What She Wants

How These Offbeat, Colorful Artists Wed with Black Butterflies and Homemade Cake

Artists Maria Jeona Zoleta and Emmanuel d'Aboville's celebrate with an intimate wedding at home.

As an artist, Maria Jeona Zoleta has always exceeded expectations, through her unconventional creative process that usually leads to equally unconventional results. Her preference for breaking from tradition carried on to her nuptials with engineer and fellow artist Emmanuel d’Aboville. The two were wed in an intimate outdoor ceremony surrounded by family and close friends.

In the place of doves, black and white butterflies brought smiles to the wedding guests’ faces as they were released from their woven enclosure and proceeded to dot the ceremony venue. The celebration that followed tore down the formalities associated with a usual wedding reception. The wedding party, along with relatives and friends, entertained the guests with various musical numbers. The groom’s mother, Araceli Valenzuela d’Aboville, prepared the spread especially for the occasion, while friends of the couple gave touching speeches.

Jeona Zoleta and Emmanuel d'Aboville


Tell us how you met.


Jeona and I met at the end of 2014 while on our Christmas vacation, as the sun was setting on Tamaraw Beach in Puerto Galera. I was with family, doing Capoeira and chilling by the beach, while Jeona was with some friends. She was meeting with my sister [Olivia] regarding art. It was quick but we made a mark on each other that day.

We met again in late February of the next year, during the Malasimbo Festival. We arrived a month before the festival because she was working on her installation and I was managing various things (mainly progress of infrastructure, like the bars, the entrance, the cleaning of the grounds).

We would sometimes eat together, walk to the grounds. Jeona was wild and active. I was odd, on provincial time, and enjoying the events. 

During the festival, Jeo was about to leave for a friend's wedding the next day. The night before, I tried my luck at one point, inviting Jeo to look at the stars and share a drink, she hesitated but had to go catch up with her friends.

We would part ways the next day, leaving an impression on each other once again.

The next four years, we barely heard from each other. Jeona was pursuing her art career, and I was starting to build mine. 

She was surviving on art from paintings and art installations, with regular shows abroad. I was doing the same, while trying new things and working for my father's (Hubert d'Aboville) company part-time. In 2016, a friend and I brought in a start-up from France—a cashless payment system, which we installed in Z Hostel Poblacion. A small success that we have since sold.

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How did you propose?

My other sister Maia and her husband had built a temporary art residency partnering with Z Hostel in 2017, at a place called the Ruins in Poblacion. I was spending lots of time there painting and doing music. That's where Jeona and I met again in January 2018. 

I think I might have impressed her with my art production with a few paintings produced and my first book at that time. One night during that blue blood moon in the month of January, we had our first date and got together. So much has happened in a very short time. We were like family to each other right away. I proposed quickly after that, during a quiet night among the blankets and pillows.

Our son Gabriel Aqua-Amin, born on January 22, 2019, is part of the completion of our love story.

Jeona wears a dress by Salad Day, worn with butterfly sleeves by Maria Goes to Town, a gift from Moira Lang



Tell us about your DIY wedding.

The wedding was fun and entirely DIY with help from our families. 

The first step was doing the papers; together we went to our local city hall and prepared the documents. We were having fun following the procedures while enduring a few long lines. 

We opted to start with a civil wedding. We went to a [marriage officiant], whose contact we found at the Makati mayor’s office. After the scare of a no-show and trying to make sure everything was within the law, my katukayoEmmanuel Moreno gave us a plan for our ceremony.

Our wedding cost us about P25,000, with flowers from Dangwa and live butterflies from Binondo.

Our wedding was held at my parent’s home in San Lorenzo Village. Here, we did most of our errands by foot or bicycle. We decided to host our wedding here for simplicity and to allow our guests with easy access.

The last few days before the wedding was about preparing the scenery for our ceremony. Our household help Yaya Merylin and Lity, my sister Olivia, her son Leo, Jeona, and I arranged the flowers in different styled pots to create a colorful flower garden in the house. 


Tell us about the wedding.

The ceremony happened in the lanai, followed by lunch in the living room where we had 40 guests of family and friends.

Guests were invited at 10 a.m. for a ceremony at 11. We had little sleep the night before but woke up refreshed and excited. What a pleasant feel one has to wake up and do things for such a life event.


