Some couples decide upon a destination wedding for the built-in romance of an exotic locale. Others choose to marry on foreign soil because they share a love of travel. But for Lou De Berardinis and Jeny Cilano, the choice of an Italian wedding was all about family ties.
Lou de berardinis had long been interested in his heritage and had already visited his ancestral home of Silvi, a small mountaintop town overlooking the Adriatic Sea located a few hours from Rome. “I always knew where my grandfather was from in Italy, and it was kind of a romantic dream I’d had for a long time, to visit relatives and see the town,” he says.
Now Lou, 52, was preparing for his marriage to Jeny Cilano, a fellow Celebration resident he first met in 1999 while walking his Newfoundland (Lou calls the gigantic dog a fail-proof icebreaker). It had taken nearly two more years of occasional chance encounters on the dog-walking circuit before Lou finally got around to asking Jeny out. But after that first lunch date, the relationship “just blossomed from there,” says Jeny, 42.
As the couple began discussing marriage, Lou found himself dreaming of Italy again. He soon had Jeny convinced that Silvi would be the perfect place to hold their wedding.
Easier said than done, as the couple soon discovered. The language barrier and Italian bureaucracy proved overwhelming for Jeny, a former personal trainer who Lou hired as a credit manager for Bedrock Industries soon after he founded the concrete supply company in 2001. “Between working and trying to work on the paperwork, it was just too much,” she says, “so we started looking for a wedding planner.”
The couple chose Susan Southerland of Just Marry! in Windermere. Even though Southerland had never planned an overseas wedding, the couple was won over by her enthusiasm and willingness to take on the daunting task. After Susan located a service that could cut through the Italian red tape and found an Italian wedding planner to partner with, the process started humming along.
Passports in hand, the 13-member wedding party, joined by Southerland plus Curt Littlecott and Stephanie Rounds of Nu Visions in Photography, flew to Italy in advance of the ceremony this past July 5th. The couple planned to marry in Silvi’s main piazza, but that required an added formality once they arrived, according to Jeny: “No one had been ever been married in the piazza before, so the mayor had to approve it.”
The wedding celebration began in Silvi’s picturesque piazza as the wedding guests, including many of Lou’s Italian relatives, as well as curious townspeople, looked on. Jeny, clad in a lacy gown in antique ivory by
Monique Lhuillier, met Lou at a flower-festooned arch. Jeny’s two sisters, Adela Falquez and Elizabeth Cogollo, attended her; on the groom’s side, Lou’s son Louis Jr. and cousin Joseph Dzilinski completed the wedding party.
As Jeny and Lou recited their vows—a combination of their own and traditional vows—the officiant translated their words into Italian. And in a picture-perfect moment that could only be the product of sheer luck, a local marching band just happened to be in the piazza that day, and it struck up a tune when the wedding ceremony ended. The crowd burst into spontaneous applause. “People assumed we had hired this marching band, but it was a complete coincidence,” says Jeny.
“The timing was perfect,” adds Lou. “The band made it look like a very traditional Italian wedding, which is what we really wanted.”
Lou and Jeny chatted with many of the townspeople after the ceremony, giving some of them the floral arrangements that had decorated the wedding site. “The entire little town showed up,” recalls Southerland. “Jeny and Lou reveled in it. It wasn’t about all the ‘stuff’—it was about enjoying the celebration with the people they loved and these people they met.”
A dinner reception for the wedding party, which had swelled to 30 with Lou’s Italian family members in attendance, followed the ceremony, but that was a mere prelude to the reception the couple had planned back home.
Some Enchanted Evening
Since only a handful of guests was able to make it to the Italian ceremony, the newlyweds had decided to hold a lavish reception at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios Orlando on August 23. Approximately 140 guests from as far away as New England and South America attended, including many of Jeny’s family members from Colombia and Venezuela.
Jeny had the train cut off her wedding gown and wore it to the Portofino celebration as well. “It was so expensive that I wanted a chance to wear it again,” she laughs.
The couple had cut a traditional Italian multilayer millefoglie cake after their wedding in Silvi, so they chose not to have a wedding cake at the Portofino reception. Instead, they gave a small-plate, seven-course Italian-accented dinner, including Italian wedding soup and penne pasta with pancetta and roasted plum tomatoes, with a gelato (Italian ice cream) bar and an espresso and cappuccino bar. The evening’s entertainment also had an Italian flavor: an opera singer from Penguin Entertainment serenaded the crowd.
Jeny shared her first dance with her father, Roberto Taylor, in whose honor the couple asked for donations to a local Alzheimer’s association in lieu of gifts.
Taylor suffers from the disease, and, notes Lou, “Being a second wedding for both of us, we don’t need toasters; we don’t need a gift.” The couple wanted Taylor’s presence at the wedding to demonstrate that “people with Alzheimer’s can go out and have fun and live a really full life,” says Jeny.
The reception was scheduled to end at 11 p.m., “but we were having so much fun we extended it to 1 a.m.,” says Jeny.
Before departing the reception, guests received special mementos from the couple: handcrafted boxes containing candied almonds from Confettificio Papa, an award-winning confectioner from Monteroduni, Italy. Also inside the box was a picture of the town of Silvi inscribed with the couple’s names and wedding date.
Jeny says their double celebration was the best of both worlds: “His dream was to get married in his grandfather’s town, my dream was to have a big party with my family, so we got both.”
Of course, such lavish, bi-continental celebrations don’t come cheap; Lou estimates the whole shebang cost around $150,000. “It was the best time that I ever had in my life and some of the most wonderful moments of my life,” says Lou. “If it had cost twice as much, I’d still do it again.”