A Metro Society Exclusive: The Lovely Wedding Of Camille Lhuillier and Andrea Albani
Nothing can stop a love that is "for keeps," and in Palacio de Memoria, dreams of wedded bliss do come true
I first met Camille Diago-Lhuillier when I did a story for Metro Society about their nascent auction house, Casa de Memoria. Camille was a delight to interview, and often said to me “I am a Roman girl,” and with that comes this confluence of pretentiousness and of being totally unbidden. Born to a family whose passion for collection is legendary, the younger Camille was the perfect curator, then manager for an auction house out to challenge an established environment of all things collectible.
“I lived a good life. Studying and being with my parents in Rome allowed me a sense of freedom and almost reverential look at art.” The key to her drive has always been her sense of independence, and with that came the desire to set out on her own and make a difference in a family where all her siblings were entrepreneurs on their own.
Together with her sister Angelique Lhuillier-Miranda, they built a business dedicated to European objet d’arts, a third auction house in Manila with a rapacious appetite for the new (or the unique). And with that, their monumental achievement, the restoration of a pre-war estate that was to be named Palacio de Memoria.
In all this, the driven Camille was looking for a spark in her heart, a hopeless romantic that she cares not to admit, she worked tirelessly for this new passion. In November of 2018, she received a call from her elder brother, Jean Henri Lhuillier, CEO to the Cebuana Lhuillier enterprise and the Honorary Consul General of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino to the Philippines. She was asked to entertain a visiting Marino diplomat Andrea Albani. This, to both Andrea and Camille, felt a sense of consonance in their heart. It, perhaps, was the yin and yang of it.
For the next year, with Andrea moving back to Hong Kong to work in an investment firm, it became much of a long distance affair, with frequent visits by both. Over that period, Camille and Andrea confided that there was no “love at first sight” but more like: “When you know, you know.” And the decision was made to make this for keeps, with a wedding in Italy, with families present.
In January of this year, Camille’s and Andrea’s parents met in Rome for the la pedida de mano, asking for her hand in marriage. With Andrea’s grandmother’s engagement ring slipped on her finger, the couple began preparations. Camille flew to Los Angeles to visit her cousin, famous wedding gown designer Monique Lhuillier. The church and the reception, the menus and the details for an October 2020 wedding, the Save the Date cards—all of these were all planned. Then, the world as we know it stopped. The COVID-19 pandemic put everything on pause.
Andrea was in no better place. Being in Hong Kong, he was in the maelstrom of riots and government crackdowns. With Italy was in lockdown (like the Vatican, San Marino is a microstate in Italy), he opted to come to Manila and spend the quarantine period with Camille.
The idea for the wedding changed. And with no end in sight due the COVID-19 scare, the couple opted to take on their “for keeps” attitude, and prepared for a civil wedding. “If there is anything more unnerving, it is to get through all the paperwork for a civil wedding in this country. Together, we had to navigate through the city hall of Makati to get the right paperwork. For Andrea, we needed official translated documents as proof. The paperwork seemed endless and took time. That is why I admire Andrea, he was always calm and collected, and kept me even keel,” comments Camille.
“What was a true test of patience was the pre-marriage counselling, done in Tagalog, to which Andrea politely sat through!” With the papers (all two months of it), and a judge chosen from the City of Makati, the couple ironed out the arrangements. “I had two weeks to prepare for the civil wedding, no staff to work with since we wanted to keep it small and tight, plus we had an auction house to run.”
With the help of celebrity florist and event stylist Gideon Hermosa, videographer Jason Magbanua, and photographer Oly Ruiz, Camille and Andrea's wedding was put together and immortalized in photos and videos. Camille shares, “A wedding in lockdown was a nightmare to work on, but in a way, we got it done, safely and with passion—all, or most of it, by phone.”
And the venue was apt, the first family wedding at the Palacio de Memoria, her own magnum opus. What better way to showcase intimate affairs than having your own? The grounds, the home, the rooms were ready for the right event—her own wedding.
Gideon’s attention to detail was showcased in the grand staircase that was dressed up with over 12,000 roses in lovely hues of pink, peach, and white. It was the most apt march to an aisle experience, dignified yet with romantic simplicity.
And there was the dress. The tea length dress by Mark Bumgarner was Camille’s choice. “She wanted something elegant and simple for this intimate wedding,” says the celebrity fashion designer. “I thought of recreating my signature clover dress but with an off-shoulder neckline. The venue is both romantic and historic. I wanted her and her dress to exude classic modern simplicity. Camille was super duper fun and easy to work with. I always work better when there is complete trust with my bride. I couldn’t ask for a better client and friend.”
Camille came early for the ceremony. She dressed up in Palacio de Memoria’s bridal suite, putting on her own makeup, and with the help of the stylist, got herself ready. This, while keeping tabs on the day’s Online Auction. It seems that you can never separate the business and the pleasure of it for this woman.
She slipped on her dress, her duchess satin vintage dress with a voluminous petticoat, sans bridesmaid. Camille remarks that Mark was the sweetest, slipping in a short veil and mask which she only took off for picture taking. “While I was dressing I reflected… I will do this and handle my life on my own. And now, I have the man who has given me a sense of calm. Together, we did all this on our own, in the middle of a pandemic. There was no impulsiveness on my part, I had chosen the right man to be with.”
With a small bouquet in hand, shortly before 1 p.m., she took the lift to her second floor office, and prepared herself for her walk down the stairs. “I saw her and I was struck, in awe, my Camille, so beautiful, inside and out, and we will be together,” says Andrea.
The ceremony was live streamed for the benefit of Andrea’s family in San Marino and her parents, who are seniors, in their Makati home. At the foot of the stairs was Supreme Court Justice Hernando Ramon Paul, who presided over the ceremony. The judge only reinforced what the couple always thought—they are together in the hardest of times. And with that, Camille Diago Lhuiller was wed to Andrea Albani.
An intimate reception catered by the family chef, with only siblings in attendance, kept things to the minimum. Rapid tested prior to entry, and no beso beso or hugs, the family celebrated the most unique and intimate wedding, with memories that will live on.
As to their future plans, Camille quips, “Live a day at a time, and get back to work!” This time, she has a lifelong partner to share her days with. In an unguarded moment, Camille respects Andrea's wishes to perhaps return to San Marino to take his place in government. Their family has been co-regents in a unique parliamentary democratic republic where the captain regents are both heads of state and of government. In the meantime, they are preparing their new home as they wait until Andrea can get back to his company in Hong Kong as soon as travel permits.
For now, he will do much of his financial consulting from Manila. “We have practice, COVID taught us how.” For now, May 1, 2021 is in the offing for the new date for a church wedding with both of their parents hopefully in attendance.
Love and life go on, even in the midst of a pandemic. And in this magical palace, dreams do come true.
Photographs by Oly Ruiz, courtesy of Camille Lhuillier
Check out this behind-the-scenes video from our cover shoot with couple Sarah Lahbati and Richard Gutierrez in Palacio de Memoria: