Under the Tuscan Sun
Emanuela Santi and Andrew Peña’s three-day wedding celebration in a rock star’s Florentine home combined a Tuscan setting with Moroccan inspiration—and a uniquely Hong Kong touch, writes Melissa Twigg
Emanuela Santi and Andrew Peña’s three-day wedding celebration in a rock star’s Florentine home combined a Tuscan setting with Moroccan inspiration—and a Hong Kong touch
There’s a particular thrill that runs through us all when an embossed invitation tumbles into the letterbox. And for the 200 guests who attended Emanuela Santi and Andrew Peña’s three-day wedding in Italy this summer, the rush of excitement and anticipation was even greater than usual. That’s because the watercolour-style, floral invitations were not the only indication of the extravaganza ahead. After all, Emanuela herself is something of a local legend, and it’s not often that you are invited to the nuptials of an Italian design guru so renowned that her day job involves organising the Hong Kong chapter of international AIDS charity gala—and celeb-fest—amfAR.
An events planner and designer, Emanuela is known around Hong Kong for her impeccable taste. And she certainly knows how to throw a party: she organised supermodel Naomi Campbell’s 40th birthday bash and has worked extensively at the Cannes Film Festival.
But for an Italian girl living between Hong Kong and London and engaged to a Puerto Rican investment banker, the most pressing question was in which time zone to hold the wedding of the century.
“Being Italian there was no other country I could think of which would measure up to the great food, wine, energy and atmosphere of Italy,” says Emanuela. “Andrew and I had our first holiday together in Tuscany: his best man had rented Il Palagio, Sting’s beloved holiday home and the villa we married in. Having worked for over 12 years in events I had never seen such a naturally beautiful and well-kept venue.”
The moment Emanuela laid eyes on the 15th century villa, which boasts a swimming pool, lakes, vineyards, olive groves and— befitting its rock star owner—a recording studio, she went weak at the knees.
“We had only been together for several months at this point yet by the end of the holiday, I made it clear to everyone including the incredible staff that I would get married here someday—hopefully to Andrew!” says Emanuela. “The staff still remembered that fondly and it was amazing that we could make that dream come true.”
But while the venue is exquisite, like all brides Emanuela was under some pressure to ensure the day felt personal—and she achieved her goal by making the wedding weekend strongly thematic.
“For the welcome dinner on the first day, my idea was ‘Florence of Bohemia’, taken from the tiles, architecture, colours and Medici history [of Florence],” she says. But that wasn’t all. “I was inspired by Morocco and Boho culture, but also by a photo I had seen of Margherita Missoni’s wedding with cushions on the floor in lots of prints and patterns. But instead of patterned cushions, I sourced rugs from Turkey in fuchsia, green and orange, and mixed them with vibrant flowers such as bougainvillea and peonies,
“On the day, make sure you keep holding hands and never let go of each other, so you can enjoy all the unforgettable moments as a pair” – Emanuela & Andrew
alongside orange trees and pineapples.”
And the Turkish and Moroccan inspiration continued throughout the event, from the traditional North African vases to the metal serving dishes, lanterns and water flasks.
However, attracted as the couple were to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern motifs, they were determined to bring in elements of Hong Kong as well. Not only is their Hong Kong home in the Mid-Levels, they also met at Socialito on Wyndham Street one packed Friday night in 2014, and they wanted to pay tribute to the city that was their matchmaker.
“So for the wedding, I opted for the title ‘An evening of Toscanerie’,” says Emanuela. “It was a marriage between China and Tuscany, taking elements from both to influence the design of the evening. So we mixed daisies with mandarin trees, and bamboo bird cages and Ming vases with Florentine glasses by designer Mario Luca Giusti and rustic wooden tables and chairs.”
Emanuela’s favourite piece of design from the entire day was a simple ode to China in the form of exquisite hand-painted plates featuring Chinese rice farmers, which were designed to match the custom-made glassware. On these hand-painted pieces, guests ate homemade pasta with burrata and tomatoes, followed by tagliata with rosemary and rock salt.
As a quick scroll through Instagram (#drewela) illustrates, this was an exquisite
wedding, and a rare combination of style, beauty and originality. But it also contained a few magical and very personal moments. The memory Emanuela keeps returning to is the moment as she and Andrew sped away from the church towards the sunset in a vintage MG car.
“I closed my eyes and would then open them to a vision of rolling Tuscan hills, flowers in my hair, bouquet in hand and the evening breeze setting in. We felt completely free and totally in love with each other,” says Emanuela.
Although the couple wasn’t exactly alone in that vintage red sports car. Under Emanuela’s bespoke couture Naeem Khan lace dress was a barely noticeable bump, one that has today transformed into a gurgling, pink-cheeked two-month-old baby named Penelope.
“It was a great feeling that our little girl was living all of these moments vicariously through us,” she says.
Once Penelope is old enough to appreciate her parents’ inimitable style, she’ll be delighted to learn that she didn’t miss her parents’ wedding.