Matthew and Shakirah first met in 2015 when she tried to recruit him for their church’s running club. Apprehensive, Matthew initially declined. His mind was changed when the two of them later hung out with mutual friends. Their conversation was easy and the connection authentic. “Being from New York, I am not especially trusting of overly bubbly people,” said Matt. “It didn’t take long to see that her kindness and her love for others is 100% genuine.” To no surprise, he later changed his mind and joined the run club. Their relationship blossomed from there.
After a year and a half of dating, Matthew surprised Shakirah with a heartfelt proposal at a pumpkin patch. Not long after becoming engaged, the couple decided to have a destination wedding somewhere romantic and unconventional. They eventually chose Tuscany, Italy. “We elected not to visit Italy before the wedding,” says Shakirah. “We wanted to save as much money as possible. As such, we put complete trust in our planner Ben Singleton of ItalyWeddings and his team to help navigate the logistics. He made us very happy.”
The couple enhanced the lush surroundings with pops of color: marsala wine, navy, gold and emerald green touches were everywhere you looked. Best of all, the couple solidified their union with a radical name change. “Rather than me solely taking Matthew’s name, we decided to take each other’s last names as a nod to our true partnership,” says Shakirah. “Our motto is #sameteam. Our family name reflects as such. We’re the Hill-Taylors.”
Scroll through the gallery to see the best moments from Shakirah and Matthew’s Tuscan wedding.
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Matthew spontaneously asked Shakirah on a date to the pumpkin patch. After searching for a ripe pumpkin to no avail, she suggested they head home. While heading back to the car, Shakirah noticed a photographer and several of her friends had emerged out of hiding. "Matthew dropped to one knee in front of some of the people who mean the most to me and asked me to be his wife," she recalls. "I was overjoyed that I could share that moment with my girls."
Shakirah and Matt's gorgeous ceremony was attended by 26 of their closest family and friends.
Our Day Has Come
Matthew was overjoyed to become a husband.
Focused On Love
"When I found myself getting too consumed by wedding details, I remembered that building our marriage was where I should be investing my energy. It was essential for me to have that balance.
To The Man Upstairs
Matthew, his groomsmen, and father (who officiated the wedding) opened the day with a prayer to cover this beautiful union.
The Bride Tribe
"Matthew and my bridesmaids helped me embrace being a bride," says Shakirah. "They prayed with me and over me. My bridesmaids made sure all of the bridal events reflected my personality and allowed me to be fully focused on the incredible marriage I would be walking into."
Made To Love Her
"When I finally admitted to myself that I was in love with Shakirah, it hit me heavy because I didn’t want to mess up our friendship," says Matt. "I was really concerned that she was too good for me. Then I realized that we really do complement one another and that I am inspired to be the best version of me when I am with her."
Ready For Love
"I was divorced from my first husband for five years before meeting Matthew," says Shakirah. "Going through the experience of a tumultuous divorce rattled my belief in finding love again. It wasn’t until I believed I was worthy of the profound love Matthew was offering me, that I could feel bridal."
Four Ways To Slay
Each of Shakirah's bridesmaids had such distinct dress that matched their personalities and point of view. "Rather than select a bridesmaids dress for them, I gave them control over the dress they chose to wear. The only guidelines I provided were length and color," she says. "It was fun to see each of my amazing friends walk down the aisle in dresses that best reflected their style."
Dressed To Impress
"We used The Black Tux for our wedding day looks, based on a recommendation from one of my groomsmen," says Matt. "Since the wedding was in Italy, I wanted us to have a classic and stylish feel to our look that also complimented the Bride and bridesmaids. The groomsmen wore semi-traditional black tuxes (shawl collar) while I opted for a midnight blue shawl jacked and traditional tuxedo pants. And we each had matching wine colored braces to bring it all together."
Chic and Timeless
"As an 'older' bride getting married for the second time, I wanted my dress to be sleek, stylish and timeless," says Shakirah. "When looking at inspiration, I was drawn to dresses that were lace and had subtle details. The dress I selected was an Essence of Australia mermaid gown with a plunging neckline and open back. It was very otherworldly."
The couple's wedding ceremony was outdoors under a rustic pergola overlooking the hills, vineyards, and valleys of Chianti.
Forever And Ever
Shakirah and Matthew chose to write their own vows.
One Of A Kind Love
"I’ve seen Shakirah stand up for people she’s only just met, at great risk to herself, because she believes the person of God is in every individual," says Matt. "She is incredibly rare. She is also gorgeous and has an amazing smile — a smile that instantly lights me up."
Oh Happy Day!
This is one good looking bridal party!
From The Heart
Matthew was overcome with emotion while exchanging vows with the love of his life.
"Matt's heart is so pure," says Shakirah. "He is deliciously handsome, brilliant and funny. He takes care of the people around him and makes sure I never want for anything."
What's an Italian ceremony without delicious eats? Immediately following the ceremony, the newlyweds hosted a cocktail hour in a private area on the villa estate. Guests dined on Italian aperitifs and unlimited wine.
For the reception, Shakirah changed into a fitted navy sequin cocktail dress that fit her like a glove.
Let It Flow
"Looking back on our wedding day, I realize how silly it was to have gotten anxious over minor details," says Shakirah. "Our wedding manifested as it was willed by the Creator. I didn’t need to worry."
Swept Away In Love
"We wanted the wedding to reflect the bond we share as friends and lovers," says Shakirah. "Every part of the wedding had a dark and romantic feeling. From the colors to the music we played, we wanted guests to fall in love with the experience of being in Italy for this momentous occasion."
Shakirah's Advice To Brides
"Keep everything in perspective. Weddings are beautiful and worth every expense, but they are not the most important thing. The marriage should be the focus. Remember to keep the forthcoming marriage top of mind."