A Multi-Day Autumnal Wedding on the Amalfi Coast
Entrepreneur Gwendolyn R. von Rahn and financier Ron Ongaro Jr. are New Yorkers, through and through. And, as such, theirs is a “quintessential New York City love story,” Gwendolyn says. They met at an East Village bar in 2014, where they were both planning to stop in for just one drink at a mutual friend’s happy hour. “But it turned into a classic NYC night filled with dive bars, cheap beers, and late-night Crif Dogs on St. Marks Place,” recalls Gwendolyn, the founder of bespoke hat company Heads of State. “I was drawn to Ron’s laugh and his kindness—not to mention how handsome he looked in a suit, with his perfectly coiffed blonde hair and cute glasses.” Ron adds: ”Gwen’s personality filled the room. You couldn’t miss her from a mile away.”
The couple began dating and moved to a condo in Brooklyn, where they eventually got engaged—a special moment just the two of them. After Gwendolyn said yes and they enjoyed a romantic dinner at Gramercy Tavern—another iconic New York spot—they headed to Arlo SoHo hotel for one last Champagne toast. “When I arrived, both of our families and 30 of our closest friends were all waiting for us,” Gwendolyn remembers. “Ron had secretly flown in my family and friends from Atlanta, Florida, and California for a weekend celebration. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
This was mid-pandemic, so the duo first said “I do” in a micro wedding in Montauk, a popular COVID escape for New Yorkers. Finally, after two cancellations, they got their dream destination wedding. And, instead of hosting friends and family for just one day, Gwendolyn and Ron made a week of it, celebrating all along the Amalfi Coast. “We both knew we didn’t want a big traditional wedding and, since we’re both such wanderlusts, we wanted to do something more intimate abroad,” Gwendolyn says. “When we coupled our love of the beach with Ron’s Italian family roots, the Amalfi Coast was the perfect choice.”
So, 40 guests traveled for the five-day celebration, which began with a bachelorette party in Positano. Next, there was a food and wine tour in Sorrento at Agriturismo Fattoria Terranova, followed by a sunset cruise to Ravello, a town “suspended in the clouds on the top of the mountain over the Italian coastline,” Gwendolyn says. There was also a welcome party in Scala, the wedding day of course, and a beach recovery day.
In pulling it all together, “it was important to us to work with local vendors across the board, from the florist to photographers to hair and makeup to musicians,” Gwendolyn says. “We didn’t feel it was necessary to outsource any vendors when there was so much beautiful, soulful talent on Amalfi Coast and in the surrounding areas. To do so would have felt like we were sacrificing the local character.”
They worked with Italian planner Laura Frappa from the get-go. “She was patient with us through two-and-a-half years of planning, two postponed weddings, and the uncertainty of COVID when we decided to ‘just go for it’ during our September 2021 wedding week,” Gwendolyn says. “She was a miracle worker and has a brilliant eye for design.”
It was all worth it in the end: Their wedding even went viral on TikTok with more than 8 million views on the bride’s posts. Read on to see all the incredible, intimate details, as planned by Laura Frappa at Exclusive Italy Weddings and photographed by Gianni di Natale Photographers.
Italy has become a top destination for weddings, but Gwendolyn and Ron wanted to make sure theirs was “a big departure from your stereotypical lemons and greenery,” she says. They opted instead for an “autumnal Victorian romance” aesthetic, incorporating a palette of soft fall colors. “Our vision for the wedding week, and especially the wedding day, was to not overdo it and play off of the natural elements of the Amalfi Coast,” Gwendolyn says. “We also didn’t want to shy away from color. Once we postponed our wedding to September, we knew we wanted to ditch the whites and greenery and go for autumnal elegance, which fit perfectly with Villa Cimbrone’s history and gothic architecture. It was utterly romantic.”
For their welcome party at Trattoria da Lorenzo in Scala, Italy, Gwendolyn wore a custom gown made from vintage Christian Dior lace fabric. “We danced the night away with a five-piece Neapolitan band, and were surrounded by candlelight as friends and family gave toasts of well wishes,” Gwendolyn remembers.
I tried on hundreds of dresses and nothing seemed to make sense until I found Galia Lahav.
“I tried on hundreds of dresses and nothing seemed to make sense or fit me right until I found Galia Lahav,” Gwendolyn says. “There is just something about how she knows to flatter a women’s body.” She found the ethereal dress of her dreams, then worked with the designer on custom cape sleeves to add on.
