The bohemian Italian wedding of HELLO! Online readers Nicola Swientozielskyj and Phillip Barber
HELLO! Online readers Nicola Swientozielskyj and Phillip Barber met at work, as many couples do, but it wasn't all plain sailing. "It took me nine months to even say 'hello' to her," said the groom. "She was just so beautiful."
The couple lost contact when Phil went travelling for a year, but a chance meeting led to romance. "We ran into each other one rainy morning," said Nikki. "A week later I emailed him to see if he wanted to go for lunch, and the rest is history."
The couple's love story may have started on a rainy day in Manchester, but the proposal was far more exotic. After heading to Thailand on holiday, the couple travelled over to the Phi Phi islands where Phil planned to propose after asking permission from Nikki's family.
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"We had a meal on the beach and then went for a walk under the stars," said the groom. "I was so nervous that it ended up being quite a long walk before I finally plucked up the courage to ask Nikki to marry me."
Phil pointed out a star in the night sky, and when Nikki looked up he got down on one knee. "She was completely taken aback but she said 'yes' straightaway through the tears."
"We couldn't wait to tell everyone the news when we got back home," said Nikki.
The beautiful bride wore a bohemian style gown designed by Lily, which she bought from a wedding boutique in Ramsbottom. The white dress had an overlay "veil" covered in white daisies, and had a lace up corseted detail at the back.
"My bridesmaid Deborah had to lace it up for me," said Nikki. "We had to add on 15 minutes to the getting ready time — it was a very intricate process."
The bride's shoes were covered in Swarovski rainbow crystals which sparkled in the Italian sunshine.
"I kept my jewellery to a minimum as the dress just said it all," recalled Nikki. "However I did wear a Vivienne Westwood pearl bracelet as my 'something borrowed'."
Nikki and Phil had always wanted to have their wedding abroad, and stumbled across the St Francis Cloisters in Sorrento, Italy by mistake.
"We did plenty of research and decided that the little town was perfect for our fairytale wedding," said Phil.
The bride arrived at the church escorted by her proud uncle, Steven Swientozielskyj, to the sound of the traditional wedding march. Surrounded by 40 of the couple's family and close friends, Nikki and Phil's bohemian wedding dream came true.
"The highlight of the ceremony was walking down the aisle and seeing the happy look on Phil's face," said the bride. "I was very emotional and found it hard to look at anyone else."
The couple declared their love for each other and exchanged vows amid the historic and majestic pillars of the ancient monastery, as the violin played melodically throughout the ceremony.
The mayor of Sorrento ended the service in Italian with the couple's interpreter Rosario translating the last words.
After the ceremony, Phil and Nikki walked through the busy streets of Sorrento in the afternoon sun. "Complete strangers were waving and clapping and saying how beautiful Nikki looked," said Phil. "It was magical," added the blushing bride.
In keeping with their historic theme, Phil and Nikki chose one of Sorrento’s oldest restaurants, Ristorante O’ Parrucchiano La Favorita, for their reception.
Guests were seated at tables named after the local region, from Capri to Amalfi to Pompeii.
Under a canopy of lemon trees, the wedding party toasted the happy couple with champagne and tucked into a feast of traditional Italian fare. Cutting the wedding cake was one of the most exciting parts of the meal, as the tower of lemon profiteroles erupted into fireworks, reminiscent of Vesuvius.
"Nikki has a love for anything lemon so the dessert and afternoon meal underneath the lemon groves was perfect," said Phil.
"We followed the Italian tradition for newlyweds to kiss until the sparkler on the cake goes out, which was a little embarrassing as it seemed to go on forever, and ended with everyone laughing rather than us kissing," laughed the groom.
The wedding party enjoyed the lengthy meal and listened to a live band playing in the background, and were treated to emotional speeches by Nikki's uncle and Phil.
The celebrations then carried on with an evening reception at the Foreigners' Club, where the couple started the dancing with Dan Auerbach's Mean Monsoon.
"It was the best day of our lives," said Nikki. "I finally found my prince."