The bride and groom prepare for the wedding ceremony

By quarter to 11, our guests had mostly arrived, and it was about time to start. Billy Bonnevie and Agnes Arellano, our good friends and art mentors, sounded the horn (a foot and a half-long seashell) and all guests were called outside. I found my wife at our little altar, [which was] decorated with a cross and a magical sculpture from Agnes showing a couple naked in embrace (gifted to us that day), behind was a heart sculpture exploding with flowers.


A sculpture from Agnes Arellano

Moreno's ceremony was very meaningful and full of useful advice. We followed his ceremony program before we exchanged vows and rings, and finally shared our first kiss as husband and wife. 

[Following the family pictorial], we freed a colony of local butterflies, which the kids Leo and Matthieu helped release. They ended up filling the garden, landing on guests and occasionally bidding them hello.

Leo and Matthieu release the butterflies

We enjoyed the home cooked buffet prepared by my mom, Ara d’Aboville, and then spent time in the pleasant company of our friends and family. 

My boss and good friend, Emmanuel Schutz, and Jeo's friend and mentor, Moira Lang, gave their speeches up from a little stool. They entertained the guests with some old stories and anecdotes about us.

The guests slowly departed, taking home our gift set, comprising of a Love Magic Potion of Health (coconut oil from our farm), a mini painting from me and Jeona, a whistle to help them find what they are still looking for, and a lock to help them keep love and what they have already found.


That night, we cleaned and disassembled the tables, and relaxed by just contemplating the day, and happy we made it here, now husband and wife.


What do you look forward to in this new chapter in your lives?

Jeona and I are now continuing to work on our art. We have started a collaboration, which we have called "Bisous Papillon" (butterfly kisses in French). The great news for 2019 is that we are both flying to Paris this June with our son Gabriel for a prestigious show at the Le Palais de Tokyo. They have chosen our project—a book collaboration about life and living in this apocalypse world—among works by other artists from around the globe.

The trip will be an opportunity for me to show to Jeo and Gabri, our shared family property in Brittany, France, an estate where my siblings, French cousins, and I would spend every summer while growing up. Along the way, we'll be stopping by a highly recommended hypnotist and enjoying some important museum pit stops that we have longed to visit together.

In the coming months when Gabriel is a bit bigger, we are planning to move to Puerto Galera, so that our son experiences the clean provincial air and spends his earlier years growing up in nature. We intend to help in the organization of our farm, develop the land, and find ways for it to be profitable.

Our main concern now is to develop a sustainable income together, to secure our family needs and the education of Gabriel. We have plans in Jeona's studio in Cembo, Makati, at the house her parents Ramon and Nerissa Zoleta. We are pursuing our art projects there—paintings, installations, music, writing, my band In Mandala, our collaboration "Duo Bisous Papillon." [There’s also] the "Salbahe sa Banyo" experimental art space on the rooftop and the "Possessed Projects" by a group of artists in the salon.


Billy Bonnevie  

Agnes Arellano with Jeona

Olivia d'Aboville Grgic, Turing Valenzuela, and Maia d'Aboville

Butterflies land on Emmanuel's father Hubert d'Aboville

The Zoleta cousins


A photo of the entire wedding party and guests

With family members

Catalina Espinosa, Agnes Arellano, Billy Bonnevie, and Emmanuel d'Aboville

Billy Bonnevie with Jeona and Emmanuel d'Aboville

Catalina A. Espiñosa

Chris Sarmiento

Hubert d'Aboville and Emmanuel Schütz

Giles Katigbak and Cal Tavera

Emmanuel d'Aboville and Geoffroy de Boissieu

Chris Bruant, Emmanuel d'Aboville, and Emmanuel Schütz

Maia d'Aboville, Olivia d'Aboville Grgic, and Araceli Valenzuela d'Aboville

The groom's mother prepares a cake

Yana, Catalina, and Mack Espiñosa

Emmanuel Schûtz, Regis Bruant, and Karla Zoleta, with the newlyweds

Mother of the bride Nerissa Zoleta, Jeona Zoleta d'Aboville, and Joanna Sanchez

The newlyweds with the Zoleta family, headed by Ramon Zoleta

Guillaum and Charlotte d'Aboville with Emmanuel d'Aboville

The bride with Martin de Messa and Moira Lang

The d'Abovilles with Yaya Merlin and Sir Boy

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Hannah Lazatin
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