Carolina Alvarez-Mathies was at a charity benefit in downtown New York catching up with a dear friend when the subject of her dating life arose. She mentioned that she was not seeing anyone special at the moment, and her friend jetted off to the other side of the room, bringing back a man she had noticed when she first walked in. “He was handsome, Italian, blue-eyed…”–and dressed impeccably (blame his Italian roots). Turns out, when Carolina’s friend approached with the promise that he would be “floored” by the woman she was about to introduce him to, Antonio di Oronzo had secretly hoped that woman would be Carolina–whom he had noticed earlier on in the night as well.
The two exchanged business cards rather than phone numbers. At the time, Carolina was the Head of Communications at New York City’s El Museo Del Barrio, and still works in the arts and culture world as as the Associate Director of External Affairs at Creative Time. A registered architect with awards under his belt and decades in the industry, Antonio is the founder of Bluarch, a multidisciplinary architecture and design practice. When he is not designing chic hotspots, like the new NYC members-only club Spring Place and Todd English’s Juliet Supper Club, di Oronzo teaches at Parsons School of Design. Rather than flirty text messages, “I received a politely seductive, and very Italian email,” remembers Carolina. “We set a date for the next day and went to a private evening tour of El Museo’s Gabriel Figueroa exhibition and then to dinner afterward.” After months of dating, and eventually moving in together, the two realized that they were, in fact, as perfect for one another as their mutual friend had predicted.
When it came time to propose, Antonio chose a sentimental moment rather than a grand gesture. “Antonio is an early bird, and so every morning once he is back from the gym I get woken up by espresso in bed. On weekends, I let him sleep in and it’s my turn to make coffee,” explains Carolina. “We were in bed on a spring Sunday morning, and as we drank our espressos and chatted I saw a shiny object suddenly pop out of his pillow. It was intimate, raw and absolutely perfect!” Carolina wasn’t entirely surprised by the proposal, she knew it was coming. “My parents had been in New York the week prior, and Antonio had asked them for my hand in marriage. I was surprised because we were going to Italy on vacation a few days later, so I was sure it was going to happen there.” Antonio presented Carolina with a radiant cut diamond engagement ring with a halo, which he designed for her.
Their proposal may not have taken place in Italy, but their wedding was quintessentially Italian. The couple set out to plan a traditional celebration in Rome, despite the bride’s family being from El Salvador, along with a civil ceremony in New York City to bring their families together to legalize their marriage in the United States, where they planned to continue to live together.
Their civil ceremony took place at home, in an intimate setting with close friends and family. Carolina sported a look by Jonathan Simkhai for the event which, as she tells it, came from a happenstance meeting. “I chose my civil ceremony look and my welcome dinner dress for our Italian wedding during a visit to Jonathan’s atelier in New York,” she says. “Jonathan and I were introduced by a mutual friend over cocktails last year, and we were chatting about my upcoming [wedding]. Jokingly, he said ‘you are wearing one of my pieces,’ and the next day we were looking at dates for me to come in and look at a few options. I am a huge fan of Jonathan’s–not only his designs, but he is such a beautiful soul.”
After their civil ceremony, Carolina and Antonio welcomed 200 guests to a slew of celebrations in Italy, complete with all the fixings of an authentic Italian celebration. The wedding weekend began with a welcome dinner, complete with Roman fare and Aperol spritzes. Casual with a polish, the cocktail party welcomed the couple’s friends and family to Rome with all the warmth and festivity one would expect from classic Italian hospitality. Like her civil ceremony, Carolina donned Jonathan Simkhai, this time in the form of a midi dress with bell sleeves.
With Antonio’s background in architecture, their wedding’s venues were key. “We both knew we wanted a Baroque church for our wedding,” said Carolina. “While on a trip to Rome, we both fell in love with this church, we discovered it as we walked around the [city] center, it’s located just a few feet away from the Pantheon.” The church, Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Campo Marzio, seemed fit for a royal wedding, and the couple’s ceremony and the ambiance they created with their looks, décor and overall aesthetic set the stage for a wedding that rivaled the understated grandeur of one. In the vein of classic nuptials throughout history, the couple created a custom crest, which was designed by Happy Menocal and printed on their invitations by Impresos Realce in El Salvador.
To live up to the stellar church ceremony and villa reception they were planning, Carolina and Antonio needed to be outfitted accordingly. Their love for the arts and design had them leaning toward perfect tailoring and things that pushed the boundaries, but both felt that their nuptials were too sacred and monumental to take big risks when it came to their wedding day looks. A morning suit dress code was decided upon, and Antonio chose a custom one by Martin Greenfield. While Carolina had spent the last few years in the art world and had been working with Antonio on communications and marketing for his firm, her first role in the working world was, ironically, in bridal–the perfect experience to help her make the important decision of what she’d wear down the aisle.
“My career started in the bridal industry, I was the PR Director for Angel Sanchez for almost three years. It was my first job out of college, but I have seen my fair share of bridal gowns! When I started planning our wedding, I thought I knew exactly what I was looking for… something unconventional and ultra-fashion forward. I started looking at those options and nothing really felt right,” she recalls. “One weekend, my uncles and mother flew in to join me on my bridal appointments. Naturally, we had an appointment at Carolina Herrera; I have always admired her designs and my mother wore a custom Carolina Herrera for her wedding in the ’80s. The moment I saw the gown I knew it was the one, and they [all] did too! It was timeless, elegant, and perfect for a Roman wedding.” Carolina selected an off-the-shoulder A-line gown with a lace bodice that opened up to a structured silk skirt.
