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Actress Merritt Patterson Brought Old Hollywood Glamour to Her Wedding in Puglia

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Nastia Vesna

|Planning by 

Impression Villas & Weddings

Five years after meeting at a music festival, actress Merritt Patterson and talent agent JR Ringer said, “I do,” in Italy, which was also the locale of their first international trip as a couple. “You can’t go wrong in Italy! The people, the food, the landscape—everything is incredible,” Merritt shares.

The couple and Victoria Boukhanets of Impression Villas & Weddings eventually found Masseria San Giovanni, a private property in Puglia with enough rooms to fit all of their immediate family and a few friends. Plus, there was enough space to facilitate all of their different weekend events: The small chapel was just right for the ceremony; the terrace was meant for sunset aperitifs; the stone courtyard could seat all their guests for dinner; the pergola area could serve as a dance floor; and the pool would cool everyone off the next day. During the weekend, Nastia Vesna lensed every special moment.

“We wanted to embrace the natural beauty of the area,” the bride shares. “Natural tones, textures, and colors were the obvious choice.” They incorporated as much of the local flora as possible with Giuseppe Armenise’s expertise and complemented the milieu with decor. She adds, “The signage was simple, intentional, and designed by our good friend, Brittany Giello at Partners in Crafting.”

As for her bridal ensemble, Merritt had a very specific vision. “I was initially attracted to dresses with lace and other appliqué, and I didn’t want strapless,” she says. “But, as I had heard was common prior to the wedding dress experience, I ended up with the opposite.” The moment she put on the Ophelia by Rita Vinieris, she felt so editorial and elated. The tulle skirt brought texture, and the silhouette brought all of the drama this actress needed on her big day. She paired it with comfortable Loeffler Randall Camellia bow heels in Pearl, which were meant for dancing the night away. Tania Nitsak created her glamorous beauty look.

Ever inspired by the fashion of film stars from the 1960s and 1970s, Merritt was drawn to an elbow-length veil reminiscent of Priscilla Presley’s. Her custom tulle gloves were another nod to Old Hollywood style and Audrey Hepburn. She accessorized with her grandmother’s earrings and a family opal ring her mother gifted her—a special “something old, borrowed, and blue”.

JR wore a custom tux by the New York–based bespoke tailor shop Articles of Style with shoes by Del Toro. He thoughtfully had his and his bride-to-be’s initials and wedding date engraved on the soles.

On September 17, 2022, guests gathered and turned off their phones to be fully present for the breathtaking ceremony. “We wanted the ceremony to really reflect us as a couple and what we value, not necessarily what’s traditional,” Merritt mentions.

The bride descended the stairs as a quartet played Etta James’s “At Last,” and her parents walked her down the aisle. The couple’s good friend, Erica Massey, officiated. To “tie the knot,” Erica included the handfasting tradition with a cedar weaving made by her mother-in-law and the couple’s close family friend. The bride and groom shared their own never-before-heard vows. “Having your family and friends surrounding you and your partner while you reflect on the journey thus far and make promises for a bright loving future is such a powerful moment,” Merritt notes. JR’s sister performed the reading of Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind.” The Ringers exchanged rings and sealed everything with a kiss before walking down the aisle to a string version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

On the terrace, guests dined on Italian hors d’oeuvres and sipped fine wines, rosé, beer, Prosecco, and, of course, Aperol Spritzes. Two live cooking stations served fresh mozzarella and panzerotto. The Mustacchi Bros, an Italian swing band, played as the sun set. Then, everyone voyaged downstairs to the courtyard for a three-course dinner and Merritt’s carefully curated playlist.

They found their seats with calligraphed tambourines, which proved useful for the uproarious, tender speeches given in-between plates. Merritt’s sister delivered a speech with laughs, tears, and a film clapboard. JR’s brother told tales of mixed identities and all the hilarity that ensues in having a lookalike brother. The parents of the bride sprinkled classic film lines in their toast. Comedy writer Jimmy Ruggiero had plenty of material considering that he lived with the groom for nine years. One of the bride’s best friends, Kari Jacobs, ended the night with a humorous and heartfelt toast and a request for the couple to saber a bottle of Champagne with an engraved saber sword she gifted to the newlyweds.

For the cake cutting, the couple used a different blade to slice through their Il Fagiano confection. “We had initially hoped to use the sword that belonged to my great grandfather, Dr. Gordon Jepson. It was part of his ceremonial uniform from WWI. My grandparents had used it to cut their wedding cake and my parents and my sister and her husband after them, but being in Italy made sword travel unlikely,” Merritt explains. When Victoria heard the couple lament this in the early stages of designing the wedding, she said, “I have a sword” and swiftly cut out this problem.

Friends and family lined the arched corridor with sparklers, lighting the couple’s path to the bar and dancefloor. The newlyweds shared their first dance to Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and didn’t stop dancing with guests until the early morning hours.