It was March 2017 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and Alessandro Marchesano, a global finance director at GE in Paris, was in the city on business. “He claims it was love at first sight,” Nony Odum remembers. She’s a former fashion executive who counts Calvin Klein, Loro Piana, and Ralph Lauren among her former employers and is currently working on launching a website called In Vibrant Company, which will publish lifestyle guides by successful women. “I was lukewarm, but he impressed me with his confidence and easy manner,” she says.
They went out a second night, too, and got along so well that he asked her to come visit him in Paris the following month. “I took the offer with a grain of salt, but after he returned to France, he sent me some flight options,” Nony says. “I was so impressed with his take-charge manner and that he meant the things that he said. He claims he always had a good feeling about us.”
On the last night of her visit, Alessandro made her dinner, and “Today I Met The Boy I’m Going to Marry” by Darlene Love serendipitously popped up on her playlist—a harbinger of what was to come. “I actually have this moment on video because I was Insta-storying the food and the table setup,” she admits. “I actually tried to resist the relationship because I knew what I’d be giving up by getting serious with a man in another country, but I felt like in him I had found home and would be gaining a whole lot too.”
The two went ring shopping in September 2017. “I moved to Paris in May 2018, and he proposed two weeks after I arrived,” Nony says. “Sounds fast, but it felt right.”
Nony is the first to admit she was expecting a proposal as soon as she moved to Paris. “I was practically looking at every turn,” she jokes. “When he took me for a walk on Pont Alexandre III for no reason or a random stop in front of Les Invalides, I was ready, but nothing came. Then, we had a weekend in Ischia planned. At the end of the long weekend, it still hadn’t happened. Finally on our last night, he took me to dinner at a restaurant called La Lampara which has beautiful sea views. He had changed the dinner reservations multiple times and was wearing tight jeans which I noticed couldn’t really conceal a ring box and so I thought, ‘I guess it isn’t happening on this trip.’” At the end of dinner, Alessandro suggested they stand up and take a few photos. “Once we stood up, he was behaving a bit nervously, and then I knew,” Nony says. “He got on one knee and proposed. He had stuffed the ring in his pants pocket. Without the box! It was simple and perfect. A solitaire emerald-cut diamond on a thin platinum band. I wanted a ring I would never get tired of.”
The couple decided to host their wedding weekend in Italy. Alessandro is Italian, but Europe also made sense for Nony’s family as it’s in between for her friends and family, who are mostly in the United States and Nigeria. “We looked all over the Amalfi Coast and Capri, but none of the locations were perfect for what we wanted: a venue that embodied the Campania region, could comfortably hold 175 people, and had grounds, where we could host the aperitivo, dinner, and dancing until very late,” Nony explains. “This is actually quite difficult to find, as in Southern Italy the wedding is really about the dinner. The dancing is considered the after-party which happens at a second location, if at all. You end up losing some people this way. We wanted everything and everyone together at all times.”
They expanded their search to Paestum, located just 25 minutes from Albanella, the little village Alessandro is from. An ancient town that was founded by the Greeks, Paestum is known for its temple ruins, buffalo mozzarella, and olive oil. “We wanted to incorporate that history and characteristics of the location into the aesthetic for the wedding weekend and emphasize it in the venue,” Nony says. The invitations by Momental Designs celebrated the location and set an elegant yet playful tone with soft, washed colors and a bit of gold. The Momental designers hand-painted the reception villa onto the save-the-dates, the temples onto the invitations, and a map of the region behind the weekend agenda.
“We came upon Villa Andrea when we were interviewing wedding planners,” Nony remembers. “It was perfect because its large grounds allowed us to split the aperitivo and dinner and still feel like the guests were getting a different experience.”
They relied on Simona Imparato to organize it all. “It was important to us to hire someone who spoke Italian and knew local vendors, as this is a region where everything is negotiable, and it’s helpful to know who is who,” Nony explains. “It’s similar to Nigeria in that way.”
