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April Showers

Less-than-perfect weather does nothing to dampen spirits at a Jersey destination wedding in the former Versace mansion.

Lia Torre & Stephen Littlewood, April 21, 2012

Guests stayed dry under transparent tents.

The bride wore pearly accessories with classic flair.

The pastry chef at Villa by Barton G. matched the cake to the bride’s dress.

The bride wore pearly accessories with classic flair.

Lia Torre and Stephen Littlewood are active people (she ran track for Villanova and competed nationally in fencing; he was an All-American in lacrosse) who enjoy traveling and dining at the latest hot restaurants. They envisioned a wedding that would be “over-the-top and an experience” for all. Mother Nature more than delivered.

In 2010, after seven years together, the couple faced a transition: Lia was relocating from Philadelphia to New Jersey to become a global brand manager for American Express. One December day, as she baked cupcakes for Stephen’s upcoming 30th birthday party, Stephen, who works for Hanwha Solar, suggested an “early Christmas gift,” and proposed. His birthday bash became an engagement party.

Searching for venues left her uninspired, however. “I wanted something out of the ordinary and I couldn’t find that ‘wow’ factor locally,” she says. They found it when Lia’s co-worker in Miami suggested The Villa by Barton G. (formerly known as the Versace mansion). With the help of a staffer on-site, Suzanne Pallot, Lia and her mother planned everything remotely.

After finding the perfect, classic dress at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, Lia personalized her look with a headpiece she made of netting from a shop in Coral Gables, Fla., embellished with a comb from Saks.
On an April Friday, all 125 guests enjoyed an outdoor welcome party at The Raleigh. Then came Saturday, the wedding day—and April showers, South Florida style, with hail, wind and tornado warnings. “Palm trees were bending in half,” Lia recalls. As The Villa staff scrambled to assemble tents, Lia’s bridesmaids drew the curtains (her package included two nights at the mansion in a suite) to block out the weather as Lia’s hair and makeup team worked. The tempest continued through the ceremony, but when the Torre-Littlewoods emerged from the church, the rain ceased for the rest of the evening.

The couple opted for quick wedding photography (15 minutes), and an informal “moveable buffet” of tables, poolside. Not only was the variety impressive—from a carving station and raw bar, to whimsies like “layered soup” (three varieties in one glass)—but the format inspired a leisurely, sociable environment, also for the bride and groom. “We were really at the party,” Lia says. “Steve particularly loved the espresso bar with funnel cakes. He’d insisted on cheesesteaks, and Barton G. even delivered that.”

Suzanne Pallot recalls how the wedding was “as much about the guests as the couple… It was very gracious.”

Another impressive catering feat was a cake inspired by Lia’s dress.

“It was insane,” she says. “Everything—the service, the setting—was incredibly classy.”

That’s enough to brighten a bride’s day.