Lila McKean Warburton grew up going to St. Barth’s during the winter holidays. “Both my maternal and paternal grandparents started going down in the sixties,” she explains. “My first trip there was at three months old—in a straw bassinet, as my mom likes to say!—so it’s only fitting that I met my future husband there.”
Daniele Benatoff was on the island celebrating New Year’s Eve 2013 with a group of friends from London when a mutual friend introduced him to Lila. “Sparks flew immediately,” she says. “We spent the rest of the night chatting intensely in the corner. The next ten days were a mix of paddle boarding, tennis games, and furiously zipping through family meals to meet up with Daniele and his friends. I would have been classified as ‘overly eager’ to say we fell in love in ten days, but as I said in my vows, I was genuinely hopeful that it would be more than a short-lived vacation romance. That said, I boarded my flight back to New York City, as Daniele departed for London the next day, convinced there wasn’t any chance I would see him again.”
Daniele didn’t make it back to London, though. He had a connection in New York, and as fate would have it, the weather forced him to miss his flight to Heathrow. “He pretended to get on the plane and switched his phone off, but instead he came to my apartment and casually buzzed the intercom to tell me that he was downstairs,” Lila remembers. “It was the best surprise of my life!”
Over the next year, the couple dated long distance. “It was a love affair between us and British Airways,” Lila jokes. “I lost track of the number of times I took the red-eye to London on a Friday night after work, only to return home on Sunday evening. It was the most exciting, spontaneous, and adventurous year of our lives. I fell in love with London and began looking for jobs in private equity over there.” She finally made the move in March 2014. “It was important to me that I relocate on my own accord, and that my move be justified by an exciting professional opportunity,” she says.
That following July, Daniele surprised Lila with a trip to Greece. “My friends were convinced that he was going to propose, but I was sure there was no chance,” says Lila. “On our second night there, he told me that he wanted us to attend a hotel-sponsored drinks reception at the beach club. I should have suspected something was up when he asked me a handful of times if I was sure I wanted to wear ‘that outfit—you know, your skirt has a stain on it.’ I responded coolly, ‘No, I’m saving my good dress for tomorrow. Tonight is just a silly hotel cocktail party.’ Despite his urging that I change, off we went down to the beach. We arrived at the club at sunset, and I was of course expecting to see other hotel guests. But Daniele had rented out the entire beach, had it lit with tiki torches, and printed out photos of us and scattered them over the bar. It was only after he got down on one knee that I realized I probably should have worn the good outfit! We had an incredible traditional Greek dinner cooked for us at a candlelit table under the stars, with no one else in sight—except for the wonderful waiter-turned-photographer.”
The decision to get married in St. Barth’s was an easy one. “It means so much to me and my family, and it is such a special place for me and Daniele,” says Lila. The couple wanted the wedding to feel very intimate, with just their families and a close-knit group of their best friends in attendance. “We wanted it to seem as if we were all just on one big vacation together,” says Lila.
In order to achieve that relaxed family atmosphere, it was important to Lila and Daniele that everyone stay in the same place, so they essentially took over Flamands Beach, with guests staying in villas and hotels right there. “It was fun to run into friends strolling the beach the next morning, rehashing adventures from the night before,” Lila remembers.
With many guests flying in from London, Milan, and even as far away as Bombay, the couple decided to make an extended celebration of it. On Wednesday they had a barefoot dinner in the sand at Eden Rock Hotel. On Thursday most of the guests met at Bonito, overlooking Gustavia Harbour, for lychee martinis and Venezuelan fare. And then, on Friday morning, Lila’s parents hosted an informal breakfast at their villa before the group set off for a hike to Colombier Beach.
On her wedding day, the bride opted for minimal hair and makeup and wore a dress by Oscar de la Renta with a clean, linear silhouette and intricate beading and lacework. “It was one of the first ones I tried on, and I just knew it was the one,” says Lila. “I was looking for a dress that was timeless, fit for a wedding on a Caribbean island, but also evocative of the quintessential, effortless elegance of a bygone era.”
Lila walked down the aisle, escorted by her father, to an instrumental version ofAndrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partirò.” After Lila and Daniele exchanged vows they’d written themselves, Daniele broke the glass and the couple kissed before exiting to “This Must Be the Place” by the Talking Heads. Then guests moved to Hotel Taïwana for cocktails and dinner. After toasts, DJ Nick Cohen got everyone on their feet, before the group relocated to the beach for cake and more late-night dancing.