Daniela Benaim and her partner Jonathan Levy got engaged at Villa Planchart, architect Gio Ponti’s mid-century design icon, perched on a hill overlooking their hometown of Caracas. “I knew how creative and detail-oriented my boyfriend was, but this time he outdid himself,” recalls stylist and art director Daniela, who thought she was there for a business meeting to discuss using the property as a filming location. “I didn’t see it coming that Johny was the one waiting there. It was the most dreamy proposal: unexpected, intimate and in the most magical place.
He also set the bar high for the wedding venue. “Because we live in London and our family and friends are all over the world, it wasn’t easy deciding where to get married,” the bride says now. But after considering various destinations, Daniela finally realized her dream wedding was in Venezuela. “Hot but cool weather, food that tastes like home, Latin music, dancing until dawn…”
The pandemic ended their original August 2020 wedding date, but now the couple were keen to celebrate in their native Caracas and went ahead with planning a slimmed-down ceremony (for 130 guests, instead of 300), a year later than expected. Yet achieving their dream was not without complications.
The initial civil ceremony at Hendon Town Hall in north London was twice canceled due to changing Covid rules, before finally taking place in May. “I was so happy,” recalls Daniela, who wore a white Zara suit she bought online that day, and carried a bouquet of pink flowers from Peckham’s Sage Flowers. “It was the first time in a long time that our family and friends were in the same room, and we got to hug them.”
Everything seemed to be on track, until Mexico was added to the red list and the couple’s flight to Venezuela – via Cancun – for their official wedding was cancelled. Daniela and Jonathan, a lawyer, had to leave earlier than planned and self-quarantine at a Cancun hotel, finalizing plans for their big day while crossing their fingers that Hurricane Grace doesn’t compel them to cancel it a second time.
In the end, the traditional Jewish ceremony went exactly as they had hoped, with Daniela and Johny exchanging their vows under the Chuppah at Quinta La Esmeralda, while their guests refreshed themselves with fans placed on their seats. “After my dad gave me the traditional blessing, Johny surprised me by singing a Hebrew wedding song to the tune of a ballad we love by Mexican singer Luis Miguel,” the bride explains.
Daniela, who rented a beautiful old house in Caracas for the wedding party to get ready, wore a Vera Wang dress from the Fall/Winter 2020 collection – the first dress she tried on after getting engaged. “I didn’t expect to be the princess dress type, but when I saw it I knew it was what I wanted: timeless and modern, white but not completely – it has a few touches of beige and off-white – classic and unique.” She added Prada kitten heels from the first collection overseen by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, a pair of Wolf & Badger earrings and a Fern fan.
Tequeños (“delicious crispy pastries filled with melted white cheese”), were served after the ceremony. (“There is no respectable Venezuelan party without tequeños,” says Daniela). Guests were then seated at long tables for an al fresco feast of Italian antipasto followed by a choice of paella, salt-crusted fish and freshly made pasta, plus a selection of pies and cakes for dessert.
Instead of a first dance, Daniela and Johny chose a five-track medley that included Nat King Cole’s “LOVE” and Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade’s “Tú Si Sabes Quererme.” “My dad and I then danced an old-fashioned Venezuelan waltz – beautifully performed by musician Harold Vargas – followed by the horah, where our friends put Johny and me on chairs and started shaking us,” explains the married.
Daniela briefly left the dance floor to put on her custom By Efrain Mogollon evening dress – a gift from the designer – to which she added Espeletia earrings “to celebrate Venezuelan fashion”. To what is called in Latin America local houror “the crazy hour,” black lace masks were thrown at guests, while the bride donned a floral headpiece designed by hairstylist Moe Mukai and inspired by the infamous surreal 1972 Rothschild ball. let go to dance the Tambor, an Afro-Venezuelan coastal dance that I love.
After so many obstacles, the heartbreaking memory of Daniela’s day is how “proud of us” she felt, she says now. “And excited about our new chapter as husband and wife. I felt so ready and secure, but most of all, madly in love.
This article originally appeared on Vogue.co.uk
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