One of the most spectacular brides we've ever seen is Natalia, a Russian Princess, who married her very own Prince, Olivier, in a fairytale wedding set in the picturesque Italian countryside. Natalia, who is also the CEO of fine jewellery brand Plukka, kindly shared with Kisses & Cake all the aspects of planning her spectacular 5-star wedding. It was timeless, elegant and utterly romantic... something dreams are made of!
Full Name & Title: Princess Natalia Pavlova Obolensky & Olivier Roqueplo
*directly descended from Catherine the Great, father’s title is Prince Paul Sergeyevich Obolensky
Met each other: November 2010
Engaged: May 2015
Civil Ceremony: June 25, 2016 in Hermanville Sur Mer, Normandy, France (Olivier’s house)
Wedding date: July 2, 2016 (July 1 - July 3, 2016)
It Was Love
We met in Hong Kong through his sister because she is one of my best friends. At that time I was moving to London and he was visiting in Hong Kong for a week. We actually met at a dinner before, but on the last night we ended up meeting again at 4am in this club called Drop. The next day I was flying to New York for some business, so he offered to take one of my three suitcases back to London where he was also living. He held it hostage for two weeks and called it his insurance policy so that I had to go and see him when I picked it up.
The proposal completely took me by surprise. Olivier had taken me away for a long weekend in Berkshire to celebrate my 30th birthday. During which I had a sneaky suspicion that he might be planning to propose.
There was a moment during the trip, which was particularly picturesque. We were drinking champagne and eating chocolate covered strawberries, with a beautiful sunset view over the hotel grounds with rabbits running around – and I really thought he was going to ask! But he didn’t… at least not until we had got home back to our apartment in London. He disappeared into the garden and then suddenly came back into the living room and dropped to one knee, when I was really not expecting it. Turns out he couldn’t reach my father over the weekend because he was on a boat in Miami so he couldn’t get his blessing until later on Sunday!
My bridal party and I took over my parents’ house to get ready in. I had my nearest and dearest in my bridal party, which included my mum, both mine and Oliver’s sisters and three of my best friends. The day started with coffee and a morning swim, before starting the rotation of hair and make-up. We also made a big breakfast together but I was so nervous I couldn’t eat much!
The dress makers then came to fit my dress. The process was actually quite intricate and took longer than I was expecting. Once I was in the dress, we took a couple of photos with a glass of champagne, whilst we waited for the cars to arrive. The bridal party left together, whilst my dad and I stayed behind and waited for the wedding planner to give us the go ahead to start making our way down to the village. We had one of the old red Fiat 300, the mini-mini one, my dad barely fit into it with his top hat.
PART OF CHOOSING THE PERFECT DRESS IS FIGURING OUT THE VENUE AS WELL, THE PROCESSES ARE PARALLEL. WE WERE DEBATING BETWEEN A BIG CATHEDRAL AND THIS TINY CHURCH WHERE WE ENDED UP. THE DRESSES ARE QUITE DIFFERENT AND IF WE HAD GONE WITH THE CATHEDRAL, THE OTHER DRESS WOULD HAVE FITTED THE LOCATION BETTER.
I found dress shopping very overwhelming at first because you try on so many different dresses, shapes and styles to start with. The first dress I tried on I looked hideous in and so I was terrified I wouldn’t find ‘the one’ and it was all going to be a disaster.
But with time you figure out what shape fits you and what style is going to look nice on you. The first dresses I tried on were not the ones for me. I found a few that I liked but the problem is that everyone has a different opinion. My mother liked one, but my bridesmaids liked another one. Eventually you just have to make the decision yourself and pick out what you feel comfortable in
In the end, I liked the top of one dress and the bottom of the other. Luckily we had a dressmaker in Italy, so I knew if I bought the skeleton of the dress I’d be able to adjust it and create a version that was perfect for me. It came down to a Maggie Sottero dress and a Vera Wang dress. I ended up choosing the Maggie Sottero dress because it was more classically elegant – once I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off!
There were lots of special moments during the day so it’s hard to choose just one. For me it wasn’t when I put my dress on before the wedding, but the moment just outside the church, standing arm in arm with my father, just before we walked down the aisle. You just can’t believe it’s happening, it’s a very surreal moment and was very special to me.
