We felt privileged to have witnessed two love stories last Sunday, Dec. 8, in Cebu.
One love story is a beautiful, if navigable, path that led to the altar on that feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The other love story, just as beautiful, is a long winding road that people pray and hope will lead to the altar soon.
However different, these unfolding tales left the guests teary-eyed. It’s not often that one sees wedding guests dabbing tears from their eyes as the couple said their vows, their best friends recalling the blooming of a relationship, and an Italian émigré father, who called himself, “capo,” talking about his only daughter and the family he loved above anything else.
They may not have intended it, but lawyer Ian Dato and restaurateur/entrepreneur Giorgia Guidicelli tugged at our heartstrings as they exchanged vows at the St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Lahug, Cebu City.
Theirs is a romance nurtured through shared passion— triathlon, for one—and values —faith in God and love of family.
But since Giorgia is the only sister of show biz star/champion racer Matteo Guidicelli, who would have been able to ignore his presence—with his fiancée, Sarah Geronimo, one of the country’s most popular, bankable stars, she of awesome musical talent?
Sarah was Giorgia’s maid of honor, and Matteo was among the groomsmen.
Theirs is the love story that people follow with enthusiasm —its thrills and travails. It’s been fodder for media for the past five years since they started dating. (Matteo, a heartthrob of a car racer, was Sarah’s fan who longed to meet her. When they finally met, the story just became more and more incredibly interesting.)
Theirs is the circuitous love route that people hope will finally end at the altar—very soon. It was amusing how even the officiant and Mass celebrant, Archbishop of Cebu Jose S. Palma, after the Mass, referred to Matteo and Sarah as the “newlyweds-to-be.”
That Sunday afternoon, the city was drenched. A heavy downpour came at noon, but stopped as the guests started to stream into the church.
We loved how the stark white gladiola, arranged intermittently, merely enhanced the setting. The flowers neither overpowered the setting nor distracted the eye.
And unlike in overdecorated weddings, guests in long gowns and black suits and barong didn’t have to hop over the pew decor to get to the aisle, because the pews weren’t roped in. We hope wedding venue designers will take the cue from Pinky Ong and her team who decorated the church and the reception venue. (At weddings, try negotiating the aisle decor in your long formal wear.)
Dato and his mother, Dr. Norma Dato, led the wedding march, and his eyes had the smile that would make every woman want to be a bride again.
The principal and secondary sponsors were followed by the maid of honor. Expectedly all eyes were on this petite star, who looked perky and stylish in a light lemon yellow chiffon column gown. Mia Arcenas-Branellec’s design emphasized how model-thin Sarah now is.
It was apparent how Sarah took her bridal role seriously —she kept fixing the bride’s train diligently at Mass and held up the bride’s veil as she received Communion.
At the procession, after Sarah came the bride’s parents, Gianluca Guidicelli and wife Glenna (nee Fernan). Glenna looked elegantly young in Mia’s embroidered gown with maria clara-style top. Mia is related to the Guidicellis, on the Fernan side.
The couple stopped midway to the altar, and Matteo and younger brother Paolo walked toward them to lead their mother to the altar, as their dad stood, waiting for the bride to emerge from the door. A tableau of a tight family.
As the doors opened and the noonday sun poured in to cast a glow on her path, the bride began her walk—the simple, affable Giorgia looking as happy as her groom. She was in a classic, short-sleeved wedding dress cinched at the waist, with a dramatic cathedral train that unfolded as she walked. Her hair was held back in a low bun.
Following Giorgia’s wish, Mia patterned the wedding gown after the bridal dress of the bride’s paternal grandmother, her nonna (Italian for lola). It’s a contemporary retro masterpiece of delicate Italian lace and faint, suggestive glitter.
The bride held back her tears as she held on to her father, before her groom took her hand.
An only daughter, Giorgia is daddy’s girl, who helps Gianluca run the Trattoria in Cebu and the family’s export business. It was one night at Trattoria, about four years ago, when Ian was dining with friends. Giorgia walked in, and as the best man, lawyer Lowell Yu, would recall later at the reception, they knew even then that Ian only had eyes for her.
That night Ian tried to small-talk Giorgia—about the parma ham on the table, only to be rebuffed by Giorgia with “I don’t slice parma ham.”
Since that night, Ian had looked for ways to meet Giorgia. Then came the breakthrough in 2018: the Guidicellis’ friend from Alabang, Grace Palaganas, told the Guidicellis that she wanted to introduce Giorgia to a lawyer.
Ian and Giorgia not only got along but also bonded on a solid foundation. Saying her wedding vows at the reception, Giorgia recalled how, years ago, she wrote down “10 non-negotiable qualities for a perfect man.”
She talked about how they shared a “devotion to God, and sense of values.”
“I found my home,” she told Ian about their marriage.
Ian then promised, “I will be with you in all seasons of life.”
Beyond the words, what was very touching was Ian’s dance with his mother, and Giorgia’s with Gianluca. It was obvious how the newlyweds are so attached to their parents. (Ian’s father, the late Bayani Dato, was vice governor of Northern Samar—a politician for 30 years.)
These moments on the dance floor were so heartwarming that they must have left the mom and dad in each guest quite envious.
Gianluca spoke about how life was really about building a family—the main reason his parents migrated to the Philippines from Italy was to be with the grandchildren Matteo and Giorgia, and years later, Paolo.
“What we truly have in this world is family, not possessions.”
Sarah went beyond singing Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” and braved the task of having to speak. With Matteo’s arm around her the whole time, Sarah read notes from her phone, recalling how from the time she was introduced by Matteo to Giorgia, in a video call, since Giorgia was studying in the United States, Giorgia “treated me like a friend and family … she even had pasalubong for me. And she took care of me when I was sick while visiting Cebu, giving me tea and medicines … Never once judging me … ”
Sobbing a little, as Matteo looked lovingly at her, she continued, “She’s someone I can turn to always when things get rough … ”
Then Sarah, young as she is, advised the newlyweds to “pray as a couple. Make God the solid foundation of your life … To finish the race with Him.”
Matteo and Sarah then did a duet that stirred up the house —Jim Brickman’s “Destiny.”
This was a wedding where sincere emotions shone through —in words and in music.
When Matteo and Sarah returned to their seats at our table at the end of the night, Matteo’s eyes were quite puffy from crying, and Sarah held his hand.