the wedding files

A Lisbon Wedding Fit for a Palace

“There were a bazillion rooms,” and “every single one was a work of art. It felt like Night at the Museum.”

C x A | Let’s Get Lost | E.P. Stereo
Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
C x A | Let’s Get Lost | E.P. Stereo
Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE

When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “For it not to feel like a wedding!” Gathering with old friends and eating mini grilled cheeses in formalwear to celebrate love feels more special these days than ever, even downright miraculous. And the betrothed have never been less attached to the old wedding handbook — or the need to please their great-aunt. So in a flurry of pampas grass and perfectly mismatched-to-match bridesmaid dresses, how do you pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answers, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal, right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.

Here, we spoke with Alfred Bridi, an immigration lawyer, and Caroline Newton, the associate creative director at Bon Appétit and Epicurious. Given the groom’s peripatetic lifestyle, a destination wedding made sense for the couple, though they had envisioned something a bit “more DIY and messy” than where they wound up last August, which was in a centuries-old palace in Portugal with over 150 guests. Under chandeliers and among the gardens, they honored the Persian tradition of sofreh aghd, made many outfit changes, and danced until dawn.

Caroline: We met on Halloween at a party on a stoop in Brooklyn. I was wearing a purple bob wig and he asked, “What’s your hair underneath?” I took the wig off, and it was a purple bob.

Alfred: We didn’t exchange numbers, but I just kept running into her. She was easy to spot, with the purple hair. I saw her on the street, on the train, at a coffee shop.

Caroline: After the third time, we were both like, “Okay, we need to hang out.” I didn’t think it would ever be serious because he was living three weeks here, one month there, be-bopping around a lot.

Alfred: My life was a little nuts at the time. I grew up in Washington, D.C., went to school in Paris and Brussels, college in Scotland, then to Chicago. I’ve lived in Berlin and London, and in Lebanon around my 30th birthday. I’ve been in New York for six years.

Caroline: But I wanted to be around him. He was just super excited about life, positive, outgoing. He just radiates.

Alfred: Wow, this girl is really wow. She is so sincere and herself. She just shines.

Caroline: Either we had to be best friends or we had to get together, and I didn’t really care which one it was.

Alfred: I had this desire to be with her all the time, and slowly arranged things in my life around that.

Caroline: He proposed first thing in the morning, pre-coffee. Kind of risky! He gave me a ring from his family — it’s purple and turquoise and the main stone was from Madagascar, where his mom lived for a little bit. He was like, “It’s kind of Persian and intense, so if you want your own thing, we will do it.” But no, it was perfect. This is so me: colorful!

Alfred: Once we got engaged, I was just relieved. Oh my God, that was so stressful, and now we can chill a bit. We called one of my dearest friends in Portugal to tell him we were engaged, and he said, “Hey, my family has a place and we do weddings there. We’d love to have you. Why don’t you think about it?” Which is so illustrative of my Portuguese friends — they’re generous and kind and thoughtful.

Caroline: Alfi’s been going to Portugal for years, and I spent two months doing an artist’s residency there. A lot of people would be coming from Europe and the Middle East, so when the friend suggested his family’s place, we were like, “That’s so nice! What do you mean, a little cottage or something?” Truth comes out that his family owns a palace. Sure, sure. Cool, cool, cool.

Alfred: I texted other friends, and they said, “You don’t need to see it. Just say yes.” I think Caro and I were imagining having something a lot more relaxed, more DIY and messy.

Caroline: They had one weekend date available in the next two years, and my family all happened to be free. That’s why I say Portugal chose us. We said yes without even looking at the place, Palácio do Correio-Mor.

Alfred: When we finally saw it months later, I personally had a panic attack. Like, We have to do something that lives up to this location. You can’t fluff your way through a ceremony at a place like this.

Caroline: Every single room was a work of art. It felt like Night at the Museum. We like to party, we like to host, we like to dress up, but for the life of me, I didn’t want it to feel stuffy. I wanted a balance of high-low, and it was like, Okay, the high is done. The location was the high. The mood board was one of the first things I did.

