Set to be married in a grand celebration in Rome next year, Andrea Albani and Camille Lhuillier decided to have a civil wedding in Manila
One serendipitous day in 2017, Camille Lhuillier was asked by her brother, Philippine Consul General for San Marino Jean Henri, to take his friend out for drinks. International businessman Andrea Albani was just in Manila for a few days and Jean Henri thought that his sister was a great candidate to take him out since they were in the same age group. “We hit it off right away,” says Camille who revealed that Andrea wanted to go on a date as soon as he could fly back to Manila.
From dating to proposing
A long-distance affair can be quite the challenge, but the two have been able to strengthen their relationship through frequent travels. Andrea was based in Asia during their first year as a couple, giving the pair an opportunity to explore countries within the region such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Their second year had him fly back to his country, San Marino, but he found a way to stay closer to Camille with a job in Hong Kong.
A man who respects tradition, Andrea asked permission from Camille’s parents last December if he could marry their daughter “But he did not ask me yet. My parents were already sharing the good news that we were engaged. People were asking me if he had proposed already, but he hadn’t,” says Camille. “People were getting confused, because we were already booking wedding suppliers. We even chose a date, and no proposal yet.”
It was only when they flew to Rome last February to meet his parents and to scout for some venues that he proposed. “He surprised me in Rome where I grew up, and he proposed with his mother’s ring which was quite beautiful.”
Pandemic broke out
Soon after, Covid-19 outbreak happened. Camille heaved a sigh of relief that Andrea was able to book a flight early from Italy to Manila before the lockdown was announced. Another fateful move that kept her then-fiancé by her side all throughout this pandemic. “We’ve been living together in an apartment since he arrived last March—just before the lockdown. My parents are just really grateful I wasn’t alone. Him being with me is just a big help. We were planning to move into our new house this October, same month as our original wedding,” she adds.
Sometime around May, the couple decided to move their wedding that was supposed to be set this October in Rome. “We talked about the situation and we were still optimistic that there would be a vaccine but we didn’t know it would be this bad. My parents are older, so just to be safe, we moved our wedding to May of next year,” says Camille who added that October was too soon to be getting on the plane. “We just want to make sure that it was safe for everybody.”
After a month and a half, they decided to push through with their civil wedding. “We were afraid that if it got worse here, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate,” says Camille, who credits her dad for giving value to traditions and supporting the idea of having a civil wedding. When asked if there were any road bumps that they encountered, “The civil requirements were really a lot. It was hard to do everything offline, including a family planning seminar in Tagalog that lasted for four hours. It was difficult for him because he didn’t speak Filipino.”
Once they got the paperwork down pat, planning for the civil wedding took only two weeks. Being the general manager of Palacio de Memoria, it was but natural that they got married in this beautifully restored pre-war mansion. Its ground floor was their chosen venue, which has a grand staircase, a show-stopping Murano chandelier, and terrazzo floor by National Artist Juan Nakpil.
The next task she did was book a fitting with designer Mark Bumgarner. “He’s really amazing. We only had a short conversation and he got exactly what I wanted—a vintage style tea-length dress, which was very different to my wedding gown for next year.” She also added that the whole team was dressed in PPE (personal protective equipment) and wore gloves and masks, even conducted rapid tests to reassure her. Gideon Hermosa was also her florist of choice. A quick phone conversation gave the stylist a freehand on decor, with his Lille Feast by House of Hermosa team at the Palacio de Memoria bright and early to fix up the venue, filling up the place with beautiful white and pink peonies and roses. They even brought their own medical team to conduct rapid tests that day. Photographer Oly Ruiz and video suppliers Jason Magbanuaare the same ones for next year, so that was an easy booking to finalize.
Safe and personal
As for the coordinator, she was quick to reply, “None, it was just me!” With only 18 family members as their guests, Camille opted to make it more personal as the host that day. She also made sure that everyone felt safe that day, “We all wore masks, and seats were socially distanced. Everyone also went through rapid tests prior to entering the venue. We also had a setup where they would disinfect with alcohol and other standard protocols.”
Despite living together prior to this celebration, Camille was still a giddy bride when she was coming down the stairs. That was her favorite moment, “When Andrea saw me for the first time, and as I looked into his eyes, I felt so happy, thinking, ‘This is the man I’ll be spending the rest of my life with.’” There was an overwhelming well of emotions that day. “We didn’t have a chance to be with my family for the whole lockdown period and even after the ECQ. This wedding celebration was a time to get everybody together.”
Best decision ever
In hindsight, they were glad to have pushed through with the civil wedding on July 15. “After everything that happened during the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine)—everything was so stressful like moving our wedding date—why don’t we do it (get married)? Let’s make it (our marriage) legal this year and celebrate something special. I think this is very important as a ‘coup’ bride. There is this feeling of quite a big sadness, because you’re expecting your big day to happen at a certain time, you’re planning it for a year and it doesn’t happen.”
She admits that, as a bride, she never got to experience any of the festivities for one to feel like a bride such as wedding showers and bridal parties. But then, they were already planning on building a house together. “We also wanted to give ourselves a celebration. It was something nice for us to kind of bring people together and celebrate us. Next year’s wedding will be about family and friends. This civil wedding was about enjoying the blessings around being with each other.” Her heart goes out to all the brides this year, “It is frustrating to plan your wedding for so long and have it taken away. I think that having the civil wedding is a good way to get back the power that this year has taken away from us brides. Let’s put a little happiness and celebration into it.”