Robert “Chip” Heidt III and Olga “Gigi” Duarte’s romance begins with a sweet story. The two attended elementary school together, and Gigi had decided that Chip looked a lot like her beloved celebrity teen heartthrob. So, with that in mind, she set out to make the young man her boyfriend. She wrote him a note asking him to be her beau and requested that he circle either “yes” or “no;” Chip wrote “maybe” and circled it. Gigi was smitten. “I still remember the feeling of not being totally rejected by him. It remains one of my favorite memories of us,” she admits with a grin.
After dating for many years, Chip, who had joined the military, felt the time was right. He went to visit Gigi at graduate school and whisked her off for a romantic lunch and to stop at his parents’ home to see their pool renovation. “I had a huge project due and was not in the mood. However, Chip was persistent and I hadn’t seen him for months, so I put my schoolwork aside and left with him,” she explains.
While casually chatting on the balcony of Chip's parents' beachfront property, the conversation turned serious. He began to describe to Gigi how special she was to him and, before she could process it all, Chip was on bended knee. “As he reached for the ring from his pocket, he fumbled, causing the ring to fall off the balcony and into the ocean,” she recalls. “I practically threw myself after it!” Being the logical and resourceful woman she is, Gigi remained composed. While watching Chip yell, "NO!" to the volumes of ocean waves below, she diligently performed an internet search for scuba diving services. “Suddenly, Chip rushed back, and as I turned to face him, he was back on his knee. This time holding the real ring,” Gigi smiles, reflecting back on the day she said “yes.”
With over 400 people on the guest list, preparing for the celebration was no easy feat. The couple sought out the guidance of a talented wedding consultant, who helped Gigi and Chip hone the vision of their special day. After initially conjuring up an elaborate concept of good versus evil to illustrate Gigi and Chip’s story of “love that endured through thick and thin,” the pair realized they should simplify the theme and settled on a sophisticated all-white ceremony and a hyper-modern aesthetic for the later party. “However,” shares the groom, “the most important [element] was our loved ones. Our family and friends are an integral part of our relationship and as much as they wanted to celebrate our nuptials, I wanted to [honor] their love and support for our union and future.”
Selecting locations for the festivities was quite simple for the Cincinnati-based twosome who chose the same Catholic chapel where they shared their adolescent crushes, and the groom’s family’s estate for the reception. The bride wanted the ambience of the ceremony to feel “ethereal and pristine,” so they added few adornments to the Gothic-inspired sanctuary, and requested that guests wear all-white attire. An organist, choir, trumpet soloist, and opera singers performed some of Gigi and Chip’s favorite hymns during the traditional service.
Gigi, wearing an elegant sleeveless dress with a high-neck collar, chose to walk down the aisle solo. “It was super frightening, but I wanted to assert the strength of my own femininity,” she confides. She carried an ivory glamelia – a bouquet created using individual rose petals arranged to look like a single, oversized rose bloom. “I will never forget the look on Chip’s face when he first saw me!” admits the bride. The groom opted to forgo a traditional tuxedo and don his dress blues uniform, while the couple’s son wore a stylish white outfit featuring black trim, a chevron bow tie, and moccasins.
From the church, shuttles transported loved ones to the reception, which showcased a drastic shift in theme from traditional whites to modern, chic decadence. Upon arrival, attendees were serenaded by a full gospel choir, as well as a mix of entertaining tunes performed by a 12-piece band and opera singers. Six large tents were utilized, with the main pavilion housing the ballroom and dining area, and an adjoining tent acting as the nightclub for the after-party.
Bright pearl carpeting and draping made the room feel airy and light, while every element of guest tables was decorated in rich ebony. Glamorous linens alternated styles, including oversized sequins, metallic leather, and ruffles. Brilliantly, the white-clad guests became a contrasting design detail when seated. The floral centerpieces were a mix of high and low arrangements overflowing with vanilla roses, hydrangeas, ranunculus blossoms, and orchids set in onyx vases. Attendees each received a container of honey – from the Heidt family’s onsite bee farm – as favors, which served double duty as a seating card. Jars were decorated with clever “Love is Sweet” labels that incorporated the honeycomb motif seen throughout the reception décor.
Gigi and Chip wanted the head table to be a striking focal point of the layout. To accomplish this, the couple and their entire wedding party changed into midnight-hued attire for dramatic effect. A lush, deep red floral runner ran from one end of the long table to the other and sat upon an exquisite piece of linen made up of thousands of square white sequins.
“The food was something that Gigi and I really wanted to see done in a different way,” explains the groom of their unique choices. During the dinner service, which included a variety of delectable choices presented at stations, a troupe of performance artists and acrobats inventively served wine and hors d’oeuvres, and provided napkins. Then, to signal loved ones that it was time to hit the dance floor, sparklers erupted from the centerpieces.
And the revelry had only begun! To capture all of the memories, the couple had arranged for flying drones to take photographs, which were then projected in real time onto giant screens. The celebration was more wonderful than the newlyweds had imagined. The groom admits it was all due to their amazing vendors: “[The event] was a testament to their planning, communication, and ability to create a special experience,” he confirms. Gigi sums it up simply, “It was everything I dreamt of and more.”