In 2008, Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato launched Lizzie Fortunato, an accessories line that utilizes unexpected materials to create unique jewelry pieces. Lizzie, who studied art history and English at Duke, is the designer, while Kathryn—who was also a Blue Devil but majored in economics and got her start on Wall Street—handles the sales and operation side of things. It all began when before leaving for her finance job early one morning Kathryn left Lizzie, who was frustrated with her job in PR, a check for $10,000 along with a note telling her to follow her dreams. Since then, they’ve built a brand that’s a favorite amongst fashion girls and that’s flourished into a successful business that the twins continue to grow together. And, in true twin fashion, after both dating men for around 10 years each, the two both got married the same summer, exactly three months apart. Here, we pick their brains on all aspects of their planning process.
Kathryn: We know you got engaged first. How soon after your engagement was Lizzie’s engagement? What was your reaction to the news?
KF: I got engaged in July 2016 after a trip to Portugal—we actually ended up deciding to get married there because we loved it so much—and we planned an uptown engagement party for September 2016. (Nick’s family is from New York, and we figured this would be a good way to celebrate with Nick’s family friends given we were going to have destination wedding that everyone might not be able to attend).
In the lead-up to the engagement party, my sister’s then-boyfriend Peter revealed to me his plan to propose to Lizzie at Barrio Chino (our favorite Mexican restaurant and the site of their first date) and to rent out the restaurant for all of our family and friends to celebrate after the proposal. He looped me in to help with the party planning—he wanted to know when I thought would be a good night for all of our family and friends to come into town for the surprise engagement. I immediately insisted that Peter orchestrate the Barrio Chino engagement on the Saturday after our engagement party as all of our family would already be in town, and it would continue the celebratory spirit of the weekend.
Peter was so sweet and said he didn’t want to overshadow our engagement party weekend, but I said we had to share! Lizzie and I love sharing everything, so it was completely fitting that Nick’s and my engagement party (on the rooftop of Aretsky’s Patroon, on Friday night was followed by Lizzie and Peter’s surprise engagement on Saturday,. It was the perfect twin weekend and our respective guys are so cool and generous to always share the celebrations with not one significant other, but two (which, for the record, is inevitable when dating / married to twins!).
Princess Eugenie just moved her wedding back to October because the thinking was that the original date was too close to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day and a subsequent tour that they’re doing following the wedding. How did you two go about selecting your dates? Did you consult each other? Was there ever a moment when you both wanted the same date a la Bride Wars? Please walk us through your decision making process.
LF: We definitely thought about this a lot. We didn’t want the weddings to be too close because we share a similar friend group that we thought might be overwhelmed by “Fortunato weddings,” but we also wanted to share the momentum when it came to planning. My parents were definitely pushing for a little further apart, and at one point, my dad specifically said “3 months apart at least.” Ultimately, the weddings were three months apart, almost to the weekend, which felt like the perfect amount of time.
Because we were essentially doing everything at the same time, Kathryn and I really helped each other with vendor selections and planning (not to mention outfit selections!). We all joked that we’d been dating our respective guys for 10 years each and then got married to them about a minute apart. Again, we do things as twins.
KF: The timing worked out so well because our weddings book-ended the summer; all of our friends coined it the “Summer of Love.” We kicked off the summer with my May wedding in Portugal and friends from all of the world got to either catch-up or meet for the first time. By the time Lizzie’s wedding rolled around, everyone felt like they knew each other, so there was this instant, and amazing, momentum and familiarity amongst the guests.
How did you both approach the wedding planning process? Did you consult one another? Was there ever a fear that your weddings might look similar or do you have totally different tastes and aesthetics?
KF: While we have similar over-arching aesthetics, we knew that we wanted the “feel” of each wedding to be different. Having the weddings in two distinctly unique places really helped make this happen organically. For my wedding in Portugal, I wanted it to feel like “fancy adult summer camp,” with everyone spending a long weekend together on this amazing property along the coast with delicious food, warm weather, and dancing. I of course consulted Lizzie every step of the away (on flowers, menu, invites, etc.) because I trust her aesthetic more than anyone’s (she is, after all, known for being the creative genius, where as I am more comfortable working in excel), but I still felt like the wedding was very true to the vibe and aesthetic that Nick and I wanted.
LF: Kathryn set the bar high. Her wedding was gorgeous and felt very “European chic.” Peter and I spend a lot of time upstate, but I really didn’t want our wedding to feel like an upstate cliche. I benefited a ton from having one of my best friend’s Taylor Patterson (of Fox Fodder Farm) transform our tent (used for dinner and dancing) into this almost Tuscan inspired countryside setting—there were no mason jars or pick-up trucks to be seen, instead the tables were dotted with terra cotta vases, perfect summer roses, and fresh fruits. Peter and I love the Hudson Valley—we go up there a lot to hike, go antiquing, explore, and just get out of dodge—so creating a magical weekend up there for our family and friends felt like we were letting them in on an important part of our relationship.
How did you approach the dress search? Lizzie: We know you created your own dress. Kathryn: What did you do?
