STEFANIE + STEPHEN

Stephen and Stefanie knew each other for years. They mixed in the same social circles. Occasionally glanced over at each other at parties and shared polite small talk. It wasn’t until a classic post-beach Saturday night at Sorrento’s Continental Hotel that they struck up a ‘real’ conversation. They enjoyed it so much they wondered when the next meeting would be! Who would make the first move? Lucky for them, these chance encounters seemed to continue. And so began the romance of Raffaele Ciuca’s first grandson Stephen and his beautiful wife Stefanie!

#rcrealbride Stef wore a custom designer wedding dress. The gown features a sheath silhouette, plunging v-neck and natural waistline with an open back. Statement lace and crystal details were styled with a gorgeous beaded tulle overskirt to complete the look. We’re a little obsessed with weddings around here, so we hope you enjoy the story of how our family celebrated. Read on below to hear the full story straight from Stef.

Photography by  Tess Follett Photography

THE FIRST SIGHT

I’d known Steve as an acquaintance for many years – While we had many mutual friends, we’d never properly spoken until that summer night in the courtyard of the Continental Hotel. Over the course of the next year, I kept bumping into Steve, and each time we’d have a chat and I’d leave the conversation thinking a) He’s so nice! and b) When will I see him again? I was instantly attracted to him – He exuded such warmth and positivity, and he had the most gorgeous smile. I actually initiated our courtship by inviting Steve to my birthday. He then worked up the courage to ask me out. The rest is history.

THE PROPOSAL

Steve proposed while we were away in Byron Bay – At that point we had been dating for 2 and a half years, though in that time we had already purchased and were in the midst of renovating our first home. On reflection, we did move pretty quickly! Every relationship is different and in our case, we were both on the same page and took things pretty seriously from the beginning. That said, the moment of the proposal was still very surreal! We’d just arrived at our beachside villa at the stunning Elements of Byron resort, and I was welcomed by champagne, rose petals, an antipasto platter, and of course, the ring – How could I say no?

 

THE VENUE

We decided to have our wedding reception at Carousel in Albert Park. Views are priceless, and there really is no better view in Melbourne than Carousel’s view of the city skyline over Albert Park Lake. My vision for the reception was a light, airy space that was equal parts elegant and relaxed – and Steve and I had agreed that a really stunning outdoor space for guests to gather in and begin their evening would be crucial to capture that vibe. Carousel’s layout is second to none with its seamless indoor/outdoor flow and its large, sprawling deck. We also really loved the venue’s architecture with its curves, clean lines, and modern, rendered exterior. Importantly, we’d also heard a lot of great things about the quality of the food, service and event coordination offered at Carousel by Food & Desire. In the end, we only seriously looked at two reception venues, and it was Carousel by a country mile!

FAVOURITE MOMENT

While the idea of walking down the aisle with three hundred pairs of eyes on me had made me quite nervous in the days and weeks leading up to the wedding, walking down the aisle with my Dad is such a happy memory for me and a definite highlight of the day. St Ignatius’ Church is so beautiful in its gothic revival style, and I really took my time to appreciate the stunning surroundings and to look around at as many of our guests as I could on my way to greet Steve.

The entire reception was one big party full of so much energy! We were blessed with a gorgeous, sunny day and a clear, balmy evening. We decided to mingle with our guests before being introduced into the reception, and we were really glad we did. It gave us more opportunity to greet our guests, and it was so nice to take in the buzz, chatter and anticipation that was going on around us during cocktail hour – mojitos flowing, our live band warming up and soaking up that view!

Another highlight for me was all our guests dancing to the Tarantella together. Everyone (whether they were friends, strangers, my family or Steve’s family) was hand-in-hand, weaving around each other and singing along. We ended up having multiple Tarantella circles forming and they extended out onto the deck and even into the foyer. It was so much fun and I think I almost ripped by dress tripping over my own feet from the sheer speed of the dancing – That said, it was completely worth the stitch and the dishevelled hair!

