adds. To hit the dance floor, she changed into a glittering, perfectly party-ready dress and cape by Albina Dyla.

“It was a magical day for us and an unforgettable memory we will forever hold in a special place in our hearts,” the bride reflects. “My advice to future brides-to-be is to make choices based on what you and your partner envision, and not just what tradition dictates.”

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