Lake Como. An elegant villa on Lake Como. A fairy-tale wedding in an elegant villa on Lake Como. This story just keeps getting better!
And then there’s the part where the newlyweds zip off across the lake in a speed boat, like complete rock stars. And the other part, when they cut the wedding cake as fireworks explode over the villa in time to Andrea Bocelli. Sigh ….. If I had to envisage my perfect Lake Como wedding day, it would look an awful lot like this (thank you, Mait Jüriado of M&J Studios for inviting us along via your pictures!).
Today’s couple, Sara and Jeffrey are from New York City and Sara was kind enough to talk to us about her experience of planning a destination wedding on Lake Como. She talks about the importance of using a wedding planner, as well as the need to manage your expectations when communicating with local vendors, particularly during the off-season.
It’s a fact of life that things can, and do, go ‘wrong’ on your wedding day. The weather doesn’t always play nice, and sometimes it’s easier to do things the local way rather than try to reinvent the wheel. But Sara’s experience shows that when you’re willing to surrender a little control and just go with the flow, it all works out beautifully in the end.
These are wise words for anyone currently planning a destination wedding in general. Half your luck if you’re planning it here on Lake Como!
Over to you, Sara ….
The Couple – Sara & Jeffrey
We chose Italy because it’s our favorite place in the world. It’s the location of our first trip together as a couple when we were younger – we traveled all over and fell even more in love. Italy to us is the most beautiful, most wonderful country with breathtaking beauty, architecture and nature, the most delicious food and wine, and incredible people, hospitality and culture. Jeffrey’s family is Italian and my family is Iranian. We love traveling and we wanted to bring our friends and family to our favorite place in the world to share a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience with them that they’d never forget.
The Wedding Destination – Lake Como in Italy
Lake Como is truly one of the most breathtaking places in the world. The vastness of the lake, the mountains and the general feeling of peace and beauty all drew us to Lake Como. It was a place we wanted to bring our loved ones to, in order for them to experience it.
Time of Year
We got married in early September, around Labor Day. We chose this timing because it would be cooler than the summer months and because the holiday time off was most convenient for us and our guests to travel abroad.
Planning a Wedding on Lake Como
I spent a full year planning and we experienced a lot of stress with planning an international wedding. We used a local wedding planner who handled logistics and helped us with vendors because we do not speak Italian or understand the local customs. Our wedding planner wasn’t handling our pre and post-events however, so we had to navigate planning a welcome party and the transportation ourselves, along with the farewell brunch.
Things were done pretty piecemeal with our planner, so the arrangements took a long time and vendors were often unresponsive during the off-season in Lake Como (approximately October through to April, when the entire lake closes). We got legally married at New York City Hall before we left, so we did not have any legal marriage requirements in Italy.
Our Wedding Day at Villa Pizzo, Lake Como
We got married at Villa Pizzo in the small town of Cernobbio on Lake Como. The Villa is a stunning historical property with lush gardens overlooking the Lake. The interior of the villa is beautiful and filled with paintings and architectural details from when it was built in the 15th century. We were married on their outdoor terrace overlooking the lake and we did both a traditional American and a Persian ceremony, complete with a Persian Sofreh, though we read our own vows to one another.
Unfortunately, it rained during the time that our ceremony was planned, so everything became delayed and our guests had to bear some of the rain. Our wedding planner didn’t have a backup plan for rain, but what made the day wonderful was our guests jumping into action to fix issues as they arose – wiping down the wet seats, picking up programs, re-doing the seating charts, MC’ing, etc. We were very lucky to have such resilient, resourceful and loving friends and family. And one of the things everyone always talks about is how the rain cleared the moment I walked down the aisle and they saw a rainbow over the ceremony. The rest of the ceremony was clear and beautiful – it was pretty magical, especially as it was one of the things that we did not, and could not have planned for. Jeff and I were then able to have a boat ride on the Lake directly after our ceremony and shoot some wedding photos.
One of the other highlights was that we had fireworks play over the Lake to Con Te Partiro by Andrea Bocelli, timed perfectly after we cut our cake outside of the villa, which was a lovely surprise to our guests. We also had a Persian Knife Dance performed by my bridesmaids and other guests.
We hosted a welcome party the night before the wedding at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, with handmade pizza in their garden and pool area, and we treated our guests to a boat ride on the Lake as transportation from the other towns – it was stunning and the weather was perfect. Our farewell brunch was held at Lido di Cernobbio, a beautiful outdoor pool terrace on the Lake where our guests could go for a swim and enjoy breakfast and beverages.
Advice for other couples planning a wedding on Lake Como
Couples should be mindful that towns like Lake Como and others in Italy will shut down for a big chunk of the year. I would highly recommend using a wedding planner – while ours was unprepared for the poor weather conditions and was difficult to get in touch with on the wedding day, I still don’t know how I would have coordinated all of the logistics, details and communicating with vendors in Italian without her help. In our experience, some of the local vendors that we worked with tended to be unresponsive, preferring to make verbal agreements or decide important details in-person. Some also wanted to be paid on the date of our events, which can be inconvenient when you’re in the middle of hosting.
In one example, our boat operator emailed us the day before the event saying “if the tide is X we will pick up your guests here, if it is Y, we will pick them up there” – a nightmare when you’re trying to communicate last-minute changes to 80 guests at various locations in a foreign country. The operator then called us and said there were more people on the boat than he had expected and he wanted additional payment – these are cases where you just have to say “ok” and move on.
Hotels and transportation in Lake Como were also challenging – there aren’t many hotels and they will book up fast. We recommended that our guests get their own cars since taxis were very difficult to come by. The roads are narrow and they are crowded with traffic in the summer, which can make it extremely slow to move around between towns. For example, our welcome party was held in a different town to where most of our guests were staying. We had to switch from our planned bus to boat transport at the last minute, once we realized that our guests might have been stuck on the bus for 2+ hours trying to get from their hotels to the welcome party by road.
We only visited Italy once before our wedding to identify our venue. And while I don’t think we needed to go a second time, I think it is likely much easier to choose things like flowers, test food and cake etc, locally. If you are planning a wedding abroad, you really need to be able to let go of that kind of control and knowledge and just choose with your heart or head, or at random.
Sara and Jeffrey’s Lake Como Wedding Vendors
Wedding Photographer: M&J Studios
Wedding Venue: Villa Pizzo, Cernobbio, Italy
Wedding Planner: WeddingBox Lake Como
Wedding Catering: Villa Pizzo
Wedding Videographer: AG Studio Videography
Welcome Party Venue: Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Tremezzina, Italy
Farewell Brunch Venue: Lido di Cernobbio, Cernobbio, Italy
Lake Como Accommodation: Grand Hotel Imperiale, Moltrasio, Italy
Bride’s Gown: Monique Lhuillier
Find More Lake Como Wedding Vendors in our BWB Destination Wedding Directory.