By Britney Grover
To the Winter Equestrian Festival community, the names of Alexandra Duval and Andrew Welles are familiar. Andrew competes in grand prix; Alexandra, coached by Andrew, rides as an amateur. Just turned 25, Alexandra grew up in New York riding with Pamela Polk and Jeffery Welles before earning her degree in business management and entrepreneurship at Florida Atlantic University so she could continue to ride while getting her education. Andrew, now 29, grew up in Minnesota, where he began competing at WEF when he was 15 before training under Missy Clark, followed by Chris Kappler.
Andrew also graduated from Florida Atlantic University, also with the entrepreneurial spirit: By the time he was 23, Andrew had started his own equestrian operation. Now, he not only has a partner by his side in business but in life. Andrew married Alexandra on December 17, 2016, and the young equestrian couple is just getting started on their road to success — in marriage and in the horse world. That success is sure to include future successes at WEF, where it all started.
A Slice of Fate
Coliano’s Pizza has been a well-loved presence at WEF since the trailer-based pizzeria opened in 2004. But Coliano’s is not an average food truck, especially when it comes to the equestrian community. A unique staffing method began inadvertently when the owner, Eric Vitello, offered to teach grand prix rider Charlie Jayne to make pizza if Charlie would help to sell it. Having popular riders behind the window became a well-known facet of the showing community, and that’s where Andrew and Alexandra met.
“We met in Coliano’s Pizza Trailer at WEF about seven years ago!” Alexandra shared. “We dated for five years when we got engaged in August 2015.” Without missing a stride in the ring, Andrew and Alexandra began planning their wedding. As in life, the two didn’t settle for average: They planned a beautiful sunset wedding in the Dominican Republic. “Andrew grew up going to the Dominican with his family so he had a lot of ties there, and after we went a few years ago with all of our friends for a different wedding, we realized how much fun it would be to bring everybody back there,” said Alexandra.
“It was definitely interesting trying to plan a destination wedding while traveling with the horses all summer!” Alexandra said, but it wasn’t without help. “It literally would not have been possible without the help of our incredible wedding planner, Sheila Motley. She helped facilitate so many of the details and made it incredibly seamless for us.” Even her dress shopping ended up straightforward. “I was looking for something simple and straightforward,” she said, and she found it at Chic Parisien in Coral Gables, Florida. “And of the three I tried on, this one was the winner.”
In the end, everything came together on December 17, when Andrew and Alexandra were married at a home belonging to a Welles family friend at the Casa de Campo resort. “The lawn was on the point overlooking the ocean and we got married at sunset so it was really beautiful,” Alexandra reminisced. “One really special aspect of our wedding was that we had a member of the family marry us.”
The reception was held at the Casa de Campo Country Club. “Our first dance was incredibly special, but our dance with our parents was really cool, too,” Alexandra said. “We started with a slow version of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses, and about halfway through, the band sped it up and the entire room came out at full speed. It was a really fun way to start the night and kind of captured the feel of the entire week. We danced there until about 11 p.m. when Andrew surprised me with fireworks. Like most of the other nights during the wedding week, we continued the party for a couple of hours after that!”
Though it might have been difficult to balance an active show schedule with planning a destination wedding, for Andrew and Alexandra, it couldn’t have gone better. “The biggest challenges we had were really pretty small in the grand scheme of things,” said Alexandra. “Communication (and translation!) sometimes proved to be difficult in dealing with the back and forth of the details with the wedding being in a different country, but it all ended up even better than we could’ve imagined. Everything went really perfectly as far as I’m concerned.”
Andrew and Alexandra drove 45 minutes to a small resort in Punta Cana called Tortuga Bay for their honeymoon. “It’s only 30 rooms with incredible beaches and food, so we enjoyed a few quiet days together before getting back to Wellington to get ready for the circuit!”
With the wedding behind them, Andrew and Alexandra are focused on the future. “We work alongside each other every day and are very involved in each other’s career. Andrew coaches me on both of my horses, and I help set fences and am involved with his grand prix horses as well. We’re lucky that we work so well and are able to do what we love together!”
Photos courtesy of Alexandra Duval Welles, unless noted otherwise