The weekend started with a welcome dinner at Ristorante Nettuno, which is situated within the area’s temple ruins. Nony’s wardrobe inspiration for this evening was nymphlike to match the location of the dinner. “A nymph in Greek and Roman mythology is a young female deity typically identified with natural features such as trees, flowers, and the sea,” Nony says. “To give off this nymphlike effect but still honor the occasion, I wore a long, flowing, light dress and then added a flower crown for that goddess effect.” Fittingly, photos were taken in front of the Temple of Hera, the goddess of marriage.
The dress code for the wedding the next day was black tie, and Nony instructed all of her friends to “bring it.” Color, and lots of it, was highly encouraged. “My Nigerian side needed no guidance, because in our culture, weddings are serious business,” she says. “My aunts came in full traditional attire, which is always long, elegant, and colorful.”
Nony’s best friend is the head of global communications at Vera Wang, so wearing Vera Wang was always the plan, and after she got engaged, Nony quickly made an appointment to look at dresses in New York over the Thanksgiving holiday. “But I thought, well, I have some time before I head over, and I do live in Paris, so I should just look here and get a sense for what I like. I had no idea what would look good on my body, but I knew I wanted my dress to match the occasion, black tie, and the location—Italy in June.” She found Metal Flaque, a boutique in the 1st arrondissement, where she tried on a Viktor & Rolf dress and fell in love. “I still kept my Vera appointment and loved another dress there as well, but Priya and I both knew the Viktor & Rolf was the one. Since my dress didn’t have a lot of embellishments, I went with a dramatic lace and tulle veil made at the atelier at Metal Flaque.”
The bride’s shoes were old floral-print Gucci slides that she already owned. “I love color and wanted to be able to add it where I could,” she says. “The print just felt right for the location and time of year; it was playful and coincidentally matched my wedding flowers.” She borrowed pearl drop earrings from her mother and paired them with a thin diamond tennis bracelet that was a gift from her mother-in-law, along with her engagement ring on her right hand.
“I ended up flying my make up artist Justine D in from Paris, as I did not have very encouraging trials in Italy and she knows my face,” Nony says. “Skin is the most important thing when it comes to makeup, and I wanted someone that was comfortable with brown skin and understood how to create coverage while still looking hydrated and not overly done up. We kept it light and feminine. Lots of pinks. I didn’t want anything about my look to confound me in the future.”
On Saturday evening, the bride walked down the aisle, escorted by her mother, at Basilica Paleocristiana in Paestum, which dates back to the 5th century A.D. and was initially conceived as an “open” basilica when Paestum was a Roman colony. “It is old and special, so we didn’t want to do too much to it as far as decor. Our florist Enza Cinolo knocked it out of the park,” Nony says. They added flowers to the hand rails on the staircase descending to the entrance, and around the door. Inside, local aromatics, lemons, and flowers were meant to enhance the overall beauty without being overwhelming.
The priest conducted the ceremony seamlessly in both English and Italian. “It was so much fun seeing our dreams and plans for the service come to reality and having our friends and family from all over the world surround us,” Nony says. “So many of our friends have had a hand in us becoming the people we are and have supported our relationship. We felt so loved.” After the ceremony, guests reconvened on the villa grounds for the aperitivo.
The newlyweds posed for pictures before walking in to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. Their first dance was to “My Dream” by The Softones. Then the music changed to “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, and they had the bridal party jump in and encouraged the everyone to join them for a few faster songs. “We wanted to set the tone early and knew we had a two-hour dinner coming and wanted everyone excited and loose before they had to sit for so long,” Nony says.