What made it even more special, was that we had taken over the entire town and had closed off the main roads into the village. When my father and I arrive, the villagers came out and lined the streets cheering me as I was walking up to the church.
My next favorite moment was when Olivier and I entered for dinner. The atmosphere was amazing. Once all our guests were seated at a long banqueting table, music started playing and as we walked in everyone stood up and started clapping, whistling and whipping their napkins above their heads. Olivier and I then danced all the way down the table and back up the other side till we got to our chairs. The atmosphere was simply electric and one I will never forget.
Then there were the first dances, first with my father, then with Olivier, and then with my father in law. We had been very lucky with the weather during the day, it was 31°and sunny but as the dancing started, rain clouds gathered in the valley below us and created the most amazing red sunset. I hadn’t even noticed them until the photographer came to get me.
Walk Down The Aisle
We did things a little differently to a traditional Catholic ceremony. We had an organist play when the bridesmaids walked down the aisle and then as my Father and I entered, a Russian choir started to sing acapella. It is the traditional entrance for a Russian bride. The whole experience was quite solemn and as soon as they started to sign I couldn’t hold back the tears.
The Wedding Ceremony
There was quite a lot of debate about how we would do the church ceremony, as we both wanted to include elements of our backgrounds and religions. It was also important for my father that the wedding had Russian elements. We decided on a Catholic church, but because I’m Russian Orthodox and a Russian princess, we had a choir fly in from the Russian Orthodox Churches in London and Russia. We also had other elements of the ceremony that followed Russian Orthodox tradition, like when the Lord’s Prayer was sung by the choir rather than recited. One of the choir members was an opera singer, so he sang “Panis Angelicus” during communion - it was so beautiful that almost everyone seemed to be in tears.
We obviously had language issues, so the service and readings were performance in English, French, and Italian, with the choir singing in Russian. The order of service was also printed in multiple languages. The priest was amazing and really helped us to create the perfect service.
The first dance wasn’t what we imagined it to be. We were supposed to have this formal dance but it got invaded and everyone started dancing with us, which was actually perfect because we’re both terrible dancers. I think I probably did three turns and then suddenly all our bridesmaids, groomsmen, and friends were right there next to us. At one point they raised us up onto two chairs, which sounds fun and festive but actually was terrifying – it wasn’t very stable and I spent most of the time trying not to fall off!”
If I had to choose one word – I would probably say medieval. The appearance of the town and church, alongside the drummers and flag bearers, provided quite the setting. The theme also inspired the menu and dinning set up, with traditional food being served like a medieval feast in the streets, within the piazza.
In medieval times, the town, San Martino, was of great importance. It was the place where villagers would come to settle their debt and even had its own currency. Florence and Sienna start huge wars and fight to control the town. Because the town has such a rich history, it was important to us to incorporate this into the theme as much as possible.
Choosing The Venue
We got married in the village next to our family’s summer house, so it is home for me. My mother also grew up in Florence, so as a family we are really connected to the area. We took over the town and the castle within it, which had this beautiful courtyard with a little wishing well in. Oliver and the groomsmen spent the night in the Castle before the wedding, and they also hosted the after party (when the actual party ended at 6am).
However, it wasn’t easy to organize and the choice of location had its challenges. There were also lots of problems associated with the space because it’s normally a public street and where the villagers can leave their cars. We needed permission from the Mayor and the local police. We also needed get a license to serve alcohol in a public space and complete a full health and safety check. The logistics were actually incredibly complicated - my mother and wedding planner deserve all the credit for making it happen! I was so happy when I found out it was achievable, as it meant so much to me to be able to get married at home in Italy!
The civil wedding was in Normandy, in a place called Hermanville Sur Mer, on Sword Beach, where the Normandy landings happened. It was just the wedding party so it was a very small affair; bridesmaids, groomsmen, and immediate family only. The ceremony, which is of great importance in France, was held in the town hall with the Mayor.