THE DRESS

I loved my dress so much! I knew that I wanted something unique that would make a statement. The first time I tried it on, I immediately felt glamorous and confident. It was a soft blush/nude colour which complimented my skin tone perfectly. It had a low-plunging illusion neckline, and was entirely covered in beading and crystals. The silhouette was classic but everything else about it was so different. I also loved the addition of the matching overskirt – It allowed me to have a fairytale moment for the church and a sleek, pared back look to party in at the reception. In total, I tried on a few different styles across both Raffaele Ciuca stores – Among them were many beautiful gowns and a couple of real contenders, but when I tried the ‘winner’ I knew it was the one.

FINDING THE ONE

I had the most amazing experience at RC. Patricia and Claudia live and breathe everything bridal – It’s their passion and getting to choose my dress alongside both of them was such a special experience for me. All the bridal stylists I dealt with were wonderful and professional – they were helpful, honest and extremely patient. A special mention must go to Francesca from Brunswick who was so methodical in her approach, particularly when it came to narrowing down my favourite dresses and encouraging me to trust your gut. Francesca takes the time to really get to know you and your personal style. She listens to you, subtly reads your facial expressions and immediately knows what you’re thinking – She definitely has a gift! While I was slightly overwhelmed by the idea of and process of shopping for my dress in the beginning, as soon as I tried on a few gowns and realised everyone was there to help me find something perfect, I really warmed to the process and it became a whole lot of fun.

TIPS FOR ALL THE BRIDES TO BE

The number one tip I’d give brides-to-be in the midst of planning their wedding is to trust your gut and to do what’s right for you. As hard as it can be, it’s really important not to become overwhelmed by opinions, traditions or obligations – Ultimately the day should be a reflection of you and your partner as a couple. So don’t sweat the small stuff, and most importantly, have fun! Everything else will fall into place.

Another important tip I’d give brides-to-be is to really do your research when it comes to choosing your wedding vendors. Make sure your vendors’ style aligns with yours, and really listen to their recommendations (because they do this for a living)! When you have complete confidence in your vendors you worry a lot less, and when your vendors are of a high calibre and come highly recommended, everything runs smoothly.

Another tip I’d encourage brides-to-be to consider (if within their budget) is engaging an event stylist. We engaged a styling company called Ruffles and Bells to assist us with styling our big day, and I cannot express how much help they were in executing our vision. They followed our brief to a tee, managed our expectations and all the on-the-day logistics, and gave us important advice and guidance along the way. Best of all, they were only ever a call or an email away. Working with a stylist was also a really fun creative process – From choosing furniture, to table linen, and everything in between – it was a lot of work and effort but the final result was pretty breathtaking and something I’ll always remember.

TIPS FOR A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP

In my experience, the key to keeping your relationship healthy and happy is to respect each other and your differences. Steve and I are polar opposites in a lot of respects – Despite having the same underlying values, we approach conflict, work and life differently. That said, we make a concerted effort to understand how the other thinks without taking steps to change them. Accept and love your partner as they are, and you will (hopefully) be happy together forever!

LIST OF VENDORS

Dress: Raffaele Ciuca Bridal

Venue: Carousel, Albert Park

Church: St Ignatius’ Catholic Church, Richmond

Celebrant: Bishop Terry Curtin

Stylist: Ruffles and Bells

Flowers: Ivy & Eve Flowers

Photographer: Tess Follett

Film: Ryan Lee Adams

Hair: Harlen Hair

Makeup: Cassandra Lusi

Shoes: Jimmy Choo

Bridal Jewellery: Jennifer Behr

Invitations and OTD Stationary: Studio Silva

Groom’s Suit: Prinzi Collections

String Quartet: Ruby Strings

MC: Paris Zachariou

Band: The White Tree

Bridesmaid Dresses: White Runway

Cake: Miss Ladybird Cakes

Bonbonniere: Homemade Chili Oil