Alfred: We wanted people to have fun, wear the thing they never wear.

Caroline: It was pictures of people in wigs and glitter. I said, I’m not going to get intense about it. But yes, of course. I did.

Alfred: My friends were like, “Oh my God, this fucking mood board. I see Afghan hounds and Cher?”

Caroline: In terms of aesthetic, flowers were a big thing for me. I found this woman, Omer Gilony, who was down to work with me. One of the rooms was very pink-peach and one was green, and we leaned into that to set the tone with monochrome rooms. With rentals, it was a build-from-scratch situation. We were lucky to work with a wedding planner, Diana Pereira at Festa Aluga, because she was associated with the location and knew how to do things.

Alfred: I wanted to wear something that paid homage to my family. My grandmother gifted me a beautiful raw-silk suit of my late grandfather’s. It was from the ’80s and a cream color. I wore that blazer for the ceremony. I went to a very old suit factory in Portugal, Do Homem Lisboa, and they made me two pairs of pants: a metallic green and a more floral baroque-fantasy style. I wore the green for the civil ceremony at city hall, and the floral with my grandfather’s blazer.

Caroline: A few looks made sense because I love dressing up, and also I am indecisive and didn’t know how I was going to stick with one all night. A dear friend of mine, Delfina Baldassarre, is a fashion designer from Argentina. The second we got engaged, she said, “I’ve got to make your dress.” We’d send each other drawings, like, What if it’s a ball on top of pants? And that was the main ceremony look, then I took that big skirt off. During cocktails I wore the top and pants. Dinner was this asymmetrical piece with one glove.

Alfred: And I wore shoes I bought in Beirut, so I had something from my Lebanese side, something from my Persian side, and something from Portugal. I was basically trying to keep up with Caro, because she had a million outfits.

Caroline: I wanted something really fun for the dance party, and I felt a Lebanese designer would be a nice connection. We were in Beirut on New Year’s Eve 2022, and I met with Sandra Mansour. She did a custom thing, combining two dresses, and I wore that for a few hours of dancing. Then they knew I had my eye on this sparkly PJ set, and they sent that over, too. I changed into that around four in the morning.

Alfred: We had a “pre-moon” in the Azore Islands, a convenient 36-hour layover for us from New York to Lisbon.

Caroline: On Thursday, we had a welcome party at a gallery with Persian food, and wine and beer. Friday we did the civil ceremony in Lisbon. I wore my mom’s veil and gloves from her wedding. Saturday was the palace.

Alfred: We got ready separately. There were a bazillion rooms, but Caro had a whole wing to herself — including, hilariously, a little escape room. There was a door that went right to the driveway in case she changed her mind.

Caroline: I got ready with my mom and sister and three friends who went to fashion school, so they were steaming my stuff immediately. Very resourceful for that exact scenario. I was eating bananas and trying to preserve my energy. We had my best friend Liz, a comedian, as our officiant. My brother read a poem, Alfi’s brother read a poem, and then Liz welcomed Alfi’s mom up to kind of conduct the Persian ceremony.

Alfred: The Persian wedding ceremony has many symbols for the married couple’s future: You dip your pinky into honey for sweetness; there’s coins for wealth, eggs for fertility, spices and garlic for health. My mom got us this unusual three-part mirror to symbolize longevity and perspective.

Caroline: It’s around this low table, the sofreh aghd, piled with all these symbolic things. There was this beautiful part, where a piece of cloth was held over our heads, and women from each side of the family come up and take a needle and start threading, like threading the family together.

Alfred: It was gorgeous. Everyone was in tears. The ceremony was in the front courtyard, and then we had a cocktail hour in the back garden. We were really happy with our caterers, ICOOK. It was almost art.

Caroline: There were all these stations. We didn’t try any of ’em, because we were taking pictures. When we were working with our caterers, we were like, “Would it save money if we didn’t do the Portuguese ham-leg station?” And they said, “Nope, that’s a signature for Portugal. Nope.” A quail-egg station? There was no question for certain things. Okay, cool. I was like, trust me, I’m not against it, but …

Alfred: I regret not trying all that.

