A Chic DIY Wedding in the Countryside of Portugal

In April 2012, Kirsten Triemstra had just moved back to Los Angeles after spending two years teaching English in South Korea and tagged along to a warehouse party in Chinatown with some friends. “As we arrived, a friend introduced me to Jonathan DiBenedetto, who was sitting outside,” she recalls. “He got me a beer, then we spent the night playing foosball.” A little friendly competition went a long way, and the couple quickly hit it off, spending the next four years together. In September 2016, Jonathan woke up early to make breakfast before the couple headed outside to eat on the picnic table he’d built at their new home. “He gave me a photo album that told the story of our relationship through images of our house," Kirsten explains. “On the last page, he wrote about why he loves our living room rug so much, detailing the design and the color.” But that wasn’t all: He finished the book by telling Kirsten that his favorite thing about the rug was that it was the exact place where he got on one knee and asked her to marry him. “What made our engagement even more special was that Jonathan had been able to ask my father for permission to marry me on the last day they saw each other, which was just a day before my father passed away earlier that year,” says Kirsten. “I cried for a long time that morning, a mixture of joy at our engagement and sadness missing my dad.”

Kirsten says she has always loved Portugal, describing the setting as "Old World charm combined with California cool," so they decided to marry there.“The countryside near Lisbon has really held on to that history, with rolling hills, oak trees, and sprawling vineyards,” she says. There, they found São Lourenço do Barrocal, a luxury farm estate that features whitewashed buildings with red tile roofs, fields of olive trees and wildflowers, and a commitment to locally produced ingredients. (They even make their own wine and grow all of the produce for the restaurant onsite!) The couple invited 90 to join them in Portugal for their May 28, 2018, wedding, and Kirsten planned the whole thing almost entirely herself, even tackling DIY projects to add personal touches to their countryside-chic celebration.

Keep reading to feel inspired by Jonathan and Kirsten’s wine country wedding, as photographed by Pedro Vilela.

Jonathan and his groomsmen all donned black suits, paired with a charming twist from the groom. “He really wanted them all to wear medals, so he bought collectable coins and I created medals for each groomsmen,” says the bride. The medals denoted each man’s relationship to the groom: Family members wore olive leaves, the ceremony musicians had Portuguese fado guitars, the ring bearers got pirate ships. Each man also wore a U.S. $1 eagle coin.

“Every time I tried on a dress, I said ‘It would be perfect if...’ and had a list of changes I would make," Kirsten says. “That is, of course, until I tried on this one!” The bride wore an ivory silk Rivini dress with a plunging neckline, embellished bodice, and sheer overlay. She added Sophia Webster block heel sandals with laser-cut leather flowers, as well as a petite necklace featuring an east-west emerald cut diamond that matched her engagement ring (both made by friend and jewelry designer Julia Musachio). Her textured bouquet paired local white blooms with lots of olive branches and blue sea holly.

The bridesmaids all wore midi or full-length black dresses from Fame & Partners, and all chose their own designs. “The black looked great against the natural backdrop of the farm,” says Kirsten.

Two of Kirsten’s girlfriends served as “flower gals,” tossing olive leaves as they walked down the aisle. The bride’s nephews were both ring bearers. The older boy, Hayden, carried the rings in a gold metal box, while the younger, Brin, held an empty decoy box so he wouldn’t feel left out.

“My father passed away in 2016, so my mother and I walked down the aisle hand-in-hand,” says the bride.

One of Jonathan’s closest friends served as both best man and officiant. The other best man played the guitar throughout the ceremony, strumming “Malagueña” as the wedding party entered and “La Vie en Rose” for Kirsten’s processional. “I was so happy to be surrounded by everyone we love, and couldn’t stop looking into the crowd and smiling through our ceremony,” she says.

Guests tossed small white balls in celebration as the newlyweds came back up the aisle. Says Kirsten, “The day before our wedding, I had almost completely lost my voice. It miraculously came back in time for me to say my vows and stuck around for most of dinner, but I lost it again by the end of the night!”

A long wooden table was draped with a white linen tablecloth and decorated with olive branches and white flowers gathered from the hotel grounds. Kirsten hand-painted a gold top on each cork place card holder, which was set alongside white napkins and green ceramic plates.

The Portuguese menu included acorn-fed pork, grilled vegetables, and traditional sausages, served with porto tonico (white port and tonic cocktails) and wine made at the estate. “We also had regional cheeses, smoked sausage, and late-night miniature sandwiches and chicken pies,” says Kirsten. After dinner, they also had a dessert buffet of farófias (poached meringues), sericá (Alentejo egg pudding with plums), and rice pudding.

The temperature dropped as dinner wrapped up, but the groomsmen had a plan to warm things up again. “As Jonathan and I made a thank you toast, they handed out the lyrics to ‘That’s Amore,’” says the bride. “I absolutely love karaoke, and when Jonathan and I sat down, everyone started singing together!”

The couple’s traditional Portuguese olive oil wedding cake was topped with fondant, olive leaves, and wildflowers. The paper doll topper was one of Kirsten’s DIY projects—one she’d also taken on for her sister’s wedding. After cutting the cake, the couple had a final surprise to show off their special setting: The hotel is in a dark sky reserve and near an observatory, so astronomers brought telescopes to point out Saturn and the moons of Jupiter!

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