After the ceremony we went to Olivier’s parents’ house for a celebratory meal. We had one long table set up and served fruit des mer, consisting of lobster, oysters, salmon, big seafood platters, and cheese dishes. For dessert, we had a choux choux cake. We then went out that night and partied with our friends and we continue to do all weekend before the actual wedding.
There were quite a few speeches both in English and French. My dad gave the first speech. It was amazing because it was right after we entered in for the first time as Mr and Mrs and danced into the dinner area, so everyone was already on their feet. The medieval drummers started up, so everyone sat down and turned around to see what was happening. He had arranged to have all the waiters line up and walk down each side of the table and put a vodka shot in front of every single person, with the constant drumming building atmosphere. With the imposing castle background, the medieval drumming, the vodka shot and several sweet stories, it was a wonderful part of the wedding.
Olivier then spoke during the antipasto – it was truly the loveliest speech ever and made me cry – there was a lot of crying.Olivier’s dad also spoke as well, followed by two of my bridesmaids and then a joint speech from the four groomsmen.
I did the something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
New: My wedding dress was my something new.
Old: The lace used for my vail was actually vintage and given to me by my mum. It was then restyled to fit my dress.
Borrowed: I borrowed my mum’s favorite bracelet for the day.
Blue: My garter had a small line of blue lace.
Before + After Activities
We hosted a dinner in a town called Citta di Castello the night before, so it was a three day wedding. Traditional Italian aperitivo, unlimited food and nibbles like bruschetta, salami and olives. To drink we served Aperol spritz and prosecco.
The day after the wedding, we had a relaxing pool party at our house in San Martino. During the week leading up to the wedding we also had an intimate dinner, in a place called L’Accademia with just the wedding party and anyone speaking at the church.
The overall décor for the wedding was rustic with pretty pastels. To dress the venue we had white cushioned chairs, surrounded by clusters of cream candles and lanterns. Each guest had a fan on their seat, to keep them cool in the heat.
On the tables we had menus wrapped with home grown lavender from our house, tied together with raffia string, along with off white place cards, hand-written in italic writing.
We had a traditional Italian menu for the wedding breakfast, using local, fresh ingredients from the village. To start we had two types of pasta; a parmesan stuffed ravioli with zucchini flowers and a maltagliati with pistachio and bacon sauce. For the main course we had veal with a truffle sauce. Then to finish we had a dessert buffet, which included made to gelato and traditional Italian wedding cake.
We also created customised flip flops for the ladies to wear when their feet started to hurt from all the dancing. Very popular towards the end of the night!
Ceremony Venue: Santa Maria Assunta
Reception Venue: The streets and central piazza of Monte Santa Maria Tiberina Umbria, Italy
Wedding Planner: Sarah Potier at Salve Umbria
Bride’s Dress & Veil: Dress by Maggie Sottero, Veil & alterations by Sartoria Cucciaioli in San Secondo
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Engagement & Wedding Rings: Olivier’s family rings, reset by Boodles into 1 engagement ring & 2 wedding rings
Jewelry For Civil Wedding: Sidney Chung X ring
Hair & Makeup: Cityswish, Natalia’s former company
Bridesmaids Dresses: Bridesmaids own, all pale pink
Groom’s Attire: Morning Suit, Bespoke made on Jermyn St.
Groomsmen’s Attire: Groomsmen’s own morning suits, pink ties
Church Flowers: Maria Mungo, white lisiantus roses curcumima alstroemerias and garden foliage
Table Flowers: By Giambaroli, Casa Del Diavolo, 40 meter garland of olive rosemary and Eucalyptus interspersed with white hydrangeas
Bouquet: By Giambaroli, Ranunculus, valerian, agapanthus, lisianthus & hydrangea
Bride Arrives: Axion Estin
During Communion: Panis Angelicus
First Dance: Felix Jaehn "Ain't Nobody (Loves Me Better)"
Entrance To Dinner: Reality - Mowe Remix "Lost Frequencies"
Catering & Rentals: Apollinare
Photographer: Andrea Cittadini
Guests: Wedding – 150, Civil Ceremony – 25
Priest: Priest Father Michael Gaudoin Parker, from Assisi (+39 075 812 097)
Favors: Personalized fans with their name on it, customized flip flops for women if their heels hurt