A Picturesque Cliffside Wedding in Positano, Italy
What happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas—at least for Joyce Kwok and David Gao, who met there in 2015 and immediately began dating long distance. “Even though we went to the same college studying the same major, we only met through mutual friends on a trip to Las Vegas,” Joyce shares. “We decided to date long distance between San Francisco and New York. David was a consultant at the time and, fortunately, a couple projects in New York allowed us to see each other every month.”
Nine months later, Joyce made the cross-country move San Francisco for good. Four years after that, the duo took a European vacation. “We were on a boat trip in Capri, passing through the Faraglioni rocks; legends say that couples who kiss under the arch will stay together forever,” Joyce remembers. “Two days later, David proposed in Santorini, Greece, on our balcony.”
When it came to wedding planning, that Eurotrip played a major role. “We envisioned an intimate destination wedding in a meaningful and beautiful location. We had visited Positano in 2019 right before David proposed, and loved our time there.” It was the ideal place to host their party of just 45 guests, an intentionally low count. “We wanted the wedding to feel like a family reunion—to personally spend time with each one of our guests and to enjoy the Italian sun, food, and good music.”
A dream team of wedding planners was a necessity. “We were planning from overseas and didn’t have the chance to check out the decorations and food in person,” Joyce recounts. Enter Valentina Di Tinco and Anna Grimaldi of Italian planning group SposiamoVi. “We met over Zoom to discuss our vision and, from there, she presented us options for all aspects of the wedding and lined up all of the vendors.” Even through one pandemic postponement, “it honestly was a stressless planning process,” Joyce says.
Joyce and David said “I do” overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea on September 14, 2021. Read on to see all the chic Italian details, as planned by Valentina Di Tinco and Anna Grimaldi of SposiamoVi and photographed by Christina McNeill.
The wedding week encompassed a few days of events, with Villa San Giacomo as a home base. “We wanted a venue that showcased Positano’s beautiful background,” Joyce says. “Villa San Giacomo was perfect for our wedding—it has the charm of Positano’s classical architecture.” Their color palette of white, gold, and blush was a soft, romantic complement to the landscape.
The day before the wedding, Joyce and David took their guests on a day trip to the island of Capri, where they’d passed under the Faraglioni rocks right before getting engaged. The bride donned a chic white frock, and a lively lunch set the tone for the weekend.
Joyce paired her mermaid silhouette Berta gown with a dazzling pair of Harry Winston earrings gifted by the groom. She carried a classic bouquet of white roses, while her bridesmaids carried white hydrangeas.
David also had his own grooming team. “A barber came onsite and gave the groomsmen haircuts, shaves, and styling for the big day,” Joyce says. Then, David suited up in a light gray Tom Ford three-piece suit, navy tie by Brioni, and black calf Crockett & Jones derby shoes. He accessorized with two meaningful gifts: a Rolex Submariner from Joyce, and a MontBlanc Meisterstück pen from her family.
“Everyone told us how fast the day goes by, so we wanted to make sure we spent time just the two of us throughout the day to savor the magic moments,” Joyce says. It’s one of the reasons they opted for a first look on the balcony before the ceremony.
We wanted to make sure to savor the magic moments.
When it came to ceremony decor, “the view of cliffside Positano and the Tyrrhenian Sea was all the decor we needed,” Joyce says. They lined the aisle with organic arrangements of white roses that seemed to grow directly from the ground, and opted for gold chameleon chairs with white cushions.
“We both walked down the aisle solo,” Joyce says. Florence + The Machine’s cover of “Stand By Me” played as they entered.
They exchanged personalized vows in a sweet ceremony officiated by Raffaele Mitridate, then recessed out to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” as their 45 guests showered them with white rose petals. A romantic dip at the end of the aisle sealed the deal.
Having gotten their photos out of the way at the first look, cocktail hour became one of the couple’s favorite times of the day. A tucked-away corner of the terrace was accented with velvet couches, and a chic bar served a duo of signature cocktails. “We had a local Neapolitan quinte play,” Joyce says. “It was amazing seeing everyone dancing on the terrace of the villa, watching the sunset behind the Positano cliff—especially our parents!”
“We’re a pretty laid back couple, so instead of doing a classy first dance, David put together a mashup of our favorite ’90s throwback and hip-hop classics, beginning with Alicia Keys’ ‘If I Ain’t Got You,’” Joyce remembers. “We fumbled the whole dance but had a lot of fun doing it.”
Dinner was held on an open-air terrace with panoramic views, and guests sat at one long table. “Our planner, Valentina, has this idea of hanging white orchids and wisteria and gold tubes down from the ceiling to complement the long mirrored reception table,” Joyce says. “It lit up the space and was super romantic.”
As guests indulged in Italian dishes, it was time for speeches. “David’s groomsmen did a five-minute roast of him, with all the hilarious moments in their friendship,” Joyce remembers. “It was so funny!”
Cold fireworks exploded as the newlyweds cut into a hexagonal lemon cake, signaling the start of the party.
Everyone moved inside, where the historic venue’s frescoed walls were decorated with metallic mylar balloons, streamers, and disco lighting for a nightclub-inspired afterparty. Joyce swapped her classic wedding dress for something more on-theme, a mini dress full of sparkle.
“Our DJ played until midnight, and after dancing all our guest were hanging out in the pool,” Joyce says. The night went out with a bang: “We ended up jumping into pool in our clothes!” The next morning, everyone gathered to recap the beautiful night at a post-wedding beach party in Positano, and, soon after, the couple headed to the Maldives for a romantic honeymoon.