Betsy Marks and Brian Smith met in Paris, France, while attending an expat event near the Opera in 9th arrondissement. After a year of being friends, the two realized they had feelings for each other and became an official couple. “We were always at ease together,” Betsy says. “We made each other laugh so much that our faces hurt.”
Six weeks into their relationship, Brian planned a surprise trip to Sicily, where they attended an outdoor American Independence Day celebration with champagne and fireworks. Overlooking the Ionian Sea at Villa Sant’Andrea in Taormina, Betsy blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a wedding here?”
“I HAD MY FAIRYTALE WEDDING, AND I WAS MARRYING MY DREAM MAN” BETSY MARKS
The next day, the couple giddily spoke to the venue’s event planner about a wedding. Wanting to appear serious, Betsy said their wedding date would be two years later on July 4, 2014. After touring the venue, Brian decided to put a hold on the date–just in case. Three months later, he proposed to Betsy during a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.
Sticking with the original venue and wedding date they had booked, the couple decided they wanted a destination wedding weekend. Most guests would be flying in from America and France, so they wanted everyone to be able to make the most out of their trip. They also chose to have an outdoor reception along with two ceremonies in order to honor both of their backgrounds.
An elegant Catholic ceremony was held at the same church featured in the second Godfather movie, in the ancient town of Forza D’Agro, and was followed by a romantic Jewish ceremony on the beach. “The ceremony on the beach was like a dream,” says the bride. “I had my fairytale wedding, and I was marrying my dream man.” The view of the water, the sea breeze gently lifting her veil, and dim candles flickering in the sand all helped to create a picture perfect moment.
After the ceremonies, guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with food stations set up to serve everything from fresh oysters, to mini burgers. The following reception featured décor with custom monogrammed place cards and low white tulip floral arrangements, so it was easy for guests to converse. Gold accents and lit candelabras stringed with pearls made the imperial-looking table feel warm, and enhanced the Art Nouveau-inspired aesthetic.
The bride and groom’s first dance was to “I Love You Just the Way You Are,” and took place under the stars, surrounded by guests holding sparklers. The song was also played by the same pianist who was there two years prior. Everyone danced that night, and the festivities concluded with a grand wedding cake, foot-high sparklers, a live seven-piece band and a fireworks display.
“We were so grateful to everyone who came to celebrate our wedding,” the bride shares. “Guests continually came up to us, saying things like ‘Our minds are blown’ and ‘This is the best event I have ever attended.’”
The newlyweds enjoyed an extended honeymoon right after the wedding, which lasted a blissful five weeks. They visited the Amalfi Coast, Istanbul, the Taj Mahal, Seychelles and went on a Kenyan Safari. Nine months later, they welcomed a baby girl named Charlotte.
Location: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily, Italy; Planner: Weddings in Sicily, Sicily, Italy
Floral Design: Petali e Capricci, Sicily, Italy; Wedding Dress: Jenny Packham; Bride’s Shoes: Emmy London