During the apertivo, there were nine separate food stations serving local foods like caciocavallo impiccato (melted cheese from the region), buffalo mozzarella, sushi, different varieties of salami, fried fish, and vegetables. “Some guests thought this was dinner!” Nony says. They watched the sun set over the farmlands while a musician played Italian and American love songs on a saxophone in the background, and eventually guests picked up their seating cards from a chart adorned with flowers. Once they walked into the dining room, they were greeted by a ceiling covered entirely in lights and chandeliers dripping in ivy. “When bare, the room was so white, and I thought we needed to add some embellishments up top to create a dreamscape,” Nony explains. “Our lighting designer Teresa from Studio Project SRL nailed it.”
Dinner was three courses and all fish-based. “Italians don’t believe in switching from fish to meat between courses,” Nony says. “If you start with fish, you continue with fish.” During the meal, friends gave speeches during dinner, and then Alessandro spoke. “He gave the most beautiful speech,” Nony says. “He remembered to honor the people whom we had both lost, honor our mothers who have been such forces, and then he ended on the most beautiful words to me. There were tears.” After dinner, the newlyweds led everyone outside for the cake cutting, and then an extravagant dessert buffet opened.
Nony always wanted to incorporate her Nigerian culture into the evening in a fun and impactful way, and after the meal seemed like the perfect time to do it. “I didn’t have a traditional Igbo, which is my ethnic group, wedding as that can only be done in the bride’s village,” she explains. “But we incorporated elements into the reception such as the dress, music, and dancing. Asoebi literally translates to ‘family cloth’ from Yoruba. It is a uniform way of dressing often incorporated into Nigerian weddings. The bride picks the fabric and her closest friends custom-make dresses of their choice in the selected fabric. It is an honor to be chosen. My 11 girlfriends live all over the world, so it was a production to coordinate, but my two friends Nwando and Nora who live in Lagos and Maryland helped with the entire thing. Ordering the fabrics, helping the non-Nigerians pick their styles, gathering measurements, managing the Lagos tailor, and shipping all over the world. They kept everyone on time and on track. I chose the fabric from Kwamuhle Fabrics.”
While guests busied themselves with cake and dessert, Alessandro, the mothers, and Nony’s asoebi girls changed into their traditional clothes. “My mother’s tailor in Enugu made my gold outfit as well as her green skirt and blouse,” Nony says. “She made a matching green set for Alessandro’s mother. Usually the mother of the bride and her friends wear matching materials, but my mother chose to just gift her women matching gold fascinators.” The accessories, geles, fans, and coral beads were from Nene Jewelry and Craft. “My mother initially made Alessandro’s traditional outfit in gold lace to match mine, but my friend Nwando intervened and told us that matching completely is out of fashion,” Nony notes. “So she quickly had her husband’s tailor in Lagos make Alessandro’s white outfit. She had two options made because it was too late to get his measurements, and she wanted to make sure one fit. The wedding truly showed me how unbelievably blessed I am with the most generous friends.”
After dessert, guests were gathered once again, and the music was changed to “Nnekata” by Flavour. The mothers danced out, followed by Nony’s mother’s friends and aunties, and then her aseobi girls. After the girls came out, the music changed to “One plus One” by Wizboyy, and the bride and groom joined everyone. Then, the reception turned into a full-on dance party with Nigerian music. “Our guests did not know about this traditional moment and many said this was their favorite part of the entire night, ” says Nony. By the time it was all said and done, the venue had gone through 10 bottles of tequila. “Shoes came off and guests danced on the lawn barefoot,” she remembers. “The photo booth was also a hit, and the last guest left at around 5:00 a.m.!
I absolutely love my veil. It was made for me to atelier at Metal Flaque, the Parisian bridal boutique where we bought my wedding dress. My look was clean and simple, but the veil brought a bit of drama.
Alessandro and I took some photos together while our guests enjoyed the aperitivo. We are standing between the cypress trees on the grounds of Villa Andrea. He wore a traditional Hugo Boss tuxedo. My Viktor & Rolf dress was the last dress I tried on, and I fell instantly in love with the asymmetrical waist and the sweetheart neckline.