KF: I started with the traditional route of going to high-end bridal salons in New York City, but felt overwhelmed by the concept of spending so much money on a dress I’d only wear once. I did some research and found a fantastic store in Chelsea called The Bridal Garden. The Bridal Garden sells designer dresses—mostly floor or runway samples—at a fraction of the cost and the proceeds go to childhood education for disadvantaged youths. I loved the concept and was thrilled to learn they carried Lela Rose, whose dresses I had previously tried on and loved. I found a Lela Rose dress there, and while it wasn’t the silhouette I was first expecting (strapless and fitted, whereas I was originally trying on plunging v-necks with full skirts), I fell in love with it and really felt like “a bride.” The experience was really wonderful knowing that I wasn’t breaking the bank and that my purchase was going to something meaningful. Besides, the money I saved allowed me to splurge more on my shoes and other weekend outfits. Lizzie and I ended up going really different directions for our bridal gown styles which I think was fitting—it made each of us stand out on our special days.
How did you both feel on the other’s wedding day? What role did you play and how did you execute it?
LF: I felt like it was my wedding day when Kathryn got married. There was so much love, excitement, emotion, and joy, and I felt so happy that I got to stand by her side throughout it all. I made my toast to her at their rehearsal lunch the day before and was happy to have that off my plate by the day of the wedding (the speech by the way was a huge hit—it garnered lots of happy tears and laughter). We went for a bike ride with our dad (he loves to bike) the morning of her wedding and then had a really fun afternoon getting ready before the early evening ceremony. I stood up next to Kathryn, along with our brother Alex, while my husband Peter beautifully officiated the ceremony. Kathryn’s other “best lady”—Kate Towill—was sadly viewing via FaceTime as she was 7 months pregnant and couldn’t travel internationally. Standing inches away from my sister and her husband made me feel so proud—I didn’t for a second feel like I was losing her, but rather that our family was growing. It was perfect . . .
Kathryn Fortunato’s Wedding in Portugal
KF: By the time Lizzie got married, it wasn’t our first rodeo. Because we had already been through the emotion of my wedding (and the stresses of planning were over), the whole thing just felt really fun. Ironically, though, I felt more nervous prior to Lizzie’s ceremony than I did for my own. I think sometimes twins take on the stress for the other one, it’s our way of watching out for each other. For both weddings, we were by each others’ sides throughout the weekend and wedding day in particular, helping each other get ready, soothing each other’s nerves and just making one another laugh. During the pre-wedding photos that Ro took, the guys joked it looked like Lizzie and I were getting married because there were so many portraits of the two of us.
Lizzie Fortunato’s Wedding in Upstate New York
Do you fight or get frustrated with each other at any point during the wedding planning process? Was there ever any tension? Be honest!
KF: I wish we could be more entertaining with tales of drama and bride wars. But the honest truth is, we really did not fight during this process. I think the only drama was that I booked the same DJ (Kenan Juska of Chances with Wolves) after my sister did, but my wedding was first. So when people saw him upstate in August they were like “Lizzie got Kathryn’s DJ!” . . . and she wanted credit for booking him first! With that said, both celebrations were so joyous and fun and there was really no drama. It was more like we were both really sad once mine was over and thrilled that we had another big party to look forward to!
LF: We don’t fight too much. Our most memorable fight ever was in 10th grade in high school when we both had a major crush on the same guy (he’s now one of our mutual best friends and was a guest at the weddings). With the exception of that emotional and dramatic teenage summer, our subsequent “fights” last about 15 minutes and usual end in a “Sorry, I love you.” Of course, we can get annoyed with each other when one sister asks the other (1 million times), “Do you like this outfit (Kathryn)?”, “Is my hair sticking straight up (Lizzie)”, etc., but part of the beauty of planning our weddings in tandem is that we both got to ask each other those questions. I think it would have been much harder if only one of us was getting married and the other sister was playing the “supporting”. role.
Now that it’s all over what’s your favorite “sister memory”?
KF: I loved Lizzie’s toast to Nicky and me at Restaurant Sal (the site of our seaside rehearsal lunch in Comporta, Portugal). She recounted childhood memories, when I first met Nick 10 years ago, and how we founded the business. (At the time, I was working on Wall Street, and she was in fashion PR, which she hated. On the morning of our 23rd birthday, I left her a $10,000 check early in the morning before I left for my finance job with a note telling her to follow her dreams, and the Lizzie Fortunato business was born). She spoke about us growing together as roommates, best friends, sisters, and business partners—it was at once hilarious and incredibly moving.
LF: This isn’t the most grand or glamorous memory (there are plenty of those too), but there was a weekend prior to my wedding when Kathryn (lovingly and patiently) rented a Sprinter van with me and schlepped decor and lawn games and liquor up to The Dutchess property, where we were hosting my wedding. We were both sweating in jean shorts, packing and unpacking the van but we were blasting great music and telling each other stories and it reminded me of being in high school and driving around together. I really loved the process of planning and watching the big day come together and sharing each of these little steps with my sister was as fun and special as sharing the huge moments when we were all dressed up and amongst friends. Kathryn is always game for my adventures (be it building our business or hauling tiki torches in a van) and as a result we have so many low key, but excellent, memories together. It was the sum of all those little moments that made the process so wonderful.