“Once the dress had been selected, the veil came next. I choose a veil [trimmed] with matching lace, cut very much like a mantilla,” says the bride. Sant’Ignazio di Loyola is a huge space, and I had always dreamed of a statement veil.” Carolina ended up designing a custom cathedral length veil, also by Carolina Herrera, to cascade behind her as she walked down the aisle. She accessorized the look with her engagement ring, Manolo Blahnik heels and her something old and something blue, a Van Cleef & Arpels sapphire ring and pair of diamond and pearl earrings that belonged to her great grandmother. “I have always loved jewelry; as a little girl I used to visit with my grandmother in El Salvador and we would play dress up for hours,” recalls Carolina. “The best part was getting to wear the jewels, especially the sapphire ring, it’s always been a favorite!”
Per tradition, Carolina was escorted to the church by her father, who walked her down the aisle. The couple were married in a traditional Catholic ceremony, by three priests who have known the bride since childhood. Monsignor Fabio Colindres presided the ceremony along with Padre Salvador Caffarelli, and Padre Giuseppe Coro who married the bride’s parents and all flew in from El Salvador to join Antonio and Carolina in marriage. The church was decorated minimally, with off-white blooms, sage and eucalyptus, to give guests the opportunity to take in its stellar ceilings and jaw-dropping frescos.
Carolina carried a small nosegay of Lily of the Valley rather than an over-the-top bouquet to keep the focus on her gown and trailing veil. During the ceremony, an orchestral ensemble of 20 musicians led by Donato Gobbo from Rome’s Conservatory played. “Aside from floral and light details, the music was one of the key elements for us,” says Carolina. The couple, who hold season tickets to the New York Philharmonic and have a love of classical music, were determined to bring yet another classical element to their nuptials while giving their guests a taste of the things they enjoy most together. “It was important for us that the sacred rite of marriage was not overshadowed by too much décor, we wanted to have a beautiful ceremony where our vows and music were the standout elements,” the couple explains. “One of the most special moments aside from the rite of marriage was to receive a special benediction from Pope Francis, which was read to us and our guests.”
After the ceremony, the couple welcomed their guests at Villa Aurelia, which their wedding planner, Lucrezia Ferrari Sardagna, introduced them to. “[Lucrezia] that we completely fell in love. It is situated atop the Gianicolo hill, so the villa has the most beautiful views of Rome. As you walk in, you are greeted by a traditional Italian lemon garden; [the moment I saw it,] I knew that was the place!”
The villa, which was decorated in jewel tones for a moodier feel by florist Alex Cambi for Tearose, was intended to evoke the feeling of a dinner party rather than a wedding. “It was very important [to us] that the villa was adorned as if it was a home, not a venue,” explains Carolina. As guests entered, they were greeted by silver trays of Spumante and Aperol Spritz. A live band played during the outdoor aperitivo in the lemon garden, or the giardino dei limoni. Various stations were nestled all around the venue, so guests could mix and mingle while enjoying courses of crudo, a chef from Naples making fresh mozzarella, a charcuterie station with hand carved prosciutto, traditional Italian fried foods and more. During cocktails, guests were encouraged to explore the villa’s sprawling gardens, which provided the perfect opportunity for the couple to do the same–and snap some stunning portraits with their photographer, Cinzia Bruschini.
At 8 o’clock, Carolina’s father made a speech, and invited guests to join the couple and their families upstairs for dinner, while the band led the way. Dinner, prepared by Alessandra Ottaviani for Relais le Jardin was served, and guests dined on three courses of pasta, Amatriciana, stracci pasta with zucchini blossoms and lobster as well as a porcini mushroom risotto, followed by two main courses of whole branzino and rack of lamb. Rather than being coursed and plated, dinner service was table side, dished from large silver trays by suited servers, as if one was at an elegant dinner party at home–in black tie.
After dinner, the party moved to the main floor for an outdoor/indoor fete of dancing, passed Italian liqueurs and a table of traditional desserts, including a wedding cake by Rosa Montingelli. Committed to wowing their guests until the end of the night, the sweets didn’t stop there. Dessert came complete with a gelato truck and chefs making fresh cannoli, rhum babba and filling bombette with cream to order. Guests snacked as they danced and sipped on Ron Cihuatán, El Salvador’s first rum launched by Carolina’s father. Says the bride, “I surprised him that evening by locating his rum–and serving it all night!”
Guests danced until 4 o’clock in the morning to tunes by DJ Emanuele Vesci and left with small favors of ceramic plates, hand-painted with the couple’s crest. When asked why they think they work so well as a couple, the duo reiterated their flair for collaboration in every aspect of their lives. “Aside from being a couple, we also collaborate professionally. Our relationship has always been an exchange of creativity and emotion, with no boundaries between personal and professional. We are aligned in values and ideals, and have similar passions like travel, the arts, and, of course, food! We are both highly aesthetic and creative, and having that in common has grown into a continuous exchange of ideas; we nurture and feed off each other in a continuous loop.”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US