Caroline: Yeah, we wish we had assigned someone to bring us those snacks.

Alfred: We had dinner around eight, and it was a buffet because we wanted people to eat whatever they wanted, slash we couldn’t decide on one thing to serve.

Caroline: Again, we were in this fancy palace, and a buffet felt like a moment to loosen up the room. People getting up and mingling. The food was modern Portuguese: fish and veggies, a couscous, salad, steak. They did a whole cheese display with fruit after dinner.

Alfred: We had some speeches. I have a tradition with my high-school friends where we do a sketch performance at each respective wedding, and so for me they put me on trial, “to see if you’re able to get a visa to enter Marriage Landia,” or something like that. There was prosecution and defense, and they obviously made fun of me a lot.

Caroline: Everyone moved into the dance room. We had a DJ, our friend Jana Saleh from Beirut. We said, “Okay, you want to do a few hours, then we have someone else.” She said, “I want to do the whole night.” It was a long time!

Alfred: She played Persian music, Lebanese music, American/Western music, house pop, Afrobeats, some Brazilian perhaps. I mean, it was all over. Which is why I love her — she has such a varied musical knowledge.

Caroline: We cut the cake in the middle of the dance floor at 2 a.m. Friends did outfit changes.

Alfred: My Lebanese friends certainly are used to staying up ’til 6 a.m. For a lot of the Europeans, this is more normal. The jet lag helped the Americans who maybe aren’t used to this.

Caroline: I was really impressed. There was no dull moment. We were there until sunrise.

Alfred: When else am I ever going to have all my friends in one room? I obviously wanted to milk it.

Caroline: Everybody was the main character of their life at our wedding.

The morning of the wedding, Caroline had “a whole wing” of Palácio do Correio-Mor to herself for getting ready. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Caroline’s first three looks were created in collaboration with her friend, fashion designer Delfina Balda, a process that inspired Delfina to roll out her own bridal collection. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s friend. Both the bride and groom’s brothers read poems. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Alfred’s first outfit comprised his late grandfather’s cream silk blazer (a gift from his grandmother) and custom floral pants by Do Homem Lisboa. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Among the Persian wedding traditions, the couple dipped their pinkies in honey and fed it to each other. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Also part of the Persian wedding ceremony, women of both families hold — and then sew — a piece of cloth over the couple’s heads. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
The couple, who met on a Brooklyn stoop one Halloween, took a moment to celebrate alone. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Cocktail hour followed in the back garden, with food stations featuring ceviche and a Portuguese pork leg. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
For her cocktail-hour look, Caroline removed the spherical silk skirt she’d worn during the ceremony and let the ruffled crop top and wide-leg pants stand alone. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
The florist, Omer Gilony, brought Caroline’s vision to life: monochrome rooms with arrangements of tone-on-tone flowers and fruit. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
“I wanted a balance of high-low,” says the bride. “The location was the high.” Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
For dinner, Alfred changed into a tux and Caroline into an asymmetrical Delfina Balda dress. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
The meal by ICOOK was served buffet-style to hit a casual note, though Alfred notes the food display was still “opulent.” Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
The cuisine was modern Portuguese and featured trays of cheese and fruit among the desserts. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Being the creative director of a print magazine, Caroline designed all the printed materials for the wedding, including place mats with creative challenges and commands (and glasses of crayons to fill them in). Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
For their entrance, the newlyweds danced around to Jennifer Lopez’s “Waiting for Tonight.” Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Before the dance party started, another outfit change. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Their first dance was to a mix of three songs: Astrud Gilberto’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Hall & Oates’ “Out of Touch,” and Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody (Le Freak Mix).” Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
Dancing went on through the night, to which the European guests were more accustomed than the Americans. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
They cut into their cake on the dance floor, in the wee hours. Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE
“There was no dull moment,” the bride recalls. “We were there until sunrise.” Photo: Ramóne Redondo González/RAMONE

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A Lisbon Wedding Fit for a Palace