For beauty, Gwendolyn envisioned something “classic, timeless, and sexy,” she says. “So, I opted for an old Hollywood glamour look, and my signature bright red lip.”
Ron wore a navy blue tuxedo by Enzo Custom—but it was his shoes that stole the show. “Del Toro made a custom pair of black velvet loafers for Ron that included one American flag and one Italian flag on either shoe,” Gwendolyn describes. “Del Toro manufactured them right there in their studio in Naples, Italy, and shipped them directly to our venue. The shoes were a huge hit.”
For guests, the wedding-day experience began before they even arrived at the venue. “Villa Cimbrone is only accessed by foot—you cannot get there by car—so our guests met in the Ravello Piazza, the town square, for welcome Aperol Spritz cocktails and were accompanied by a Neapolitan band as they made their way up to the gardens of Villa Cimbrone,” Gwendolyn shares. “Our ceremony was hosted in the quaint garden called The Tea Room, with the backdrop of a magnificent gothic column structure, and the sun peeking out from hundreds of trees.” Handpainted fans were waiting at each guest’s seat along with flower petals in linen pouches blocked with the wedding crest.
“We had a live string quartet for the ceremony and my father walked me down the aisle to an instrumental rendition of ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay,” Gwendolyn says. One of the couple’s best friends served as officiant.
We wrote our own vows and ended up sharing them with each other privately on the morning of our wedding in a sweet, intimate moment on the balcony of Villa Cimbrone,” the bride shares. “We were able to get the ugly crying out of the way and actually make it through our vows once the ceremony rolled around. I’ll forever cherish that private moment, and it is one of the greatest pieces of advice that I could give to couples.”
Gwendolyn’s other best piece of advice? “Throw the wedding rulebook out the window,” she says. “There is nothing that says you need to do anything about your day a certain way. Make it your own and try to keep the third-party opinions to a minimum. At the end of the day, the people who truly matter and care for you will be there with bells on.” In planning their destination wedding, she adds, “we were truly celebrating our love and marriage in a way that was authentic to us.”
The string quartet continued during a romantic cocktail hour overlooking the mountains of the Amalfi Coast. Guests sipped Limoncello Spritzes and espresso martinis.
Our reception decor was something out of a fairytale.
“Our reception decor was something out of a fairytale,” Gwendolyn says. The space—Villa Cimbrone’s Crypt—was outfitted in autumnal florals with a palette of rust, yellow, gold, and deep coral. Flower Addicted created a hanging installation over the long table of dried foraged leaves and fresh flowers.
“We wanted to support local artists in any way we could, especially given the area’s reverence for ceramics,” the bride shares. “We worked a local artist who hand-blocked our custom tablecloths and handpainted our dining chargers, and even had another artist custom paint our initials onto ceramic limoncello bottles and shot glasses for our guests to take home.” The finishing touch? A custom tambourine handpainted by Shhh My Darling with each guest’s portrait at his or her place setting. “I’m in still in awe of the creativity all the vendors brought to the table.”
Dinner was an authentic menu of local seafood and fresh, homemade pasta. “We surprised our guests with an Italian opera singer during dinner as a gift to our parents,” the bride recalls. “We’ll never forget the look on our guests’ faces when the tenor began to sing.”
The duo danced to “Flowers in Your Hair” by The Lumineers. “When Ron and I first started dating, we would frequently play this song on my record player in the early hours of the morning, and dance around in my tiny East Village apartment,” Gwendolyn says. “It’s a special song to us, so it was a no-brainer to choose it as our first dance song.”
They opted for a classic Italian millefoglie as the wedding cake. “We never thought to make our cake cutting moment a focal point, but once we walked over to cut the millefoglie, our DJ played ‘That’s Amore’ by Dean Martin and the entire wedding burst into song and dance,” Gwendolyn shares. “It was a moment I’ll remember forever.”
Then, the party got going. We danced the night away to a DJ who brought the house down,” Gwendolyn says. But, their perfect wedding week didn’t end there. The next day, they chartered a boat to take their 40 guests from Amalfi to Praiano, where they hosted a recovery day beach party at Il Pirata. “We had a custom Aperol Spritz bar set up as guests arrived, and they enjoyed lunch after cliff jumping into the Mediterranean,” the bride shares.
Following their five-day celebration, they brought 20 of their closest friends along for a three-day “buddymoon” in Capri—filled with private chef dinners and yachts—before escaping at last to the island of Ischia for their honeymoon.